People & Culture

The power of self advocacy

March 25, 2022
About the Author

Lamisa Parkar, MD, is head of digital innovation at Mirati. A physician by training, she is passionate about cutting edge technologies that enhance patient access, care delivery and health outcomes. She earned her medical degree in India from Maharashtra University of Health Sciences and her MBA from The Fuqua School of Business, Duke University. Lamisa has worked across provider and biopharma services in a variety of roles including technology and advanced analytics strategy and is also a Limited Partner at Neythri Futures Fund, an historic first fund with a mission to increase the diversity quotient in the venture capital ecosystem.

Below, Lamisa answers questions based on her experience and offers valuable advice about how, and why, it is important to advocate for yourself throughout your career.

Q. When did you learn the power of self-advocacy?

A. I’m a physician by training and before I came to the U.S. for business school, I practiced in India and the U.K. When I started my career and first job in the U.S., I didn’t realize the importance of advocating for myself. I thought I would be considered for the best opportunities simply because my work was so good. But then, I saw myself passed over for new opportunities because I was in the background. This is what changed my perspective. It is important to speak up for yourself. Once I recognized that, I identified my interests, career goals, and how I was positioned for certain opportunities – then I started advocating for myself. This helped me find the right opportunities to advance and best contribute to the company’s success, and my own.

I also noticed throughout my career that people can be subconsciously blind. I used to believe people did not notice skin color, gender, or nationality, but, subconscious bias is real. I believe it is important to remind others what sets you apart.

Q. Is there particular advice that you find yourself giving to other women?

A. Yes. It is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. At times, it can feel as though we are on this milestone-based path and that everything is time bound. Many people can start believing “I need to be manager in two years” or “I need to be VP in four years” and can forget the big picture of what they are trying to accomplish.

When I became a mom, I realized that I am in a completely new category, and I am stretching myself so much. Do I really want to put myself out for a promotion at this time? Can I take more responsibilities or extend my bandwidth and be able to do it justice? If that ‘bigger’ title came two or four years later, does that hurt me? I believe women tend think we need to do “better” all the time. We constantly set what I think are impossible targets or deadlines for ourselves and ultimately harm ourselves trying to reach them.

Q. What are your views on imposter syndrome?

A. It is real. I have felt it several times and I believe women may especially feel the effects of this ‘syndrome’. Some women tend to undersell themselves so when they land in positions they believe they are not qualified for, they feel like an imposter. When considering a job opportunity, I recommend overcoming imposter syndrome by getting into the mindset of the hiring manager who is likely considering whether the potential employee could hit all of the qualifications within a 6–12-month period. This is typically more important than a candidate immediately meeting all of the requirements when hired.

Another facet of advocating for yourself is establishing boundaries at work. Lamisa discussed how she does this to create a successful work/life balance. She also offers her perspective on leadership and why she chose to work at Mirati.

Q. Why are boundaries important at work? Do you set boundaries for yourself?

A. They are critical for ensuring people you work with know what is acceptable and what is not. I believe it is important to establish boundaries upfront or else it can potentially create awkwardness later.

As a working parent of two toddlers, time is precious. I have hard starts and stops. Weekends are off-limits. An understanding boss helps; for me it was easy to align on boundaries and expectations upfront.  Ambition and desire to please everybody can get in the way, so I recommend being deliberate about setting boundaries and adhering to them, setting the example for your team to follow.

Q. What makes a strong leader, in your experience?

A. To me, leadership is about inspiring and motivating a team to deliver their best every day. A strong leader is someone who is humble, a good listener, authentic and compassionate. A strong leader ultimately needs to be able to adapt to meet the needs of the team on any given day.

Q. How do you lift up your team or other colleagues to help them grow their careers?

A. My goal is to understand what that individual wants to do within their career. For example, where do they see themselves in one to two years. Then based on that information I seek to engineer specific experiences, or exposure to specific people, or train them for specific skills that will help them reach their goals. Understanding where employees want to go helps me help them to do so within their current position.

Q. Considering the breadth of this industry, why did you choose to work at Mirati?

A. I chose Mirati because I was fascinated by the science, and I thought it was a very innovative company. I also fell in love with the people that I spoke to as part of my hiring process. I was amazed at what the people I spoke to brought to the table and how much I would get to learn working with them. I was excited about kind of impact that I would be able to have.

I loved that Mirati was thinking about digital innovation. Although we are a small, but growing biotech, we have bold ambitions. Today’s world is increasingly digital. There are infinite technologies that can simplify or automate our business process or allow us to get closer to patient and physicians in a just-in-time manner. These technologies are generating millions of data points, which when analyzed, can inform critical business decisions and allow us to serve our patients and physicians better.