November 19, 2019 / All Stories

5 minutes with … Caroline Kolada

Meet the people who bring AbbVie’s Principles to life.

Caroline Kolada, study management associate, oncology, AbbVie, takes a moment from her busy schedule.

AbbVie is made up of 30,000 employees across the world, contributing in diverse ways to one collective purpose. In this series, we take a closer look at some of the incredible people who embody our company's Principles.

In our fourth in the series, a conversation with Caroline Kolada, study management associate, clinical program development, oncology.

On her current role with AbbVie …

In my role as a Study Management Associate, I serve as a member of a clinical study team and am responsible for supporting the daily management and operational oversight of early-stage Oncology clinical trials. Although my tasks can vary significantly throughout the life cycle of a clinical trial, I am always held accountable for ensuring our studies stay on track with planned milestones and timelines, maintain data integrity and uphold quality and compliance standards.

On which AbbVie Principle she finds to be the most meaningful and why …

Innovation is at the core of our work, on both small and large scales, so our Driving Innovation Principle resonates the most. Whether that means trying old processes in new or different ways, or pushing the boundaries with new digital technologies, it's been a positive trend to see our company be so forward-thinking and open to the uncertainty that inevitably comes with change. I'm grateful to be part of a team that fully embraces professional development, encourages questions and open debate, and seeks continual improvement. Knowing I have a vast network of individuals supporting me and who want to see me succeed has propelled me to step outside of my comfort zone, ask more difficult questions, and be more confident in my thoughts and opinions.

Outside of my day-to-day work, I also try to innovate where I can in our culture. As an example, a couple of months into my first rotational role with AbbVie, a chance meeting with a colleague shed some light on a creative, lunch-time program and sparked an idea: why not launch a similar initiative in my own organization. So I piloted a “Meet & Eat” networking program within my own Clinical Operations area. To-date, we have grown to average up to 100 global employees in randomized pairings for in-person or virtual lunches, coffee, or brief encounters each month. The program has expanded rapidly, creating new opportunities for colleagues to connect around the world.

Members of the clinical operations team, (from left) JuDee Fischer, Elizabeth Harris, Susan Weszt, Caroline Kolada, Samantha Sublett, take a break from collaborating.

On her passion for growing an increased female presence in the STEM field …

I have always been passionate about broadening a female presence in STEM (science, technology, engineering & mathematics). In college, I experienced this first-hand being one of only a couple of females working in a genomics research lab. Compelled to action, I quickly immersed myself in an independent program that brought high school girls to campus for a series of STEM-focused weekends. Participants conducted college-level science experiments across several disciplines (all led by female undergrad mentors), experienced talks from academic and industry women leaders, participated in workshops, and more. After a couple of years as an undergrad mentor, I took on the lead role for the entire program. That year, we hosted 50 eager and talented young women, and no words can capture how amazing it was to watch their minds flourish and soar. 

On their final day on campus, these high school girls presented their experiments and learnings. Afterward, a shy, 17-year old junior pulled me aside to inform me the mentor program had given her a much-needed sense of belonging and solidified any doubts she had on whether to pursue a career in STEM. She decided that day to move forward with applying to a program with a research role in a lab-type setting similar to my own. In that moment, it was so gratifying to learn our efforts had such a tangible impact on one girl’s future pursuit in STEM.


On what initially attracted her to the field of science and an internship with AbbVie …

I have always been a rather curious individual – growing up my family’s nickname for me was “Curious Caroline” since I asked so many questions -- and science was always my favorite subject. As I neared college, I became interested in biology, given its “hands-on” nature and its ability to help explain life and the world around us. Studying biology helped me hone my thought processes, and it also taught me that each conclusion I reached seemed to open itself up to a new set of questions that I could happily delve into.

I joined AbbVie as a summer intern in 2016 in the Regulatory, Quality & Safety Operations organization. It was my first chance to work in industry, gaining exposure to business operations and project management. After that summer, I knew I wanted to grow my project management skills, while also leveraging my scientific background. That opportunity came about with three rotations in AbbVie’s two-year Clinical Trial Operations Development Program. I rotated through Development Training, Clinical Documentation and Clinical Program Development. Moving from area to area in such a short period taught me to quickly adapt to changing environments, exposed me to enterprise-level initiatives and allowed me to establish an understanding of how different functions contribute to the clinical development process in real-time.

On AbbVie programs most important to her …

I am a proud member of Women Leaders in Action (WLA), an employee resource group made up of a diverse group of women from around the globe. Specifically, WLA is committed to the empowerment of women, both at AbbVie and in our local communities, promoting continuous learning and skills development, as well as fostering opportunities for sponsorship and career advancement. From impressive guest speakers to smaller skill workshops, book clubs with executive leaders, and a variety of networking experiences in a 9-month mentoring program, it has truly been a wonderful, empowering organization to be a part of. More recently, I’ve been given an opportunity to sharpen my leadership skills by being appointed chair of the Metrics & Reports Committee, a team striving to provide clear data to help measure WLA’s overall performance. This experience has been invaluable as a younger employee looking to grow my influence and team management abilities.

On what motivates her to come to work every day …

The people -- whether it is the patients we treat or the colleagues sitting around me, I am inspired by our diversity, resilience, passion, and innovation. For many patients, the thought of a clinical trial can elicit uncertainty, stress and fear. I think it truly takes an act of courage to decide to participate in a clinical study. Knowing an individual’s decision to join a study may be one of the biggest in a patient’s life, I am motivated to come to work each day to ensure I help deliver a world-class trial experience.

Caroline studied biology in undergrad and joined AbbVie as an intern in the summer of 2016.

On growing up with a sense of adventure …

The better part of my youth was spent growing up in three different countries: Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States. Living and travelling in various countries gave me an early exposure to diverse environments that helped me be adaptable to change. It taught me to be more flexible and open-minded, and provided me with a mindset that change isn’t always a scary thing. And even though moving wasn’t always the easiest transition, over time it spurred a sense of independence and adventure. I became a United States citizen in 2018, and my hope is never to lose my sense of adventure; to continue to travel, explore and experience all the many wonders this world has to offer.

Commuting to/from AbbVie headquarters from downtown Chicago …

I live in downtown Chicago and never get tired of exploring this amazing city. Even though we have brutal winters, I think the food, sports and local hangouts are unbeatable here! This also means I reverse commute to AbbVie headquarters in the suburbs via the Metra train. Many of my awesome colleagues join me on this daily journey, and it makes the voyage that much more bearable. I love that my work family extends to afterhours … that they’re willing to chat, laugh and occasionally loan an emergency cell phone hotspot for those times you need to send that one last email.

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Alissa Bolton
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