Meet the HBA West Chester Board: From the Desk of Vice President Melissa Johnston

Interviewer: Nidhi Saxena, HBA West Chester marketing director at large 
Hello Melissa, Welcome to the “Meet the HBA West Chester Board” series. Can you help us understand your role within the HBA and the West Chester board?

Hi Nidhi, I’m the HBA West Chester vice president. Some of my key responsibilities are acting as a liaison to the regional treasurer, helping our chapter maintain and update our P&L. I also work closely with our programming DAL in order to ensure that our programs are aligned to the HBA mission. I strive to provide guidance and mentorship to all of the dals and volunteers within the HBA West Chester team. 

Can you share your career and some milestones with all of us?

I’m currently the president of Benchworks, a family of companies dedicated to advancing the commercial goals of our clients in the life science industry. I work most closely with the agency business, Benchworks health, overseeing the day-to-day operations and strategic direction of the company. I have been with Benchworks for 13 years and have been the president for the last three. Prior to working with benchworks, I ran a small company called corporate finance institute which was focused on helping entrepreneurs understand the process of how to take a company public. 

What do you consider the keys to success?

I was fortunate enough to find two great mentors who were not only interested in how I could help their companies succeed but who were interested in how i could grow, learn and succeed on a personal level. Their guidance has been invaluable. In addition, I have had the opportunity to work with great team members who focused on working together rather than seeing each other as competition. Having a strong understanding of your individual strengths and weaknesses is also key. While I am constantly trying to find way to improve areas of weakness, I also understand that I need to have strong team members in those areas to support me. 

What concerns you most about the future for women in the workforce?

I think some areas of the world are doing better than others at recognizing the value of having a balanced workforce of both women and men. For those that are lagging behind, we need to find ways to support and empower women. I also think that we need to have a greater representation of women at the executive level throughout all areas of business. 

What inspires you most about the future for women in the workforce? 

I think the political turmoil of the last few years, has really inspired the next generation of young women to become active leaders in their areas of expertise. I think we will start to see the impact of these inspiring young women within the next 10-15 years. 

On the mission statement of HBA surrounding gender parity: How has gender parity influenced your career and helped you achieve success professionally?

I’ve been fortunate to have found two great male bosses who see the value in what i am able to offer their organization and were willing to reward my hard work. I truly don’t know that i would be where i am today without their support and belief in me. 

If you could have changed one thing in your career, what would you have done differently and why?

That’s a great question. As a high school and college student, I don’t think I had a clear understanding of the various types of jobs in the life science industry – in particular in the marketing realm. Had I known all of the great types of jobs, I may have decided to focus on data analytics, market research or clinical trial support to name a few. There are so many fascinating topics that i wish i had more time to study and learn. 

What other organizations are you part of? What are some of their mission statements?

  1. WBL - "to connect and convene senior executive women from across the healthcare industry to create meaningful cross-sector relationships, expand their leadership and harness their collective power to improve the industry"
  2. Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce - to make the greater philadelphia area a great place to do good business, by fostering cooperation and growth.
  3. Power of Professional Women - through the power of collaboration and social responsibility, the number and influence of women leaders will increase while helping to develop the next generation of leaders in a diverse workplace while strengthening our communities.

Would you share your favorite quote or book with readers?

Another great question. I’ve read so many books over the last 10 years… one that I like to quote now and then is ‘good to great’ – ‘you need to get the right people on the bus’. Being in the service industry, it’s supper important to have the right team – and not just the right team with the right experience but the right team with the right experience and the right personalities.