Recently, I traveled to a place I’ve been to many times: Bogotá, Colombia. This time, I wasn’t in my home country for the sole purpose of visiting family or relishing in the city’s amazing culture. Alongside Lilly CEO Dr. John Lechleiter and Dr. Marta Piñeiro-Núñez, executive director of Lilly’s Open Innovation Drug Discovery (OIDD) program, I took the trip to celebrate the launch of OIDD in Colombia. As the first country in South America to participate in this program, Colombia not only holds significant meaning to Lilly. It has shaped who I have become.
Colombia was the country I called home until I was 18 years old. School was always a passion of mine, and so was science. My grandfather, a doctor who owned a small pharmacy, introduced me to this dual life of business-meets-science and inspired me to enroll in the PharmD program at Sullivan University in Louisville, Kentucky. While I truly enjoyed the clinical work of my doctorate, I developed a passion for “the other side” of science when I started a home remodeling business from the ground up alongside my family. In addition to my current position at Lilly, I still manage the day-to-day operations for my family’s business and have learned valuable, transferable skills ranging from finance and compliance to leading a team and understanding the competition.
My experiences with my family enterprise furthered my pursuit for science-meets-business and eventually propelled me to apply to Lilly’s year-long Visiting Scientist Fellowship. The Fellowship has not only provided me with the tools and resources I need to work as a data scientist, it has served as a platform for networking, opening opportunities for me to be a part of groundbreaking, scientific advances and milestones such as the launch of OIDD in Colombia. I’ve also taken part in Lilly employee resource programs like the Organization of Latinos (OLA) at Lilly, as well as Canine Unwind. In both of those, culture, passions and different points of view are shared and celebrated. These programs have made me feel like Lilly is invested in me the way that I am invested in my career as a scientist and as a businesswoman.
Diversity can often present challenges in the workplace. I’ve learned to embrace diversity and channel it toward innovation both inside and outside the lab. Returning to Colombia reawakened my inherent passion for discovery, when I aspired to be what my grandfather was—the perfect mix of science-meets-business.