Embracing Opportunities: A Career Reflection with Beatriz Rodriguez of STEMCELL Technologies

Back to Posts

Meet Beatriz Rodriguez of STEMCELL Technologies

Dedicated to empowering scientists worldwide, STEMCELL Technologies provides innovative tools and technologies to advance research and discovery across various fields, including cell biology, immunology, neuroscience, and regenerative medicine.

We sat down with Beatriz Rodriguez (she/her), Director of Manufacturing, ISO Products at STEMCELL, to delve deeper into her journey at the organization and the impactful work being done.

Let’s start by learning a little bit about you. Can you tell us about how you made your way to STEMCELL Technologies?

I was born in Cuba, where I earned my bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering. I then came to Canada and continued my education at UBC, graduating from its master’s program in chemical engineering. As I was finishing my master’s, the decision of my next career move weighed on me. I was asking myself, “Where should I go now?” I knew I could pursue a PhD, remain in academia, or venture into the biotechnology industry.

At that time, I found that STEMCELL had a role open, focused on the production of antibodies. The work involved performing cell culture processes and purifying antibodies, which was directly related to my master’s at UBC. 

I started looking into the company, and this was a turning point for me. I saw that the leadership team was predominantly women. Research and Development, Quality Control, Marketing and Sales were all led by women, which was quite unique at the time. This inclusivity extended even to the manufacturing sector, where a woman spearheaded Operations. 

That was when the decision not to pursue a PhD became clear. I decided I wanted to work at STEMCELL. The dynamic nature of the role, coupled with the company’s ethos, resonated with what I envisioned for my career.

Initially, my role was focused on troubleshooting and procedural setup. I collaborated closely with the research and development team. But as the company continued to grow, my role kept changing and evolving. I went from troubleshooting to establishing procedures to leading a team. Now, I head up the Manufacturing ISO team composed of 148 smart, resilient and creative group of people.  To develop and enhance teams has been and continues to be very fulfilling for me. 

Were there any challenges you faced during your career?

For me, challenges are opportunities. Challenges are an integral part of life, and in facing them, you discover new ways to keep growing. They encourage you to delve into problem-solving, engage in critical analysis, and work collectively with others.

I often share with others on my team that challenges are opportunities to grow, develop, and advance. They provide a pathway to expand your capabilities and step outside your comfort zone. It’s truly how you grow. 

Can you elaborate on the role mentorship plays for you at STEMCELL?

As I mentioned, when I first joined STEMCELL over 20 years ago, I was surrounded by very strong women who held influential positions at the top of and throughout the organization. It’s worth noting that I witnessed STEMCELL in its earliest stages, and despite our exponential growth, the inclusive culture is still in the company. Today, 45 percent of executives in the company identify as female, and out of a workforce of over 2,300 people, 57 percent identify as female, emphasizing the enduring commitment to gender diversity.

In order to better connect the staff with one another, there is a cohort program that fosters connections with peers. This program is important because it helps everyone network and engage with their peers in other parts of the company. This type of networking, I believe, is a crucial aspect of career development. The connections forged within the program, combined with formal or informal mentorships, have enriched my understanding of different roles and perspectives, both within and outside of my team.

Mentorship, to me, transcends hierarchical positions. I’ve mentored individuals within and outside of my team, regardless of their gender or position. The key lies with individuals and their willingness to understand each other’s roles, offer advice, and share experiences.

Could you share any tips for building meaningful professional connections?

I would say that the cornerstone of any interaction, be it in mentorship or day-to-day relationships, is to listen. You cannot come into a conversation with your mind made up. Rather, you have to be open to listening to everything that is said, without any preconceived notions.

Being receptive to the expectations of other people is also crucial. In my conversations, particularly with my direct reports, I often stress the importance of being aware of what your purpose is. This helps me provide feedback or get ideas from the person. Knowing your strengths, understanding your personal motivations, and having a clear sense of purpose are key elements in any role.

What I find most significant in fostering meaningful connections is the ability to reflect on yourself. By taking the time to understand your own aspirations and goals, you lay the foundation for more meaningful conversations. This self-awareness not only enables you to seek feedback and ideas but also allows for a more purposeful dialogue.

Additionally, I encourage others to reach out and step outside their comfort zones. I do push people to get out of their comfort zone so they can grow in that more uncomfortable zone.

How would you describe the workplace culture at STEMCELL and its impact on your career?

From day one, it struck me that STEMCELL was different. It’s a company where diversity is truly valued. Our culture revolves around our core values of Innovation, Quality, Responsiveness, Integrity and Collaboration with our customers—the scientists and researchers doing life science to find cures for diseases. Our commitment also extends beyond our customers to our employees and the planet. This is evident in our 2023 Sustainability Report, which outlines our dedication to sustainability, community outreach, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and employee engagement. 

Our Chief Human Resources Officer, Helen Sheridan, has played a pivotal role in preserving and enhancing our culture as our company grows. She and her team have launched initiatives like the annual employee engagement survey, which gives everyone in the company the opportunity to express themselves. The end result is that we have an outline of where we need to improve. One of the key focus areas that came out of this survey was the need for a sense of belonging. Belonging is one of the most important pieces of our company culture as it ensures that everyone feels heard, valued, and connected. 

