Getting Ahead in Biotech
With this vision of the importance of life sciences, he developed an innovative goal for Life Technologies when he became its head in 2003. He wanted his company to make the tools that would enable growth in this space, and he wanted to make these tools “faster, easier, and more economical.”
Even better, he wanted the company to be “one-stop shopping” for these scientific devices. This was at the heart of Life Technologies aggressive strategy around mergers, acquisitions, patents, and, above all, hiring.
“Our ability to grow year after year was driven by our ability to attract, develop and retain the world-class people who would thrive in our environment and share in our desire to improve mankind by enabling our customers to feed, fuel, and heal the world,” Lucier says.
It was important to him to keep his employees excited about working there. “The company had to be a place where people are pumped up and super excited to come to work.”
What was his role in making this happen? “We made certain employees never forgot what they were working toward. In facility conference rooms and hallways we had stories on the walls showing something we did or helped solve for our customers to change the world for the better.”
A favorite example is the time Herman J. Atkins spoke to Life Technologies’ employees. Atkins, who was freed after ten years of false imprisonment for rape and robbery, told the group, “I don’t know how DNA works, but now I’m a free man. I want you to know the impact of the work you are doing.”
Lucier’s management style evolved during his tenure at Life Technologies. His previous experience included a stint at GE. “It was a bit of a Darwinian culture and when I tried the same approach at Life Technologies, I quickly discovered that it wouldn’t work.”
Observing that the scientists did better in a more collegial workplace, Lucier changed his approach. Among other things, he eliminated performance evaluations. “If we had performance issues, the remedy was coaching the individual to get even better.”
Lucier also wanted to make sure people could be proud of their company, including having Life Technologies develop a record for giving back to the community. “We served more volunteer hours than anyone. There were always projects for being a part of and giving back to the community.”
Employees also had an environmental reason to be proud of Life Technologies. “We became one of the top 25 companies in the world for sustainability, including having facilities with zero waste.”
Marketing was also innovative. “Our approach involved ‘anthropological science.’ We didn’t do focus groups but instead, watched how people worked. When we were developing instruments and reagents, we did it by watching and seeing what people needed.”