Inspiring the Next Generation of Female Leaders – Luz Rodgers

Inspiring the Next Generation of Female Leaders – Luz Rodgers
Diversity and Inclusion
Female Leaders

In our ongoing series of conversations with remarkable women leaders, in this installment, we delve into the journey of Luz Rodgers, Head of People and Organizational Development at Minaris Regenerative Medicine, LLC. Luz’s career trajectory is a testament to the transformative power of mentorship, embracing challenges, and fostering innovation.

Luz’s insightful reflections on the power of mentorship, strategies for career advancement, and the impact of remote work on professional prospects offer future leaders a roadmap toward a brighter and more inclusive future and will hopefully inspire women to carve their paths to success in the corporate world.

Special thanks go to Dan Rodgers (no relation), Head of Sector of Pharmaceuticals & Life Sciences, Americas at Pacific International Executive Search, for introducing Luz Rodgers to Margaret Jaouadi.

Margaret Jaouadi
Can you please introduce yourself and tell us about the scope of your role within the organization?

Luz Rodgers
My name is Luz Rodgers and I am Head of People and Organizational Development at Minaris Regenerative Medicine, LLC. My journey with the company has been nothing short of transformative. I initially joined as a consultant, with no intention of committing to a full-time role. But six years later, here I am, deeply embedded in the fabric of this organization.

When I reflect on my past experiences, I realize that I have always been drawn to organizations that were already well-established from an HR perspective. My role typically involved following existing protocols, tweaking processes for improvement, and executing projects within predefined boundaries. It was a comfortable rhythm of continuous improvement.

However, Minaris Regenerative Medicine presented an entirely different challenge. Here, I was confronted with a blank canvas. The organization was in its infancy, a small cell and gene therapy company, operating in the niche field of regenerative medicine as a contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO). We had to build everything from an HR perspective from scratch.

This transition pushed me to tap into my creativity and innovation like never before. Gone were the days of simply following established procedures; I had to invent new ones. Every decision and every strategy required deep dives into my skill set to ensure we were moving forward effectively.

Despite the initial hurdles, witnessing the growth of this organization has been immensely gratifying. We have evolved from a small entity into a thriving force in the regenerative medicine sector. Through it all, I’ve discovered a new dimension to my professional capabilities—one that thrives on innovation and pushing boundaries.

So, while my journey here may have started unexpectedly, it’s been a journey of immense growth, both for Minaris Regenerative Medicine and for me. And I look forward to continuing to drive positive change and innovation within this dynamic organization.

Margaret Jaouadi
Reflecting on your career, have mentors or role models played a pivotal role in shaping your professional development? What advice would you give to others seeking mentorship?

Luz Rodgers
You know, it’s funny and I think this question is the reason I agreed to this conversation because mentorship has been crucial in shaping my career trajectory. Without the guidance and support of mentors, I truly believe I wouldn’t have had the confidence or opportunities to progress. From the very outset of my career, I experienced mentorship in various forms, even though I didn’t initially start in human resources.

My mentors helped me navigate the transition from social work to the business world, where I quickly learned that success requires a unique blend of people skills and business acumen.

Among the mentors I’ve had, three stand out for their significant contributions. The first sparked my interest in human resources helped me recognize the opportunities and challenges ahead and made me realize that I can handle them. The second provided invaluable guidance and opened doors for me to grow, both professionally and personally. However, it was the third mentor who passed on and had the most profound impact on me. Beyond offering business advice, this mentor saw me for who I was, especially during a challenging period in my personal life. My divorce was messy. My life was messy. But the minute I walked through the door, he made me feel comfortable. And he helped me with my son who has ADHD. His wife happened to be a special education teacher, and he would call his wife to ask her to provide me with some advice. That told me something about him as a leader. He was a VP of HR and he went out of his way to help me and I think I learned a lot from that. This unwavering support and empathy created a nurturing environment that allowed me to thrive.

As a Latina woman in the corporate world, I faced many barriers and biases and I was told quite frankly that I didn’t have the right credentials and that I didn’t look the part. But my mentors saw beyond those stereotypes. They recognized my potential and encouraged me to break through those barriers. Their mentorship not only helped me overcome challenges but also empowered me to embrace my identity and bring my unique perspective to the table.

I’ve always emphasized the importance of mentorship, both as a mentor and a mentee, at the organizations I’ve served. It’s about finding someone who can provide objective guidance and instill confidence in your abilities. In today’s world, where the landscape is ever-evolving, mentorship plays a crucial role in navigating complexities and building resilience. I’ve witnessed firsthand the transformative power of mentorship in organizations.

Furthermore, by prioritizing diversity and inclusion, companies not only enhance individual development but also drive bottom-line growth. People are the heart of any organization, and investing in their growth and well-being is paramount.

