Creating Your Own Path by Rising Above Adversity

Brief Background

BS Honors, Biochemistry, Bowling Green State University

MPH, Public Health Administration, University of Toledo

MBA, Healthcare Administration, University of Connecticut

PhD, Medicinal Chemistry, University of Connecticut

Advanced Business Certificate, Healthcare Finance, University of Connecticut

Predoctoral Fellow, Pharmaceutical Science, AFPE

Postdoctoral Fellow, Medical Oncology, Yale University

Entrepreneur-in-Residence, Yale University

Member, BIO CT

Member, HBA

9 peer-reviewed scientific publications

1 patent application (WO2013192554A1)

Dr. Sophia Ononye is a marketing and communications professional with an academic and industry experience in pharmaceutical research and scientific strategy. In Spring 2019, she launched The Sophia Consulting Firm to leverage her multidisciplinary education, broad therapeutic experience and passion for amplifying scientific innovation to lead the provision of fully integrated communication services for clients in the biotechnology, pharmaceutical and medical device space. Dr. Ononye is driven to make a lasting impact in her work and reminds fellow entrepreneurs to “count your blessings,” because being an entrepreneur is a challenging process. Some days you will be excited and other mornings you wake up questioning what you’re doing. Her perseverance has enabled her to overcome various challenges, from moving to the US as a Nigerian immigrant, to launching her consultancy business. She talks about her journey and paving her own path into leadership via entrepreneurship with Program Manager, Sharon Mwale.

Looking back, what traits have served you best during crisis and obstacles you’ve faced?

Leadership starts and ends with self-management and being self-aware. You can be great at delegating, understanding complex materials or creating unique strategies, but execution is key. More importantly, learning from your mistakes to improve in the next instance. I’ve learned that to get through crises, I need to use the resources I have in hand strategically. The third trait that has been useful for me in crisis, is perseverance! As a Nigerian-American, female, scientist, I definitely chose a less traveled path. Lastly, not really a trait but a recommendation, don’t forget the ‘why’ of what you’re doing or pursuing. It fuels your perseverance and keeps you focused on the end-goal rather than the difficulties you’re experiencing.

How have your early career choices and academic pursuits set you up to become an entrepreneur? Was this part of your plan?
Things may have changed by now but, 17 years ago, when I left Nigeria, the future looked bleak for girls and women who sought to further their education and subsequently pursue leadership positions in their careers. So, I came to the US confident that this was the place I could succeed as a scientist and aspiring leader. My journey in the US has taken me across multiple states but in many ways, my education and experiences in Connecticut shaped me and is a critical part of who I am today. In hindsight, I was also inspired by my family, upbringing in Nigeria and natural predispositions. The youngest of 5, I was constantly looking for a way to prove myself and validate my efforts with measurable impact. Additionally, I was curious about everything. Science fed that curiosity and also led me to further my education. Together, the desire to make an impact and my intellectual curiosity led me to healthcare because it made sense. The Sophia Consulting Firm is a culmination of my academic achievements, professional experiences and the entrepreneurial inclination.

What is your advice to women and what actionable steps can they take as leaders of aspiring entrepreneurs in the health & tech space?
My key advice to women is to not forget the ‘why.’ This is a key source of motivation for me, like I said before, it is what fuels my perseverance and gets me through challenging times. When I think back to my ‘why,’ I am able to refocus and remind myself about why I am innovating and working in the areas I have chosen. In addition, as an entrepreneur you likely appreciate flexibility and autonomy but having a high sense of accountability is important and perseverance will get you through days when you feel lost in your work or when something doesn’t go your way. An example is my first chemistry course in college, I struggled with my first exam and wanted to quit, but instead I pushed myself and was able to successfully complete a bachelors and doctorate in chemistry. Importantly, I strive to achieve balance by identifying when to push myself and when to relax. Taken together, I have three pieces of advice for women:
  1. Stay determined because the path to success is often difficult;
  2. Have tough skin because the cards are often stacked against you; and
  3. Count your blessings but remain gracious because materials things are a fickle and can’t be the primary driver

From your experience, what has changed the least, yet still has major impact regarding gender parity within entrepreneurship, technology and healthcare?
The lack of representation of women in positions of power, including board seats and C-level positions, particularly in STEM is concerning. We have more diversity now than before, but the needle has only moved incrementally. Women of color have an even more difficult time getting a seat at the table, even when they are ready for leadership positions. Moreover, there is compelling data from organizations such as The Center for Talent Innovation, which shows that even when women of color are ‘raising their hands’ to be selected for promotions or positions of authority, they are often not met with opportunities. Each week I’m excited to read a new story of another woman that has broken another barrier, but more can and should be done, especially in STEM. In closing, I remain determined to find ways to be seen and heard and hope that through my firm and strategic partnerships, I can promote diversity of thought and parity in gender and race.

Lecky’s Final Thoughts

It can be extremely surprising to find out exactly how many wonders hide within the parts of us that we have yet to uncover. The inner play isn’t about saying that who you are now, and what you are about is not enough, it is about identifying the ‘why’ of it and acknowledging that you are the very essence of who you believe yourself to be.

If you would like to recommend a female entrepreneur in healthcare technology to be featured, we encourage you to contact us.

Contact information:
Sharon Mwale       Program Manager        [email protected]