Don't Be Afraid to Ask

Emma Parmee says speaking up can result in three outcomes... all of which are positive
Industry Matters Newsletter
Women having a conversation in an office
Image credit: iStock by Getty Images

When it comes to personal development, many of us sit back and wait for opportunities to come to us. It is easy to assume that leadership will tap you on the shoulder if a promotion, new assignment, or role is right for you. Let’s face it, “asking for more” is scary; like Oliver Twist, who asked for more gruel, you might be rejected. But everything turned out well for Oliver in the end, and, as I share below, it will for you too.

In my career, the times when I plucked up the courage to ask for extra responsibility or to be part of a new initiative have taught me that making your desires and aspirations known can have three outcomes – all of which are good! First, you might get what you ask for. Second, you might be offered a different assignment that is more appropriate for you – this happened to me and changed the trajectory of my career in a new and positive direction. Last, if the opportunity is not right for you, you have nonetheless initiated a conversation with your boss about the skills you need to develop to be ready for the next opportunity that comes around.

So, my advice is this: while it may feel uncomfortable at first, never be afraid to ask!


Emma R. Parmee, D. Phil. Global Head, Therapeutics Discovery Janssen Research & Development, LLC
Emma R. Parmee, D. Phil. Global Head, Therapeutics Discovery Janssen Research & Development, LLC

As Global Head of Therapeutics Discovery within Janssen Research & Development, Emma Parmee is currently responsible for execution of the discovery portfolio and delivery of development candidates across all therapeutic modalities including small molecules, biologics, peptides, and RNA, gene, and cell therapies.

She leads a global team of ~800 employees who work in collaboration with Janssen therapeutic area (TA) discovery scientists and other stakeholders to define and operationalize innovative strategies for the successful identification and optimization of novel leads into drug candidates. 

Emma joined Janssen in November 2020 following a 28-year career at Merck Research Labs (MRL), most recently serving as Head of Discovery Chemistry. She began at MRL in the cardiometabolic area where she was privileged to work on the DPP-4 inhibitor project and contribute to the discovery of JANUVIA™ (sitagliptin) for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. Emma also served as a Discovery Chemistry Site Lead, responsible for chemistry efforts in Neuroscience, HIV, and Bone. During this time the small molecule CGRP antagonists, UBRELVY™ (ubrogepant) and QULIPTA™ (atogepant), were delivered from the group.

Emma obtained her D. Phil. Degree in 1990 at the University of Oxford, studying the total synthesis of milbemycin natural products and then completed a NATO postdoctoral fellowship at MIT under Professor Satoru Masamune.

Emma was awarded the Thomas Alva Edison Patent Award from the R&D Council of NJ in 2007 and the SCI Gordon E. Moore Medal for Innovation in 2009, both for her contributions toward the discovery of JANUVIA™.  She was also a member of the Merck team awarded the 2007 Prix Galien USA for the discovery of JANUVIA™.  Emma was the recipient of the 2018 ACS Medicinal Chemistry Division Award and was inducted into the ACS Division of Medicinal Chemistry Hall of Fame in 2018.  In 2022, Emma received an Arthur C. Cope Scholar award from the American Chemical Society (ACS). Her work has led to more than 40 issued US patents and more than 50 publications in peer-reviewed journals.Emma obtained her D. Phil. Degree in 1990 at the University of Oxford, studying the total synthesis of milbemycin natural products and then completed a NATO postdoctoral fellowship at MIT under Professor Satoru Masamune.   

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of their employer or the American Chemical Society.

Related Content