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MEET THE TEAM: Mary-Fran Faraji

Many college students are idealistic, with dreams of making a difference. One Jeff Winton Associates consultant wanted to help achieve world peace by pursuing a career in diplomacy. Meet Mary-Fran Faraji, who pivoted from that early aspiration to build a rewarding career by combining an interest in health care, a passion for patients, a love of languages and a drive to raise understanding through strategic communications.

Raised in suburban New Jersey, Mary-Fran wanted a change of scene when it was time for college. She packed up for Tulane University in New Orleans, where she received her B.A., magna cum laude, in international relations and Italian. Being proficient in other languages was essential as she intended to pursue a career in diplomacy, and she studied abroad for a year in Italy, where required texts were in Italian and French.

After twice trying unsuccessfully to pass the interview process for the Foreign Service and facing a “crisis in confidence,” Mary-Fran landed a junior role in international banking with a commercial bank in New Orleans. The bank was seeking someone with international relations knowledge and some foreign language skills to help support its growing trade finance section. Among her responsibilities, she was asked one day to translate an incoming telex from a correspondent bank in Italy that had recently forged a relationship with the New Orleans bank. The telex was in Latin, not Italian: a blessing from Pope John Paul II expressing hope that good work would result from the new banking partnership. 


Above: Hiking the Schabarum Skyline Trail (Walnut, Calif.), less than 30 miles from Los Angeles.

“On that job, I learned a lot about how the world works and about the art of communication when dealing with language barriers,” Mary-Fran recalls. “I enjoyed helping people understand each other to facilitate trade and transactions. It turned out to be the part of banking that interested me the most.”

Upon relocating to New Jersey, Mary-Fran landed in a temporary position that would set the stage for her career path. That job was in the public relations department of the U.S. pharmaceuticals division of the Swiss company, Ciba-Geigy (now Novartis), where she edited internal publications and graduated to an external-facing role.

“The work was immensely satisfying on so many levels,” says Mary-Fran. “I was able to collaborate with colleagues around the globe, and I deeply enjoyed the teamwork involved in raising an understanding of new treatments to improve patients’ health and quality of life.”

Mary-Fran quickly absorbed everything about communications and the pharmaceutical industry– including learning about medicines, the clinical development process and the importance of shaping messages for the media and the general public.

Over the years, Mary-Fran assumed communications roles of increasing responsibility at Novartis, Novo Nordisk, Pharmacia (where she first worked with Jeff Winton), Schering-Plough and Pfizer. Her resume spans multiple therapeutic areas (including cardiology, rheumatology and oncology), vaccines and consumer health. 

Although Mary-Fran embraced each opportunity, she yearned for something different. A new adventure in the nonprofit sector arose in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, when she took a role leading communications for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. She followed this up with a cross-country move to southern California to serve as vice president of communications & public affairs for City of Hope, a comprehensive cancer center and independent research institution.   

When Jeff Winton formed his agency, Mary-Fran was excited to get on board. “I am so energized by the Jeff Winton Associates (JWA) team, many of whom were colleagues and friends from the global biopharma companies I worked with over the years,” she says.  “We are also fortunate to work with amazing clients who are advancing truly promising therapies that will make life better by addressing unmet medical needs. The intriguing nature of the work is endlessly fascinating, challenging and rewarding. Every day is a new adventure, something new to accomplish together.”


Above: Out for a walk along the San Gabriel River Trail (Azusa, Calif.) in Los Angeles County.

Another plus to working for JWA is the ability to be a part-time consultant so Mary-Fran can enjoy time with family spread out across the country.  “I love being with my children, their life partners and four adorable grandchildren,” Mary-Fran says. “There’s nothing better than getting a big hug from a grandchild, playing together at the park, stopping for ice cream on a hot summer day, or reading and singing silly songs together. And it’s great having grown-up children who help me with their perspective, expertise and advice.”

Since moving to southern California eight years ago, Mary-Fran has been in awe of her surroundings. She muses, “The state parks; the deserts; the beaches; the redwood forests; the mountains; and the stunning scenery – everywhere there is some beautiful work of nature. There is nothing so serene as watching a sunset with palm trees silhouetted against a bright pink sky or seeing snow-covered mountains on the horizon during 70-degree winter days.”

This slice of heaven is a perfect backdrop to what JWA offers: true work/life balance.

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