DEI Changemakers: Antoinette Brock, VP of Corporate Analytics and Transparency at BMS

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March 9, 2022
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9 min read

Twenty-four years into her career at Bristol Myers Squibb, Antoinette (Toni) Brock dedicates the majority of her time and energy to a sector she never even dreamt of when she started – mainly because it didn't exist! But she was persistent, committed and unwavering in her climb to the top. (She just didn’t know which mountain she was climbing!)

The opportunities set in front of Toni have transformed her career trajectory, but they’ve also transformed the world. She oversees many functions at BMS, but one of her main areas of focus is Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Her work in the DEI space comes from her heart but also from a place of strategic thinking. This work has been instrumental in separating BMS from competitors and attracting new talent. It’s a strategy that connects everyone under the company to one central mission of innovation and transformation. 

Can you tell us a little bit about your career journey and how you got to where you are today? 

I began my journey about 25 years ago when I was hired as a cardiovascular sales representative, but I always had big aspirations and was very vocal about them. After about 18 months, I moved into a role with incentive compensation where I designed the bonus structure for our salesforce. I was in that role for about 16 months before I was asked to design a similar plan for a newly formed trade organization - this area was where we sold most of our products to the actual marketplace. 

A little while later, a VP approached me with an opportunity to join his team as an account executive. I was working on selling products into our accounts at big name brands like CVS, Walgreens, Walmart and Target. Ultimately, my goal was to make sure patients would have access to the drugs they were prescribed when they went to the pharmacy. While I was working on that team, my manager asked me to help design a new opportunity that would also interface with marketing. So I worked with him to create the role, outline the responsibilities and draft the job description. At the end of this whole exercise, I worked up the courage to ask my manager if he would consider me for the job, but he told me he already had someone else in mind. I decided to apply anyway since I knew the ins and outs of the position by that point, and somehow, I landed it!

This step took me closer to my current job. Under this new title, I was responsible for helping the marketing and compliance teams work together and bring them into the pharmacies. After 18 months, one of my senior leaders asked me to head up a project for our review and approval process for our promotional materials. That project eventually led me into a full-time consulting role that redesigned our business and operations - it was very strategy and operations focused and it’s quite similar to what I do now. In my current job I oversee many functions in our Business, Insights and Analytics (BIA) department, worldwide HR analytics and global procurement analytics. 

You were one of the first cohorts of the insights for success program, can you tell us a little bit about how that affected your ability to lead and your role today? 

The program really focused on uplifting Black employees. It really had us thinking about the foundational aspects that would help us build a successful career at BMS. Through that program I learned the role I played in corporate America and the importance of being my own advocate. Early on in my career, I had no idea how important these lessons would be, and it’s something I attribute my growth and success to. The program also gave me a better look into how BMS operates and how I could fit better into that equation. In order to be successful, you have to be so much more than simply a hard worker or a diligent listener. People need to understand who you are, what you want and the value you bring to an organization. 

What is your message to women who want to break into your industry but don't know where to start? 

Above everything else, you need to understand what your goal is. Homing in on what’s motivating you to come into the industry and letting that guide your decision making. Finding a company that aligns with your mission is paramount. If you don't have experience in the industry, there are so many ways you can get your foot in the door: you can join a start-up firm or a contract organization where you can gain a ton of experience. Always make sure you’re using your network.

BMS is very intentional about representation, especially when it comes to women. Can you tell us about some of the initiatives that BMS has? 

Over my 25 years with BMS I’ve seen the company really ramp up its focus on DEI, but in the last 24 months I’ve seen it come to life as a cultural cornerstone. I’m really proud of the work we’re doing. In 2020 BMS announced its commitment to five separate communities and underrepresented groups. These commitments included improving patient access in Black and Brown communities by promoting health equity, increasing diversity representation in our clinical trials and generating positive economic impact in underserved communities that are hit hard because of systemic injustices. Our goal is to spend $1 billion globally with Black and Brown communities and diversity-owned businesses and to match employee donations to different organizations. BMS also announced a five-year plan to spend $10 million dollars as a step out strategy to support and partner with historically black colleges. Another thing I’m really proud of is our second annual sponsorship of 10 individuals who will all receive $10,000. It’s a super well rounded and thought-out initiative. 

