What inspired you to pursue a career in science, and how did your international background shape your interest in this field?
Elisa: I am a first-generation Asian-Canadian, and that involves a unique set of challenges. My initial curiosity about the field of science was focused on how medicine is made and all of the different fields that I could potentially work in. My main goal has been to make an impact in this world, and making medicine for patients is one way to ensure that I am truly helping people.
Zeynab: I previously worked with cancer patients and saw that there was a lack of proper diagnostic tools and medicines in the market for treatment. I saw how that affected the patients, so I changed careers to pharmaceutical science to make an impact and help the lives of these patients. I worked in a hospital in Iran and have a clear understanding of what is going on with the patients; now, working in Canada, there is better funding to be able to make a lasting impact on so many patients. As an international student, I experienced lots of challenges that helped me grow stronger, and networking was one of the biggest parts of my success.
Nooshin: The first thing that inspired me to do science was my mom’s encouragement. She wanted me to earn a science doctorate, and she liked seeing me in the white lab coat. She wanted me to have a significant role, and that was one of my biggest motivators.
As a woman in science, what challenges have you faced in your career, and how have you overcome them?
Nooshin: Within Evonik, there have not been many challenges because of my department’s mostly being women, and we have similar interests. We are a support system for each other. Outside of Evonik, there are limitations for women in other countries, where women may be treated unequally and do not have access to the same opportunities as men. That is one of the reasons I believe international hiring is such an important value for a global company. International candidates have so much to bring to the table, and they may not have the opportunity to do so in their home countries.
Angelica: Being surrounded by excellent professionals has been very inspiring, and it has allowed me to connect with others to enhance my strengths. However, the high standards and expectations occasionally lead me to second-guess myself. Along my path I have pushed myself to experience unfamiliar circumstances (including working abroad). It has been a process of building my confidence, recognizing that “not knowing” is okay, and understanding my learning curve. I am especially grateful for the opportunity to grow as a person and a professional. I feel it's totally worth it.
Zahra: Growing up, I had a great support system for pursuing my career in science. However, now that I am in my career, there is the challenge of work-life balance for some women when you are in the stage of life where you may have additional family obligations. That could potentially have an impact on your career if work-life benefits are not valued where you work.
As international women in science, what advice would you give to other women looking to pursue a career in this field?
Zeynab: The advice that I would give to women looking to pursue a career in this field is to utilize every experience you have available while you are in school. It can be difficult being away from your family and friends, but I found networking and spending time with classmates helped me tremendously. That encourages other women to believe in themselves and helps them find a good mentor to provide the tools, guidance, support, and feedback they need to thrive in their career. I had mentors all throughout school, and they helped me immeasurably in my educational journey, my career, and my personal life.
Nooshin: I would tell other women looking to pursue science, don’t be shy, and keep trying! Don’t be afraid of failing, and create a good network for yourself. You never know when you will need help with something, and a good support system is especially important to have in your life.
Angelica: Being an international woman in science can give you a broader perspective on different problems that science could help to solve. It also opens up your ability to access more resources that will expand the impact of your work. My advice would be: First, carefully review which beliefs are set in your mind and get rid of everything that could limit you (the first work is from the inside out). From there, clearly identify which experiences will be fulfilling for you and how science can help you achieve that. After that, just start taking small steps that will get you there: Join that seminar, create a strong LinkedIn network, apply to that research group… Don’t forget to have fun along the way!
What does #PartOfSomethingSpecial mean to you working at Evonik?
Zahra: The impact that science makes on the world, and how Evonik is part of that, is something that is special to me about Evonik. The impact that the company had during Covid with GMP lipids is immeasurable, and they would not have reached the mass public during the pandemic without our continued work. I feel as if I am supported, seen, and heard every day at Evonik. That is true not only of my team, but also of my managers and their leadership team. At Evonik, I have the opportunity and potential to grow and have broad experiences within my current role, without feeling limited.
Elisa: It’s the impact on people, and the potential for me to grow. At Evonik, our work is for the patients, and the ultimate goal is to give them a better quality of life. It’s rewarding to do something that can have such a big impact on people. There is also so much potential for myself and my career goals within Evonik.