“My entire career has been in oncology,” Ashley Smith shared as she recapped her journey of 14 years at Varian and over 25 years dedicated to cancer care.
“Prior to joining Varian, I owned and operated a chemotherapy compounding pharmacy, providing services for small hospitals, private cancer clinics, and other institutions around the southeastern United States.”
Ashley joined the Varian team in 2006 as a software sales representative and felt a deep connection with Varian’s vision to create a world free from fear of cancer. One of her favorite aspects of her work was seeing Varian’s impact at the patient care level. “I really love being in cancer clinics and seeing how clinicians use our products to help patients.”
Ashley’s career at Varian has significantly grown and evolved since then. Over the first many years with Varian, Ashley took on increasing responsibility within North American software sales leadership. Following that, her role expanded to commercial leadership across the Varian portfolio when she moved to APAC for two years, leading the hardware and software sales teams in Australasia.* For the past two years, her role expanded again to R&D leadership within the Oncology Software Solutions (OSS) group. This move resulted in her current role where in October 2020 she was promoted to Vice President of the Oncology Information Systems business unit.
“I love to travel,” Ashley shared. Her work in sales at Varian has given her many travel opportunities, including spending two years in Australia. “An amazing thing happened a few years ago. Executive leadership asked me to move to Sydney, Australia with the opportunity to lead the sales team for Australasia. With that assignment, I was able to take on expanded leadership over not only OIS sales, but also treatment planning, linac, and service sales as well. I could not have asked for a better place to expand my skills outside of the software business I knew and loved. The Australasia market gave me the chance to not only learn new products but also to understand customer needs in other regions within Asia Pacific and how to work within different healthcare systems.”
Although Ashley says she would not trade her experience for anything, she’s had her challenges. “Australia and New Zealand are beautiful countries with beautiful people, but my family did not relocate with me so at times it was a little lonely. Thankfully my Varian ANZ family made me feel welcome immediately, and they will be forever friends.”
While on assignment in Australia, Ashley built teams and systems to help Varian grow. After taking time to learn and review the business, she saw the need for a sales team dedicated to software. “At the time, they operated in an Account Management model, and I saw the need to augment the team with dedicated software specialists. With these specialists working alongside the Account Managers, we were able to grow market share and bring more value to our customers. They continue to be very successful, and I am proud to have been part of that team.”
Ashley’s time in Sydney was cut short when she was called back to the states to take on the role of Senior Director of Oncology Software Solutions. “It was a big change leaving sales and taking on a position leading a large R&D team, but it is challenging and exciting every day.”
Now as one of Varian’s newest vice-presidents, Ashley encourages young women in their early career stages to pursue what sparks their curiosity, believing that career growth and longevity can be impacted by how interested someone is in their work. Ashley encourages young professionals to “find what inspires you and do as much as you can to make a difference, even if you think it is out of your comfort zone.”
“In my career at Varian, I’ve had opportunities to change course and work on the device side of the Varian portfolio, but it has always been software that excites me and drives my desire to make a difference. It’s important to do what inspires you – When I see a young woman starting her career at Varian, I encourage her to look around and explore the many facets of our organization. Whether it’s a career as an engineer, a product manager, a regulatory specialist, or a sales professional, find your fit. Varian has limitless possibilities for you.
“To me, having the opportunity to make a difference for more people is what motivates me. Software impacts multiple teams that help people with cancer. When you go into a clinic, most everyone uses ARIA. Whether you're at the front desk taking care of the scheduling, the doctor, the nurse administering chemotherapy, the radiation therapist, or the pharmacist, everyone utilizes workflow tools. So I feel like I’m making a larger impact. Our goal is to simplify and give our customers innovative tools to allow them to spend more time with patients. We provide workflow tools to get them out from behind the computer and sitting next to the patient.” Ashley takes pride in the impact her work has in the fight against cancer. “We're making decisions that really touch patients.”
As a woman in a leadership role at Varian, Ashley thinks back on her rise to leadership within a large company. “When I joined Varian, and during most of my tenure in sales, I was usually one of only a few women. I was the only woman in sales leadership for many years in North America, but I didn't have any issues. It's empowering to be a woman in that environment because you can stand out, not because of your gender, but your capabilities and the diverse perspective you bring to the conversation.
“One of my most enriching times thus far at Varian was the opportunity to be part of one of the inaugural groups of the Women in Leadership program. I was introduced to amazing women working in all different specialties and geographies around the world. Without the program, I would likely not have crossed paths with these incredible women.” Ashley still has strong relationships with the other program participants and strengthens those friendships outside of work as well. “We formed a sisterhood of women. We share things with one another, encourage and support each other. And even though we're all in different segments of Varian it feels great to have that bond with other women in leadership positions who face similar challenges.”
Ashley is part of a coalition of women who are not only lifting each other up but paving a path to make it easier for the next generation of women to rise and have their voices heard. Listening to voices like Ashley’s helps achieve our vision of a world free from the fear of cancer.
* Australasia is a region that comprises Australia, New Zealand, and some neighboring islands.
Read more incredible stories about Women at Varian.
To learn more about careers at Varian, our mission-driven culture, and how you can join our fight against cancer, please visit our Careers page.