• Rising Star award winner Kara Price shares how she encourages other women in STEM

    Kara Price still remembers the day she changed her mind about becoming a doctor. It was the day she had to dissect a rat under anesthesia in her college biology class. “Opening up that rat to remove its spleen made me realize I didn’t have the stomach for the medical field. But I still wanted to do something to help people.”

    That “something” turned into a 20-year career with our company. She started in the manufacturing division, as an hourly employee testing the potency of vaccines, and later was afforded the opportunity to lead one of the most complex and challenging supply chain areas: sterile clinical manufacturing.

    Five years ago, her career veered in a new direction. She moved from manufacturing to the research side of our business where she now holds the position of director of operations and strategy for pharmaceutical sciences. In this role, her organization works an intricate support system for the pharmaceutical sciences operational structure to include strategy development, talent management, portfolio management, etc.

    ‘I want to help women feel confident’

    Science is definitely one of Kara’s greatest strengths, but she says her “real passion is developing others.” To support that passion, she earned a Ph.D. in organizational leadership and applies social science skills to mentor women of all ages.

    “I want to help women feel confident about taking on higher level roles in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines.”

    She’s active in multiple support networks within our company, such as the Merck Women’s Network and the League of Employees of African Descent (LEAD). Outside of work, she takes part in community programs that teach teenage girls about leadership. She also volunteers with STEM colleagues in a program that helps underprivileged students prepare for college entrance tests. The effort has raised SAT scores by an estimated 150 points for students in the program.

    Helping others is Kara’s way of thanking those who have mentored her. “I’m always looking for opportunities to pay it forward. There’s nothing more satisfying than sharing the skills you’ve learned to help someone else.”

    ‘A rare gem’

    Many mentors have encouraged Kara throughout her career, including Guy Padbury, senior vice president, preclinical development. “Kara is a high performer and critical thinker – a rare gem who is always looking for an opportunity to have a positive impact on those around her,” says Guy.

    For example, Kara recently stopped a job interview with a young woman to provide a coaching moment. “The young woman was being very humble during the interview,” says Guy. “Kara advised her to show her strengths, her confidence. She recognized the opportunity to help this young professional, because Kara is always trying to make things better for others.”

    Leaders ‘don’t have to be perfect’

    Kara says she has learned many lessons throughout her career, but there’s one in particular she likes to share with other leaders. “Early in my career, I hid my flaws and vulnerabilities, but I don’t do that anymore. I learned that leaders don’t have to be perfect. And our teams don’t want us to be perfect. When you are authentic, people feel like they can relate and connect to you. So, be true to yourself. Don’t try to be someone you are not.”

    An unforgettable ‘family’

    One of Kara’s most memorable moments with our company occurred in 2001. “I went into premature labor at work. I was taken out by ambulance, but all that excitement wasn’t the most memorable part. It was the wonderful way the entire team rallied around me after my son was born. They even gave me a surprise baby shower. I realized: This wasn’t just a job. It was a family.”

    A rising star

    Kara is among the 2019 Rising Stars recognized by the Healthcare Business Women’s Association. The award recognizes women in the industry who have achieved amazing milestones. Learn more.

    ‘Don’t hide yourself’ and other advice

    Kara has three pieces of advice for a rewarding career:



    Identify your core values.

    “Your career and desires may change; your core values won’t. Your values will guide your decisions and help you make the best ones.”


    Don’t hide yourself because you feel different or out of place.

    “If you are at the discussion table, you need to be actively involved. Don’t shrink. Show up big, and don’t take for granted this opportunity you’ve been given.”


    Be in control of your development.

    “If you are looking for someone to develop you, you are putting the power into the wrong hands. You know your needs, and if you don’t seek feedback to understand your development areas, you must take charge of your own development.”

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