In celebration of Black History Month, Johnson & Johnson Innovation - JLABS is featuring our team, partners, and collaborators all February long. Have a leader you want to spotlight? Join in the celebration by tagging @JLABS on Twitter and introducing us to them!
Today, we’re joined by our very own Innovation Activation Specialist Mikyla Tuggle from JLABS @ Washington, DC, and Shamia Holloway, Public Affairs Liaison from Children’s National Hospital. These women tell us about the importance of mentorship, recent work with Kerry Washington, diversifying life sciences and their best advice for breaking barriers in the workplace.
Read on to learn more.
Q: To get us started, let’s talk about your unique perspective on black women in the workforce. How has your career unfolded? Have you had to overcome any barriers navigating race and gender in the workplace?
MT: I started my career in marketing and events at the age of 23. Learning to navigate microaggressions from white and male colleagues or clients was one of the first lessons. New employees are supposed to worry about learning foreign systems and digesting new information, but I was concerned that my curly hairstyle would be an issue after interviewing with straight hair. As my career progressed, I dove into mentoring and giving back to my community. I looked at ways to help stop systemic racism and sexism and implemented protocols to combat those issues. Those ideas are now goals within Johnson & Johnson Innovation. I’m sure that there are more barriers ahead, but they’ve never met me!
SH: Throughout my professional career in sports and entertainment, media, non-profit and now life sciences, I’ve faced challenges that I believe were related to my race and gender. I have encountered situations where I feel male colleagues diminished my position and didn’t take me as seriously solely based on my gender and physical appearance. I believe I was overlooked for positions that I was qualified for and was disheartened when they went to less-qualified candidates. With that said, I turned those challenges into opportunities and didn’t let them hinder my growth as a professional.
Q: Tell us more about what drives you. What’s the story behind why you’re with Johnson & Johnson Innovation and Children’s National? How do you hope your work will change patient lives?
MT: I am not a mom, but I am driven by children and their future. They are some of the funniest people on this Earth and have no idea what it means to be risk adverse. They have a way of trying the things that most of us would cringe at the thought of trying. Innovation is just that. We have to look outside the box and often forget what the world has deemed “possible” …that is how you change the game. That is why I call Johnson & Johnson Innovation my career home.
SH: I came to Children’s National Hospital after years in entertainment and media. I’m drawn to roles with some element of community impact and after witnessing how COVID-19 disproportionately impacted communities of color, I wanted to somehow be aligned with an organization that was affecting change.
Q: What stands out most to you about the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies’ diversity and inclusion programs, and in what ways are you involved?
MT: I really enjoy the employee resource groups that we have and am a member of three. Recently, I had the pleasure of working with Johnson & Johnson Innovation and Neutrogena to produce our first webinar series on Black Skincare Innovation. It was such an honor to work with colleagues outside of my division that share the same passions and drive – as well as getting to work with Kerry Washington, who served as a moderator! You can catch the entire program on-demand here!
Q: Are there key points where being part of a collaboration between Children’s National and Johnson & Johnson Innovation, the startup world or the life sciences community has changed your trajectory?
SH: This is my first foray into the life sciences community and startup world. Being a part of it has opened my eyes to the vast opportunities that are out there for burgeoning entrepreneurs. I want to use this opportunity to inform and educate upcoming innovators and, ultimately, help diversify the talent pipeline in the life sciences.
Q: What is your advice for black women in life sciences?
MT: My advice is simple: Research it. Write it down. Do it. Never second guess what you’re passionate about. For Black women in life sciences and for the Black girls that aspire to be there, I know what you’re thinking. “Is this going to work? What if…?” If we’ve learned anything in the last 5 years, it is that Black women have wholeheartedly contributed to the success of most scientific advancements dating back to the late 1800’s. You have what it takes, and history proves that.
Q: What black woman in history—living or historic—do you admire most?
SH: As a former journalism major, I must say Ida B. Wells because she was truly before her time. What is known today as investigative journalism, Wells was doing in the 1890s when she exposed lynching with her writings. I admire her work for the civil rights movement and women’s movement. I also must mention the amazing Amanda Gorman, the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history. Her words, energy and hopeful spirit are just what the world needs today. She really inspired me!
Question: JLABS @ Washington, DC is opening soon! Who is your dream celebrity to host at the site?
MT: Our site is in the heart of the nation’s capital, I am a proud alumna of Howard University and an active member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated…so my choice is pretty obvious!
Thank you both for joining us and we can’t wait till JLABS @ Washington, DC is open!