How empathy and energy make this ERG co-lead a success

Ilia is known for her infectious smile and boundless energy. This positive personality stood her in good stead as she left her home country of Puerto Rico to continue building her career with GSK. Hispanic Heritage Month holds a special place in her heart, one full of memories and appreciation.

“Puerto Rico is known as the Island of Enchantment because of the beautiful beaches, delicious food and wonderful people,” said Ilia. “It may be small in size but the communities have big hearts. Our traditions and history center on family.”

Ilia began her journey in vaccine sales, eventually joining the GSK division. She would soon have a profound impact on the country she loved so much.

“I was the first GSK sales representative dedicated exclusively to vaccines on the island,” she said. “We worked hard, raised awareness, and built trust. Because of the inclusion of Pediarix in the Vaccines for Children program, we were able to get 80 percent of babies immunized with fewer shots.”

After seven years in vaccines, Ilia took a role in operations in 2013 supporting marketing and the field. Over the course of three years, she improved processes and provided strategic insights. Her trajectory continued. Three years later, she had the opportunity to join the respiratory marketing team as an associate. But this position was in the US.

“It was definitely a difficult decision, but I knew I had to push myself outside of my comfort zone,” she remembers. “I have a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in marketing. I needed to leave home to pursue my dreams of transitioning to the marketing team.”

Ilia settled into life in North Carolina. Her career thrived but a series of events would soon impact her in ways she couldn’t have imagined.

As the reality of the pandemic became more clear and the murder of George Floyd ignited protests, Ilia felt compelled to do something.

“I think about the future I envisioned for my family and this was not it. These events were wakeup calls,” she said.

I had been approached about joining the Hispanic Employee Resource Group, Crece, and I knew it was time to seize that opportunity. I wanted to take an active part in making the world a better place and I could do it through GSK.

With hundreds of members, Crece has more than a decade of work in increasing Hispanic and Latino representation. As one of its leaders, Ilia stays focused on several priorities. The ERG group is committed to attract, develop, promote and retain Latin and Hispanic talent to reflect the diversity of the marketplace, the communities where we work along with the consumers and patients we serve. Hispanic Heritage Month provides an opportunity to deliver an incredible amount of education, webinars and events.

“For me, Hispanic Heritage Month Is a time to celebrate who we are and also pay it forward,” she said. “I think about all of those who helped me and want to be there for those who are struggling because of what is happening in the world.”

In 2021, after going through in vitro fertilization, Ilia finally achieved one of her biggest accomplishments, her daughter.

“She is now my purpose and the reason of why I wake up every day to do what I do,” she said. “I do this on two fronts. One is to help asthmatic patients and the other is creating a better future through my work in Crece.”

In fact Ilia’s mission became person when at just three months old, her daughter was diagnosed with asthma. A condition that also affects Ilia’s husband. This year Ilia joined the Trelegy consumer marketing team as a manager. Her personal connection allows her to be ambitious for patients in an even more meaningful way.

“I am very excited as I am now able to serve as a strong patient advocate because every day I witness firsthand the impact asthma has on my family,” she said.

Through the years, Ilia has always kept family at the center because that’s the source of her strength and motivation. She may live thousands of miles away but she stays connected to her culture through Crece and stays grounded with the large support system she’s assembled in North Carolina. There is the family you’re born into and the one you choose, both are equally precious to Ilia.