In the last few years, I’ve been grateful to experience a series of milestones, including graduating from college, earning my first full-time job and editing my first video for our company intranet. However, I never would have expected to celebrate these pivotal moments from the comfort of my childhood bedroom, which doubled as my home office for a year and a half.
Starting my professional career during the peak of the pandemic, I was unsure what a true “workplace” looked like, although I knew what I was looking for: a company that values the community and its employees, promotes creative thinking, offers work/life balance and flexibility and challenges its people to excel in their work. Today, Horizon was again named one of the Chicago Tribune’s Top Workplaces, evidence that it has cultivated an atmosphere that encompasses what I listed above and more.
Receiving this award comes as no surprise. I started as an intern at Horizon in June 2020, and immediately felt embedded in the culture as I gained valuable skills through a computer screen and could only imagine the value that would come with working physically in the office. When the company re-opened its doors last year, I had transitioned to a full-time role in research and development communications at the U.S. headquarters in Deerfield, Ill., and saw what a true workplace looks like: committed employees with fresh ideas hopping from one meeting to another, endless collaborative spaces to grab a cup of coffee and connect with colleagues, and palpable energy.
Balance is Key
Working from home is still crucial to many in my generation. In fact, a survey by the ADP Research Institute found that nearly 64% of young professionals would consider looking for a new job if their employer required them to return to the office full-time.
I understand completely – the added flexibility at Horizon is extremely convenient. But as someone who admittedly is not a caregiver, has access to public transportation and doesn’t have other barriers to getting to the office each morning, I have found immense value from working in-person after starting my career at home. Being in the office has furthered my professional development. It has also taught me how to maintain balance in my work and personal life – it’s why I take the commuter train from Chicago to the office in the suburbs five days a week – most of the time. Working from home at first, I found the separation between home office and home life was difficult to maintain. My morning “commute” of grabbing coffee from my kitchen and returning to my bedroom didn’t give me the boundaries that I required to build healthy habits. Establishing a structure for when I log on and off has given me the ability to establish boundaries. The balance has also been good for my mental health. Having struggled with several aspects of my mental health over the years, I’ve found that the trip to the Horizon campus gives me a chance to decompress after I leave the office.
That being said, I’ve also had moments where I needed to work from home to prioritize my mental well-being. I’m grateful to have this flexibility and support from the company and from my manager, who’s based in our office in Rockville, Md., and keeps an open line of communication, encouraging her team to adapt and work where it’s most accessible and efficient for us to maintain a sense of balance physically and mentally.
Developing Through In-Person Interactions
In my role at Horizon, I support the communications efforts for our growing research and development (R&D) organization. Sharing Horizon’s science story in a strategic way requires a holistic understanding about the business and science of biotech. While virtual “coffee chats” gave me a chance to connect in 2D, having in-person access to people across the organization has resulted in insightful conversations that capture how every team truly plays a role here.
Medicine development is a team sport, and connecting with colleagues from all parts of the company has broadened my sense of everyone’s role to take a molecule from preclinical development to a potential on-market medicine that can change lives. It takes many cross-functional groups to ensure we are serving people living with rare, autoimmune and severe inflammatory diseases and putting their needs in the fore.
And having a 360 view on the business extends beyond daily work – it’s also about how Horizon can give back to the communities it serves. By getting involved in volunteer activities and internal organizations such as RiSE – Horizon’s internal group that promotes diversity, equity and inclusion – I’ve been able to meet colleagues from all parts of the company.
These interactions are shaping the trajectory of my career. During my first month in person at the office, I met a colleague while grabbing lunch in our café and followed up over coffee the next week. She’s someone who has been working in biotech for more than 20 years, and I’ve been able to learn how she has worked in a variety of functions within the industry, the lesson being that I’m not limited to one type of role. I can thrive in my work today and think strategically about developing my career in the future.
Of course, working in the office has also given me a chance to feel even more connected to Horizon’s culture, which I have enjoyed from the beginning. After one all-employee meeting, I was introduced to a colleague who’s Iranian, like me. Growing up in my hometown outside Chicago, I wasn’t surrounded by others of the same nationality. It gave me a sense of comfort to meet someone who grew up eating the same foods, spoke the same language I learned before English (Farsi) and could connect with me on a unique, personal level. It’s relationships like these that give me a sense of community in the workplace.
Between working from home and commuting to the Horizon office, I have been able to establish healthy physical and mental boundaries, gain line-of-sight into the bigger picture of the Horizon business and thrive off the energy of my colleagues. Establishing a “top workplace” is all about creating spaces that work for everyone. Luckily, I found mine at Horizon.