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Hispanic Heritage Month

Happy Hispanic Heritage Month from FibroGen!

During Hispanic Heritage Month, from September 15 – October 15, we celebrate the many contributions of Hispanic members of our community.

In honor of this year’s Hispanic Heritage Month, we spoke with Juan Graham, Chief Financial Officer, (pictured with wife Jes and daughter Journee), about what his Hispanic heritage means to him.

Juan_Graham.jpg

Where were you born?

I was born in Cuernavaca - a town south of Mexico City.  However, I grew up in Monterrey, Mexico, as my parents relocated there to be closer to family when I was four. 

When did you come to the United States?

I was born in Cuernavaca - a town south of Mexico City.  However, I grew up in Monterrey, Mexico, as my parents relocated there to be closer to family when I was four. 

How does your heritage influence your work?

I believe everyone’s heritage and background allows them to view the world from different perspectives. In my case, I was fortunate enough to have a father who was a physician. My father contracted polio as a child, and he lived a life that required him to work differently. At times this disadvantage provided him with daily challenges in which he needed to be creative in solving problems. I saw my father apply this same perspective professionally and personally raising a family of three with my mother. It is this perspective that influences my work the most. Things are not always what they appear. This perspective reminds me to stay curious, and that enables me to look at challenges (and solutions) in a variety of ways—that is not always easy in the finance function. 

How are you raising your daughter in ways that celebrate her heritage?

My daughter was born in Tokyo, Japan to a Mexican father and Nuyorican (Puerto Rican from New York) mother. There is no shortage of celebrating cultures in our household.  From celebrating holidays (not just Mexican, but others), eating traditional Mexican foods, and speaking English and Spanish, my hope is that she celebrates all cultures. We hope she honors her culture as she gets older and further identifies in different ways. For now, let’s just say (and I hate to sound cliche) but there is a lot of salsa dancing, Marc Anthony and mariachi music playing at different times throughout her day.

Do you feel that people of Hispanic heritage have equal opportunities in the workplace, or do we still have a way to go?

I believe this question is best answered by looking at data.  Minorities are underrepresented in a variety of ways from access to healthcare, under representation in clinical trials, and generally in business. This holds true for other groups too (disabled populations, economic disparities, educational disadvantages). I believe we are making progress in ways beyond representation that are starting to impact our society, and if we continue to progress, we can affect and change the trajectory of these communities. That makes me excited.

What is your advice to young people of Hispanic heritage looking to get their start in biotech or finance?

Learn as much as possible from the people that are willing to support and help. Find these people. Find your people - they may be in your immediate community, but they may not. The good news is there are more and more increased networks that are available. Also, have an open mind towards your career and take as many opportunities as possible and challenges that will allow you to accelerate your learning.  I love Formula 1 racing and follow the only Mexican driver in the circuit – Sergio (Checo) Perez.  Despite ups and downs on race weekends, he shows resilience, a steady temperament and a mindset to never give up.  I am inspired by this attitude, and we have our share of ups and downs in biotech and finance… I believe the same mindset is applicable to Hispanic and non-Hispanic minorities.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I am a proud Mexican. That allows me to celebrate all things that make life grand- family, food, music, love! BUT these are things all cultures celebrate and so in that way, my celebration of these things is a celebration of ALL cultures.

At FibroGen, we also honor Hispanic Heritage Month by featuring several Hispanic-owned businesses in our weekly lunch rotation, including Cuban KitchenGuerrero’s Taqueria, and others.

How do you celebrate your heritage? Let us know in the comments!

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