Trailblazer Spotlight – Elisa Cerri

~ Prove Your Value  ~  Achieve Milestone’s   ~  Develop Relationships   ~  Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want    ~ Stop assuming it can’t be done. You can be committed to both your career and your family 


A native of Italy, Elisa Cerri always had a passion for medicine and research. After receiving her undergraduate and medical degrees in Italy and working in academia for a few years in the United States and in the United Kingdom, she was recruited to work for a large pharmaceutical company to conduct research on a molecule to cure leukemia, a blood cancer.

Elisa was given the “human study” component of this research project, which was unique because Elisa was coming from academia and she was new in the pharma world. This project was a big deal. Lots of pressure was placed on Elisa to perform and generate results.

She dedicated her first year to building relationships with management. She also built relationships outside her close circle. This project required extensive travel, many hours at work, meetings, etc. The time she dedicated to building relationships during her first year allowed her to build trust with others both inside and outside her work circle. People above her, below her and around her knew that she was capable, driven and got the job done. This trust and time invested in building these relationships was critical for her future success within the company as she would not know what the future would have in store for her.

After Elisa and her husband had moved to the United States and established roots within their new community, Elisa’s husband was offered a new job opportunity in New York. Always a supporter of Elisa, Elisa’s husband crafted a way to commute weekly from Chicago to New York so that Elisa could stay committed to her career and company that she loved in addition to remaining in a community that their family cherished.  (Her husband now works for a company where he dedicates less time to commuting and can be closer to home.)

Elisa became pregnant within her third year at her company. She had a high-risk pregnancy….something that could not have been predicted. She was required to see her doctor every other day for the first three months during her pregnancy and weekly thereafter. This would require her to work from home two days/week, something that was not a regular occurrence in her role.

Elisa’s manager was very supportive of Elisa’s and gave Elisa the work flexibility that she needed due to her high-risk pregnancy.

During this time, Elisa was responsible for presenting at an upcoming important meeting in Europe which would impact the success of her project. This meeting required that the team of physicians from all over Europe, Australia and the United States attend. It was critical that Elisa be present at this meeting. Because of the risks associated with her pregnancy, there was no way Elisa would be able to travel during this time. She conveyed the importance of her health and the risks to management and she proposed to conduct the meeting via video-conferencing. Over the past year because she had traveled, met with and developed relationships with the physicians and collaborators from Europe and Australia, her management team was comfortable to let her conduct the meeting via video conferencing while the rest of the team traveled to the meeting. This resulted in a successful meeting.

After a few months, Elisa’s second daughter was born. Elisa’s daughter was diagnosed with a temporary health condition that required Elisa’s attention where she needed additional flexibility in her schedule so that she could attend doctor visits and be at home as needed. Also, during this time in addition to her countless work projects that were requiring her full-time commitment, Elisa was having difficulty finding the right nanny to meet the needs of her daughter and her family. Once again, with the complete support of her management team, Elisa was able to have flexibility between her worklife and homelife in managing the needs of her family while being fully committed to her work, her project and her company. Her project was successfully completed in 2016 where Elisa and her team identified a cure for one of the chromosomes of leukemia.

Elisa’s success story was due to her hard work, relationship building, past success record and not being afraid to address her needs and ask for what she wanted. She knew that her health and her family was and is a priority for her. She loved and loves her job and is passionate about her career, but knows that family is also important to her. Over the past six years, she has had the courage and the will to ask for what she wants and needs to be happy in her career and her life at home with her family. As the first Blazin’ Babes’ featured Trailblazer, Elisa imparts advice to other women on how to manage it all:

Elisa’s Trailblazing Advice:

  1. Prove Your Value

  2. Achieve Milestones

  3. Develop Relationships

  4. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want

  5. Stop assuming it can’t be done: You can be committed to both your career and your family

 

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