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Sharhonda Shahid

MilliporeSigma

shahid-sharhondaThere was a point in her career where Sharhonda Shahid was done with the law.

It seemed an unusual place for her to be anyway. Her undergraduate focus was on bioscience. She worked on the human genome project at Washington University.

After the genome was mapped, Shahid and her colleagues attended a celebration of their work in Washington, D.C. There, a researcher gave a speech about how the rough draft of the human genome created a need for people who had a knowledge of science, as well as the law, to “police this brave new world,” Shahid recalls.

So she went to law school, Saint Louis University, to be a patent lawyer, but didn’t find it to be geared closely to her scientific interest. She spent time in private practice instead, finding her niche in litigation. She took a variety of civil and criminal cases, with a little family law as well. But definitely not patent law, and very little to do with her scientific background.

“It is amazing how the universe spins its arc and places you back where you belong,” Shahid said.

She decided she needed a change of pace, and that meant maybe closing the door on the practice of law.

While working in a position in the technical marketing department at SigmaAldrich Shahid was approached to take a position in the IP department, and after being made an offer she “couldn’t refuse” she quickly accepted.

“What I do now really does involve all the pieces of my background,” she said.

In her position as in-house counsel, Shahid was a key player, and the only woman, on the team that handled the acquisition of Sigma-Aldrich by Merck KGaA.

Shahid admitted that she was not always so comfortable in her skin that her position as often the only African-American woman in the room was easily placed out of her mind.

“But over time you come to realize that your difference isn’t a detriment, it actually is a benefit for you,” Shahid said.

Shahid’s differences, not just as a woman of color, but in both her academic and professional background, have allowed her to reach her current position at MilliporeSigma.

“As I become more comfortable with who I am, I can more comfortably express my thoughts and views on legal concepts,” Shahid said. “And by and large those ideas are welcome, and I don’t have to try to be somebody that I’m not.”