Dental Business Director: Victrex plc
Lynne Todd graduated with a Master’s in Polymer Technology in 1989. Here Lynne discusses her studies at Loughborough, going into a career in STEM and overcoming challenges along the way.
Why did you choose to study for a Postgraduate qualification in Polymer Technology at Loughborough University?
I chose Loughborough for a variety of reasons: the course breadth and depth; quality of the lecturing staff with experience beyond the pure academic; links to industry; post course employment statistics; and reputation of the engineering & technology schools as world class.
Beyond the course itself, I think my horizons were expanded at that early stage in my career by meeting such a diverse range of international students. Many of the students already had experience, had clear career goals or were industrially sponsored. Regular presentations from industry, company visits and the milk round also helped me form a picture of the wide range of career options possible. It was also the first time that I had met other female students and lecturers within the technology landscape - I had been the only girl on my undergrad course.
Would there be one piece of advice that you would give to current or prospective students looking to study the same course that you did?
Very simple - maximise the opportunity - work hard, be organised and don’t undervalue the privilege. The world is a very competitive place, so good results from this quality of University open a lot of doors and give you a lot of options regardless of what you decide to do.
Did you take part in any extra-curricular activities during your studies? If so, what impact did these have on your experience?
This course was pretty full on 9-5 with evening study and weekend assignments, so required full commitment and there wasn’t much time left for exploring new activities. Having said that, the course members became very close and several of us have stayed in contact throughout our careers.
I lead the global strategy and delivery of the dental businesses within Victrex plc, including start-up businesses. I also sit on the Medical Leadership Team for Invibio, our orthopaedic & medical business unit. Victrex plc is the holding group company for Invibio Ltd & JUVORA Ltd.
I joined ICI Chemicals & Polymers straight from Loughborough, starting in research and then moving into technical support and managing a number of analytical labs. After that I worked operationally for Du Pont nylon for a few years; before moving to a more business-facing role with W L Gore & Associates (GORE-TEX), firstly as a product specialist and then within their venturing organisation. After Gore I spent a couple of years consulting and raising funds for technology start-ups before joining Victrex /Invibio.
I found it valuable to gain a range of progressive experiences with roles in different functional disciplines, companies, sectors, regions and management cultures. If you want to operate at a leadership level, be credible and execute, you need to be able to understand and analyse issues from a range of perspectives even without expertise in the area.
The main challenge was when I was younger - feeling comfortable and confident to speak up when I was the only lady in the room. I also think Sheryl Sandberg’s book ‘Lean In’ is a great read in terms of the importance of asking for what you want in a role.
As above - maximise the opportunity - work hard, be organised and don’t undervalue the privilege. Also explore the different career paths possible to find something you are really passionate about. STEM is a big platform and as my career progressed I’ve been amazed at the many job options I would never even have thought about at University stage.
What skills did you gain during your Postgraduate degree in Polymer Technologies that have equipped you for your roles at Juvora and Invibio?
I completed a pretty vocational course and I have worked in polymer technology companies ever since. The technical aspects of the course formed the basis of my whole career even though I moved into a more commercial arena quite quickly. The MSc dissertation required a level of project management skill which nicely prepared me for my first management role in industry. By coincidence I completed my dissertation on high performance polymer PEEK, and joined the company which invented PEEK 15 years later.
When I met a patient treated with a JUVORA dental prosthetic who hadn’t been able to eat prior to treatment but had subsequently gained weight and was fully enjoying life again, you really know that you are making a difference. That’s a purpose beyond the technical, commercial or intellectual stimulus of an interesting job.