Leticia Ferri, Bristol Myers Squibb’s Organization for Latino Achievement People and Business Resource Group Lead.

A day in the life: Leader of the Organization for Latino Achievement

September 19, 2019     

Leticia Ferri grew up in a small town in Brazil with less than 20,000 residents. As a girl she never dreamed she’d work for an international company like Bristol Myers Squibb and end up living in North America. 

In the nine years since she joined Bristol Myers Squibb, Ferri has worked in Sao Paolo, Brazil; Canada and New Jersey. Along the way she earned a Master’s degree in pharmacology and most recently graduated from the Johnson School at Cornell University with an Executive M.B.A.

With an M.D., two Ph.D.s, a Master’s degree and an Executive M.B.A., Ferri clearly values education. Raised among doctors, it’s no surprise that she too went into medicine and is a trained endocrinologist and internist. What is surprising is that she recently shifted her focus away from medicine to work as the full-time leader for Bristol Myers Squibb’s Organization for Latino Achievement (OLA).

OLA is one of eight company People and Business Resource Groups (PBRG). Employees join PBRGs to come together around a single dimension of diversity to help drive business results and increase cultural awareness.  There are more than 12,000 employees in 45 countries involved in PBRGs.

Bristol Myers Squibb’s saw the significance of the PBRGs’ ability to drive business initiatives and implemented an industry groundbreaking model this year. There is now a dedicated, full-time leader accountable for the strategy and performance of each PBRG. Leticia was one of the first employees to step into the full-time PBRG positions as lead of OLA.

So, how does a highly skilled physician, who’s been working in the Global and U.S. Medical departments for nearly a decade, become the lead for OLA? Ferri’s commitment to the Latino community and her desire to tackle new challenges are just two of the reasons that prove she’s more than qualified for the position.

Leticia’s husband Mauricio Ferri, a cardiovascular medical scientist at Bristol Myers Squibb, makes breakfast for the family while Leticia gets their daughter Valentina ready for school.

What does your morning routine look like?

My mornings are busy and unpredictable. I get my 11-year-old daughter, Valentina, ready for her day, while my husband, Mauricio, prepares coffee and a traditional Brazilian breakfast of fried cheese and tapioca. I wrangle and feed our dog, two cats and six chickens and my husband packs lunchboxes for the three of us.

Not only is Mauricio my personal chef, he’s also my colleague; we both work at BMS. Every day we carpool to and from work together and drop-off and pick-up Valentina from school on the way. The three of us can be found doing most things together and rely heavily on each other. I think it’s because we emigrated to the U.S. from Brazil and don’t have family here.

The Ferris commute to Bristol Myers Squibb together every weekday.

You have a unique family history, how has that shaped your present?

I was born and raised in Marialva, Parana, a town in Brazil with only three doctors. Two of those doctors were my father and father-in-law, who together built the town’s very first hospital. Although I didn’t know it at the time, I met my future husband while our fathers were building the hospital. We played together while were young, but didn’t start dating until we were both in residency.

Our fathers instilled a strong commitment to community in both of us. We’ve both carried that with us throughout our careers.

What has your development path been?

I always envisioned my career would remain and grow where it started, in a hospital. My willingness to take risks and my commitment to my family and my community took me on a different path. After completing my residency in endocrinology, I was presented with an opportunity to join the BMS Sao Paolo office in 2010 with the Medical department working in diabetes.

One year later, Mauricio got a fellowship in Calgary, Canada, and BMS transferred me so I could continue working in the medical department there. In 2013, an opportunity opened in [New Jersey] on the global diabetes team. Not long after we moved, Mauricio accepted a position on the U.S. Medical team as well. While we’ve both sacrificed at times for the other’s success, our paths have always complimented one another’s.

What interested you about the OLA lead role?

I expressed to my manager that I wanted to learn more about business. BMS supported me in getting my Executive M.B.A. This has helped me tremendously in my current role as the OLA lead. Leading a PBRG is very similar to being an entrepreneur; it’s essentially like running a business.

I feel incredibly lucky that being the lead of OLA is my full-time job; it still feels like a dream. There are six full-time PBRG leads and we’re recruiting another position. This demonstrates the company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. OLA is a critical organization for BMS, because we’re driving business results and helping the company be the best it can for our employees, patients and partners.

OLA members gather for a lunch meeting.

What are the greatest challenges you face?

OLA has over 1,300 members globally, so I am in the process of figuring out how to engage all of the different sites and understand their unique challenges. Our priorities are to retain and recruit Latino talent, to empower Latino patients and ensure the community is better represented in clinical trials and to partner with the best organizations to drive progress for the Latino community.

How do you overcome challenges?

Being a good listener has always been important to me and is a crucial part of my job. My current role involves hearing others insights and collecting their perspectives. I visit as many sites as possible and meet with chapter leads in person.

I believe in partnering with the best organizations and advocacy members. Today, I met with the President of Hispanics Inspiring Student's Performance and Achievement to discuss ways BMS can support recruiting Latina college students. It’s crucial to build my network with advocacy partners and cultivate those relationships.

Leticia meets with the President of Hispanics Inspiring Students’ Performance and Achievement Ivonne Diaz-Claisse.

Q: What does a successful day look like for you? 

Small wins mean the most to me. Today I met with a new employee who just moved here from Brazil and I helped connect her with other Brazilian colleagues and OLA members. Connecting others and bringing people together brings me a lot of satisfaction.

As a Latina woman, I’m proud of my accent and have always felt comfortable in my skin and proud of who I am. I feel successful when I can encourage others to embrace their Latino identity. I remind my Latino colleagues that they are working in a language other than their native one and a lot of people can’t say the same. This new role has given me the ideal forum to spread these messages. BMS values the diverse perspectives that we bring and wants to give us seats at the table and have our voices heard.

I’m empowered in my day-job to educate my peers and give back to members of my community, what could be better than that?

related content