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Advice / Career Paths / Career Stories

This IT Leader Is Thriving in Her Career, Where Bioscience, Tech, and Finance Meet

Tess Brooks, the Associate Director of IT Financial Management at Biogen
Tess Brooks, the Associate Director of IT Financial Management at Biogen.
| Courtesy of Biogen

Tess Brooks had a passion for technology from a young age, so when it came time to pursue a career, her path was clear. “After college, I continuously found myself looking for roles that would have both finance and information technology (IT) responsibilities,” she says.

She gravitated specifically to the world of biotechnology because it’s an area that is always innovating. “It’s exciting and rewarding to be a part of an industry where patients are at the forefront of what we do.”

Today, Brooks is the Associate Director of IT Financial Management at Biogen, a biotech company based in Cambridge, MA. It’s a role she recently took on, and she credits Biogen’s supportive culture for helping her earn the promotion—her second since joining the company in 2019.

“I’ve had various managers and IT leaders, all of whom were very involved in understanding my career goals,” Brooks says. “I’ve been urged to participate in new projects and encouraged to engage with all levels of the organization. As opportunities have emerged, leadership has recommended me for promotions and helped pave the path for growth within Biogen.”

Here, Brooks shares how the company continues to support her professional development and why women should apply for the job they want. (In fact, her own career is proof that the best roles are often the ones that challenge us.)

What led to your job at Biogen, and how did you know it would be a good fit?

I initially learned about Biogen through my first industry role at a life sciences company. My job search began because I was looking for ways to grow in my career and gain more experience. I knew at that point in my career I wanted to find a role where I could partner with IT and finance teams. When I was presented the opportunity to interview with Biogen’s cybersecurity team, I remember being drawn to the campus in Cambridge and to what Biogen stands for. After meeting many employees through my rounds of interviews I knew it would be a good fit. You could tell they cared about the company’s mission and that still holds true today.

Tell us about your recent promotion. What is your team responsible for? What are your goals in this role?

In March I was promoted within our IT organization. I had the opportunity to work across different areas of IT (cybersecurity and R&D IT), mainly in portfolio and financial management. In this new role, I’m able to apply that knowledge and experience with a larger lens.

I partner with IT leadership and portfolio managers to drive our financial management processes such as our annual operating plan and our key baseline projections throughout the year. I also work closely with our corporate finance partners to forecast and report on IT financials. Our IT Management Office team is responsible for overseeing the processes around portfolio management and business performance management. My future goals are to partner with the various teams to drive continuous improvement around our financial forecasting and reporting for IT.

How has Biogen made you feel supported as a woman working in tech?

As a woman working in tech, I’m supported by the relationships I’ve built with colleagues and the many offerings provided by Biogen such as the Women’s Impact Network, a group of employees focused on supporting and developing women in the company.

Additionally, Biogen offers training programs that I’ve enrolled in. Most recently, the Biogen IT Academy was launched with support from all levels of the organization. This gives me the chance to focus on areas that will build my skills and dedicate time to professional development. Our IT organization also implemented “Focus Time Fridays,” which blocks off time every Friday for IT employees to train, develop, and learn in areas of interest.

What is your proudest achievement since joining Biogen, and why? What impact did it have?

I think my proudest achievement is being able to implement new processes in the various groups I’ve been a part of. I’m proud to be able to provide fresh insights to the way we work and partner for continuous improvement. While change can be difficult, the results are also rewarding. I’m proud of my effective communication skills and the practical approach I bring when analyzing opportunities for improvements. Through these process improvements, I’ve been able to drive cost savings, and make finance topics more approachable to all levels of IT.

What advice do you have for other women who want to pursue a similar career path as you?

Don’t let “requirements” listed for a role limit you or deter you from applying. I know there are times that I question my own skills and “place at the table.” I read once that women apply to 20% fewer jobs than men. When you’re looking for new opportunities, look for roles where you meet some of the requirements, and rely on your confidence and ability to learn for the rest. I think as women we often think we must meet 100% of the criteria but that doesn’t leave room to challenge ourselves.

What are you currently reading, watching, or listening to?

I’m listening to a podcast Mountaintop Conversations with Sallie Krawcheck, the CEO and co-founder of Ellevest and former CFO of Citigroup. She talks about challenges women face in the workplace and how to overcome them, taking risks, and shares her insights on building a successful career. If you aren’t familiar with Ellevest, it’s an investment platform built by women, for women. They focus on providing educational materials as well.

I also recently began re-reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. It’s one of my favorite books and I’m shamelessly reading it for the third time.

What’s a fun fact many people don’t know about you?

My parents got the idea for my name from the 1988 movie Working Girl, which is about an ambitious secretary named Tess climbing the corporate ladder at work. The movie shows some important battles that women are still fighting today, and the barriers women have to break to establish themselves in business.