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 highlighting their stories of achievements, career lessons, and role models that inspire them. In our first Q&A, Valerie Zabala, PhD, Senior Manager of Oncology Program Management, discusses her passion for science, overcoming one of her biggest fears, and her advice to other women looking to build their careers.
What is your role at Sema4?
I’m the Senior Manager of the Oncology Program Management in our Oncology Business Unit, which partners with health systems, practices, individuals, and payors to enable the best precision oncology care of today while driving the therapeutic advances of tomorrow tailored to their needs.
What motivates you to work at Sema4?
I was drawn to Sema4 because of its patient-centric mission, particularly around providing insights to improve patient care in oncology. Joining Sema4 has provided me with the opportunity to work closely with colleagues across the company who work in strategy, research, data, and beyond. This has allowed me to apply my expertise to further contribute to the company’s mission of delivering more effective and personalized healthcare through data-driven insights. Everyone I work with is passionate about our mission and great to work with. It is easy to stay motivated when you work towards a vision with great people.
What does Women’s History Month mean to you?
Women’s History Month is a time to celebrate women’s achievements and a time to reflect on some of the female trailblazers who have contributed both to the history in this country and globally.
Can you tell us about a female role model who has inspired you?
Being able to make a difference as one person, particularly as a woman, is gratifying. Many of the strong women that I’ve worked with along the way have inspired me and shown me the importance of always remaining true to yourself regardless of your career, title, or lifestyle. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is someone who has truly inspired me. I think that she really shaped the way that people think about women in the workforce, so she has influenced me in many ways. Diversity in background and perspective really drives programs and showing up as yourself adds value to all teams.
What barriers have you had to overcome to reach this point in your career?
I was averse to public speaking. I worked hard, with the help of some training, to communicate more effectively, which is funny because communication is key as a program manager! When you go into science, most of the time it’s because your intention is to become a scientist and if you can’t communicate your science, it’s hard to make a difference and to have an impact on a larger scale. So, I spent a significant amount of time improving my communication skills and wound up going into a field that I love, where I communicate daily. Once I overcame that obstacle in my career, I was able to better translate the messaging of the science and make an impact on many levels.
What advice would you give to other women who are looking to build their careers?
I think that there is a common misconception that unless you know someone personally, you can’t advance or make transitions in your career. Reach out to someone you do not personally know whether through LinkedIn or a friend for an informational interview. You will be surprised at the amount of help you’ll receive from others who are willing to help you professionally. There are numerous career options out there, which can sometimes be overwhelming, but it’s amazing how helpful many people can be if you take the first step of sparking a conversation and reaching out. I’ve never received a “No” and so my ultimate advice for both women and men is to always reach out to others and to never be afraid of what you think is a weakness because it may not be.
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Are you interested in joining the Sema4 team? To find out more about open positions, please visit our Careers page here.