How can other companies follow in your footsteps and make sure they’re getting DEI right? 

Ultimately it starts with the tone at the top. Our CEO truly believes DEI is imperative to our business. Once a CEO sets that tone, other people will get on board. It’s about more than just good will and the right intentions, it’s a differentiator for your company and really gives you a competitive edge. 

An article by the Institute for Medical Engineering and Science in 2020 stated that Black people make up just 3 percent of data and analytics professionals and women only make up 15 percent, what do you think is the barrier to entry? 

We’ve got to open the hearts and the minds of young people. The barrier to entry lies in the elementary and middle school level because there’s a foundational level of understanding children are missing out on. It’s really important we teach children about the importance of data and data scientists because it impacts everything around them. My organization is partnering with the National Cares Mentoring program and going into schools to help educate kids and show them they could have a career in this space. 

An article published by Inc Magazine stated that women only make up 18% of leadership positions across industries, so how can women who have made it into this top percent pay it forward? 

As women, we have a unique opportunity to advocate for other women. A few years ago, I hired a very talented Black woman who I thought had the potential to become a top executive. I gave her high visibility projects and put her in front of key decision makers who I knew would recognize her brilliance. After a few years, she was offered another great opportunity. I helped coach her and land this new role, so she could maximize the potential I always saw in her. As women, we have the power to create outcomes that are so much bigger than our individual input. It’s important to be bold, create opportunities for others, lead as women and demand change. 

What advice would you give to someone who doesn't have clear direction or who might be dealing with imposter syndrome? 

No one walks into a job with every requirement. Recognizing that as women means thinking about how you show up and how you talk about yourself. One of my mentors told me “You have to make people believe what you want them to believe about you.” At first, I didn't fully understand it, but I came to realize that it’s so important you talk about what you bring to the table so others can recognize that too. My biggest piece of advice would be to continue to talk about yourself positively, whether that dialogue is internal or external. 

What advice would you give to someone who has social anxiety or is an introvert but really wants to achieve this level of success? 

Well, believe it or not, I’m an introvert. One thing that’s really helped me is getting myself out there and recognizing that’s how corporate America works. I had to acknowledge that it would make me uncomfortable, but it would be worth it. I know it’s hard and it takes effort, but it’s so rewarding. I had to go into meetings where I was the only Black woman and bring a different perspective and talk about things that were important to me. And then I would go home and recharge to get my energy back. Then, I would go back, and do it all over again. Don’t compromise who you are as an individual, but also don’t shield the world from seeing your brilliance. 

What makes you feel most fulfilled? 

The pandemic has really made everyone reevaluate how we spend our time, and I’ve chosen to spend it with my family. Being able to just sit down and have a conversation or lunch with my husband has allowed us to grow closer. It’s those little moments with my family that really mean everything to me. 

What does success mean to you? 

I think many people look at success in a one-dimensional way. I love John Maxwell’s quote “success is knowing your purpose in life, growing to reach your maximum potential and sowing seeds that benefit others.” When I think about success under those terms, it’s not about just checking off accomplishments. I really began to understand I would never exhaust my capacity to grow towards my potential or help others, so to me that’s what success is. 

What advice would you give yourself at the beginning of your career? 

I would tell myself to make sure I’m continuously operating with a growth mindset. The results you achieve along the way aren't nearly as important as who you’re becoming. 

Do you have any final words of wisdom for us? 

One of my favorite quotes by Henry Ford is “There is no man living that can not do more than he thinks he can.” I truly believe that my future contains unlimited potential. The boundaries we set for ourselves are only boundaries we create in our mind, so don’t limit your potential.

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