About Paula Garcia Todd
Paula Garcia Todd has made significant contributions in drug delivery through her work at Dow Chemical, DuPont, and now IFF (International Flavors & Fragrances) for the past 19 years. She is a Global Strategic Marketing Manager at IFF, responsible for a $500 million portfolio of pharmaceutical ingredients. She is originally from Brazil, born from Chilean parents, so she has contributed to helping Latinas like herself going into STEM fields. For her devoted work in STEM outreach, Paula received a “Woman of the Year in Engineering” award by Women in Technology and a “Luminary award” by Great Minds in STEM. Paula holds a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in Chemical Engineering from the Pennsylvania State University. She and her husband have 3 children and live in Georgia.
What lessons have you learned in your STEM journey?
I have been surprised by the career pivots and twists that a solid engineering background has allowed me to take. I never pictured myself as a marketer, without ever pursuing my MBA, but my technical background has proven to be very valuable in these market-facing roles. After many years in production and doing research, I stepped into marketing and realized how valued it was to understand our customers and products in the pharmaceutical space and work in a function that allows our business to grow by influencing our innovation pipeline. A career is a marathon more than a sprint – a strong educational foundation in a STEM field allows you to morph your career in more ways than you can imagine.
What has been a critical factor in your success?
I learned in my college years the importance of building a community of supporters. Organizations like Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and Society of Women Engineers allowed me to find others who looked like me, so I felt seen and accepted into engineering. I was very involved in the American Institute of Chemical Engineers as well, finding a group of friends and supporters, where we all helped each other through those difficult classes and projects.
The same has held true throughout my career. Some folks call it having a personal “Board of Directors”, supporters who can help you make career decisions. I can’t say I’ve had just one mentor who really pushed me, I’ve had mini mentoring sessions with many influential folks who have helped steer my career. When I join new teams, I instinctively find a few personal connections that end up as my support group, wherever I go – finding a community has been essential for me.
What advice do you have for students and young professionals in STEM?
Just because something feels hard it, doesn’t mean you weren’t meant to do it. This is true for anything you encounter in your life, really. We’re naturally drawn to the things that come to us without much effort, but not everything will feel that easy. You will encounter challenging courses or projects; you will encounter difficult problems to fix… When something feels hard, I think that’s when we do the most learning, and it’s when grit and perseverance really pay off. I know it’s easier said than done, but stick to it when things get tough, the reward will be well worth it.