Despite a Pandemic, the Life Sciences Sector Presses On

March 11, 2021 – Steve Hochberg is the CEO and founder of Caliber Associates, an executive search firm focused exclusively on the life sciences sector. The organization’s leaders are highly experienced search professionals and biopharmaceutical executives who bring years of industry experience. Caliber Associates has partnered with over 150 leading companies and has completed upwards of 700 searches, placing strategic leaders with broad therapeutic and functional reach. Founded in 1988, the firm now has offices in San Diego, metro New York, and in the Boston/Cambridge, MA area.

Mr. Hochberg focuses on recruiting CEOs, board members, C-level leaders and strategic teams for emerging life sciences companies and global biopharmaceutical concerns. He recently joined Hunt Scanlon Media in a thought-provoking discussion on the life sciences sector and how his firm has adjusted to serve its clients during the global pandemic. Following are excerpts from the interview.

Steve, how difficult has it been serving the talent needs of the life sciences sector during the pandemic?

The most significant challenge has been to develop the sensitivity that others are facing with respect to prioritizing their work and personal life challenges. Early in the pandemic it was all about expressing empathy and understanding regarding the fact that
most organizations were adapting to the reality of remote working environments and not focused on expanding their leadership teams. As the year progressed and certainly around June 2020, the dust seemed to have settled and both individuals and organizations were receptive to hearing about new opportunities.

Discuss some of the challenges that you and your firm have been facing this past year.

The most significant challenge working with clients has been to establish a new paradigm for business development. With respect to the execution of searches, the transition has actually gone quite smoothly and there has been greater efficiency in scheduling Zooms with candidates and clients given that many executives no longer face the demands of travel. I believe that moving forward certainly through the entire year of 2021 most executives will continue working remotely or developing a hybrid situation which has them balancing time between office and home work. Beyond 2021, I see a more robust desire to include one-on-one contact with colleagues. I believe companies that are prepared to demonstrate the highest level of flexibility with respect to balancing individuals’ preferences are likely to win in the demand for talent.

How differently do the best senior executives provide leadership to healthcare and life sciences (provider, payer, pharma, biotech) companies during volatile times like this?

Feeling most comfortable commenting about life science companies, the challenges resulting from the pandemic have placed increased pressure to deliver and execute clinical trials. Companies have responded with the sense of urgency in developing programs, both vaccines and therapeutics, to address the needs of the pandemic. The rapid methodology and timeline
in clinical development and manufacturing has the potential to be applied to the development cycle of other therapeutics. The industry is likely to be called on to discover, develop and deliver vaccines and therapeutics that will address today’s pandemic and any future pandemics in a more methodical way.

What long-term impact do you see the COVID-19 pandemic having on the life sciences sector?

I see the life science sector continuing the growth curve it has enjoyed for the past decade. It will likely be marked with increasing results and innovations, enhanced manufacturing capabilities, streamlining of the development process, and increased collaboration with government and world health organizations.

What do you see moving forward for executive search firms in the next six to 12 months?

Search firms need to be laser-focused on execution. They need to appreciate the increased challenges clients are facing with day- to-day operations and demonstrate a level of flexibility with regard to search process. Given that for at least the next six to 12 months most interviews will be virtual, there needs to be a greater reliance on due diligence and the referencing process to ensure a complete and broader understanding of candidates’ contributions.