Asian Business Professionals at AbbVie Talk Career Growth, Challenges and the Battle Against Hate

Originally published at AbbVie ranked No. 15 on The Fair360, formerly DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2021.


AbbVie’s Asian Leadership Network Speaks Up

In the fourth of a seven-part Employee Resource Group (ERG) series, we highlight the importance of our Asian Leadership Network. This group promotes career advancement and professional development and enhances cultural competence through education, recruitment and retention of Asian, Asian-American and Pacific-Islander employees. With the rise of anti-Asian hate, the Asian Leadership Network (ALN) has become even more important for its members spread over five countries on three continents.


ALN Chapters Around the World


“The Asian community is not a monolith” according to Lis Rakanovic, senior compliance analyst and ALN co-chair. “Asian Leadership Network is a safe space to drive inclusion and celebrate a very diverse population.”

ALN leaders answer four questions addressing the impact this group is making for our Asian and Pacific-Islander employees – and the greater community.


1. Tell us more about the solidarity statement against anti-Asian hate AbbVie’s ERGs recently released.

Shubha Kirani, solution architect and ALN global chair: For the past year, anti-Asian racism has been on the rise. At ALN, we discussed how to address this anti-Asian racism internally and came up with a detailed communications plan on how to address this. We partnered with the other ERGs to draft the solidarity statement. This solidarity statement is to showcase that we stand united at AbbVie and do not condone any form of racism.

Ruby Nandam, senior clinical safety analyst and ALN co-chair: Our solidarity statement is a voice that says we all stand united. And that we all make an intentional and thoughtful choice, that we don’t condone racism and hate.

Lis Rakanovic: The intersectionality where we all co-exist is really important in driving inclusion and stopping hate and discrimination for everyone. The solidarity statement is very powerful because I know I have support from all the ERG leaders, AbbVie’s leaders and my fellow colleagues.

Jorge Ng Zheng, senior safety data scientist and ALN communications lead: The solidarity statement makes me feel like I am not alone. I feel confident and proud that at AbbVie, disrespect, hate and racism have no place. I consider AbbVie a safe space where I can be proud of my heritage and culture.


2. How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected ALN?

Lis Rakanovic: The pandemic has allowed ALN to push ourselves out of the boundaries. We saw during the pandemic, because of the anti-Asian rhetoric, a need to speak up and offer avenues for our membership to seek help. We have partnered with National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association (NAAPIMHA) to make sure we can stay healthy not just physically, but mentally. We also partnered with Apna Ghar, a human rights organization working to end gender violence, because there has been a rise in domestic violence.

Jorge Ng Zheng: COVID-19 has certainly changed the way we carry out events and build our network. Since all our events have become virtual, this gave us the flexibility to invite and engage with more members than ever before, which led to the formation of 10 regional ALN chapters.

Keith Lai, Executive Specialty Sales Representative and ALN West Coast Chair:  Though COVID-19 has impacted each of us in so many ways, I think the most negatively impacted group are the people with Asian heritage. ALN was always at the forefront in the times of crisis through our community outreach services and will continue to support the communities where we live and work.


3. For those who aren’t familiar with the Asian Leadership Network, tell us more.

Rakesh Dontireddysenior industrial pharmacist and Ireland ALN chapter lead: We empower members with networking opportunities and promote inclusivity and togetherness. My ALN experience solidified my view of the company as truly a ‘Great Place To Work.’

Sumit Bansal, senior manager, medical & scientific affairs and India ALN chapter lead: ALN provides a space to have an open dialogue on current challenges being faced. It also gives the platform to celebrate the diversity of cultures and inclusiveness.

Shubha Kirani: I’d describe our mission as intentional inclusion and encouraging our members to speak up. ALN is open and collaborative with passionate volunteers. We also want everyone to feel comfortable making their voice heard, something many of us in the Asian community didn’t grow up with.


4. What makes ALN so meaningful to you?

Ruby Nandam: I never used to speak up. You used to find me in the corner just listening. ALN took me out of my comfort zone. I started to speak up, share my ideas and found it exhilarating. I even joined the ALN dance troupe!

Keith Lai: Originally, I was interested in my career development but during this journey, I have become immersed in the community aspect. One of my most fulfilling moments occurred when I helped raise significant funds for a non-profit social service organization that has supported my local community for over 50 years.

Sumit Bansal: I come from India, where we have thousands of dialects, hundreds of languages and ethnic cultures. I believe that cultural awareness, learning opportunities and celebrations of diverse, heritage and traditions are pivotal to creating an inclusive environment.

Rakesh Dontireddy: When I joined AbbVie in 2014, I was the only Asian at that time at our two Sligo sites. It was difficult navigating the work and family and at times, I felt lonely. Flash forward to 2021 – now we have about 30 Asian employees across two sites in Sligo.


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