Natalie Dakers always knew she would pursue a career in science – her favourite subject in high school and her lifelong passion. She grew up in Ottawa and obtained a bachelor of science degree from the University of Guelph before eventually landing a job with the University of British Columbia’s life sciences technology transfer team, working on commercialization and intellectual property. It was there that Dakers became exposed to possibilities of combining science and business. “I don’t think I would have pursued a business career if it hadn’t somehow been attached to science,” says Dakers. Over the past nearly 20 years, Dakers has been an entrepreneur and CEO at a handful of biopharmaceutical and health sciences companies and organizations before starting Accel-Rx, a health sciences accelerator supporting the growth and development of early-stage health sciences companies, in 2014.
What does it mean to be an influential woman? • It’s about going down roads that haven’t been travelled before and bringing people along with your vision. If you’re influential, it means people are starting to believe in what you’re doing and think that it’s important. It’s about having impact.
What are some of the early lessons you learned in life and leadership that serve you today? • You have to take responsibility for your own life. Nobody will define it for you. With leadership, I think you have to keep growing, especially if you’re an entrepreneur. The moment you think you have it together is when the fry pan hits the face. I think it’s really about surrounding yourself with smart people that you trust and trust you, and great things can happen. As time goes on, it’s also about letting go of the reins and letting other people do what they need to do.
What does work-life balance mean to you? • You have to ask yourself if you’re happy and if the people around you are happy. If that’s true, that’s good enough balance in my mind. For me, it’s a lot about staying healthy. Fitness is a big priority in my world.
What is your advice for the next generation of women leaders? • Similar to what I’ve tried to do: stay true to your passions, surround yourself with the smartest people and don’t doubt yourself. What you’re doing is important and it’s worthwhile. You have to keep going. Don’t assume it’s a straightforward path. If you achieve a certain level in your career, chances are it’s been a pretty hard road, but if it’s always been pursuing a passion and you love what you do, it’s worth every moment of effort – even if there have been some big sacrifices along the way.