An interview with Kate Kline, Senior Vice President of Marketing at Kala Pharmaceuticals
How has your upbringing informed your professional life?
I grew up in a very close-knit family in Philadelphia. As the youngest sister of 3 older brothers, I learned to apply grit and tenacity and a willingness to go above and beyond supporting those around me. This personal experience has enabled me to lead high-functioning teams in my career. I truly do believe in striving to be collaborative and to work for the common good. I am a passionate person who believes in being your authentic self each day. Building trust with others has also been key to my success. I want others to know they can count on me to give full effort in reaching set goals. The opportunity that I have experienced at Kala has afforded me the chance to work with talented individuals and teams. We’re coming together to advance science and get new treatments to patients who have been searching for a better way to treat their medical needs.
What has been your career trajectory?
I value the diversity of experience I have gained throughout my career. I’ve worked at agencies, pharmaceuticals and device, marketing and managed care. My career moves were very purposeful so that I could have meaningful experiences that would help me achieve a level of understanding and maturity that I would not have otherwise had.
I started my career on the agency side in Pennsylvania, working with large accounts—but not in eye care. A West Coast ad agency recruited me for my first eye care job in pharmaceuticals. I relocated to California, and it was there that I uncovered my passion and commitment to eye care. I was given the opportunity to join Allergan on the Restasis marketing team to help develop and build the dry eye market.
I look back at what an honor it has been to help build the story around dry eye—when I first started with Allergan, dry eye was considered a nuisance with no approved prescription treatments available. Fast forward 15 years, and I have come full circle in dry eye. I’m now at Kala Pharmaceuticals, where I am applying my skills and experience to help build a new leader in eye care.
I recommend that others consider accepting positions that can be learning environments that support your career and moving forward. At Kala, I have a unique opportunity to embrace the entrepreneurial start-up spirit in which all employees are invested in the success of the company and committed to eye care and making patients’ lives better.
Talk about your approach to leadership.
My approach to leadership is built on 3 pillars: trust, empowerment and alignment. First, trust people. You hired them for their individual uniqueness combined with their skills and experience. I believe that leading others means giving them the space to execute the jobs they were hired for. Coupled with trust is empowerment. I truly believe that empowering others in a supportive environment leads to team members utilizing their skills, judgement and expertise in propelling the business forward. A final component to my approach is ensuring alignment across differing functions of the business to achieve common goals. Aligning all stakeholders (internal and external) is critical to executing and bringing a vision to fruition.
What is a valuable marketing principle you can apply to any business?
The key to successful marketing is first and foremost building a strong, knowledgeable team that is supporting a compelling story. I believe that with a compelling story, a brand can have success in any market. It takes an army to do that, from key opinion leaders, patients, to internal folks to the sales reps.
From a marketing perspective, what has been the impact of the virtual environment?
The virtual workplace has been great in many ways and it has taught us that we can do much of our jobs remotely— at Kala we have successfully launched a new product in this environment. I do very much look forward to a return to normalcy in which we are able to join together live in the office setting. I strongly believe that we all are doing our best to maximize the virtual tools at hand to stay connected, but one can never replicate the human connection.
From a marketing perspective, working remotely has challenged our thinking to traditional marketing to include a virtual/digital approach. We have been forced to think about how to reach people differently. We’ve learned a lot since going remote and are ready to apply these learnings going forward to make sure we stay connected to one another, our patients, and our KOLs. We know we can adapt quickly to challenges and are ready to think creatively to take advantages of changes in our environments.
My advice to those seeking leadership roles in our industry is to consider all opportunities through the lens of their potential to help you grow.