Every year, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) hosts one of the largest gatherings of Hispanics in STEM fields. This sold-out, multi-day conference is packed with inspiring keynote talks, skill-building workshops, and networking opportunities Hispanic engineers can utilize to shape their futures.
The SHPE conference has been an important outreach platform for BMS’s Chemical Process Development (CPD) team, and we are honored to have participated for the past several years. This year’s event, held from November 2–6 in Charlotte, North Carolina, will be especially notable as it signifies the return to a fully onsite experience with over 10,000 students, professionals and industry leaders expected to attend.
One of those in attendance during the conference’s career expo will be Lucia Sablich, an associate scientist with CPD, who will represent BMS. Lucia is familiar with the event, having attended the previous two when they were held virtually, and before that as a student trying to find her own career path.
Right Place, Right Time
Lucia came to the United States from Uruguay and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Chemical Engineering from Johns Hopkins University. “When I was looking for jobs, there were very few outlets where I could meet companies,” she said. “I was interested in pharma, and I heard good things about BMS.” Lucia visited the BMS booth at the conference where she met a member of the Chemical Process Development team. “We started talking about my background and at one point he asked, ‘How do you feel about an impromptu interview right now?’ I said, ‘Let’s do it.”
After some technical questions, the interviewer thought Lucia would be a good fit and afterwards reached out to Jean Tom, the executive director of the Development Engineering Group within Chemical Process Development, about Lucia.
“We actually identified Lucia from the SHPE conference,” Jean said. A few months later, Jean invited Lucia to apply for a position within her group. “She fit the experience level that we were looking for and we hired her.”
The Science of Diversity
For Jean, having engineers from diverse and varied backgrounds can have a positive impact and with real world applications. “Having a team that has different styles of working, perspectives, even programs from different schools, enhances the problem solving of a team and the ability to think more innovatively.”
Jean passionately believes that this diverse approach speaks directly to young talent interested in pharmaceutical careers. “We're working on a lot of different compounds. Every compound, every new drug candidate, is a different chemical structure. So as a chemical engineer, how you build these molecules is going to be different.”
A Seat on the Other Side of the Table
Having experienced the conference from the perspective of a student and an industry representative, Lucia understands participating means more than filling engineering roles with qualified candidates. It’s a way to encourage and support students who have been traditionally underrepresented in STEM.
“It's a matter of bridging that gap," she said, “making it accessible to people who might not have been exposed to any sort of industry at all.”
Even though the industry has been increasing its focus on recruitment, training and career development of underrepresented groups, there’s still more work to be done. Women and minorities in STEM are succeeding academically, but when it comes to applying for opportunities, the numbers drop.
Jean recalled a recent experience she had trying to find candidates. “I had an opening and asked HR, ‘Give me the list of all the folks that applied.’ It was around 15 males and one female.” She then asked an academic department what the demographic breakdown was of their top 10 students. It was 50% female. “Why weren’t they represented? Because women tended not to apply.”
Rising to the Challenge
Therefore, outreach is key. Building connections can also build confidence and encourage graduates to overcome any hesitations they might have about pursuing STEM careers.
“There’s value in meeting somebody in person,” Lucia said. “I remember it wasn’t that long ago being on the other side and wondering what path to take. How do I get there? Having somebody tell their experience is a nice way of envisioning that path for yourself as well.”
Perhaps Lucia’s journey from student to recruiter has inspired you to pursue interesting and meaningful work that can transform patients’ lives.
If you’re planning to attend the SHPE conference, join us for a panel discussion co-sponsored by BMS featuring Nataly Manjarrez Orduño, Global Lead, Organization for Latino Achievement (OLA). Nataly and her fellow panelists will speak about how Employee Resource Groups can help you become more involved in company leadership and advance your career.
You can learn more about BMS careers and open roles here. Of course, we also invite you to stop by the BMS booth and meet us in person. Lucia would love to hear your story.