No One Cares More about Your Career than You

I am a partner and board member at Venable LLP, a national law firm, and co-chair of its Food and Drug Law Practice. My legal work focuses on guiding companies, ranging from start-ups to the Fortune 100, through the complexities of FDA regulations governing foods, dietary supplements, over-the-counter drugs, medical devices, cosmetics, and other products. Companies come to me when they want to ensure their compliance with FDA, FTC, and USDA regulations concerning how these types of products are labeled and advertised.

It has been a long road, but during my career I have worked with stellar teams and developed a reputation as an effective lawyer. Because of significant personal and professional support, I have become one of the few women—and even fewer African American women—to sit on the board and lead a practice at a national law firm.

To get to where I am today, I have turned many obstacles into opportunities and missteps into valuable learning experiences. When I can, I provide other women coming through the ranks with insight into what I have learned along the way. It is an honor to be where I am today, and I do my best to share it by mentoring all young attorneys, particularly African American women. Unfortunately, it is not unusual for me to be the only minority and/or woman in a meeting.

I use these experiences to provide the next generation with this advice: Understand that there are stereotypes, learn your craft well, and be confident of your own capabilities. Nothing speaks louder than knowing your area of the law. You are going to make mistakes—we all do—but use them as tools and be sure you have the support you need (even if it is outside your organization). It is critical to be an effective participant in your own professional development—no one is going to care for your career more than you.

This philosophy has helped me succeed since my days as a student at Howard University, and later, as a law student at American University Washington College of Law, where I was chairwoman of the Black Law Students Association. My time there was so meaningful I continue to be involved in the school’s Dean’s Advisory Committee, with special focus on minority/alumni relations.