Rebecca Holland New—Thermo Fisher

Thermo Fisher headquarters
(Coolcaesar CC BY-SA 3.0)

Rebecca Holland New
Company: Thermo Fisher Scientific
Title: Group VP, Global Business Management

So often when it comes to our Fiercest Women in Life Sciences feature, a title only scratches the surface of a woman's role and what it actually means every day, every week and every year. Speaking to Rebecca New, group vice president of Global Business Management Pharma Services at Thermo Fisher Scientific, that depth becomes apparent.

In the broadest terms, New is responsible for delivering for customers, managing projects and business, and planning for future demand. She also works on the deal team to lead Thermo’s acquisition process.  

She previously served stints at Patheon, Novo Nordisk and Bausch & Lomb, to name a few, and joined Thermo last year when the company bought Patheon for $5.2 billion. That’s impressive enough, but she has also managed to rise up the ranks—and complete six integrations in five years, adding around $1 billion in revenue to the company—while raising a huge family and spending a lot of time on the road, including a recent sojourn of nearly a year.

“My advice,” she said, “for anyone working in big companies or smaller companies, is to embrace every opportunity. You know, I traveled a ton; I had 48 weeks on the road last year, and I know that because you get this very depressing marketing update from Delta saying ‘Thank you for your 48 weeks of traveling with us.’”

And she did this with five children, one of them adopted during the turnaround at Patheon, so New and her husband "had a lot going on,” she said matter-of-factly, but pointed to her support structures at work and at home as key to managing her demanding job and large family.

“Early in my career, we sat down and discussed what we want for the family, for our kids, and our careers," she said. "That’s what I call our ‘foundational piece’ for all of our subsequent decisions. … It’s necessary because I’ve had jobs where I have lived pretty much away from my family for most of the week."

“Having a structure at home that everyone is on board with is so important; you’re going to have good days, and great days, but you’re also going to have bad days," she said. "On these, you need to know that you’re doing all of this for a reason—yes, for the opportunities within your job, but also for the future of your family. This is what I come back to a lot, and [it] has been helpful for me on the bad days.”

Things have changed for working moms from the early days of New’s career; she recalls keeping her youngest child in a bassinet under her desk some days because they were too young for day care. This isn’t the advice she’d give current moms at work, she joked. By the time her fourth pregnancy rolled around, “Things were definitely different,” she said, and the same goes for her recent adoption.

The phrase “having it all,” which typically relates to having a successful career while juggling motherhood, keeps coming to mind. But it’s a difficult balance for any woman, and New has made it work through her foundational piece philosophy, hard work, tenacity, and creating support structures.

But while she says that things have improved over the years for working mothers, having it all is becoming a much more difficult proposition for many. Statistics bear this out; back in 2015, The New York Times reported that the percentage of American women in the workforce has, in fact, been falling over the past decade, and that 61% of nonworking women cite family responsibilities as the reason.

The biggest thing that has changed for New along the way, and what she wants to encourage as a way to keep women in the Thermo workforce, is support from colleagues for career development and work-life balance. Outside of raising five children, she mentors high school and college kids, as well as colleagues’ children, and serves as a mentor at Thermo, too. And in between, traveling for those 48 weeks in a year.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct an error in how Rebecca Holland New joined Thermo Fisher. Thermo Fisher bought Patheon, not the other way round.

Rebecca Holland New—Thermo Fisher