AbbVie’s Sherri Carter on Helping Women and Underrepresented Talent Grow Careers in STEM

Originally published at Sherri Carter is the Associate Director of AbbVie’s Operations Group. AbbVie ranked No. 15 on The Fair360, formerly DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2021.


Sherri Carter oversees a building and team that manufactures critical medicine. All while she does her part to promote greater diversity and inclusion by mentoring and nurturing talent. AbbVie followed Sherri during a typical day in the life of an AbbVie employee driving change around the clock.


6:30am - Ready for work

One of the first things I do is pack my lunch and snacks. I love to cook and I’m a New Orleans girl, so almost everything I make has seafood in it. Today I’ve prepared some crab-stuffed mushrooms and a spinach salad. I also grab a protein shake on my way out. Everything goes in my Florida A&M University (FAMU) backpack. FAMU is my alma mater, an HBCU – a historically black college or university. Every Friday at work for me is FAMU Friday – the day I wear my orange and green. Once I’m packed and ready, I drive to work. At work, the first thing I do is greet everyone – that sets the tone for the day. Then I check in with my supervisors to see how the manufacturing process is going. I oversee a team of supervisors and operators who manufacture medicine through a batch process. We work on achieving production targets on schedule while also meeting quality and environmental health and safety (EHS) goals. While our process is well established, issues can come up from time to time, so I use these checks to find out about any maintenance or processing concerns that may have occurred overnight and to understand where our current batch is at in the process.


8:30am - It's tea or taco time

Most days, I’ll have mint tea at my desk to give me a good boost in the morning, but on Wednesdays, instead of tea, I’ll go with a couple folks down to the cafeteria to eat breakfast tacos. After breakfast or tea, my morning is usually filled with team meetings and time spent on the floor with the operators to learn their processes. Learning is one of my big responsibilities because I’m still relatively new to AbbVie and it’s a privilege to learn from the many dedicated and steadfast operations employees who have worked in the North Chicago facility for many years. After finishing my master’s in chemical engineering, I worked in pharmaceuticals but six years ago I left the industry to work in oil and gas. I returned to pharma this year because I missed that real connection to saving lives – that’s something you just don’t get in most places.


11am - Time for chat with my mentee

I meet with one of my six mentees, an engineering intern, to share career advice. I was a college student when I got my first mentor, and that experience inspired me to start helping others. I’m also passionate about mentoring women and underrepresented talent in STEM because I want to see greater diversity and inclusion (D&I) within manufacturing. Diversity brings better ideas and more creativity, which is valuable to solving technical problems. Recently, I asked to help with recruiting and have been chosen to represent AbbVie at HBCUs just like the one I graduated from.


12pm - Hit the gym or eat at my desk or eat in the cafeteria

Afterward, my schedule for the afternoon varies. Some days I block off time to catch up on training. On other days I’ll monitor process health by reporting on our EHS, quality and financial performance. Today however I have a one-on-one with one of my team members. As a people leader, a big part of my job is to ensure that my team is becoming better every day. This is a constant challenge because our products and processes are well established, which can make people comfortable.


During the one-on-one I work with my staff member on developing their value statement, which defines how they’re adding value to the organization. Having a strong value statement can help people form a different, more meaningful connection to the work that they’re doing, which is key to helping them stay engaged and motivated to get out of that comfort zone. I’m proud I get to help people connect to their work in a more meaningful way – it’s not technical, it’s not engineering, but it is critical.


6pm - End my day having a meal with my family

After a daily check-in with staff from all the North Chicago facilities, I drive home and make dinner. Cooking is my number one pastime; I find it relaxing. My daughter, who’s currently home from college and is also working for the summer at AbbVie, will sometimes join me for dinner. Afterward, I spend time exploring new places to live in the Chicago area. Looking ahead, I’m excited to settle into a new home here where AbbVie is so invested in the community and further embrace this opportunity to do work that has a real impact on people’s lives.