Renee Connolly takes time to appreciate the little moments
Global head of communications at MilliporeSigma traces her career path in interview leading to Massachusetts Conference for Women
December 6, 2017
“You can have it all, but you can’t have it all at the same time.”
That is the advice Renee Connolly, global head of communications and corporate responsibility at MilliporeSigma, would give to her high school self.
Connolly, global head of communications and corporate responsibility at MilliporeSigma and the mother of four children ranging in age from 4 to 15, has a lot going on right now. This week she will be presenting at the Massachusetts Conference for Women. As a member of the board, she has watched the conference grow from 800 attendees to the more than 10,000 people heading to the Boston Convention Center for events Dec. 6 and 7.
She grew up on Long Island and was a journalism major at Ithaca College with dreams of becoming the next Barbara Walters. But when she was a senior at IC, her mother died at the age of 42 from lung cancer. In the process, her career track found a new path.
She spoke with the Raider Times recently via Skype about her career.
Q: What do you do in a typical Wednesday?
A: My typical day usually begins around 4 in the morning and ends around 11 at night, and in between when I’m in the United States, it’s anything from board meetings, answering reporters’ questions, community events, working with the CEO, helping my leadership team decide what’s the strategic vision for the company, and then I’ll go home, cook dinner, sit down, maybe do some math homework — which is NOT a strong suit of mine — help the ninth-grader, try to help the kids … Then normally, I hop back online, because I work for a company based here in the United States but their headquarters are in Darmstadt, Germany, which is right outside of Frankfort. I use the time zones to send things late at night so that they get it first thing in the morning. Then when I wake up at 4 in the morning, it’s 9 or 10 in the morning for them, and I’ve already got some responses.
Q: What made you take a job in communications?
A: I loved English and l liked the ability of doing public speaking, so as I was exploring my college options, I realized there could be a great marriage between the English portion of what I liked and the communication portion by looking at schools that had strong communications opportunities, and journalism was one of those areas — and frankly it kept me as far away from math as possible at that time. … My original journey was going to be on the way of political journalism in Washington, per se. … I really was intrigued, during my mother’s illness by the need of capital financing in health care and the need for information and so I became passionate about trying to dedicate my career to a life where I could help synthesize really complex science into an understandable soundbite or topic or article for people like myself or their families who were experiencing these kind of tragic situations to learn more about things that might be afflicted in their lives.
Q: What advice would you give your high school self?
A: I would say, “You can have it all, but you can’t have it all at the same time.” When I was in high school, I was class president, on the soccer and basketball and softball teams, I was the homecoming this, doing the dances for this. I was always involved in everything. And at that point in time I wonder if I did so many things I never enjoyed anything. … I think I would tell myself in high school: soak it in, enjoy the moment. It goes so fast. Sometimes when you are doing so many things you might take in and relish in that really important game or that really fun experience with your friends, or that class where you’re like, “That teacher’s really great.”
Q: What is your most important or your favorite part of your job?
A: I don’t think I could pick one, so I’ll pick two. So one of the parts of my job that I’m responsible for is the community relations and our corporate responsibility around the globe. And we have something called the Curiosity Cube, which is a cube that we take around to schools in cities around the United States, and it’s going to be goin internationally next year, and we bring children in for hands-on science experiments. One of the best parts of my job is seeing their faces. … And the smile on their faces makes me say, “Wow I’m really luck and fortunate to be able to bring this to kids and have that job.” … My favorite part of the job is the conversations. I think in today’s world, where we get so caught up in our mobile devices and our computers, you can miss the joy of conversation. I relish in the opportunities to spar with my colleagues and the members on my team and work through a problem real time and talking together about it. I think sometimes you have to take advantage of those moments and make time for it, because it’s so much easier to live life through technology versus living life through talk.
Q: So what is your least-favorite part of the job?
A: I work in an organization that is 20,000 people, $6 billion in revenue, we have 300,000 products, we have a million customers, and then we are part of an organization that has 50,000 people, so what I like least about it is that sometimes in order to get the littlest thing done it takes an awful lot of matrix work, and that can be sometimes frustrating, because it can be much easier to say sometimes, “I have this problem and this is what I want to do.” So I get excited about the joy of figuring things out but the monstrosity of what we’re dealing with sometimes makes it frustrating to not move with the velocity that I would need.
(Raider Times reporters Saron Nebiye, Niki Hamidi, Natalie Finton, Melanne Ghahraman, Lauren Cole, Carolina Pesqueira, Benjamin Fandetti, and Bandna Kaur contributed to this interview.)
–Dec. 6, 2017–