Turning the Linear Career Journey into a Honeycomb

Kathrin Knauf, HR Business Partner at Moderna, has had an extensive career in biotech and pharma. Now, she’s beginning a new journey to bridge people and processes.

As the novel coronavirus began to emerge on the global stage in 2020, Kathrin Knauf had taken on a new assignment within Moderna as Vice President of CMC Project Management Office. In this role, she played a critical part in helping to expand the biotech company’s COVID-19 vaccine production efforts.

Reflecting on the early days of the pandemic, Kathrin remembers the ways people across the world came together in the fight against COVID. “There was a common goal, not just within Moderna, but beyond,” said Kathrin. “Everybody wanted to fight this thing, and there was just this true feeling of collaboration. I literally used each and every skill that I’ve ever learned in my life.”

Now, as people begin to receive vaccinations against the novel coronavirus, Kathrin is doubling down on her passions for people, processes, and development. In her new role as a Human Resources Business Partner at Moderna, Kathrin will serve in a key position to support the company’s continued growth.

With a new journey ahead of her, Kathrin recently offered her perspectives with Tufts Gordon Institute on her career path, new beginnings, and more.



According to Kathrin, the career journey is not always linear or related. She described a simple formula that has guided her career: opportunity times motivation times ability – a proclamation that advancement comes from equal parts hard work and being in the right place at the right time.

Each piece of the career journey, she says, forms part of a “honeycomb.” The different fragments tiled together represent the winding (and sometimes unforeseen) transition between jobs, roles, and practice areas.

“I didn’t believe in the linearity of the traditional career trajectory; I enjoyed having flexibility and the honeycomb allowed for that, where I have some guiding posts, but I don’t have to be completely boxed in.”



Onto a new piece of the honeycomb, Kathrin has come a long way since her beginnings in biotech and pharma. From working in labs to leading large teams, she’s seen the industry from nearly every perspective. 

According to Kathrin, one thing that has remained consistent in her life is her continued focus on cultivating relationships with mentors who, she says, have been instrumental in helping her gain exposure within large, multi-national organizations.

“I met a really great mentor; I was the youngest of the bunch and he said there’s something in you. You’re a pebble right now, but maybe we can make you into a bit of a diamond,” said Kathrin. “I’ve met many mentors, but he has never given up on me.”

Now, she’s bringing her expertise to Tufts Gordon Institute where she recently co-facilitated the Leading in a Post-Pandemic World workshop, the first charrette-style program within the Tufts Transformative Leadership Community. As she continues into this new venture, the honeycomb expands and the journey buzzes with excitement.

“Tufts Transformative Leadership Community is a powerful resource for mid-to-senior level career professionals that’s providing the framework for a way forward in today’s rapidly changing landscape,” said Kathrin. “It was rewarding to facilitate a session on cultivating employee engagement with a group of driven participants.”