How Culture, Heritage and Leadership Influenced Irene Sheng DeGutis' Career Journey
Senior Director for US Medical Affairs. Advocate for inclusive leadership. Dedicated mentor. Daughter of immigrants. There are numerous reasons Irene Sheng DeGutis, PharmD, who identifies as a first generation Taiwanese American, is an inspiration to many at Bristol Myers Squibb. Hers is a lead-by-example career journey that exemplifies our shared mission to transform lives, our commitment to an inclusive culture, and our passion for making a difference in our communities.
Professional and Personal Growth Combined
Throughout her growing career, Irene has also dedicated herself to supporting the Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (AANHPI) community at BMS through the Pan Asian Network (PAN), one of our People Business and Resource Groups (PBRG). This dedication is, in part, because of how PAN has contributed to her mid-career growth, helping her to stand out and be herself.
Her 18 years of experience at BMS spans many areas of expertise across multiple therapeutic areas, with her focus currently on hematology. She attributes her career growth to a combination of being open to opportunities as they arose — which she calls an “organic” process — and by being proactive, an approach that may counter misperceptions of her Asian
heritage. “Early in my career, I went with the flow,” Irene said. “Some of that is a part of Asian culture, wanting to be harmonious. But over time I now realize that doesn’t have to define who I am. It’s important to speak out, take bigger risks and do things that might feel uncomfortable.”
The Mutual Power of Mentorships
As a leader, Irene is able to share her experience with other colleagues from the AANHPI community. Some of these colleagues are early on in their career journeys like Furqan Ilyas, currently Associate Director, Worldwide Health Economics and Outcomes Research, who reported to Irene in US Medical Affairs. A native of Pakistan, he credits Irene’s guidance with helping him make the transition from healthcare to pharma and to explore new opportunities within BMS.
“I was very fortunate to have Irene as my mentor,” he said. “She helped me build my confidence and establish my leadership skills, which motivated and inspired me to grow.”
For Irene, Furqan’s journey is a great example of how the spirit of mentorship and the inclusive, supportive culture at BMS can have a positive impact on those who might not at first feel a strong sense of belonging — particularly if they are from outside the US.
“You have to be your biggest champion and when you are, other people will follow,” Irene explained. “If others see that you're deliberate in the way you go about your work, that you don't just sit back and allow things to happen, it resonates well with people.”
The Impact of a Positive Workplace Culture
Through her involvement with PAN, Irene is the lead for the group’s Asian Voices Series, a
platform that empowered AANHPI colleagues to share stories of their heritage and offer mutual support during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There was such a great sense of connectivity,” Irene says. “Lots of initiatives came about that really addressed the needs of my Asian colleagues. For instance, we were able to share stories about our upbringing and the challenges we faced. It gave us a strong feeling of belonging knowing that we were all in this together.”
For Irene, fostering a sense of belonging means taking a proactive approach as well, which is why she continues to be very active in initiatives like PAN and Asian Voices. She recognizes that creating a diverse and inclusive work culture is in some respects a work in progress, and that there are always opportunities for the company — including leaders and employees — to improve and continue to grow.
Advancing Careers, Affecting Change Together
She’s seen the changes since she started working at BMS 18 years ago. More inclusion, more diversity, more representation and opportunity mean a better company of people doing work that matters to them personally and professionally.
“It’s a huge undertaking,” is how she puts it. “But what distinguishes BMS is that we are true to our word. When I look at my own team — how diverse we are — I truly believe that comes in part because of a really good leader who also believes in that. I appreciate that there are opportunities to push us to grow.”
Irene is proud of her role as a part of BMS. Whether she’s leading teams that are helping to change patients’ lives, or inspiring members of BMS’s AANHPI community to grow their careers, Irene continues to encourage all of us to live up to her example as a leader, mentor and colleague. If you’re interested in a rewarding career and a welcoming work culture, take a cue from Irene. Be proactive and let us know by exploring open roles at BMS.
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