Discovering Passion on the Early Career Path: Nnenna Kalu and Youssef Jouichate
For the exceptional and passionate young professionals we look for at BMS, an early career can be the foundation of the legacy you want to cultivate. Perhaps a little intimidating at first, the opportunity to challenge one’s self — to grow and discover new strengths — is often life-changing.
How do you find the inspiration and courage to learn and ultimately succeed? How do you channel that passion and take those first steps, especially if it means relocating to another country? We asked recent hires Nnenna Kalu, Associate, Commercial Leadership Development Program, and Youssef Jouichate, Specialist, Cell Therapy Manufacturing Sciences & Technology, these questions along with how a desire to find meaningful and interesting work brought them to BMS.
Both were featured guests on our BOLD Innovators podcast — BOLD (Black Organization for Leadership and Development) is one of BMS’s eight People and Business Resource Groups, open to our entire global workforce to foster inclusion and strong employee engagement, and drive business results.
Nnenna’s journey began in her home country of Nigeria. After discovering an intense interest in science at a young age, she decided she wanted to be a doctor. To further her education her parents sent her to a boarding school in the UK when she was just 11 years old. But she never forgot where she came from.
Returning to Nigeria after her studies, she found a new passion for pharmaceuticals. “I just loved chemistry. So I went for pharmacy instead of the usual medicine track. The whole plan was to go back to Africa and help find a cure for HIV.”
As part of that plan, and already armed with a Master of Pharmacy from the UK, Nnenna came to the United States to pursue the highest level of pharmacy education — PharmD. She also earned her Master of Healthcare Administration and Master of Business Administration degrees from the University of Pittsburgh, all while raising a young daughter. It was during a National Black MBA conference that she met representatives from BMS and had a candid conversation with them about her goals.
“The BMS interview stood out so much. Genuine questions were being asked, all my
concerns addressed. That was something I had not experienced in any of my other interviews.”
Through these conversations she began to understand the impact people like herself could have. “Coming to the US is when I realized that healthcare is so much bigger than I thought it was. This really opened my eyes to working in biopharma, insurance and prior authorization.”
Her path to BMS started with an internship, and when it came time to work full-time, BMS was a top choice. She was excited to learn that the projects and initiatives she worked on as an intern were coming to fruition. “That was the deciding point for me, so when I received an offer, I jumped on it.”
For her internship, Nnenna joined the Worldwide Value, Access & Pricing team — a critical part of the BMS pipeline that ensures patients have access to the medicines they need. Now she leads marketing initiatives for underrepresented minorities as part of the US (Cardiovascular) market expansion team.
Joining a company that values passion as one of its brand attributes meant Nnenna was surrounded by colleagues who shared that passion for transforming patients’ lives through science.
In addition to discovering a calling where she knew she could make an impact, Nnenna was also drawn to the inclusive culture she found at BMS, an environment where women are encouraged to succeed.
“Just seeing the number of women in leadership positions, I thought it must be an environment where work-life balance is greatly encouraged. No one feels held back and I thought, 'this is it!'”
Youssef recounted how his upbringing and education shaped his interests and inspired his passion to help others. Born in Morocco and raised in the US since he was 3 years old, Youssef combined his schooling with real-world experience through Drexel University’s co-op program.
Youssef gained valuable pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical manufacturing experience, as well as opportunities to do actual lab work that aligned perfectly with his studies and allowed him to expand his talents. “I actually got involved with companies that were really taking a chance on me,” he said.
This laid the groundwork for Youssef’s next life-changing step — an internship with BMS under the guidance of a mentor. Coming to BMS not only opened doors to a new career path, it also showed Youssef the power of purpose. And that passion to help others now had direction and an environment where he could pursue work that could transform patients’ lives and maybe his own as well.
In August 2021, Youssef chose to join BMS Cell Therapy Manufacturing Sciences & Technology, inspired by the founding principles of the organization — the desire to develop affordable, high-quality medicines for patients in need. He had always wanted to make a difference, and at BMS, he found an ideal work environment for him to fulfill this deeply-felt personal goal.
“I've always enjoyed helping others. I think we all look for some sort of purpose in our lives. From my experience at least, helping others really does give me purpose, knowing that I'm making a difference in other people's lives.”
Ready for a Change?
After reading Nnenna’s and Youssef’s inspiring stories, consider taking the first step to pursuing your passion with a career at BMS. We invite you to explore early career programs at BMS and open roles across BMS' many functional areas, which speak to your aspirations and dreams for helping transform lives.
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