National Hispanic Heritage Month, an annual celebration that takes place from September 15th – October 15th, pays tribute to generations of Hispanic Americans who have positively influenced and enriched our nation and society. To mark the occasion, we spoke to Cecilia Scorza, Lab Technologist III and member of the Sema4 Diversity & Inclusion Council, about the importance of her heritage and her passion for STEM.
What is your role at Sema4?
I work in Next-Generation Sequencing as a lab technologist. I work with our Expanded Carrier Screen (ECS) solution, as well as our Hereditary Cancer test. I’ve been able to work closely with the launch of our newly expanded ECS, which covers up to 502 clinically-relevant genetic conditions and personalized residual risks. I really enjoy what I do in the lab and the team I work with.
What motivates you to work at Sema4?
I have a great passion for what I do. I always knew that I wanted to be in STEM and what we do here at Sema4 is everything I want to be a part of. We are helping patients to improve their healthcare from a molecular aspect. As I joined Sema4 as a fresh graduate and have worked here for over three years, I’ve been a part of our growth. I see the potential of what we can do, and my own potential, in finding new opportunities to grow.
What does National Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you?
This month is a time when the rest of the nation can get a closer look into the Hispanic culture. There is a rich history and a sense of family and community. I value recognition and awareness months like this bring because they shed light on the many people who are a part of the diversity of our nation. It is important to me to keep the motivation alive in my community and I do this by sharing my STEM and science experiences with the younger generation.
Can you tell us about Sema4’s Diversity & Inclusion Council and your role on it?
I have always been passionate about diversity & inclusion and I volunteered immediately to be a part of our Council. I also want to share my time and energy with others that also care about it. I call it my “passion project.”
I also had prior experience with this during my undergraduate years at UConn. When I moved from Norwalk to Storrs, it was evident to me that the Hispanic population on campus was smaller than my community at home. That impacted me. I wanted to support different initiatives on campus for Hispanics in the STEM field. I wanted to advocate equity for everyone. On my graduation cap, I wrote “I am one of 3% of Latina in STEM.” These were the statistics in 2018, and this year the STEM workforce gap was especially large for Hispanic adults. Hispanic workers make up 17% of total employment across all occupations, but just 8% of all STEM workers. As part of the Sema4 D&I Council, I get to work with great people from all different areas of the company, creating opportunities for all my colleagues in hopes to improve those statistics.
What are your long-term goals as part of the Council?
There is a lot we are working on. Personally, I chose to be on the Recommendation Subcommittee. We completed an employee survey, and we are preparing and organizing the facts and data for a presentation and recommendations to executive leadership and Human Resources. Our goal is not to just give recommendations, but to help further improve our corporate culture and diversity throughout the company.
Can you tell us about a role model who has inspired you?
My biggest motivation is my family, specifically all the women in STEM in my family all over the world. My grandmother was a scientist and professor in Venezuela, where I come from. My aunts and great aunts are also in STEM and have studied all over, from Montreal to Cambridge. I see the opportunities of this country and I also want to be my own role model, which has its own challenges when you are not in your country of birth.
What barriers have you had to overcome to reach this point in your career?
I think knowledge is key, and unfortunately, many people of color often have only limited opportunities. However, having access to information and the proper resources can make a tremendous difference. Being the first generation in this country, I was brand new to SATs and college applications. My family and I worked hard to learn it on our own, with the guidance of my high school teachers and counselors. I had the determination to not let boundaries get in my way, otherwise, I might not have known what was available. That is why I think it is important to help and advise the next generation who want to pursue a career in STEM especially if they are a minority. Sema4 is a great place for continuous learning, I work with great colleagues in various areas, and I can network and see the possibilities. I am currently pursuing an MBA to further advance my career and I have great support from my manager and leadership.
What is the value of a mentor to you?
The next generation is driven, and that is very exciting when it comes to mentoring. I’ve learned so much from my many biology professors and mentors. One of my mentors works in Diversity & Inclusion and assists women of color in pursuing a career in STEM. This motivated me to be an advocate within my community. An example of this was when I learned that my high school was lacking POC enrollment in STEM. I reached out to my teachers and offered to lecture the senior class about opportunities in STEM, the paths, and potential. If you have more people in the field supporting you, you believe you can do it. My family was that for me and we need to keep supporting the next generation. My younger sister is also my little mentee for life, she inspires me. There is so much more we are going to do. Inclusion for all.
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