A Vivid Visionary

Susan Schofer spoke with the MBP community about the importance of communication and helping others see the future you are trying to create.

Susan Schofer

Susan Schofer has a vision for a better future through biotechnology and scientific innovation. Her job is to make that vision so clear that others who can help make it happen see it as clearly as she does.

Schofer is a partner at SOSV, a global venture capital firm, and chief science officer with HAX, the firm's program for early-stage deep technology startups. She was a panelist at Biotech Nexus, an annual event hosted by Northwestern Engineering's Master of Biotechnology Program (MBP). 

Schofer told the audience of alumni, professors, current students, and guests that one of the key things she’s learned during her career is the importance of clear communication and great storytelling.

“You need to imagine yourself as painting a picture of a future world and trying to pitch that picture,” she said. “I really can't understate the fact that you need to create a vision, and you need to bring people along on that vision.”

Schofer's career includes more than 15 years in roles spanning from research and development to product development, product management, and commercialization.

That variety wasn’t her initial plan, however.

Schofer grew up in a family where her father was a professor and assumed she'd follow in his footsteps.

“I really didn't understand or have any clue what else there was to do in this world other than pursuing a career in academia,” she said. “The lightbulb moment for me was when I realized that it's pretty cool to use science and technology to do something that has an impact in the real world.”

That lightbulb started shining while she was pursuing her PhD in chemistry at the California Institute of Technology. There she realized what she learned could translate beyond the school and into a world she felt desperately needed innovation. 

Yet there was more to successful innovation than science, she realized.

“While science and technology are fundamental to innovation, there's so many more pieces that you need to put together if you want to take that innovation out into the market and make an impact,” she said.  

That led Schofer to start exploring the business side of science. She transitioned from being a scientist who synthesized new polymers and chemicals to being a leader in commercial operations and technical product management. Her job titles continued to evolve, from vice president of product management to senior vice president of business development. 

Schofer's career has come full circle at HAX, where she and her colleagues are early-stage investors to empower founders building with robotics, new materials, advanced diagnostics for healthcare, renewable energy, and industrial technologies. Instead of trying to create new innovations, her job now is to help others who want to share their own innovations with the world. 

“It’s an opportunity to use my skills that I've learned in all these years in startups and apply them to a broader swath of different innovations," Schofer said, "and help all these innovators try to bring their companies and technologies to market."

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