AstraZeneca is a British-Swedish pharmaceutical and biotechnology company. The powerhouse brand aims to deliver science-driven services and products with patients in mind. AstraZeneca has established itself as a leader in equity in healthcare and internally with one of their core strategies being creating an safe place to work for their team.
Johnathan Silver is a senior scientist at AstraZeneca in the biosciences group with an acute expertise in immunology, flow cytometry, and cell culture. Silver is an example of the positive impact in health inclusivity when different perspectives are considered in product and service development.
In a candid conversation, BYP discussed Silver’s professional journey and how he maintains his authenticity in non-Black spaces.
BYP: What are the three biggest challenges you’ve faced navigating your career?
Silver: I think my biggest challenge was that I had to learn everything on the fly. My second challenge has been that typically, I am the only Black person in a room and, more often, the only Black person in my department. I’m used to it now, but initially, it’s very disorienting.
And I think my other challenge was struggling at the end of my graduate studies, just trying to finish. Looking back, a lot of that was a blur, but somehow I made it through, so I’m grateful for my support from family and things like that.
BYP: What advice would you give to someone dealing with imposter syndrome and isolation?
Silver: It helps to take a step back, take a deep breath, and realize that you’ll be OK. I think sometimes you have to take action back, reassure yourself that you got this, and it’s also OK to take advantage of the support you can get.
Therapy was essential to me. When you have stress in your professional and personal life, those two things can make you feel overwhelmed. So I think therapy can be beneficial, especially for people in graduate school. I’d also say, “Keep going.”
BYP: How important would you think Black role models’ visibility is in the workplace.
Silver: I think one of the struggles nowadays is we have inclusion and diversity work at companies, but then you talk to people there, and they’re not listening. So I think having Black senior leadership understand where you’re coming from is very important.
BYP: What advice would you give to people who are currently trying to navigate homogenous workspaces?
Silver: It makes sense for us to examine opportunities outside of where we currently are. Especially in the US, a Black person will often find a job that we love and stay there forever. I think part of that goes back to the history when we didn’t have many options. I believe there are many different tools at our disposal now to get ahead.
BYP: What would you say are the biggest highlights of your career?
Silver: First, going to graduate school and finishing. It was a nice moment to be able to finish graduate school and dedicate my dissertation to my grandparents, who were very important in my life. I would also transition into my post-doctorate fellowship and have a successful post-doc. Just being able to look back and say that I did it is something I cherish.
BYP: What legacy would you like to leave behind and why?
Silver: I would like to work on multiple drugs that provide clinical benefits to patients in ways that they didn’t before. And my other goal would be to help mentor young people. I am very aware of the lack of Black mentorship past a particular stage of my life and want to be that sort of extension to someone coming up.
To learn more about Astrazeneca or to apply for their available roles please visit their BYP jobs board here.