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Meet Your Leaders

Don’t Be the Smartest Person in the Room

  • January 12, 2024

“You never really stop ‘becoming a leader,’” Director, Training & Development Jessica Townsend advises. “There is always a new challenge, something new to learn, and new people to mentor.” With experience in three core departments at Medpace, Jessica revisits what’s kept her grounded and engaged during her 15-year tenure.

A career on the rise

After eight years in the pharmaceutical industry, Jessica wanted to pursue alternative routes in medical-related fields. Once word of her transition reached a friend who was a Clinical Research Associate (CRA) at the time, he suggested she look into Medpace. He explained what opportunities would open up to her as a CRA, and Jessica was instantly interested. Her research findings included not only her growth potential but Medpace’s as well – the company was rather small at the time. Career advancement combined with her desire to continue making an impact on people led her to apply. 

Shortly after she accepted an offer to join as a CRA, Jessica’s career rapidly progressed, and soon she was taking new-hire CRAs on training trips. She uncovered a dormant passion – one that allowed her to not only learn something new but pass that knowledge along to others, so she set her sights on moving into Training & Development to kindle this flame and broaden her skills. Within two years, Jessica was ready to find new growth opportunities and discovered an opening in Regulatory Submissions, and with a job description full of elements like global connections and network expansion, Jessica found her next role.

Jessica discovered that she didn’t know many people in the office, so she muscled through starting from scratch with a brand-new team in Regulatory Submissions. “I felt like a ‘new kid,’” she comments. However, Jessica’s uncertainties subsided once she settled in and had the opportunity to meet not only her colleagues in the United States but around the world.

After five years of learning not only a new set of skills but assimilating to an office environment, Jessica felt it was time to take on a new challenge. This time, a Manager role had opened in Clinical Monitoring Training & Development, and she made the difficult decision to part with her Regulatory Submissions team. While she was thrilled to enter a training role, the prospect of learning and re-learning material and documents was lurking in the back of her mind. Nevertheless, she took this chance to embrace a new beginning and follow her passion. “I knew that I wanted to grow into management and have a long-term career with Medpace,” Jessica shares. Much like her previous endeavors, Jessica joined Training & Development with an open mind and a healthy balance of excitement and nerves. 

“I always thought that leaders knew the correct answers to the issues that came up. I have learned that good leaders surround themselves with knowledgeable and capable persons, and work together to develop the answers.”

Moving on up

In just a handful of years, Jessica moved up to Associate Director and finally to Director of Training & Development. Jessica is leading her largest team yet; she mentors teams of associates located in Medpace offices around the world and has a hand in training two groups of employees: those within her own department to help them fulfill their potential as trainers and mentors themselves and all new-hire, entry-level CRAs as they acclimate to the world of clinical research and Medpace’s culture. This full-circle moment has not only given Jessica the opportunity to mentor associates within her department, but impact the careers of CRAs, the department that started it all.

Reflecting back on her time throughout various departments within Medpace, Jessica places great value on the lessons she’s learned, the people she’s mentored, and those who have mentored her. Bringing expertise like decision-making and leadership to her roles, Jessica also takes a piece of previous leaders as well. She explains that watching her managers lead allows her to compile the best of each to form her own, independent leadership style – and her work is far from complete. Jessica explains that she continues to learn new methods of improving her leadership skills not for her own professional development but also to support her team to be the best they can be.

As someone who is still “becoming a leader,” Jessica implores that leadership is not an achievement or a title, rather an action and something to continue to pursue. “I wanted to make an impact in the company and [on] other people,” she says. Never turning away from a challenge and accepting the unknown because, Jessica explains, this will only serve to improve your skills. Remaining open to challenges has opened doors Jessica hadn’t previously known existed, and she has found that the best learning happens when you surround yourself with people who know more than you. So, to those at any stage in their career, Jessica advises everyone to learn anything and everything you can from the people around you because being the smartest person in the room may hinder your career rather than help. Medpace leadership member Jessica has spent her 15-year career learning, and she’s not finished yet.

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