Another result of the survey was the implementation of our Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), which provide safe spaces for diverse voices to be heard and ideas to be shared. Right now, we have six different groups: Women in STEM, Indigenous Peoples in STEM, 2SLGBTQ+ in STEM, Mental Health, DiversABILITY and BIPOC in STEM Employee Resource Groups. Each of these groups provide a community and sense of belonging for our employees and spearhead initiatives that benefit our organization and employees overall. 

Additional benefits such as gender-affirming care, expanded mental health coverage, partner leave, and support for fertility treatments are a direct result of listening to our employees’ needs. As our company evolves, so too does our commitment to continuous improvement. We actually have a Continuous Improvement Program, which empowers every employee to identify opportunities for improvement and bring them up to the team to be triaged and implemented.

Pay transparency has also been implemented at STEMCELL. This ensures equity and fairness across all roles, regardless of gender, background, or beliefs. In embracing transparency, we reinforce our commitment to equality and create an environment where every individual can thrive.

In essence, the culture at STEMCELL is one of openness, collaboration, and resilience. We want to foster an environment in which every voice matters, every idea is valued, and every individual feels a sense of belonging. As we continue to grow and evolve, we remain steadfast in our commitment to preserving this culture—one that empowers us to make a positive impact on the world.

You’re the Chair of the Women in STEM Employee Resource Group at STEMCELL. Are there any specific programs or successes that you’d like to share with us? 

Yes, so at the beginning of the year, each ERG gets together with their members and decides what they want to achieve. We’ve organized various events, including panels where members of the ERGs  share their experiences and insights. These panels serve as opportunities for learning and mentorship, helping members advance in their careers.

Additionally, we’ve been active in communicating our values and goals through our internal digital intranet space, where numerous members of our ERGs have been published. These articles showcase our initiatives, values and contributions to the company culture.

We’ve also actively engaged with the community through outreach programs. For example, we participated in Vancouver’s Science World’s 2023 Girls and STEAM Summit, providing hands-on activities and inspiring speakers for young girls interested in science, technology, engineering, art and design, and math. This event was a huge success, and we’re proud to have made a positive impact.

A group of eight STEMCELL Technologies employees, all wearing orange tshirts, smile from behind a booth at Science World's 2023 Girls and STEAM summit.
STEMCELL Technologies’ Women in STEM Employee Resource Group at Science World’s 2023 Girls and STEAM Summit. Image courtesy of STEMCELL Technologies.

In terms of professional development, we’ve allocated budgets for speaker invitations and training opportunities. Recently, we sent six members of the ERG to a leadership training program, empowering them to further their skills and advance in their careers.

Moreover, we’ve created working groups within the ERG to facilitate collaboration and skill development. These groups undertake various tasks, such as article writing for the intranet or organizing events. This gives members of the groups the opportunity to develop and learn new skills. 

Overall, our ERG has experienced significant growth and engagement since its launch. It has become a space of continuous improvement and learning, attracting individuals who are passionate about always growing, being involved, and ensuring there is diversity, equity, and inclusion in STEM.

Can you share how you have been an ally or advocate for other women in STEM, and how you supported them?

In any setting, being an advocate means being mindful of others and using our voice to speak up for them when they’re not in the room. It’s a continuous process of learning and growing as we navigate different situations and strive to understand and support each other better.

For instance, when it comes to supporting women in STEM, I’ve found that offering encouragement and encouraging them to go beyond their comfort zones can be incredibly empowering. Confidence-building is key, especially when some women may doubt their abilities. By reminding them of their strengths and encouraging them to embrace opportunities with confidence, we can help them realize their full potential.

It’s also essential to avoid gender biases when assigning roles and responsibilities. Instead, I focus on individual strengths and training, ensuring that each person has the opportunity to excel based on their unique abilities. By starting with strengths and providing support along the way, we can help individuals grow and thrive in their roles, regardless of gender.

Any last thoughts you’d like to share?

I’d like to highlight a few awards that STEMCELL has received, as they underscore the values we hold dear. And they’re not just a reflection of my opinion! They’re how STEMCELL is seen externally as well.

In November 2023, we were recognized as one of  “Canada’s Most Admired Corporate Cultures” by Waterstone Human Capital, a Canadian organization known for setting standards in corporate culture. Additionally, for the fifth consecutive year, we were recognized as one of Canada’s Best Managed Companies in 2023 by Deloitte. This acknowledgment speaks volumes about our commitment to excellence and effective management practices.

Furthermore, in 2023, we were proud to be awarded the title of “I.D.E.A.L Bioscience Employer” by BioTalent, highlighting our dedication to diversity, equity, and inclusion and we were just awarded it again on Feb 15, 2024 for our second year. 

Looking ahead, I am excited about the future of STEMCELL and the opportunities that lie ahead. With a growing workforce and a steadfast commitment to our core values, I firmly believe that we will continue to drive innovation, make a positive impact on society, and inspire the next generation of scientists.

Keep in touch

To top