Reflecting on my own experiences, I recognize the profound impact mentorship has had on my life. It’s not just about professional development; it’s about creating a supportive community where individuals can thrive. That’s why I’ve championed mentorship programs, such as the one we’ve implemented here at Minaris, as vital components of organizational success.

Margaret Jaouadi
In practical terms, how does the mentorship program work? Do people just volunteer to be mentors and are then matched with mentees?

Luz Rodgers
The mentorship program here at Minaris is a collaborative effort led by a steering committee rather than a single individual. We kick off the program with a clear structure in mind—it’s a 10-month journey where both mentors and mentees are carefully matched based on their respective goals and skill sets.

The process begins with each participant entering either as a mentor or a mentee (or as both in some cases), followed by a meticulous matching process to ensure compatibility. Once the pairs are formed, a development plan is crafted, along with an agreement to guide the mentorship journey.

To support our mentors and mentees, we provide online training sessions. These brief sessions equip participants with a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities, setting the stage for a fruitful mentoring relationship. This year marks the second iteration of the program, with over 40 participants—a significant achievement considering our workforce size.

Given the nature of our industry, education is paramount. The majority of our workforce is highly educated, with a focus on life sciences and regenerative medicine. However, this level of education also presents unique challenges. Sometimes, individuals may believe they know exactly what they want, which can complicate matters. Balancing individual needs with standardized practices is essential to avoid discriminatory practices and maintain fairness within human resources.

By fostering mentorship relationships, we not only support individual growth but also contribute to the overall success and cohesion of our organization.

Margaret Jaouadi
Can you nominate a woman (or women) in your organization or professional network who is not yet a senior-level leader and who deserves recognition for her exceptional contributions and skills? What specific qualities or achievements make her stand out?

Luz Rodgers
Within my team, there’s a remarkable individual named Christine Molokwu, HRBP who stands out to me. Intellectually and technically, she’s proficient, but like any professional, there are areas where she can grow. However, what truly impresses me about Christine is her work ethic and dedication to excellence in project execution. She takes pride in showing up to support her colleagues and consistently goes above and beyond.

What sets Christine apart is her ability to think outside the box. Instead of simply fulfilling tasks, she approaches them strategically, considering broader implications and potential solutions. This mindset is invaluable and demonstrates a level of competence and foresight that isn’t always common. While most of my HR colleagues hold senior positions, I see Christine as having the capabilities and skills that many of them hold. Her dedication and potential for growth are evident, and I believe she has a bright future ahead.

Similarly, there are others within the organization, such as Eric Powers and Tihesha Aaron (who goes by Tai), who exhibit similar qualities. Eric’s dedication to learning and development in organizational development and communications is commendable, while Tai’s commitment to internal communications and her genuine concern for her colleagues’ well-being is truly remarkable.

Tai stands out for her proactive approach to improving communication and fostering inclusivity within the organization. Despite her role not being directly related to HR, her efforts in supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives are significant. She consistently demonstrates a willingness to go above and beyond.

Margaret Jaouadi
Often, the most impactful strategies stem from grassroots efforts rather than solely top-down directives. It’s about understanding that the true essence of a company lies in meeting the needs of its people, rather than imposing processes or strategies onto them. It sounds like Tai is very intuitive in that respect.

Luz Rodgers
It’s true, Tai’s energy is truly infectious, and I appreciate her enthusiasm immensely. I have always found that I tend to gravitate toward individuals with similar energies and outlooks, although some may say that we display similar characterics.. I see it as a strength—it fosters synergy and collaboration, allowing us to feed off each other’s energy and drive.

However, I also recognize the value of diversity in perspectives and approaches. Eric, for example, brings a different perspective to the table, one that keeps us grounded and ensures a balanced approach, especially in communication and program development. Together, we’ve been able to spearhead various initiatives, from learning programs to mentoring and coaching programs, all aimed at engaging employees at every level of the organization.

In today’s challenging times, it’s easy for leadership to become consumed with the day-to-day demands of keeping the organization moving forward. However, it’s crucial not to lose sight of the people who make it all possible—the employees. That’s why initiatives like the ones we’ve developed are so essential. They not only provide valuable support and resources for our workforce but also serve as a reminder of our commitment to their growth and well-being.

Margaret Jaouadi
Drawing from your experience, what other strategies or initiatives do you believe have proven most effective in fostering an environment where women can thrive, advance, and succeed in their careers?

Luz Rodgers
Being purposeful is crucial, especially in the realm of advancing women’s careers. Mentoring has played a significant role in my journey, albeit with its fair share of challenges. That’s why we’ve established initiatives like the Minaris Professional Network (MPN), initially geared towards women but expanded to include everyone interested in professional development.

