Christine Miller '09: Unlocking the Power of People
As technology transforms the world around us, it’s easy to forget that people are still at the core of this metamorphosis, from those creating new technological innovations to those reaping its benefits at work, school or home.
That people-centric ethos is at the heart of everything Christine Miller ’09 does. Her time at Stevens Institute of Technology was instrumental in helping her learn how to unlock people’s power to find personal fulfillment and professional success.
The Right Fit at the Right Time
When Christine first began looking for an MBA program to further her education and grow her skillset, she had trouble finding the right program.
When one of her best friends, Stevens alumnus Leandra Morris, received information about Stevens’ MBA program from her company, she passed the information — and encouragement — along to Christine. She was immediately drawn to the program because of its focus on the management of technology, which aligned closely with her work in the pharma industry. She and Leandra decided they would take the journey together.
And that decision came at the right time.
While automation had made its way into other tech-based industries, it had been sluggish to penetrate the highly regulated pharmaceutical industry. “Early on in my career, when I was in manufacturing, the process itself was very manual,” explained Christine, who started at Merck as a chemical engineer and procurement analyst. “Everything was done by people.”
Once the industry could determine how to validate the automation process, it allowed the industry to progress to where it is today, using robots in warehouses and machine learning to speed up the drug discovery process. Her education was critical in her understanding of how to utilize this new tech.
The Genesis of Her Leadership Philosophy
While her classes taught her how to leverage technology and navigate industry disruptions, Christine said she was also learning about the power of engaging and reaching people. This was especially evident during her “Complex Organizational Design” class.
“It went beyond just talking about systems and processes. The whole course was about people and how people interact with each other,” she described. “This class really explored the complexities of different organizational structures and the interplay between individuals, departments and the organization as a whole.”
The class had a profound experience on Christine and helped her develop into how she leads today. “My leadership philosophy is all about putting people first. That got its genesis from that course and really starting to put puzzle pieces together about my own experiences.”
Putting Lessons into Practice
After leading dozens of product launches and generating hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenue throughout her career, Christine joined Melinta Therapeutics in August 2020 as President and Chief Executive Officer. Amid a global pandemic and a social upheaval in the United States, she quickly got to work. At the heart of her actions? People.
“I’m a first-time CEO, and I thought it was important to provide an overall vision of what we needed to achieve as an organization.” So, she deployed an employee engagement survey. At 69%, “the results were not great,” she said candidly. “We took the feedback from our employees to provide strategic clarity, a new vision and the culture they wanted to be in.”
That work and focus paid off. “When we retook that same survey 18 months later, we got a score of 94%.” Engagement isn’t all that increased either. “We were able to grow our product revenue by over 60%.” For her, this was a clear example of how putting people first is the key to driving a company’s success.
Christine’s focus on supporting people isn’t limited to the boardroom. She’s been a frequent guest of Ann Murphy’s class on executive leadership, where she engages students. “I find it really great to be able to learn by hearing examples. Sharing my experience, hopefully people can learn from me.”
“I also think it’s important that you get to see someone that has walked before you. Especially being a Black woman, as an engineer in a leadership position, I know there’s not a lot of people who look like me. If I can be an inspiration to other people who may not have seen themselves represented.”
She also sits on the President’s Leadership Council, which is another way she can share her experiences and ask questions that get people to think and consider different perspectives.
Finding Your Purpose
College, regardless of what degree you’re earning, is a transformative time. Stevens itself and its location to one of the greatest cities in the world offers students an abundance of possibilities to help students find their true calling. “My purpose is to help people live better lives through problem-solving.” Christine said. “I think that it’s important to really spend time and understand what your purpose is, what motivates you and what inspires you.”