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Member Spotlight

February 26, 2021

Illumina Senior Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer, Kathryne Reeves

Biocom California continues to celebrate Black History Month by hearing from African American leaders working in the life sciences on effective strategies companies can implement to build a diversified workforce.

Kathryne Reeves, Senior Vice President, Chief Marketing Officer, Illumina

Illumina

Kathryne Reeves joined Illumina last year as Senior Vice President, Chief Marketing Officer, and is focused on expanding patient and physician awareness of the benefits of genomic testing while also amplifying the voice of Illumina’s customers to accelerate clinical adoption of genomics. Read on to learn about an unexpected black athlete Kathryne commends for his determination to succeed in a predominantly white sport, and Illumina’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Tell us about an early experience that shaped your career.

When I graduated from Stanford, my first job was working as a field engineer in South Georgia. I inherited the role from a guy who had been let go for taking contractors to “gentleman’s clubs” on the company credit card. I didn’t learn about this until a colleague told me over lunch a few weeks in. Needless to say, it was a bit of an uphill climb in terms of the culture. But I hit my stride, found ways to connect with people (despite their initial impressions of me), worked hard and moved through the experience. This scenario has played out in a million different ways throughout my life and career. It has certainly made me more human and more resilient.

How has your career in life science shaped your understanding of the world?

I entered the life science/healthcare industry fairly late in my career and feel very lucky to have had this opportunity. I am literally humbled by the brilliance of the scientists I work with, who are dedicated to improving human health. It is truly a noble mission.

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Can you share a bit about a black historical figure who has inspired you over your life?

I am inspired by the great tennis legend, Arthur Ashe, which is pretty funny because I don’t play tennis and only watch tennis occasionally, but I really admire Arthur Ashe for a few different reasons. The fact that he rose to the highest ranks of a field known for its elite, white nature—essentially the same as the C-suite in most Western countries—is truly admirable to me. He was able to see himself in a painting that did not include him. He also did it with a graceful, strong and admirable style—one that I hope to emulate.

What does Black History Month mean to you?

Black History Month is a time for deliberate reflection on our legacy. A time to remember what we have done and what we still have left to do.

How can we create a more diverse and inclusive life science industry?

Three words: Recruit, develop, promote.

What excites you most about our industry and where it’s headed?

At Illumina, we exist to improve human health by unlocking the power of the genome. Illumina has made whole genome sequencing (WGS) a powerful and accessible tool for inventors and researchers. I, along with my colleagues at Illumina, are driven to advance this area but also expand in new clinical sectors of the market. We want more people who face challenging illnesses like cancer to be cured through regular use of precision medicine because we believe this will save and lengthen lives.

In what ways is Illumina committed to promoting more diversity and inclusiveness?

In many ways, that starts at the top. I feel fortunate to work for Francis de Souza, the CEO at Illumina. He and I talk regularly about people and organizational issues. We share a commitment to D&I. Since joining Illumina I have joined our new employee resource group (ERG), which is called BE GREAT. My goal is to support BE GREAT as well as the other ERGs and their missions as much as I possibly can. In addition, I plan to recruit, develop and promote women and people of color across our company.

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