By Monsurat Olugbode
As Senior Lawyer at Johnson & Johnson’s Regulatory Health Care Compliance Group (J&J), Savaria Harris is passionate about helping patients. In 2016, Harris left a ten-year career focused on litigation at an international law firm to work for patient-focused J&J.
The transition has been rewarding for Harris, who values J&J’s intention to prioritize patients and the consumers who use their products. Her enthusiasm for her work is obvious. “I’m able to advise on projects that make a positive impact on people’s lives. I don’t think that’s ever going to get old, and it’s very motivating.”
In her role, Harris advises on fraud and abuse issues in healthcare. In this capacity, she is able to advise a diversity of teams, including marketing and compliance, as well as support cutting edge initiatives, such as a World Without Disease.
Since joining J&J, Harris has also sharpened her understanding of what it means to be an effective leader. In speaking of the “servant based” leadership model, she has observed at J&J how leaders inspire and support those who report to them to do their best work. Far from the traditional hierarchical structure, she refers to it the “horizontal” culture within J&J’s Law Department where “people want to do their best work.”
In reflecting on her career, Harris admits that she did not always envision becoming a lawyer; however, she advises those who do know where they want to be, but aren’t sure how to get there, “If I could have given my younger self advice, I would have told her, ‘have a goal in your mind of how you want to feel and what kind of role you see yourself in when you are doing your best work, but do not be attached to the details of the path that you’ll take to get there.” The details of the path may be vague or even imperceivable at times, but having a clear end goal in mind will keep one focused on getting there.
How does Harris feel about her role in the evolution of Diversity and Inclusion? “Being a woman of color in 2018, I think, is magic. We are in a historical moment when women of color are more visible in the political and corporate space. In some ways, it’s better than it’s ever been.”