Grit. That’s the word Head of JLABS @ NYC Kate Merton uses to describe what entrepreneurs need to make it in the Big Apple.
“These entrepreneurs are already taking a risk by starting a company, but doing it in New York shows true bravery and grit. You have to really want it to make it here,” Kate explained.
And Kate’s no stranger to grit herself. Growing up as the youngest of six in Britain, her mother always told her that everyone had gifts, but you had to use them to help others. She was told from a very young age that she had to use her brain for the greater good. That’s when Kate knew she’d go into healthcare. With her sights set on becoming a doctor, she soon realized that if she changed her path to pharmacology, she could help lots of people at once. Determined, she dug into school, and landed a job at Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Pharmaceuticals group focused on heart failure drugs.
Although her work was satisfying, there was something missing as bench work was becoming less and less fulfilling. Johnson & Johnson Innovation had recently launched, and Kate was desperate to be a part of it. The feedback she received after enquiring about several roles was that she was a good pharmacologist but knew nothing about bringing a drug to market. Not to be deterred, Kate began working in the clinical trials space, marketing and business development, and attended Fuqua, Duke’s business school where she completed her thesis on, you guessed it, innovation centers. Now she had the right education, experience, and most importantly, the grit to make the jump.
Despite the experience, Kate was still unable to secure a role within Johnson & Johnson Innovation. Discouraged, but determined, she left Johnson & Johnson and went to work for another pharmaceutical company in its Innovation arm. Four months later, Johnson & Johnson Innovation came to call her home.
“Sometimes you have to leave the company to find your dream job, and that risk paid off. I now have the best job in the world,” Kate explained. “At the end of the day, I was doing great work, but it wasn’t Johnson & Johnson. They needed to see how serious I was about innovation.”
One thing I learned while talking to Kate; is that she is fearless. She told me she has no aversion to problems, and if something comes up, she'll attack it with gusto. “As long as my kids are healthy, I’m going to be just fine.”
And she will be. She’s living the dream, working in New York City, working with brilliant startups, and changing the life science landscape.
“My favorite thing about New York is that every day you come out of the subway, and you emerge from underground, and you feel like literally anything can happen.”
Listening to her mom all those years ago, Kate describes herself as being addicted to helping people, with learning new things a close second. “I took this job because I finally had the experience to help people who are smarter than me,” Kate said with a laugh, “This is my dream job. I get to help people connect the dots, and help them be successful.”
We believe if you’re in their corner, Kate, then success is the only option. Congratulations to Kate Merton and the entire JLABS @ NYC team. This truly is the #bestteamever.