Greenough Alumni Update: Susan Willson

For many people, a first job out of college is an introduction to the professional world, a learning experience that allows a young person to get his sea legs before starting down a career path. For Susan Willson, who joined Greenough in 2004, her first job proved to be much, much more. Susan interned at Greenough’s San Francisco office during her senior year Stanford University, then joined the company full-time after graduating. She worked for a true mentor in Helena Kimball, and earned immediate client and media exposure due to her excellent skillset and Greenough’s boutique structure.

“I had the rare and rewarding experience of getting to make an impact very early in my career,” said Susan. “I wasn’t hidden from clients at Greenough. Far from it – I had the opportunity to work on client-facing items and even new business opportunities almost from day one.”

When Greenough’s San Francisco office closed, Susan joined the rest of the team in Boston. There she became a day-to-day contact for multiple clients. Under the mentorship of Helena, as well as Phil Greenough, Stacey Mann and many others, Susan learned to become a subject matter expert, manage account demands and hold her own by providing clients with a strategic advice.

“The level of responsibility I received was tremendous,” said Susan. “I distinctly remember going on my first new business pitch only a few months into the job. It was terrifying, but also one of the most valuable work experiences I’ve ever had. It was especially gratifying when we ended up winning the business!”

After five years with Greenough, Susan left to become a corporate relations manager for Genentech, a biotechnology company in San Francisco. She says one of the most valuable skills she learned at Greenough was how to acquire a high level of expertise about any industry in a short period of time. Susan leveraged this Greenough-honed ability to research and process information when she earned a job in biotechnology, an industry in which she had little experience but a great deal of interest.

“Greenough taught me how to develop a knowledge base so strong that client experts would ask me if they had forgotten to mention anything during a media interview,” said Susan. “That has come in handy many times in my professional life, not least when I had to go up against people with years of biotech experience as I was interviewing for my Genentech position.”

In her role at Genentech, Susan manages external communications for several bio-oncology medicines and helps inform the way the company’s story is told, including creating appealing, media-friendly narratives using all the information at her disposal, from clinical trial statistics to real-life patient experiences.

Susan found Greenough’s investment in cultivating her strengths and recognizing her successes made the company a rewarding place to work, but she also says that Greenough’s most valuable asset was its people. “This is a place with a committed focus on mentoring,” she said, “and on making employees take ownership of clients regardless of their position in the company.”

Jake Navarro is a senior consultant at Greenough.