From the very start of her career, Grace Adams has faced no shortage of hurdles. Born to Nigerian parents that immigrated to the US on scholarships, Grace had no experience working in corporate America nor a deep understanding of the IP industry. Despite this, she has carved a stellar career in both corporate IP departments and law firms.
While proud of her professional accomplishments, Grace is quick to share the credit elsewhere, not only with her parents but also with several inspirational women leaders that nurtured her career.
Never accepting no
Grace’s drive is born from her parents: “My parents were always adamant that if you work hard, it is going to pay off.” Grace’s mother and father moved from Nigeria to the US to study for their master’s degree. “Whether it is because I am a woman or because of this background, I am just very determined.”
Looking for an opportunity in corporate America, Grace chanced upon a law firm role: “I started off as a docketing clerk at a huge firm downtown; I didn’t even know what IP was back then because it wasn’t a part of the paralegal curriculum where I went to school. But I interviewed and got the job.”
A chance encounter on jury duty helped shape the direction of Grace’s career: “I met an attorney who told me to focus on a specific department,” Grace explains. “This path would give me more training and a specialised skill-set.” This proved to be the foundation for her IP career in the chemical manufacturing sector.
Adversity in the workplace
Despite her determination to succeed, Grace’s career was not without its challenges. She frequently faced uncomfortable comments and inappropriate generalisations, both about her ethnicity and her gender. Prejudice was something Grace learned to deal with, even when it hurt: “I have experienced some painful comments from not-so-good people, however words would not keep me home from work.”
Grace’s passion for her work in IP and her professional pragmatism, helped her to navigate these uncomfortable situations: “I am here to do a job, no matter what you think of me. I can still get up and face things. It took a while to find my voice. I struggled with it but I endured.”
Finding the positive
Fortunately, Grace was also lucky enough to work with some outstanding female role models that helped her overcome these prejudices and flourish.
“I had a wonderful female attorney I worked for who became a great advocate for my career. She hired me and I was lucky enough to work for her for a year. We are still friends and she is still my biggest fan. Grace also recognises the support she has received from men in her career but is keen to highlight the critical role of women mentors: “I have definitely had male managers who work hard to be sensitive to our challenges. But it is important to have a woman who you can talk to and better understand the challenges they’ve faced and how they overcame them. It gives you a clear, positive perspective.”
A role model herself
In turn, Grace has grown to mentor others at her company, helping them navigate difficult situations and better understand the industry in which she now thrives. “They share their experiences with me, and they know they can come and talk. I’ve had plenty of them come and ask how to work through problems. We also talk about how they can become a leader and how they can face their challenges.”
Grace has developed her career with hard work and a helping hand from some key mentors along the way. Her journey has not always been easy but the support and mentoring of other women has helped her develop her full potential. In turn, she is now helping the next generation of women in IP fulfill their own goals.