Last year, Jessica Hilton took on an executive role at Allied BioScience, a Dallas-based biotechnology company that specializes in antimicrobial coatings for public spaces.
It was a major step—not only had she never worked in biotech, an industry she was entering amidst a global pandemic, but Hilton was to be the new chief marketing officer, a position she knew would drastically affect her time outside of work as a mother of three.
That’s why before accepting the offer, she consulted her ‘board’ at home: her family.
The open dialogue Hilton started at home, which hinged on how much the CMO job would affect her loved ones’ daily routines, was critical to her taking the leap. She knew her children’s lives had already been upended by COVID, and they would probably see a lot less of her.
But it was because of the work she’d be doing at Allied BioScience—and her family’s acceptance and support of it—that she’s been able to thrive during the pandemic, and achieve what she refers to as an unbalanced work/life balance.
Because sometimes, when the lines are blurred between work and life, it’s okay. Even if it doesn’t look perfect from the outside looking in.
In a recent blog post for the Business Journal’s “In Her Own Words” series, Hilton outlines how often women are plagued by finding an ideal equilibrium between work and life. To her, when passion comes into play, the reality is that that’s difficult to achieve—and “there doesn’t have to be a complete separation.”
Part of Hilton’s innate passion for her position comes from what Allied BioScience has been up to during the pandemic.
Last April, the biotech company was among Lydia Partners’ initial round of multimillion-dollar investments, and in May, its antimicrobial coating was said to improve patient outcomes and reduce environmental contamination.
Then, in August, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved the first and only surface coating for continuous protection against COVID-19 with a single application. The antimicrobial coating is called SurfaceWise2—and it’s from Allied BioScience.
The EPA approved Allied BioScience’s public health emergency exemption waiver submitted by the Texas Department of Agriculture. At the time, it allowed for Texas-based customers to use SurfaceWise2 against SARS-CoV-2.
Today, the biotech, which Hilton calls a “small but mighty” startup, is working to launch the first-ever long-lasting cleaner to market as a tool in the fight against COVID-19.
“The role of essential workers right now is to bring all possible tools to the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, and that’s just what we’re doing at Allied BioScience,” Hilton told Dallas Innovates. “We’re working around the clock to get SurfaceWise2 as broadly approved as quickly as possible, knowing that it will have an immediate and long lasting effect on stemming the pandemic—and allowing us all to get back to a better normal.”
At the core of the company is it’s mission to “save lives and reduce the global burden of infectious disease”—a tall task that Hilton and the rest of the executive team are steadfastly behind.
“I was a bit unsure about foraying into biotech after working primarily in the consumer space for most of my career, but following my first interview with the company, I was drawn to the culture and the mission of Allied BioScience,” Hilton says. “It’s such an incredible honor to work alongside this team of people to bring a novel technology to Americans during a time of crisis.”
Hilton’s role is all-encompassing. In addition to traditional CMO tasks—marketing, PR, advertising, social efforts, media—she oversees global training and supports partnerships, international business, investor relations, and regulatory affairs.
She says no two days are alike: But with the assistance of an amazing team, she’s able to be a personable leader that still drives results.
“I care about each of my team members, and that respect leads to success,” Hilton says. “My leadership, partnership and passion for people are critical assets as we grow and continue to work with strategic partners who share our commitment to integrity and excellence.”
Having such a solid team is part of the reason why work/life balance is so non-existent during this crucial time in our country’s history. Allied BioScience’s antiviral technology is the first of its kind, and can withstand wear, tear, and other cleaning chemicals for 90 days.
Because her family understands just how vital the innovation is, it makes her long hours easier to manage.
“That I’m fighting every day to help bring an end to their chaos helps, in some small way, to bring a sense of order and reason to the nonsensical life at large right now,” Hilton told the Business Journals. “While my family sees a lot less of me right now, they are keenly aware that I am part of a team pushing hard to launch a product to help end the pandemic, not just the COVID-19 pandemic but future ones as well.”
For now, Hilton has found ways to creatively keep in touch with her family and treasure time on the weekends. Though she’s still learning, she shared with us a few key pieces of advice for c-suite parents who might be in a similar state.
“I would say to be transparent about why you are choosing to take on the more demanding job and its importance from the beginning—i.e. before you take a role or right when you get a promotion that will require more of your time.
I sat down my family and talked about the time commitment this job would require and that I may be a little less accessible than normal, but still cared deeply about the lives of my children and husband. They got on board because they realized the mission aligned with their own values (helping to take care of others), and only then did I move forward with accepting the role.
My kids are hyper aware of what’s happening at Allied BioScience—and with COVID—which is great because they are now constantly pitching on our behalf!
My oldest has decided lobbying is in her wheelhouse, my son questions why our product hasn’t been rolled out everywhere every day, and my youngest is mortified that bacteria remains on surfaces. Gross.”
Ultimately, Hilton sees having a demanding, but meaningful, job as creating a ripple effect on your family. And when it comes to turning work completely “off,” she has a few tips (though they aren’t always followed 100 percent, she acknowledges to her family at home):
- “Set a time to shut down by;
- Create dedicated work-free hours/days/lunches with your family/friends/kiddos; and
- Tag team. Trade off being the POC and alert colleagues that you are ‘off’ for the night, and someone else is the point person for anything that needs to be addressed.”
And eventually, she does see her work and life becoming a little more balanced.
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