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Cortex - Life Sciences Insights

| 3 minutes read

Inspirational Women In Life Sciences: Narguiz Birk-Petersen

Rounding off this year’s Inspirational Woman in Life Sciences series is Narguiz Birk-Petersen, Vice President and Regional General Counsel for growth and emerging markets at Takeda. 

Narguiz shares her journey to her current role, the insights she has gained along the way, what she is excited to see in the next 5-10 years, and her advice for girls and women considering a career in life sciences. Interviewing Narguiz is Celia Johnson-Morgan, an Associate in DLA Piper’s Litigation, Arbitration and Investigations Group, based in our Dubai office and co-lead of DLA Piper’s Gender Balance Network “Leadership Alliance for Women” for the Middle East.


For extracts of this interview please see below:

Narguiz shares her journey into her current role

Narguiz shares how she was raised in Azerbaijan by her divorced mother who worked several jobs simultaneously, while completing a PhD. Narguiz moved to the US, aged 17, English being her third language. 

I was transplanted from an environment that I was very familiar with and doing very well in, to an environment that was very foreign to me.” 

In keeping with the reason behind running this series – namely the importance of female role models, Narguiz attributes her ability to persevere and succeed in this new environment to her mother and grandmother as role models, as well as the support, interest and encouragement of her father. 

Speaking about her mother, Narguiz said: “I had this amazing kind of role model in front of me of a strong, empowering woman who just… did it. She didn't sit there and wonder how, she's just did it.”

Her grandmother, meanwhile, grew up in a small Azerbaijani village and was encouraged by her father to study engineering. She went on to do so despite the engineering textbooks being available only in Russian (which she did not speak).

Narguiz describes the impact this had on her can-do attitude: “I grew up with this total conviction that I can do everything I wanted to. Sometimes I try to do whatever it is and it doesn't work out, then I’m like “I guess I can’t” and I'm a little bit surprised! But the good thing that comes out is that I always try. There are a lot of times where I try and I succeed, and then it builds confidence.”


What do you love about working at Takeda?

Narguiz’s favourite aspect of her role? “It's leadership or people management”. Also, crisis management through “imagining things that can go wrong and how to make them better” (paraphrased).  


What do you look forward to seeing in the next 5-10 years?

In terms of developments to look forward to in the sector, Narguiz spoke about AI, but from a slightly different angle to the individuals we interviewed earlier in this series:

Anything that the machine can do better than us is becoming less important…So skills such as imagination, … emotional intelligence, ability to connect with people, ability to communicate with people, those skills are becoming more important in our profession, I think. And to me that's exciting because I think that's more fun to do than to sit and compare cases...”

She also referenced the increased interest and engagement with D&I in large organisations and seeing the longer- term impact of this on the ground: 

“I'm very suspicious of organisations that don't represent what our society looks like.Companies are becoming more aware of the need to reflect the communities they serve. I think that is a change that's happening and I'm excited about that” (paraphrased). 


What advice do you have for women and girls considering a career in the Life Sciences sector?

In looking back at her career, Narguiz key advice to women and girls is to “take the fight.” Take a risk and take a stand. “As I look back, the only fights that I regret are the fights I didn't take.” 

"I saw this meme and it said “Courage is knowing it might hurt and doing it anyway. Stupidity is the same. And that's why life is so complicated.” You don't always know, when you're taking a stand, whether it's stupid to do so or if it's courageous to do so.” Narguiz recommends taking risks and letting the cards land where they may. In doing so, you can be at peace with yourself for having had the confidence and courage to do what felt right at the time. But she also stresses that in her experience it generally worked out well, in terms of her career. Narguiz also highlights the importance of placing as much emphasis on people skills as technical skills -  “hard skills are important … but equally, if not more important, are your people skills. You will not have a great career if you don't know how to collaborate and how to deal with people, clients, partners, difficult colleagues, etc.”



Inspirational Women in Life Sciences - Conclusion

This episode concludes this year's "Inspirational Women in Life Sciences series". We will reflect shortly on the common themes, insight, and exciting developments shared by the incredible women featured this year.