Meet the Scientist: Ramit Kalia
Ramit Kalia, Principal Scientist, reflects on the ‘a-ha’ moment of his career
Let’s face it, sometimes one of the biggest obstacles standing in the way of your goals can be yourself. “Imposter Syndrome,” a popular buzzword today, simply references one’s inability to feel they are deserving of an achievement and can greatly affect their career path. We hear the term so often, yet are not often taught how to move past it. Ramit Kalia, Principal Scientist, Oral Care, shares how his journey through R&D at Johnson & Johnson Consumer Health has taught him the most important lesson of all: trusting himself.
Tell us a little about your current role.
Currently, I work end-to-end for oral care within Research & Development–or R&D–supporting the Listerine® brand, which means I support innovation projects, life cycle management, commercialization and scale-up. On any given day I might need to work on a new formulation, give input on a study design that will support a claim for a new product, or go to a manufacturing site to observe an R&D batch. I can also be found in the lab performing a stability study. My days never look the same, and that’s one of the things I love about my role. There is always an opportunity for me to grow and use my capabilities in more than one area.
Have your roles always been as diverse as your current one?
Not really, although I do feel that my current role is a blend of all the skills I have gained over the years.
I started as a contractor in the Raw Material Center (RMC) for Johnson & Johnson Consumer Health, working on raw material change management. That job really taught me a lot about how products are made and sold, which I believe is a key part of being successful here. It was also an interesting way to learn about our large portfolio since my work was not limited to any single brand, product, or franchise. After a few years, I joined the tech transfer group, which focuses on process development and scale-up, giving me an in-depth view of how a new product is developed and deployed to consumers. From there, I was able to touch many different areas of the business, which helped me grow the skills I often put into practice today.
Tell us about your ‘a-ha’ moment in R&D.
My biggest learning—or my ‘a-ha’ moment—happened within myself. I learned to become more confident by trusting myself and learning from mistakes, using the knowledge I gained, and trusting in my capabilities.
Due to the diversity in my role today, I can touch and learn more things than I could in my previous roles where I may not have had the opportunity to do so. But my success today wouldn’t be possible without trusting my own ability to execute.
Do you have any advice for younger talent who might be doubting their own abilities?
First, I want to say nothing is over your head. But I do have a few tangible pieces of advice that could be helpful:
- Always ask questions.This one may seem obvious, but it is important for a few reasons. For one, asking targeted questions shows you are engaged and interested. Secondly, it helps you to obtain a holistic view of what you are working on and how it fits into the big picture, and helps you gain background knowledge. Lastly, it gets you comfortable outside of your comfort zone. Putting yourself out there is just like any other skill you learn—once you do it often enough, it becomes second nature. Take the approach of ‘I’m learning something new and if it doesn’t go perfectly, that’s okay’.
- Build your fundamentals.You build a house from the ground up, right? So, you need to build a great foundation for yourself. Building this foundation will also help increase your self-confidence for the more challenging tasks in the future. Once this is mastered, you have free rein to try new things and truly immerse yourself in them, adding more skills to your toolbox.
- Staying calm is key.This applies to both our personal and professional lives. I try to communicate in a calm, clear, and concise way and to consciously work at trying to be level-headed. This is especially important when something goes wrong, because spoiler alert, something ALWAYS will go wrong. I find it important not to act or react emotionally, but rather, to look at the incident in an objective way.
All of the above has helped me to build my own confidence within my life and my role, and to ultimately trust myself to continue to evolve as a scientist and human being.