Senior Quality Manager, Avantor
AWE Accelerator Ileana Irizarry is the Senior Quality Manager at Avantor. She wears many hats including managing the Quality Assurance and Quality Control department and ensuring the site stays in compliance with FDA, ISO 9001, and FSSC requirements. We sat down with Ileana to discuss her reciprocal relationship with her manager and her positive growth mindset.
Ileana, did you always envision yourself working in quality assurance/quality control? How did you stay focused on your goal or pivot when necessary?
Yes, I always saw myself working in QA/QC. When I graduated from college my first job was as a Research Engineer and being a mad scientist/chemist making and improving adhesive formulas for the roofing and automotive industry. While I was in that job, I started to gain a passion for Quality because I did not see that reflected in the product. I started to work on the weekend for fun as a QC technician in production and that is when I really started to know what Quality was all about. After almost four years working for that company, I was laid off due to an acquisition, which was a blessing because I was able to change my career path.
What do you think the 3 most important keys to your success have been?
1. Staying focused and envisioning myself working on what I really love. Never settling for the status quo.
2. Getting up and doing more and doing what is right for me and the ones around me. I am very driven and empower those around me. The work, the thought, and the action behind our goals and dreams is what that takes us to the highest levels of excellence. It’s never luck.
3. Lastly, staying positive through the storms and negativity. I am a very positive person even in the darkest moments or tough decisions, and no one can ever tell I am having a bad day even when I am. Leaders show that they are strong. They hold the fort down.
Did you have any mentors or sponsors while rising through your career? Anyone you want to shout out?
My mom has been a great example for me. I always saw her work hard and do amazing things in her career, wow, what a woman! In the last two years, my Manager has been my coach, mentor, friend, confidant, and sponsor. We have developed a relationship where we can talk about anything from a personal level to a professional level. Her and I work so well together that it is scary sometimes, we are like a power couple at work. She was the one that sponsored me for the AWE Accelerator. Thank you, Melissa Ertl!
Tell us about your experience with AWE Accelerator? How has being a part of AWE changed how you show up to work everyday? What was your favorite session/training? My experience with AWE Accelerator was amazing, I met other women across the United States, and I learned so much about myself. I now show up to work being present and decisive. I had struggled in the past with dominating leaders and was afraid to speak up but, since Accelerator, I have gained the power to be more decisive and speak up. Since attending the networking session I went back to my LinkedIn and updated it and gained approximately 150 connections! I hadn’t updated LinkedIn in 8 years! Now I am heavily active in LinkedIn promoting myself and my company.
What is your motivating force in business and in life?
My main motivating forces are reward, power, attitude, achievement, and even fear because that’s not always a negative. I always want to be better than I was the day before and learn from my mistakes. I also like to coach others to be better and grow. Right now I am operating with a growth mindset so I teach others how to do my job so I can move up within the organization.
Tell us something interesting about yourself that we can’t find listed on your resume.
I love playing tennis, running, and weightlifting. I also love the real estate business because of the opportunities in networking and meeting people.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.