Things don’t always go as planned. But by working hard, following your instinct, doing the right thing, and having a passion that drives your career, one will find true success. Key messages shared by Kim Popovits, 2016 Warrington Lecture keynote speaker and CEO of Genomic Health, struck a chord with faculty, staff, and students of all backgrounds.

For the first time in its history, the Broad College of Business annual Sylvan T. Warrington Lecture in Ethics and Leadership welcomed a female business leader to the stage – and went over capacity in both the Kellogg Center Auditorium and the overflow room equipped with live-streaming.

Kim Popovits at 2016 Warrington Lecture

Kimberly Popovits, Chairman, CEO, President of Genomic Health, in Redwood City, California, speaks October 27, 2016, to a standing room only audience in the Kellogg Center. Photo by MATTHEW DAE SMITH

“Kim’s talent and underlying passion for health care go far beyond her career. She is an innovator, a trailblazer and truly epitomizes what this lecture series is all about—and what our college prides itself upon,” said Sanjay Gupta, dean of the Broad College of Business.

While Popovits’ speech emphasized the critical importance of ethics in business and what it takes to be an impactful leader, it was her journey and outlook on defining “success” that moved the audience.

“When I graduated from Broad in 1980 with a degree in hospitality business, it was the hardest time to find a job. I was offered a position in sales for a medical company, and that’s where my journey began,” Popovits explained. After years living on the East Coast working at Genentech, a biotechnology company, as senior vice president, Popovits came to a crossroads when Genomic offered her an opportunity in the Bay Area of California.

“I was torn because I was happy in Connecticut. I loved my job and we’d just built a house. But my husband asked me, ‘well, are you done?’ What he meant was that I needed to think about whether or not I wanted to keep growing, make an even bigger difference in a field I care so much about. So, no, I wasn’t done!” she said.

Popovits and Dean Sanjay Gupta.

Popovits and Dean Sanjay Gupta

For 15 years, she has led Genomic Health in revolutionizing the treatment of cancer through genomic-based diagnostic tests for breast, colon, and prostate cancers that address the overtreatment and optimal treatment of early-stage cancer, one of the greatest issues in healthcare today. Popovits feels extremely passionate about her career: she shared that both of her parents and some close friends have been affected by cancer.

Popovits offered advice to the audience, many of whom are preparing to take their first steps into careers. “No matter the job, no matter your career, you will take steps up a ladder. Many of these are one or two steps up, but then you’ll come to a point where you have the opportunity to leap.  Don’t be afraid of the fall. Those leaps are what will define your career and one day inspire the people around you,” she said.

Popovits didn’t plan the journey she’s on, and as she said, she doesn’t know what’s coming next. But guided by passion, purpose, and the vision to make an impact, her leaps up the ladder are far from over.