Joy Neely has a very distinct memory of when she first knew that healthcare and the world of STEM was in her future. Now a healthcare executive with Roche Diagnostics, Neely credits her mother, long time toxicologist, with influencing her passion for healthcare. Some of her earliest memories are of joining her mother at work on the weekends when she was a young child.
“It’s these moments you don’t even think about when they’re happening as a kid,” Neely said. “I tagged along with my mom on her weekend shifts and would sit in the break room with little cartons filling them with pipettes for hours. I also had my own mini-lab coat that I wore with her to the lab.”
But it was more than just playing laboratorian in her mother’s toxicology lab. Neely said that heading over to the hospital was the moment that solidified healthcare as her dream career path.
“The big treat was to walk across the street and have lunch in the hospital cafeteria and see all the doctors and nurses. I think from a very young age of five or six years old, my mother was helping me create this vision that I was going to work in healthcare, whether that was working in a laboratory or being a doctor or a nurse.”
Neely has been a board member of Women & Hi Tech since 2019, now serving as the Corporate Engagement Director. Neely said one thing that struck her about the organization was the level of commitment and value the group was able to convey when working with Roche Diagnostics. Neely recalls a business review that Roche Diagnostics held to evaluate their strategic community partners for the Women’s Leadership Business Resource Group that she co-leads.
“Women & Hi Tech actually treated it like a business review,” she said. “They came in as a true business partner and shared how we could collaborate more in the future, and what opportunities we could bring to our members. They shared not only opportunities for our members to participate in like executive women's forums and networking opportunities, but also how we could serve in the community.”
In her role as Corporate Engagement Director, Neely said she’s had the chance to promote not only the organization, but to communicate the virtues of working within the Indianapolis business community and contributing resources to make a difference for women engaging in STEM. “I am able to share our story, and bring on new sponsors,” she said. “I think it's just really being a voice in the community for women in STEM.”
In addition to the community-wide benefits, Neely said that her involvement in Women & Hi Tech has proven to be a valuable personal experience as well. “It's been an opportunity to grow my professional network with women across the STEM space, much broader than Roche or even my prior employer in Indianapolis with Lilly. An exciting part is just to see my network grow across STEM with a variety of different women and allies.”
Looking back over her extensive and impressive career in healthcare, Neely said that even after her significant experiences growing up in and around labs and hospitals, she quickly continued down this path. During her freshman year of high school, Neely took part in the Explorer program, which allowed her to shadow with a local hospital. At that time, Neely said she was still focused on the idea of being a nurse or doctor. However, after earning her degree in healthcare administration from Truman State University, she took a position at Eli Lilly as a pharmaceutical representative in Southeast Missouri. During her 18 years spent at Lilly, Neely served in a variety of commercial roles, including sales, marketing, market access, operations and Six Sigma.
After making a jump to a healthcare startup TrialCard Market Access, Neely came back to a larger-scale healthcare organization by taking a sales leadership position with Roche Diagnostics in their new Digital Information Solutions franchise. Neely said she’s been excited about the chance to affect healthcare at a higher level, thanks to Roche’s commitment to innovation and focus on precision healthcare.
“I would say women in STEM are still very much on a journey, but I also believe there’s been huge growth, especially in the last five years. So much comes from the contributions made by large companies in Indianapolis like Lilly, Cummins, Allison Transmission, Salesforce, and Roche Diagnostics, and many of the smaller organizations as well, are really committed to improving opportunities and equity for women in these spaces.”
But it’s also given her insight into her personal life, particularly the development of her daughters and the effects of providing them with role models for a professional life in healthcare and STEM at-large. STEM is core to the Neely household. Neely’s husband also works in medical device sales and started his career as a paramedic. Her youngest daughter is a junior in high school and is currently on a biomedicine track through Project Lead the Way and her oldest is studying statistics and computer science at Butler.
While she has always emphasized pursuing individual passions for her daughters, she said that much like her experience growing up, it’s easy to be inspired when you see the benefits and impact that a career in STEM can have. “We haven't forced them down these paths by any means. I think it is because there's so much exposure to STEM in the house through our professions and our colleagues they have met over the years that they seen all of the opportunity that is there for them,” she said.
When asked about her hopes for the next twenty years of Women & Hi Tech, Neely said her goal is to help the organization expand and to have a broader impact. Neely hopes that Women & Hi Tech can start providing support to areas and regions outside of the Indianapolis area.
“You see some of these organizations that are national and even some cases international. Several contacts on LinkedIn have reached out saying they want to be part of Women & Hi Tech, but they're in Chicago or Atlanta or in New York. I think a big focus for me is to determine how we put the infrastructure in place to grow and provide this opportunity for women in other cities.”