San Diego Business Journal

Carin Canale says there's nothing unorthodox about the path her PR career has followed.

"I always knew it was what I wanted to do," said Canale, who has rapidly climbed the ranks in Washington, D.C.; Tulsa, Okla.; and San Diego.

But it is her determination and business savvy that has propelled her, at 34, to the position of president of Porter Novelli Life Sciences. The agency is the largest in the county in terms of clients and revenues.

Porter Novelli Life Sciences does not disclose revenues, but the agency, formerly Atkins + Associates, ranked No. 2 in the San Diego Business Journal's Book of Lists before acquired by Porter Novelli in early 2006. Now, Canale said the agency is No. 1.

Before joining Porter Novelli in 2001, Canale oversaw high-tech accounts at San Diego's Townsend Inc. and previously at Tulsa's Littlefield Inc.

When the high-tech bubble burst, Canale had the foresight to learn about another industry , biotechnology. A chance meeting with Susan Atkins, founder of Atkins + Associates, at an industry cocktail reception, led to a partnership.

"We were both very lucky to have found each other," said Canale, who brought public relations agency experience to what was largely an investor relations-focused firm at the time. "She had a young, hungry entrepreneur in me, and I had her to teach me biotech."

After the acquisition, Canale was promoted from managing director to president, and Atkins remains the chairwoman of the company's board of directors.

The firm services only life sciences companies and works largely from referrals with almost no advertising.

"To do a good job in this industry, you really need to have that focus," Canale said. "I think most PR agencies in San Diego look at biotech as a business opportunity because of the sheer size of the industry. They can just kind of tackle it like any other sector, but this is the most highly regulated industry in the world, so you kind of have to know your stuff to communicate it."

RESUME

Name: Carin C. Canale.

Company: Porter Novelli Life Sciences.

Title: President.

Education: Bachelor's degree from the University of Tulsa with a major in organizational communications and a minor in marketing.

Birthplace: Memphis, Tenn.

Age: 34.

Current residence: Mission Hills.

Family: Domestic partner Hillary Theakston.

BUSINESS PHILOSOPHY

Essential business philosophy: Enjoy your work , life is too short to not love what you do. Act with integrity, and treat people with respect.

Best way to keep a competitive edge: Never get bored! When you are bored you aren't learning new things. You have to constantly learn to stay ahead.

Guiding principles: Be truthful and honest. Always have the client's best interest at heart.

Yardstick of success: Referrals. We do very little agency marketing, yet always have a steady stream of business opportunities. Our past and present clients refer us to other companies often.

Goals yet to be achieved: Our acquisition by Porter Novelli has given us the pieces we need to be truly global. My goal is to bring our knowledge of life science public relations to emerging biotech markets such as Singapore and Sydney, Australia.

JUDGMENT CALLS

Best business decision: To sell the predecessor firm, Atkins + Associates, to Porter Novelli. It was a tough decision to sell but now that we are more than a year into the acquisition, I know it was definitely the right choice.

Worst business decision: Took too long to terminate a divisive employee.

Toughest business decision: Deciding to resign business because the client is not a good fit for the agency, even though it's profitable.

Biggest missed opportunity: We worked with a company for several years and lost them when they finally received two drug approvals. We lost them because we didn't have global reach or government affairs, which ultimately became a driver for the Porter Novelli acquisition.

Mentor: Felicia Collins Correia, the executive director of Tulsa's Domestic Violence Intervention Services, a nonprofit where I was the community relations director. She taught me to have passion and integrity for the job.

TRUE CONFESSIONS

What you like best about your job: People. It's a bit trite but it's true , my job is very people focused, and I love constantly meeting and working with the brightest minds in life sciences and the most creative people in communications.

What you like least about your job: Our product is our time so we have to keep track of all of our time and bill it accordingly. There's no way around it, but I don't expect I'll ever like having to keep such track of my day!

Most important lesson learned: That motivation is unique to each individual.

Person most interested in meeting: Bill Clinton, and it would be pretty cool if he brought Hillary, too.

Three greatest passions: Family, reading, being the best communications firm for life sciences companies.

First choice for a new career: Winemaker specializing in wine for women.

Type of car you drive: Audi A4 Quattro.

PREDILECTIONS

Favorite quote: "There is no use trying," said Alice. "One can't believe impossible things." "I dare say you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."

, Lewis Carroll

Most influential book: "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change."

Favorite restaurants: Parallel 33 and the Wine Vault & Bistro (both conveniently located in Mission Hills!).

Favorite place for business meetings: Bertrand at Mr. A's is just a few blocks from my office so it's convenient.

Favorite vacation spot: I'm going to sail to the Greek Isles in a few months , I suspect I'll have a new favorite!

Favorite way to spend time: With our dog Molly at Coronado Beach; traveling.