Industry Trends and Challenges: Are You Getting Prepared?

By: Maria Sousa

This fantastic event, held on February 10, 2020, started with an enthusiastic welcome by Kathleen Cashman, Professor of Communication and Leadership and Industrial Advisory Board Liaison,  who addressed a packed audience of MBS students, staff, and industry advisors with her signature and energetic greeting: “How are we all doing tonight?”

The energy in the room was great, and everyone seemed eager to learn and have meaningful discussions about trends and challenges that are seen across businesses and industries, and talk about what these trends may mean for current and future business leaders. The goal of the event was to get MBS students thinking about how we, too, can prepare to face these challenges, and ask ourselves, “So what? What is the potential impact of these trends on my chosen industry?” We will be the ones to solve these problems for the current generation and generations to come, so having this mindset is very important!

The Industrial Advisory Board (IAB) is made up of Rutgers University alumni, MBS alumni, and business leaders who meet regularly throughout the year to discuss relevant topics and then share their expertise with students through guest lectures, mentoring, and events such as this one. Board members introduced themselves, and then IAB members Barbara Green and Bob Morris discussed their current roles and professional background while giving advice to students.

Green, who works at Johnson & Johnson, brings years of experience  in personal care and wide-ranging expertise in areas including clinical research, product development, start-up businesses, and mergers and acquisitions. During her introduction, Green shed light on the uncertainty that comes from the product-development process, such as how to adapt to new information and unexpected scenarios. Her advice to students is to take advantage of every learning opportunity offered to us. Even if it’s something that doesn’t seem relevant at the time, it might be highly relevant in the future.

Morris, a member of the IAB since its inception ten years ago, is president of AndMore Associates LLC—a global business development and strategic advisory firm focused on sustainable food and agriculture, cleantech, and renewable energy for multinational companies, financial institutions, small and medium enterprises, non-profits, and government organizations. Morris is passionate about acting as a liaison between innovators of science and governmental association. His advice to us was to not let any opportunity pass us by, to always remain curious, and to do what we’re passionate about.

The event proceeded to literal round-table discussions, with audience members separating out over multiple tables—each of which featured a board member who talked about STEM-based industry challenges to students of all MBS concentrations: from Drug Discovery & Development to Analytics, to Personal Care Science, and Engineering Management. Discussions included topics like sustainability, regulatory turmoil, data privacy, clean energy, personalized technologies, and artificial intelligence. It was interesting to see how—regardless of the concentrations represented at each table and the industries of the IAB members leading the discussions—all conversations had similar themes and were applicable to all industries. The biggest challenge across all industries is the regulatory aspect—how to streamline that process globally.

Three trends with critical impact and importance across all industries:

1. Regulatory. Everyone needs to know the regulatory landscape of their science – whether it is data privacy for analytics,  5g technology, personal care, food science / global agriculture, or drug discovery & development. 

2. Sustainability. All companies are interested in it today, on all aspects - packaging, ingredients, power, etc.

3. Lifelong learning, and continually looking outside the box. 

Discussions around these topics reinforced the “so what?” question: “how does this trend affect my industry?” IAB leaders then concluded roundtable discussions by emphasizing the importance of turning insights into actions—because that is what leaders do.

The event itself concluded with inspiring remarks from Kathleen Cashman, who reminded us that our industries are ever-changing and we will always need to stay on top of the trends and challenges as best we can. She also reminded us that while we are not in control of the nature and pace of industry changes, we are in control of staying as up to date as possible and understanding how we can make an impact by striving to be the best business scientists that we can be. “We are all responsible for leading our own ship,” said Cashman, “and this event is a way for us to be more confident and competent in leading our ships to the table of opportunity.”

Thank you to the MBS program for putting together such an insightful and valuable evening!