Shala Ojagh is a Medical Device and Biotech Executive Manager in Operations and Quality with 20 years of experience in the industry. Currently, she is the Senior manager of commercial launch of new product working for Santen a global pharmaceutical and medical device which is 120 years old company focusing in ophthalmology and development of ophthalmic therapies.
Shala has held several managerial roles with increased responsibilities at Biotech and Medical device giants such as Ethicon, a Johnson & Johnson family, Amgen Pharmaceutical , Baxter Medical Device , Bio Rad and Invitrogen. Under her leadership Shala managed and mentored a team of 100-150 employee resulting in 20% increased production run while reducing non conformity by 15% . Her passion for improvement in the area of quality and change management was key success to motivating and energizing her team in quality robustness.
Shala earned her BS with Double Majors in Chemistry and Biology from ENMU, Eastern New Mexico University.
WITH GROUPS CREATING PROGRAMS TO ENCOURAGE FEMALES TO CONSIDER STEM, WHAT IS THE BIGGEST BARRIER TO ENTRY THAT IS STILL PREVALENT TODAY?
It’s hard to pinpoint a single barrier as “biggest.” Unconscious bias start early at home and major DEPT store lanes including drive through in MacDonald’s handing out Boys and girls toys.
Another barrier for girls and young women today are girls themselves and perhaps their parents for their upbringing. Girls need to believe in themselves and continue working hard while being encouraged by great mentors.
Female executives in typical situation, take about 10 years of break to raise 2-4 children. After that, they want to return to their field. However, they have been away from main stream which will hinder their career growth. Some executives like Marissa Ann Mayer the chief executive officer of Yahoo!, did not take the time off. She actually had a special set up in her office, to take care of young children. However, the majority of women are not as privileged .
Female executives do not participate in male-based entertainments, where some deal-making decisions are being made. However, people like As Carly Fiorina, an ex-executive of Lucent overcame this barrier. As a result, she was promoted to CEO position of HP.
As leaders and parents we can inspire them to be creative, imaginative, and remove the stereotyping that women are not good in High tech , Math and Science thus the barriers to entry in STEM are pervasive and self-perpetuating.
We also need to have good teachers who are good in teaching and actually specialized in STEM and making it more fun for both genders to learn and embrace Math, Computer and Science. This is a very critical factor that can negatively or positively influence them at younger age.
Why not ask Disney channels to create cartons and Commercial on TVs aimed for” STEM”. This approach could potentially remove the anxiety of math and science for both male and female population.
WHAT OR WHO INSPIRES YOU?
The young people and recent graduates whom I hire and work with inspires me with their bravery, creativity and intelligence. I genuinely invest a lot of energy and effort in coaching and mentoring recent graduates who start in this industry with some anxiety and fear of failure. I passionately love to pave the road for them via encouragement that they are well capable of doing the impossible because nothing is indeed impossible.
Some of my nieces and nephews who are very young and recently immigrated to USA also are my source of inspiration. I have actually learned few good points from them which is so refreshing. They inspire me because they came to USA and did not speak a word of English and very quickly they had to rise and step up to not only help their parents but also help themselves finding jobs while attending college. They had to adjust quickly and find their ways and not taking anything for granted and learn the system. Achieving these obstacles surely was no easy task and what made it possible was self-belief and taking risk.
Women and men who pursued studies and careers while raising families, who faced steep barriers to go to college is also very inspiring.
Overall I am inspired by anyone who stays true to themselves and achieves goals and has a mission and vision.
WHAT IS YOUR PROUDEST MOMENT/ACCOMPLISHMENT?
On a personal basis , I Single handedly acted as a Lawyer and legally sponsored 20 members of my family to immigrate to this great country for a better life . I planted this seed in 2001 and by 2012 my entire family was able to move to USA and leave everything behind and start a new life at middle ages. They are settled down in Northern California and have built an American dream life for themselves proving nothing is impossible as long as we work hard and set goals . Life is not always easy and only small percentage of world population are considered privileged.
On the professional aspect , I worked 3 jobs while attending University taking STEM type classes and paid for my own tuition. I used to tape the lectures on my tape recorder by placing it on the teacher desk so I could record and listen to the lectures while driving to and from work. I maintained mostly “As” and “Bs” and graduated with honor and a 3.8 GPA when English was my second language. It is important to mention I had never taken science , Math nor Chemistry courses in High School and my high school diploma was concentered on social studies and literatures. Despite this fact I also managed to earn a Nursing Degree as my first major in USA before changing my major.
“My final message is to believe in yourself and do not allow external factors to derail you or bring you down. Surround yourselves with supportive and uplifting people and remember everything is possible as long as you push and work for it”.