Women in Business Q&A: Laurence Dryer, VP of Product Development and Innovation, The Honest Company

Women in Business Q&A: Laurence Dryer, VP of Product Development and Innovation, The Honest Company
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Laurence Dryer

Laurence Dryer is VP of Product Development and Innovation of The Honest Company, which was launched in 2012 with a mission to inspire and empower people to live a happy and healthy life.

Founded in 2012, the mission-driven company provides 100+ safe, effective, and delightful products across a wide range of consumer categories, including baby, personal care, home care, and vitamins & supplements, to a passionate community of consumers united by values and style. Honest Beauty is a comprehensive skincare and makeup collection created with the same Honest standards of safety, performance, and spirit that are the hallmark of The Honest Company. Honest products are available across the U.S. via honest.com and honestbeauty.com and at more than 6,000 retail locations in North America including the Honest Beauty retail experience at The Grove in Los Angeles.

Since its inception, the mission-driven Company has donated over five million products and over 9,000 employee volunteer hours. Honest has been honored with a wide range of recognitions and awards, including the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year - Los Angeles Region, ACG Award for Social Responsibility, PC Magazine's Seal of Consumer Approval in Tech, an Allure Best of Beauty Award, as well as the Pioneer in Sustainability Award by the Sustainable Business Council of Los Angeles.

Laurence is responsible for the Company's product development, R&D, packaging development and clinical operations/claims development activities. Before joining The Honest Company in 2016, Laurence served as Director of Portfolio Development at Valeant Pharmaceuticals. In this role, she led formulation, clinical testing and scientific affairs for all of Valeant's topical OTC/Consumer brands. Prior to Valeant, Laurence was Associate Director of R&D at Obagi Medical Products, Principal Scientist in Scientific Affairs at Neutrogena, where she planned clinical testing, claims development and support for the skincare category, Head of R&D at BASF Beauty Care Solutions (now Beauty Creations), Manager of New Technologies and Clinical Research Scientist at Avon Products, Inc., and a member of the Faculty at the University of Houston.

Laurence holds a Master of Science degree from Paris University 7, a PhD in Neuroscience from Florida State University, and received her postdoctoral education at Harvard Medical School from Nobel Laureate Linda Buck.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I spent my childhood in France growing up on military bases where repetitive and positive actions instilled in me an internal sense of worth. Coupled with the ability to cut to the chase, these are qualities that I think are essential to becoming a good leader. A handful of tough-minded mentors and a healthy, realistic dose of fearlessness helped me rectify my career trajectory at times when I found myself veering off my path.

How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at Honest?
Life in the consumer packaged goods industry requires one skill above all: the ability to manage growth and innovation. My training as a Neuroscientist and every career opportunity in my industry since I've left academia has taught me that with the foundation of sound scientific data, you have the backbone to make decisions and create products that may have no precedence in the marketplace. This is proving essential for my position at The Honest Company, an environment where constant innovation is the rule and we create products to serve a vision for an evolving marketplace.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Honest?
This is a high-voltage organization with energetic and passionate people. There is a wonderful and refreshing awareness of the challenges we face and a willingness to fix them. This is something that I haven't seen very often in my previous positions. A highlight of being at The Honest Company is the ability to impact the organization with information and learnings as much as by position, something that few companies can offer their employees.

What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry?
Your career is not a sprint, it's a marathon. Stay positive, patient and on your course; you are more resilient than you think. What you are learning now will most likely help you in your next or future position. It may not be something you realize that will help immediately or in your current one and that's OK.

What is the most important lesson you've learned in your career to date?
You are 100% responsible for the relationship you have with your boss. The greatest management myth is that your boss manages you. It is in fact the opposite; it's a two-way street. You own that relationship and are equally responsible for the outcome.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
Work/life balance is something I'm constantly working on. I don't believe you can completely separate personal and professional time, it doesn't work for me. I'm most successful when I allow some overlap. When there is a work issue, I am able to better resolve it from home because I am in a relaxed environment that allows me the time to focus and develop a resolution. When I have a personal issue, I deal with it best at work because I am fueled with energy and the goal of efficiency. I also have an incredibly supportive spouse to help with both!

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
The biggest issue for women is the lack of female mentors and champions. Fortunately, I have seen it improve dramatically over the past 10 years, but we still do not have enough of them. In the past, I have seen too many senior female executives competing with each other rather than supporting one another.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
Mentorship has saved me several times professionally and personally. I have a willful streak and can sometimes be my own worst enemy. My best professional mentor was uniquely positioned to impart "tough love" instead of a soft and cozy relationship that rescued me from myself. Personally, my grandfather, an Army Colonel and a great leader of men, taught me my leadership skills.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
A few female leaders that I admire are Notorious R.B.G., for her unflappable logic and fearlessness on womens' issues. Madeline Albright for her survivor skills and her blend of finesse and strength. Sheryl Sandberg for her love of disruption and, of course, Jessica Alba for her passion and relentless pursuit of making a difference.

What do you want Honest to accomplish in the next year?
This year I would like to continue to create innovative products that engage and expand The Honest Company's core mission of safety and integrity. The conscious consumer is no longer niche, it's the norm.

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