Member Spotlight

“From Duke to Dupont’’

Suit May 2013

Can you give a short bio about yourself?
I am Jill Robertson, a true Southern California native and an alumnus of USC. I did my Bachelor’s in chemistry from USC at the age of 16 and went on to do my PhD in chemistry from Duke University at the age of 24. I started my career at Dupont as a research chemist and climbed up the ladder and became the director of Operations, Clinical Chemistry Diagnostics in the marketing and manufacturing sector for ten years. I then went on to work for W.L. Gore and Associates, known for its unique corporate culture, for ten years where my prime focus was on operations and business leadership. After attaining twenty plus years of work experience, I then joined Baxter (now called Takeda) and have been working there for ten years in the business end of things with respect to acquisition. This job is the perfect marriage between leadership with technology and it’s perfect because of the diverse job experience it has. I have come to a realization that an advanced degree in the STEM field will always serve you well. It helps you think critically. Taking the technical route will not only help you work in different companies but also would train you to be flexible in any kind of situation.

Why did you decide to go into the STEM field?
In college the only subject that was remotely challenging was chemistry and I immediately fell in love with it. It was mathematical and conceptual. I loved the idea of cooking stuff up in lab and later analyzing it. When things came easy, I discount them, and a little higher hurdle is what I was after.

What are your hobbies or favorite things to do in your spare time?
I am a long-distance ocean swimmer and have Swam 8K across the Catalina Channel and you can in fact find me in their records. The longest that I have swam is a 10-mile relay with a friend. Swimming comes easy to me as I have been swimming since I was 18 months old. My passion project is to take women and help them do things they don’t think they can do. For instance, I helped train a bunch of women to swim a 10-mile relay at the La Jolla Beach. Apart from this, I also work with triathletes for open water swim.

Do you have any experiences in terms of the challenges you faced as a woman in STEM, that you would like to share?
When I started out, there weren’t a lot of women and it so happened that almost all of my bosses were men. While I was at Dupont, I came in with a class of ten PhDs out of which I was the first one from my cohort to get a promotion. A man walked into my room and said that I must have got the promotion because I am a woman and for which my reply was, “I got this promotion not because I am woman but because I was the best of the lot.” Charlotte Whitton once said “Whatever women do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily, this is not difficult.” And that was exactly what I believe in. My message to everyone out there, especially women, is to be excellent at your job and prove yourself and that’s how you get ahead in this male dominated field.

How has your experience with GWIS-LA been?

This entire experience has been great because of all the brilliant minds that I got to meet. I chaired a round table conference at the Industry Career Conference hosted by GWIS at USC and thought that it was a success because of the abundance of brain and intelligence that I came across.

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