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News > Club News > WIB-Seattle News > WIB-Seattle Leadership Spotlight: Dana Jessen-Howard

WIB-Seattle Leadership Spotlight: Dana Jessen-Howard



Dana Jessen-Howard
SciCare Manager at Seed Health
WIB-Seattle’s DEI Chair


Dana’s interest in science started early in her life from sports injuries, family diagnoses, and a natural curiosity about the world and understanding how things work, spurred her motivation always to explore as broadly as she could. “I’ve always been fascinated by how ‘smart’ and intricate the smallest aspects of the natural world are and how they contribute to huge scales of change and impact. The combination of science, innovation, and technology to help population health is something that I’m excited about—I just used to think this was too broad to fit into one career, which is not true,” she said. After studying a wide variety of science and humanities topics in college, from neuroscience to international political economy, Dana worked in scientific research laboratories and various healthcare settings in tech capacities and helped a physical therapy business get off the ground before fully transitioning into the business side of healthcare. The years that followed included positions in insurance, supply chain, operations management of multiple teams, and manager leadership training at One Medical—a large, innovative health tech and healthcare organization. During this time, she saw her company go through an IPO, acquire another healthcare company (Iora Health), and start the process of an acquisition with Amazon. 

While Dana learned a lot and discovered a leader in herself at One Medical, she also itched to get back to more science in her day-to-day life. She decided to slow down and further expand her knowledge base by continuing her academic career remotely during the pandemic at the University of Queensland, Australia, where she explored graduate classes in public health and business and finally earned a master’s in medical biotechnology. During her time at UQ, she also dabbled in computational biology and bioinformatics work with a data analytics publication in cancer research and discovered a glimpse into the possibilities that AI offers to improve health and science fields.

With intentionality at the center of her new path, Dana then started at Seed Health, a mid-size startup microbe science biotech research company with a unique business model, where she’s currently in a leadership position that allows her to continue to learn about a huge range of scientific discoveries and apply these learnings, as well as her background in data, into broader strategy work. “I love my job because of the opportunity it provides me to learn on a regular basis—I currently lead the managers of teams that are constantly researching and writing on new areas and applications in scientific literature around the many human microbiomes and their implications in disease and health, as well as communicating on the science around novel products. I get to review that and learn every day,” Dana said. “In my opinion, having the context from a broad range of diverse experiences is far more valuable than it sometimes gets credit for in the workplace or job hunt. It’s about trying it all out and not being afraid to pivot as many times as you need to. I’ve been asked to ‘explain’ my resume, but when I look back, the dots connect, and it makes sense to me: it all fits together into a story about the difference I want to make in the world—from our US healthcare system inefficiencies to innovations that evolve the patient experience, to fixing the science communication problem and translating incredible research into digestible, engaging storytelling that enables people to care about their health and the planet. I’m really excited about taking everything I’ve learned from my career so far into evolving opportunities over time and see where it leads me next,” she said. “Evolving yourself and your impact is a lifelong journey—you never have to be done learning or growing.” 

During her career change from healthcare to biotech, Dana began looking for ways to connect and learn about the biotech community and found WIB through a Google search. “MAPS really drew me in. I initially joined because I saw there was a place to find an in-person science community of women in my neighborhood,” she said. “My MAPS group is such an inviting space, and they are some of my biggest supporters. We all cheer each other on and help each other out with job and career struggles, and it’s become an important community for me. The current Chapter Chair, Sarah Chan, is in my MAPS group, and she mentioned last year that the board needed a few positions filled. I wanted to get more involved, and I had done DEI work at my previous company, so I was excited to jump into this rewarding and important role.”

Dana has used her new position on the WIB board as yet another way to explore new ideas and see where her curiosity takes her. Recently, she virtually attended an event from the WIB-San Francisco chapter, where she heard from a panel of women who experienced various elements of instability earlier in their lives and are now at the pinnacle of hugely successful careers in biotech. “All came from these huge hardships in life and started in places that people need to see more examples of: immigrants, people raised in the foster care system, someone who was waiting tables or cleaning houses pre-bachelor’s degree at 29,” she said. “That visibility is so important to young women and girls. There is no right or wrong pace or path, and everyone has the ability to make a huge impact.” 

Encouraging her teams to explore what growth looks like for them and recognizing how each individual’s experiences and background can contribute to department-wide goals and improvements has been key for Dana across her leadership roles. As she oversees her teams, she describes one strategy she has found useful: “Get creative to give your employees opportunities they’re excited about when possible—and then trust them to get their job done with gentle support and see how they do. That’s how people learn and grow into their confidence; if given the tools and space to harness their unique abilities in trying something new, employees want to be proud of their work, and you’re often pleasantly surprised with the outcome—and, you may learn something about your team,or discover a need to iterate on your approach that helps you be a better manager,” she shared. “Aside from the individual elements, it’s also essential for business needs: everyone brings an important perspective to the table, and it’s necessary to encourage individuals who may not always contribute as much or own big parts of the work to start doing so. The data shows that a greater diversity in skills and experience on a collaborative team working towards a common goal contributes to better outcomes.” Lastly, Dana shared that “Leadership is a skill for everyone. These skills can help get important voices heard and enhance the impact you can make on your team and career for every role and trajectory—not just for employees that want to be people managers.”

With the mindset of trusting one’s self, Dana gave this advice when it comes to professional development: “In my early 20s, I had no idea how exactly I wanted to use my passions in my career, but I would have been nervous to go up to the president of WIB or a late-career professional and ask for career advice. What I’ve actually found is that many people love to share their story—it’s very rewarding to use your own experience to help other women become the people they want to be,” she said. “You might also learn about more options than you knew were possible—unconventional paths are more common than you may think. With technology advancement, there will always be new and interesting iterations to the types of roles that are necessary. See learning these new skills as an investment in yourself,” she said. “Learn from the people that you want your career to end at, not just the people who are at the next stage. Normalize uncomfortable moments of asking for help; and equally as important, give your time back to help others in the same way.”

We are so excited to see what direction Dana takes us as she leads our DEI Committee! Her constant curiosity and adaptability are sure to create meaningful opportunities for our WIB-Seattle community to connect with each other.

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