Hiba Lejmi, M.D. joined Intuitive in November 2018. As an advanced clinical research manager, Hiba leads Clinical Strategy for future therapies where Intuitive can make an impact.
I’ve always been bold—I wouldn’t have gotten to where I am now without the courage to speak up. Some of this was because of the barriers I’d known were there since the beginning: I am a woman in science. English is my third language. I am a person of faith who chooses to wear a headscarf. But boldness is not the same as confidence. Confidence comes from true belief in myself—without seeking the validation of others—and Intuitive is the place where I’ve found it.
It’s not easy to come into a new environment and say proudly “I’m different, I have a unique background”—it’s much easier to try to blend in than to stand out. But I was pleasantly surprised during my Intuitive interview process when I found everyone was so welcoming; I felt comfortable being exactly as I was. So, when I came into my role in Clinical Strategy, I knew that at Intuitive I could be my authentic self. I don’t have a work Hiba and a home Hiba—they are one in the same.
Even with that strong sense of self, in my first couple of years at Intuitive, I still felt a need to prove that I belonged, that I was worthy of being here. When you are a minority, when you’re so often the only person like you in a room—it sometimes makes you seek the validation of others rather than knowing your own worth.
Luckily, I started to see things differently as my career progressed. Because our work in Clinical Strategy involves exploring new therapies and solutions, there’s never a clear roadmap to start; we’re developing the roadmap as we go. (This is also why I can’t go into my work in detail—it’s too new!) As we collaborate with physicians and cross-functional teams within Intuitive, we’re identifying a new idea, doing the research to discover its potential, and then driving the best ideas forward. As we look for the next innovation, we’re searching for unmet needs where Intuitive can bring value.
This is when our diversity of experiences and backgrounds can really shine—my ideas and questions are going to be different than the person sitting next to me. We know that sharing our voices is not only encouraged but imperative: it’s how we’re going to find the next great therapy that will change people’s lives—and we couldn’t do it if we didn’t have a leadership team that values great ideas instead of hierarchy. Just recently, our Senior VP of Corporate Strategy Julian Nikolchev brought me into a discussion with a couple of our leaders and a CEO we’re exploring a partnership with: It’s moments like these that have sparked an inner confidence, made me trust myself, and value my own perspective.
I’ve also been fortunate enough to have Kyle Miller as a manager and mentor. We felt an immediate kinship as MDs coming into medical technology, and he’s helped me see that my unique experiences are an asset. I remember one heartfelt, honest conversation with Kyle. He said something like, “You don’t need validation from anyone else. Your job is to drive programs toward success.” It sounds simple, but it opened my eyes and sharpened my focus: I could use my curiosity and boldness to be more strategic, to strengthen collaboration between cross-functional stakeholders, to advocate for solutions I believe in.
Beyond my immediate team, I asked Iman Jeddi, Intuitive’s senior vice present and general manager of the Single Port Platform who’s been here for more than a decade, to be my mentor. She agreed in a heartbeat, and we meet regularly—that’s the kind of leadership team we have here. I’ve been like a sponge soaking up all her feedback and experience. These coaching moments have set off an amazing cycle of confidence. Now that my confidence comes from within, I’m able to believe in my own ideas and the value of what I’m bringing to the table—not for the sake of my individual contribution, but for the team’s success—and ultimately Intuitive’s impact worldwide.
An unmatched impact
Just as the diversity of our team is a core strength working internally, it also enables us to better connect with a hugely diverse group of customers, physicians, and patients. And the impact we make on people is what drives me every day. I knew early on that I wasn’t going to go into clinical practice, but at Intuitive the magnitude of our effect on patients is unmatched. We’re talking about millions of people in every kind of community benefiting from solutions that we create. The Ion system, for example—which my clinical research alongside Sundeep Master, Oliver Wagner, and Shilpa Mehendale’s support helped bring to life—is helping to improve lung cancer survival rates at an incredible scale.
Paying it forward
None of this is to say that speaking up is always easy, or that I don’t still have moments of self-doubt. But I know that I, and all the women here, deserve to flourish. So, I want to continue my own growth and help others with theirs.
When I’m in a room full of men, sometimes I find myself questioning: Do I belong? The answer, of course, is yes. As women we are impact players, and we can’t wait for someone to call on us. We have to come forward with our ideas and where there are barriers, we have to break them. This is the time to be ourselves with confidence, and Intuitive welcomes it.