The ‘Wow’ Benefits of Membership and Winning “Supplier of the Year” from DA4S

Deborah Wood winning 2017 Supplier of the Year Award

by Jinus Moghbeli

When DWA Healthcare Communications Group Executive Director Kristie Cayetano Johnson, attended the 2013 Diversity Alliance for Science West Coast conference at the suggestion of a pharmaceutical customer, she unknowingly kicked off a virtuous sequence of events that led Deborah Wood and her company DWA Healthcare Communications Group down a path of success fueling a growing business, topped off with a Supplier of the Year Award.

What was it about that first look at DA4S that drew Kristie and Deborah to keep coming back? Kristie described it as, “…this was a conference like no other—the intimacy, the passion, and the connections!” Not only did Kristie seize the opportunity to deliver an elevator speech for Avant Healthcare, one of the agencies within the DWA network, but she also received support and advice from DA4S Co-Founder, Leah Brown. As Kristie said, “Leah was authentic and fun and a great coach.” It was Kristie’s excitement and enthusiasm about the West Coast event that intrigued and attracted Deborah to attend the East Coast event that following May.

The May event proved the value of DA4S, and Deborah and her firm became a member, now going on five years with her acting as a Board Member for three of these years.

At the 2017 East Coast conference, Deborah and her firm received one of Diversity Alliance for Science’s top honors- the Supplier of the Year Award. The path to achieve this award included a lot of hard work and a strong network bolstered by her relationships made through DA4S.

How did it feel receiving this award? “Humbling,” she says. “There were other suppliers who were nominated. Their stories were equally as amazing and I highly respect them for their accomplishments.”

What does Deborah feel contributed to her firm winning? “When we submitted [for the award] we had to overcome one of the largest challenges in our company’s history as a result of external factors with our customers. We had to rethink our strategy and operationalize our choices. From 2013 to 2016, with our eyes on our customer and their needs, we more than doubled the size of our company. As significant as our successes were with our customers and business growth, I am most proud that we were able to sustain our culture, our values, and our focus on our employees’ needs, all while never losing sight of the importance of our community outreach and support—a core attribute of our company culture.”

To remind her employees of how amazing they are, she keeps their Diversity Alliance for Science trophy in their office lobby so everyone can see the result of their accomplishments.
Does she feel anyone else contributed to her firms’ winning this prestigious award? “Absolutely,” Deborah enthuses. “Several member corporations are now our customers. Our success is dependent on our partnership with them. We have been able to develop strong relationships with our customers through DA4S. In addition, I benefit from knowing other small- and diverse-business owners. The sharing of experiences and introduction to connectors—we all help each other.”

Deborah credits other DA4S programs for helping her grow her firm. Through the mentorship program, Deborah was mentored by President and Board Member, Jinus Moghbeli. She met many corporate firms though the matchmaking sessions and presented on conference panels. After participating enthusiastically at both the East and West Coast conferences for a few years, she found herself getting appointments with pharmaceutical procurement specialists, being invited to complete Requests for Information/Proposals and finally winning contracts.

When attending DA4S events, Deborah doesn’t just see them as networking events but as coming back to her extended family with opportunities to give back. As she says, “After 5 years of attending both the West and East Coast conferences, what I like most is seeing all the other suppliers and corporate members I have come to know. It is a sea of familiar faces. Last June, I met someone who was new to the conference and, I sensed, somewhat shy. I introduced her to a corporate member. The look on this new supplier’s face was priceless as if to say, ‘How can it be that easy?’ The following two days, I saw this new member everywhere and talking to everyone. It was rewarding to see her visibly growing in her confidence and building relationships. I reflected on how I must have had that same look at my first conference.”

Deborah’s advice to other firms hoping to win an award is, “If you are nominated, you will be asked to prepare the nomination form. Don’t hold back. This is an opportunity not only to be considered for an award, but also to share your story and inspire others.”

If you’re not a Diversity Alliance for Science member yet, she encourages you to join because, “DA4S is the leading diversity organization for life sciences and the combination of their spirited and nontraditional programming, their passion for diversity, the access they offer to corporations and buyers (if you are a supplier) or, for buyers, the access to a concentration of quality, life science suppliers. This is a winning combination that will bring opportunity—be ready!”