This is the first part of a series titled ‘Up Close and Personal’ covering the career path of several steering committee members of LebNet communities, spread across the US and Canada.
Early in her career, Layal Rouhana has emerged as a distinguished technical leader in her field. After earning her Bachelor of Sciences in Chemistry from the Lebanese University in Beirut in 2004, she moved to the US in pursuit of her Ph.D in Materials Science and Nanotechnology at Florida State University. She then completed a Postdoctoral Research Fellowship at the Pharmacology Department at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville.
Her professional career started at Qualcomm where she reached Staff Engineering level while leading integrated circuits packaging research, development and manufacturing on substrates for new wireless electronic component technologies, supporting the launch of over 24 products at Qualcomm. Her work resulted in 5 granted patents. In her current role as a senior staff engineer at Illumina, the DNA sequencing giant, Layal is serving as a process development lead for the manufacturing of supplied substrates and CMOS based sequencing consumables, in New Product Introduction (NPI) phase and on-market.
With over 11 years of experience in the high-tech and biotech sectors under her belt, and with over 20 technical publications, Layal is an accomplished leader with extensive experience in driving technology roadmapping and downselection, as well as a technical expert in supplier management for pathfinding, process development and high-volume manufacturing.
She is the recipient of numerous professional awards, including, Illumina’s ‘Platform Management Most Valuable Players (MVP) Recognition’ for excellent technical and leadership skills; Illumina’s ‘Execution Excellence Award’ for swift customer issues resolution; Numerous QualStars given by Qualcomm to exceptional contributors; and received The Graduate Student Leadership Award given by the Florida State University Graduate School for outstanding graduate student leaders.
Beside her busy career, she enjoys giving back in different ways: as a Co-Chair of the board and Mentorship Program Lead at Women at Illumina Network Employee Resource Group; as a translator and interpreter at Casa Cornelia Law Center, a pro-bono law center that provides legal services for victims of human rights violation ; and as the Community Lead and Mentorship Program Lead at LebNet’s Women in Tech (WiT) community.
We could not be prouder to have her leading our WiT community! Find out more about her plans for LebNet and get to know her more personally in the interview below:
1- How would you describe your career path and what do you enjoy most about your current job?
My career path has been driven by a strong sense of purpose to make a positive impact in the world, and it has been a learning journey about myself, the people around me and the tech industry. Through my previous work in high tech at Qualcomm, and currently in biotech at Illumina, I get to make an impact through the products I develop. What I enjoy the most about my current work is the fact that it is playing a role in transforming human health through unlocking the power of the genome and advancing genomics-led precision healthcare.
2- What is a unique experience or specific event that led to where you are today?
I have a specific belief rather than an event that led to where I am today, and I would like to acknowledge my parents for instilling it in me and my siblings: It is the conviction that I could achieve any goal I set my mind to if I worked hard enough and did not back down in the face of challenges. But that cannot lead far without being given the right opportunities, which I could not have had without the relentless encouragement, support and inspiration from my family, my husband, and many mentors who keep believing in me and pushing me to be the best version of myself.
3- What are you looking to achieve or excited about as a Women in Tech steering committee member?
As the committee lead, I am very excited to work with such a dynamic and highly accomplished committee to increase the constituency of Women in Tech of Lebanese origin in LebNet, and showcase their professional talents and impactful work across North America. We are looking forward to providing WiT members with opportunities to build partnerships with other like-minded professionals in the network, as well as providing them with collaboration opportunities to give back to Lebanon. In the coming year, we are very excited about launching WiT-focused mentorship and coaching programs, collaborating with LebNet Early in Career community on STEM programs geared for girls in Lebanon, in addition to hosting career development workshops and networking sessions that will help propel WiT community members careers further!
4- What were some of the challenges you encountered in your career and how were you able to overcome them?
Influencing without authority and rallying cross-functional teams around my idea and vision, while faced with multiple opposing paths. I found that by listening to the other parties to understand their point of view and concerns, bringing forth supporting data, using diplomacy and focusing on a common end goal, I was able to build consensus and solve issues. Ultimately, the goal should always be to solve the problem while keeping the best interest of the company in mind. This will build your credibility and get you to the target you plan to achieve.
5- Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
I see myself playing a more strategic role in influencing and leading the technical roadmap for products in biotech or high tech, as I transition to a wider scope/customer facing role.
6- How do you maintain a good work/life balance?
I think work/life balance is very difficult to achieve so I approach this topic more as work/life integration, where I constantly find myself making prioritization decisions between work and personal life needs, to keep both going successfully. I also work hard on being present in the moment to make the best out of my time at work or in my personal life. More specifically, to prevent burnout at work, I block time during weekdays on my calendar for lunch and to take a short walk to recharge, while listening to an educational/inspirational podcast. In the evenings, since I am a parent to energetic 5-year-old twin daughters, I make sure I am available for dinner time and bedtime, and I schedule work meetings around that. I also use weekends to recharge and “resharpen the saw”, by catching up with my family in Lebanon, hanging out with friends, hiking, practicing a hobby and learning a new skill.