Women’s History Month Q&A with Danielle Zisa

March is Women’s History Month, which celebrates women’s contributions to events in history and contemporary society. To mark the occasion, we are featuring several female employees at Sema4. In the final Q&A of our series, Danielle Zisa, Director of Client Services, discusses the importance of women being allowed to show their emotions and why she views herself as a ‘lighthouse.’ Read the previous installments of this series by clicking here and here.

1. What is your role at Sema4?

I am the Director of Client Services. Our Women’s Health, Oncology, COVID-19, digital, and quality control support teams all fall under Client Services, so we cover a lot!

2. What motivates you to work at Sema4?

I feel that we are part of building something, and we will be recognized for our contribution. I also truly feel like I have a place at the table. Many of Sema4’s departments are led by women. At Sema4, we can lead, be technically savvy, and at times show our passion for what we believe in and not be judged for it. It is very important to me that I’m not told to hide my emotions. Everybody’s thought process and views should be valued because you must want us there if you asked us to be at that table.

3. What does Women’s History Month mean to you?

It makes me think of the song “We’ve Come a Long Way, Baby.” And I do believe we have, although we still have some way to go. The fact that we celebrate Women’s History Month in classrooms and the media means something. It means that women have played a part in society, and we continue to play a part in society. We also play a huge part in raising the children who are going to be active parts of tomorrow’s society. Often, we do that while holding down a full-time job. When I talk to younger women, they are sometimes so anxious, feeling they will either fail as a mother or as an employee. It’s heartbreaking. It bothers me that in 2021 we still have to ask, “do I want a baby, or do I want a career?” We shouldn’t have to do that.

4. Can you tell us about a female role model who has inspired you?

I’ve been fortunate enough to have a few female role models. One of them became a mentor later in my life when I thought that I already knew everything that needed to be learned and she was right there telling me, “oh darling, you haven’t learned everything!” She gave me a job that I was scared of taking and said, “now, run with it and don’t stop until I apprehend you. Just keep going!” And I did, and I can’t tell you how much it taught me professionally and personally. She’s not my boss anymore, but she’s my dear friend and has taught me a lot of things, primarily about being ‘the lighthouse’ – that is, being the light even in situations where you don’t want to be and outlining risks in a positive way.

5. What barriers have you had to overcome to reach this point in your career? 

I was home for many years, raising my children and watching my husband work even harder for me to have that opportunity. Then, when the children were a little bit older, I decided it was time to go full throttle back to work. That was a huge hurdle for me, and I would say a barrier because, in my town, it’s not well accepted. Most women in my town don’t work, even if they have graduate degrees. I had to overcome the fact that I was going to be different. I got on airplanes and stayed in hotels and prayed that my husband followed my instructions and fed the kids. I had to trust other people to do what I thought only I could do, and, along the way, I lost female friends because I was no longer the same person they’d known.

6. What advice would you give to other women who are looking to build their career? 

You’ve got to be true to yourself, but you also have to be wise and have eyes in the back of your head because I still don’t think women are accepted 100% in the workforce yet. I do believe there are still jobs out there that go primarily to men. Women should have confidence in who they are and know that they bring value. If somebody doesn’t see that value, you are not in the right place, and it’s okay to admit that to yourself; there are more doors to be opened. I am privileged and honored to be at Sema4, and I feel like I have found my home.

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Would you like to work with Danielle and the rest of our team at Sema4? To find out more about open positions, please visit our Careers page here.