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Insights from Leslie Martin: Navigating Talent Acquisition at Flagship Pioneering

We recently had a fantastic conversation with one of our favorite people, and it's worth a quick recap. Leslie Martin, VP of Talent Acquisition at Flagship Pioneering, gave us a tour of her career journey, the ethos at Flagship Pioneering, and her thoughts on the unique aspects of talent acquisition in the biotech industry.


From Golf Pro to Flagship Pioneering

We love learning about the unique career paths of our guests, and Leslie's was a lot of fun! Initially aspiring to be a golf pro, Leslie eventually pursued degrees in marketing and communications. However, it was her personal connections and network that led her to talent acquisition and executive search.


Over the years, she has honed her skills in tech before moving to biotech to shape the talent strategies at Flagship Pioneering, a venture capital firm with a supportive biotech ecosystem to nurture the companies they spin out.


Transitioning from Tech to Biotech

After spending 25 years in the tech industry, Leslie made a significant career transition to biotech. One of the driving factors behind this move was her desire to work in a mission-driven environment.


The transition was challenging, especially when shifting from a domain where she was an expert. However, Leslie embraced the learning curve–and the foreign language of science–to understand the unique needs of the biotech sector. We've observed that there's a lot of overlap between tech and biotech, so it's not surprising that so many of her skills from working at tech companies like LinkedIn and TripAdvisor came in handy.


The Culture of Excellence at Flagship Pioneering

Flagship Pioneering stands out for its relentless focus on excellence, and over the years we've enjoyed working with Flagship incubator companies and spinoffs. Overall, they are well-organized and prepared to build businesses around great scientific ideas.


According to Leslie, the organization is a hub of exceptional talent, which in turn motivates individuals to bring their best selves to work. The culture at Flagship Pioneering is not just about incremental improvements; it's about groundbreaking innovations and blue-sky thinking. This ethos permeates through all levels of the organization, including talent acquisition and HR. We agree–the talent in these companies is extrondiary.


Talent Retention in a Volatile Industry

The rewards of working in a startup include exceptional growth opportunities, high impact even for entry level scientists, and the possibility of a windfall when and if the company progresses to a successful liquidity event. The downside is that most startup biotechs don't succeed,


One of the unique features of working at Flagship Pioneering is the robust ecosystem that it offers. In an industry known for its volatility, Flagship Pioneering provides a level of security that is rare. If a startup within its portfolio fails to move forward, Leslie's team has a system in place to help affected employees find other opportunities within the Flagship ecosystem. This approach serves as a significant differentiator and adds an extra layer of security for those thinking of working in a small startup.



Leslie Martin's journey is fun, and inspiring, and offers insights for anyone interested in talent acquisition, particularly in the biotech industry. Her experience at Flagship Pioneering highlights the importance of adaptability, the value of a mission-driven work environment, and the unique advantages of working within a supportive ecosystem. Whether you're a job seeker or an employer in the biotech field, understanding the ethos and strategies employed at Flagship Pioneering can provide valuable lessons.


For more in-depth insights, be sure to listen to the full episode of the "Building Biotechs" podcast where Leslie Martin shares her extensive experience and wisdom. If you like video, you can watch it below!




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