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7 Questions on Leadership with David Williamson

Name: David Williamson

Title: CIO

Organisation: Abzena

David Williamson is the CIO at Abzena, a contract delivery and manufacturing organization (CDMO) serving the biotech industry.

Prior to Abzena, built and led a data analytics and science team within Illumina's operation group. Producing breakthrough business results through data.

Prior to Illumina David was an IT business partner to Biogen's manufacturing and engineering functions. Involved in several transformational programs to include a green field building of a manufacturing facility in Switzerland.

David brings over 25 years of successful implementations of technology, system and business processes within the life sciences.

Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!

I hope David's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!


Jonno White

1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?

The balancing of various stakeholder requirements within an Enterprise application such as an ERP. Often the requirements from different functional groups are in conflict and require intense facilitation to reach a business process that will serve all stakeholders.

2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?

I always have had a strong sense of adventure which led me to serve in the US Army as a communications officer. My various assignments around the world thrust me into many different leadership roles and challenges.

I successfully transitioned this experience into the corporate world first via project management and then into increasingly higher levels of management within IT.

3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

I get up very early in the morning and start off with my fitness routine. I always feel invigorated and energetic after my exercise. Most days start with meetings and interacting with my European and East coast colleagues transitioning further west as the day progresses.

I try to leave the last couple of hours each day to clear my emails, work on deliverables I own and ensure I have a clean slate for the next day.

I will always find time for my staff and make sure I have routine 1 on 1's will all my direct reports.

4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?

Open communication and being willing to listen to others. It can be easy to be blinded by your experiences and being embedded in a situation. Often others with a different perspective can provide meaningful insights and help if they are listened to.

I recently had such an experience with one of my staff. I mentioned to them a dilemma I was facing and they made a comment that cut right to the heart of the issue. This cleared my mind in a way that allowed for immediate action and results.

5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni. Written in a easy manner that spins a tale of new CEO and her trials in getting her leadership team to work together. Timeless lessons in leadership that I have proven invaluable for me in my career.

6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?

Your career will be filled with both victories and defeats. The biggest lessons and growth will come from those times when things are not going well. Embrace the challenge and learn.

Never shy away from challenges and opportunities. Be open to considering any role. Most careers are not a straight line.

Most of all enjoy each and every experience.

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?

That true leaders will take on any task, even those that seem impossible. What is needed when taking on the impossible is to build a strong team, ensure everyone is aligned to the same goals and that everyone knows their role and what they are expected to deliver.

Together nothing is impossible.

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