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Professional Profile: Mary F. Carroll

Lab Manager speaks to Mary F. Carroll, associate, Market Team Leader-Science & Technology with CRB

MaryBeth DiDonna

Mary F. Carroll is an associate, Market Team Leader-Science & Technology with CRB in Plymouth Meeting, PA. Lab Manager recently spoke with Mary about her career, experience, and personal interests.

Q: How did you get started in your career? Did you major in your field in college, get an internship, switch careers mid-stream, etc.?

A: I got interested in architecture in high school when I took drafting classes. I went to Temple University to pursue my bachelor’s degree in architecture. About 10 years into my career, I developed an interest in the life sciences market. Since then, I have continued to grow and develop in various roles in the life sciences field.

Q: What is a typical day at work like for you?

A: Every day is blessedly different, which is what I love so much about what I do! I run a team of 40 people, so I spend quite a bit of time focused on the soft skills of communication and touchpoints with team members. The project work is always a primary focus. I make sure projects have appropriate resources, meet deliverables and deadlines, and address any hot issues. I also wear the business development hat every day. I work to make sure the pipeline is full and to identify trends and areas of focus. I look for opportunities to jump in to make things happen.

Q: If you weren’t in this profession, what job do you think you’d be doing instead?

A: I would be a veterinarian, a horse trainer, or running a horse barn.

Q: What’s a common misconception about your job?

A: The biggest misconception is that my job is highly technical and that you need to hire people with specific life science experience. I found that some of the highest performing team members have come from outside the industry but have the desire and open-mindedness to learn. They are the best employees by far! 

Q: What is the biggest work-related challenge you’ve faced? How did you overcome it?

A: I was the project manager on a vivarium project for non-human primates. The challenge was learning that the height of the cage wash doors was not high enough to fit the monkey cages on the day the researchers were moving into the facility. I tried to work through several cost-effective fixes with the contractor, but the client insisted that two custom-made, costly doors had to be ripped out and replaced with new ones at the architect’s expense. I had to go back to one of the principals at my firm to tell him about the error. He then had to write a check for $80,000. That is a lesson I will never forget and a mistake I will never make again. Always double-check the shop drawings before approving!

Q: What is your favorite building, lab-related or not?

A: The Pantheon.

Q: What lab projects are you working on at the moment?

A: Spark Therapeutics is the most notable. It is a turn-of-the-century building in West Philadelphia designed as a slaughterhouse that was cutting-edge at that time. We are transforming it into a lab and office building for Spark’s cell therapy research. 

Q: What’s the funniest thing that’s ever happened to you at work?

A: This is the most notable. I am not a big curser. I am known to be very sweet and always to say kind things to people. I was on a client call and could not participate in person as I was driving at the time. There were about 25-30 people in this meeting. It was a significant client and a large project. I had my phone muted when I was not talking but made the mistake of leaving it un-muted (unbeknownst to me) while I was in some terrible traffic in downtown Philadelphia. 

At one point, a car swung in front of me and cut me off so that I had to slam on my brakes! A litany of expletives came out of my mouth. I learned there was total silence on the other end while this was happening, and everyone looked around the room at each other for a solid minute before bursting out laughing! I was mortified and have never lived this one down!

Q: If you won a million-dollar lottery tomorrow, what would you do with your winnings?

A: The money would go toward saving animals from research facilities. I believe we can do testing in other ways without sacrificing precious animals to save human lives.

Q: What kinds of hobbies or interests do you have outside of work?

A: I am active on the board of the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. I love horseback riding and competing, walking my dogs, and playing golf. I am always doing something outside.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish in the next few years in your role at CRB?

A: I plan to continue to grow my Science & Technology team and execute a ground-up lab and office building utilizing all of my team members!