Boldly Going Exactly Where I Was Meant to Be!
Since joining Myriad Genetics two decades ago, I’ve had five different roles across various departments––and the company has nurtured my dream of being a scientist every step of the way. It’s not hard to understand why I have been at Myriad for this long. After all, I was so determined to become part of this company that I applied for a job three different times before I was finally hired.
I wanted to be at Myriad because my passion is to uncover the genetic causes of cancer. I am driven by a very personal calling: to solve the mystery of why generations of women in my family have been diagnosed with breast and ovarian cancers, and to understand how we can predict and treat women like my Mom and her Mom most effectively. During my time at Myriad, we have made a lot of progress in these areas. I personally used our Endopredict® test to help guide the course of my own breast cancer treatment. But I know there is so much more to discover, and this keeps me motivated and excited to keep growing and discovering here at Myriad.
My work at Myriad has also allowed me to explore my perpetual curiosity. I have done everything from extracting DNA in the lab, to explaining results of our tests to patients. Also, I have worked in regulatory compliance to launch our first genetic test in Japan. My current position at Myriad is in developing training for operations. This can involve training in lab processes or in LEAN management practices. The range of positions I have had at Myriad has allowed me to understand how the individual parts of the company relate to our whole mission. I think this has been a great boost to my work and accomplishments.
I was fortunate to have grown up in a family that was supportive of my scientific curiosity and abilities. Unfortunately, my mother was not given the opportunity to develop her own interest in science and math. Because of this, she was determined that STEM education would be open and available to me. There is an old song from the Broadway Musical Annie Get Your Gun that the female lead sings to her male costar. It goes: “anything you can do I can do better”, but my mother tweaked the words to be “anything boys can do girls can do better”. She would sing it to me often, and I took it very much to heart. I was a top student in chemistry and physics and was proud to be the valedictorian of my high school. I was encouraged by both male and female teachers. In college, my biology professor was a woman that taught me that I could excel in science and express my womanhood however I choose. My male peers were sometimes intimidated by my STEM prowess, but I was confident in the pursuit of my dreams.
In addition to these many opportunities in science, at Myriad I have been supported in my home life. I became a mother while I was working here (my children are now 17 and 19). It was a struggle to be a working mom of young children. But Myriad gave me the flexibility to modify my schedule. This really meant that I did not have to choose between career and family––I could be an engaged parent and an efficient employee. In the past several years, it’s been encouraging that men, as well as women, are looking to achieve this work life balance, and pleased that Myriad answered the call.
My view: it is critical to have a diverse group of women and men engaged in science. I would like to see more women in the data fields, because we need to be involved in the creation of algorithms and the development of clinical studies. After all, brilliant ideas come from diversity of all types: gender, cultural backgrounds and life experiences. We are best able to account for the variances among groups of people when we are all represented in our research and discoveries.
I have been involved in trying to encourage this diversity in science. When my kids were younger, I was delighted to wear my lab coat, bring equipment to their school, and do scientific experiments with their classmates. I’ve also judged school science fairs and presented on many career days.
I wanted kids to see that science is interesting, fun, and full of opportunities.
Additionally, I started a book club outside of work with women at Myriad. The club also became a place where women can further support each other. Inside Myriad, I have found the Women’s Leadership Group to be very informative and important, and I hope that these programs become even more frequent. Lastly, I have been informally involved in mentoring at Myriad––both as a mentee and mentor. One of my most important mentors was a man whom I chose based on his work ethic, integrity, and kind nature. He taught me to believe in myself, celebrate my wins, and try new things without fear. And I would love to see a formal mentoring program in the future as I know how invaluable it has been in my career.
The past year has certainly demonstrated the importance of science to the world. I have also realized that my house can feel small when the whole family is both working and schooling at home! I miss the chance to bounce ideas off my colleagues and to just say hi to a friend at work. As women, it is so important to be fearless and connected in our work. A supervisor once told me that I deserved a seat at the table, rather than at the edges of the meeting room where I tended to sit, and my experience at Myriad has proved this to be true. Thankfully, I feel I have a seat at the table here at Myriad. And hopefully soon, we will be all sitting at the table together again.