Our focus extends beyond just gender diversity; it’s about fostering an environment where all employees feel valued and engaged. We have implemented strategies gleaned from employee engagement surveys to address retention challenges, and the results have been promising, with a significant improvement in employee retention rates in 2023.
Creating an environment conducive to women’s advancement involves purposeful actions and fostering a culture of inclusivity. It’s essential to provide opportunities for women to make their case, contribute innovative ideas, and step outside conventional boundaries, even in regulated environments like ours.

Moreover, aligning with our organizational values is critical. By developing the MPN, we aim to facilitate connections among employees, recognizing the value of informal learning and networking in career development.

Our approach is informed by the 70-20-10 model of learning, emphasizing the importance of experiential learning, interactions with others, and formal education, in that order. I hope that our upcoming organizational culture development emphasizes the importance of inclusivity, insuring that women are involved in every aspect of our organization’s endeavors.

I’m proud to say that we’ve made significant strides toward gender parity, with our workforce nearing a 50-50 split between men and women. This demonstrates our commitment to fostering an inclusive workplace where everyone can thrive and contribute to our collective success.

Margaret Jaouadi
What are the three key actions that women can focus on to position themselves for senior-level leadership roles within their organizations?

Luz Rodgers

Taking ownership, being visible, and embracing failures as opportunities for growth are three pivotal aspects that can propel individuals to the next level in their careers. These principles, deeply ingrained in personal development and leadership, are essential for navigating the complexities of the professional world.

Taking ownership involves not only executing tasks but also continually striving for improvement and expansion within one’s role. It’s about accountability and actively contributing to the success of projects and initiatives, rather than merely being a passive participant. By owning their responsibilities and actions, individuals demonstrate leadership qualities that are crucial for advancement.

Visibility is key in ensuring recognition and opportunities for growth. Actively engaging with colleagues, participating in initiatives beyond one’s immediate responsibilities, and making meaningful contributions to the organization’s goals are essential for establishing a presence within the workplace. Being known for proactive involvement and problem-solving rather than complaints fosters a positive reputation and opens doors for advancement.

Embracing failures as learning experiences is vital for personal and professional development. Rather than fearing failure, individuals should view it as a natural part of the learning process. Analyzing mistakes, understanding their root causes, and using them as stepping stones for improvement are integral to growth. By adopting a mindset that values resilience and continuous learning, individuals can overcome obstacles and achieve their full potential.

In addition to these, I would like to note two things women often overlook: embracing lateral moves can be just as beneficial as seeking vertical advancement. While climbing the corporate ladder is often the focus, lateral transitions offer unique learning experiences and opportunities for personal and professional growth. They allow you to broaden your skill set, gain diverse perspectives, and explore new areas of interest, ultimately enriching your professional journey.

Furthermore, self-acceptance is foundational to implementing the above principles effectively. You can’t be who you are not. You just can’t. You’ll never be happy. Embracing your unique identity, strengths, and weaknesses allows you to authentically show up in your career. It fosters confidence and self-assurance, empowering individuals to pursue growth opportunities with authenticity and purpose.

Margaret Jaouadi
I have one additional question. How do you perceive the impact of remote work on the principles we discussed? Considering that proximity facilitated certain aspects such as visibility and collaboration, how do you believe remote work challenges the achievement of these principles, particularly in terms of ownership, visibility, and embracing failures for growth?

Luz Rodgers
It’s like a whole new paradigm shift, isn’t it? With remote work becoming the norm, there’s a need to adapt and change our approach. Just as we’re conversing now from different locations, maintaining that personal connection is essential. I find it quite effective when individuals keep their cameras on during online meetings—it adds to their presence and fosters better connections.

However, I’ve noticed some people who remain passive during online interactions—no camera, no voice, no contribution. It’s like they’ve diminished their presence entirely. Especially for those newer in their careers, this can have a significant impact on their visibility and involvement.

The pandemic has indeed changed the way we interact and engage, and it’s more than just generational differences—it’s a global shift. But now that we’ve adapted to this new era, it’s crucial to show up and actively participate, even in a remote setting. Flexibility is understandable, but accountability and ownership are equally important. Finding ways to balance personal responsibilities while still being present and engaged professionally is key.

So, while the medium may have changed, the fundamentals of showing up and making oneself visible remain the same. It’s all about adapting to the new environment while maintaining our commitment to our work and teams.

Margaret Jaouadi
Thanks, Luz, it has been an absolute pleasure!

For a confidential chat about how Pacific International can assist you with your Pharmaceutical, Biotechnology and Life Sciences Talent Acquisitions and Diversity challenges, please contact Manuel Preg or one of our Executive Search Consultants specialising in your sector.