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WIB-Pittsburgh: Spotlight on Deb Burks

Posted By Sarah Najjar, Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Each month, we are featuring profiles of WIB-Pittsburgh members. We asked about their career path and experience in WIB. Read on for some interesting stories and insights!


Deb Burks

Co-Chair, MAPS, WIB-Pittsburgh

- Career position: 

VP, Head of Implementation & Strategy, Bayer Healthcare, Radiology R&D


- Education background: 

  • BS Chemical Engineering, University of Pittsburgh
  • MBA, Columbia University


- Life science interests: 

I am passionate for bringing new products to market that can improve the lives of patients. A key aspect of this is building and leading teams that make this happen, and developing talent that can make a sustainable difference.  

- Fun facts: 

One of my interests is travel. So far, I have been to all 50 states and to over 40 countries. My current travel goal is to visit more countries than my age.  This summer, I took up golf and can proudly say that I am now officially a hacker.  


Experience in WIB

- What drew you into the life sciences field and WIB?   

My entry into life sciences was at mid-career. At that time, I was offered bigger roles in other industries, but I was interested in making a contribution to improve people’s lives in more meaningful ways.  I was offered a wonderful opportunity at Bayer Healthcare, and I have never looked back.

I sought out WIB because I was looking to make a broader impact in the life sciences, and specifically, to contribute to the development of women leaders.  Given WIB’s dedication to career development and mentorship, it was a natural fit. Additionally, through WIB, I am now better connected to the broader Life Science industry and learning venues. The Pittsburgh chapter members are high energy and collaborative—and have been very welcoming. 


- How has WIB played a role in promoting your personal or professional growth? 

Through WIB, I have met many capable and interesting women from a wide range of organizations. Their passion is infectious and inspires me to strive for more. Through WIB, I am exposed to Life Science areas outside of my current field which helps me to stay current. 

- If you had one piece of advice to give a new WIB member, what would it be? 

Get involved! Attend events and join a committee that is of interest to you. This will enable you to build both your network and your leadership skills in new ways. And, you will have fun.

Career Trajectory


- How did you come to find a career that is a good fit for you? 

My view is that my career is a journey of constant striving and growing—it is not a destination to be reached.   Through-out my career, I have made the most progress when I have taken on risks and new opportunities that offered challenge and learning. Over time, I have come to know what I am passionate about—and listening to myself has helped me to make better career choices.   

What are your career goals?

My career has been evenly split between R&D and commercial roles, and for my next role, I am seeking a position with more business responsibilities. I am also interested in achieving a board membership, and have initiated a few steps on this journey.

- Who has been a good mentor to you and why? 

I have been very fortunate to have a number of mentors throughout my career who have challenged my thinking while giving me confidence that I can succeed at the next level.  Increasingly I have been in the role of mentor, and I find that it inspires self-reflection and rekindles the spirit for self-growth within me. I highly encourage everyone to seek out mentors and to mentor others—both roles are very rewarding.  


- What has been the biggest challenge in your career and how did you overcome it?

There have been so many, that it is hard to select one! During an overseas assignment in Hong Kong, the business decided to close down the Asia division.   I came back to the US without a position, apartment or even a telephone number. It turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me as I was able to find a position in a high-tech area in which I had the opportunity to build-out a marketing function from scratch. I never would have looked for such a role if I had stayed in my previous company. There were many tough days, but I found support from my friends, mentors and family who gave me confidence that it would turn out okay if I mapped out a strategy and took it one day at a time.  

Tags:  2019  Member Spotlight 

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