SPARKED: Standing on the Shoulders of Giants—Dolapo’s Story


Dolapo Ojo

Following a career path in STEM2D was not always easy for Dolapo Ojo, who grew up in South Africa. In fact, Dolapo almost chose a home economics course in high school instead of physics because she loved to cook. But thanks to her mother’s nursing career and her parents’ shared interest in science, Dolapo was encouraged to pursue STEM2D, despite many obstacles that could have derailed her plans.

Dolapo always knew she wanted to make a difference in the world. As a child, she played with her mother’s stethoscope and helped take her father’s blood pressure. Seeing how much her mother’s profession helped others, Dolapo decided to pursue a pharmacy degree at university. She knew pharmacy would allow her to expand her business skills, and she liked the idea that she would be the last person a sick patient would see before going home with their medicines to heal.

University, however, was more challenging than she expected. Unlike the majority of her classmates who were white, Dolapo did not have previous pharmacy experience. And, she had difficulty securing an externship, which was required to graduate—after being rejected from every retail pharmacy in her suburb, she eventually found a position located far away. But after struggling to gain employment after graduation, she finally obtained a management position at Johnson & Johnson, where she has excelled.

Today, Dolapo recalls the many mentors—her family, classmates, co-workers and managers—who have supported and advocated for her. She counts as one of her strongest role models her grandmother, who went back to university at age 50. It was that example of commitment that inspired Dolapo and ignited her power. As a woman in STEM2D, she feels she has “stood on the shoulders of giants,” and looks forward to her weekly meetings with a group of professional women who get together to support each other and share stories. She adds, “You want people around you who want you to be successful.”

Now that she serves as a role model herself, Dolapo encourages young people to study STEM2D subjects because they serve as the foundation needed to be successful in any field—whether it’s in the arts or sciences.