Career Advice

Unlocking Your Leadership Potential: Advice from Ann Powell and Michelle Weese

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March 18 2022

In celebration of Women’s History Month, members of our Bristol Myers Squibb Network of Women (B-NOW) People and Business Resource Group sat down with Ann Powell, Chief Human Resources Officer, and Michelle Weese, Executive Vice President of Corporate Affairs, to discuss their personal and professional journeys and how they’ve been able to unlock their leadership potential in a corporate environment. 


Michelle and Ann both started their careers far from the corporate boardroom, but worked their way into leadership roles by pursuing their passions and leaning into their unique strengths. Together, they shared how unlocking your potential requires becoming your own best advocate, overcoming self-doubt and establishing a work-life balance.

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Michelle Weese, Executive Vice President of Corporate Affairs, Bristol Myers Squibb

Being Your Own Best Advocate

“Remind yourself where you are going and continually have something to reach for. It might not be a straight road, but you’ll get there. Pursue your happiness, even if it’s not vertical.”  – Michelle Weese

For both Ann and Michelle, their roads to success have not been straight and narrow, but they argue that they don’t need to be—what’s important is finding the right path, rather than the fastest one, and advocating for yourself to earn opportunities that highlight your personal strengths and ambitions. 

To define a career path and advocate for your next steps, both suggest regular 1:1 meetings with your manager or team leads. These conversations should not wait for formal review periods; they can happen spontaneously and naturally.

They also emphasized that you are in the driver’s seat on your career journey and your manager and colleagues are the passengers.  It is up to you to determine your path and market your unique strengths to get there. Both have found that through this process, growth is not always vertical. Sometimes the best growth comes from lateral moves. They encourage others to look at the challenges and new skillsets that a role could offer, instead of the level and title. It may not always feel like the right choice,  but if it’s your choice it will be the best choice.

Overcoming Self-Doubt

“Don't try to shape yourself into the image of what success looks like. Be you and be proud of who you are.” -- Ann Powell

Self-doubt in the workplace is common for most everyone, but particularly for women. To overcome such doubts, it’s important to never lose sight of the specific strengths you bring to the table, and to rely on the support of your mentors and peers to find the path that will allow those strengths to shine.

As Ann progressed into larger roles, there were times that she questioned if she was ready - did she meet all the required criteria for the role – did she have enough experience – would she disappoint.  After conversations with her mentor, however, she realized her strength comes from tackling the unknown, and that as a leader she must run towards change & fear rather than away from it. “I didn’t appreciate the strengths I had,” she says. “That one conversation with my mentor changed my entire career path.” 

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Ann Powell, Chief Human Resources Officer

Michelle emphasizes the importance of looking at new challenges as an opportunity to grow and develop new skills, rather than something to fear. “Allow yourself to dream. Know that when facing a new challenge, you will come through on the other side—likely better than before.” 

Building and Fostering Workplace Culture and Work-Life Balance


“You can show up professionally and still be Mom at the same time.” – Michelle Weese

Like many working parents, Michelle has, at times, struggled finding a balance between being a superhero at work and a super-mom.  But she learned it is possible to find a balance. It begins with setting realistic expectations and boundaries for yourself, in both the workplace and at home. 


These personal boundaries only feel possible when coupled with a supportive managerial relationship and workplace culture. Ann found the right balance that works for her through authentic connections with her teams and creating a safe environment that embraces encouragement & transparent feedback. “I made mistakes along the way,” she says. “I watched and I learned a lot - from leaders I admired and those who were maturing in their development as a leader, because you can learn a lot from both.”


Ann and Michelle both believe that you have to find a company invested in fostering a professional culture dedicated to wellness and ensuring employees can thrive inside and outside of the workplace.


Here at BMS, we’re dedicated to building a transformational workplace designed to support our employees needs and ensure we are well-positioned to achieve our mutual passion for transforming patients’ lives through science. 


Explore and learn more about career opportunities at BMS and how you can bring your unique talents and diverse perspectives to our mission. 

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