STEM Woman Leader of the Day- Cecilia Kimberlin (Abbott Laboratories)
Submitted by Tommy Cornelis on October 17, 2012
Cecilia Kimberlin, Ph.D., is Vice President, Quality and Regulatory at the global health care company Abbott. Her responsibilities include overseeing quality assurance and regulatory affairs across the company’s businesses worldwide. Appointed to her current role in 2007, she joined Abbott in 1986. Dr. Kimberlin is the 2012 Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Regulatory Affairs Professional Society (RAPS). She earned a bachelor's degree in medical technology/chemistry at the University of Louisville, master’s and doctorate degrees in microbiology from the University of Oklahoma and completed postgraduate work at the Harvard School of Public Health.
Why do you believe STEM Education and Workforce are important to our nation?
STEM education is a critical issue in the U.S., as well as other countries around the world. So many aspects of our everyday lives are touched by science, but none more so than our health. We need to inspire the next generation of scientists today, so they can go on to become the inventors of tomorrow's innovative medicines and medical devices. This is important for health care companies like Abbott, but it's also important for everyone – we all depend on innovative medical care. That’s why science education is a key focus for Abbott and the Abbott Fund. Over the past five years, we’ve contributed more than $25 million to support programs and exhibits that advance STEM education, reaching more that 1 million young people each year.
What traits do senior leaders need to effectively support and advance STEM today?
Leaders play a vitally important role in advancing awareness and action to promote STEM, both inside and outside an organization. Internally, leaders greatly influence an organization’s purpose and culture. By recognizing outstanding scientific contributions, leaders prioritize STEM throughout the organization, and also help to attract and retain top STEM professionals with the talents and skills to further advance the business. Externally, leaders need to articulate a clear business case for the value of science and technology with all stakeholders, from the customers we serve, to shareholders, government officials and the communities where we live and work.
What principles do you, as a leader, apply to your professional and personal life to advance the STEM cause?
There are many opportunities to apply scientific learning and skills – from data analysis, to study design, to critical thinking – to advance problem solving, risk management and decision making across many areas. Whenever I’m working with others, I try to cultivate an environment where scientific approaches are valued by the entire team of colleagues, and recognized for the value they bring to reaching our objectives. This translates to life outside of the lab or office as well; by demonstrating the application of scientific thinking in our everyday lives, we can all help to raise awareness of the importance of STEM.
What is your concept of mentoring and sponsorship of others for STEM careers?
I currently serve as the executive sponsor for Abbott’s Professional Development Program for quality assurance, a rotational program for entry-level professionals. This is a unique opportunity to work with recent graduates in science and engineering, and help them to see the many diverse career opportunities that are available to them. Recent graduates often ask me if I still use my Ph.D. science background, now that I’m in management. I help them to see that my scientific background has directly contributed to my success at every step of my career – at first, more through the specific knowledge I gained in academia, but as my career advanced, it became more about the use of a scientific approach, the ability to analyze data and complex problems, to bring ideas forward and to work with others to evaluate new solutions.