How to Improve Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Companies

Last Updated on May 10, 2021 by Owen McGab Enaohwo

Nowadays, equality is a big thing.

Everyone deserves equal opportunity, no matter their background or orientation.

That’s why diversity, equity, and inclusion in companies are in constant need of improvement to help people who are new and from different backgrounds fit in and feel like they belong.

Michon Pinnix, COO at Chimera Bioengineering, stresses the importance of this on today’s podcast episode of the Process Breakdown Podcast with Dr. Jeremy Weisz.

She and Dr. Weisz also discuss innovations in the fight against cancer, new breakthroughs at her company as well as recruitment, and retainment of workers.

They also talk about the value of contribution and the improvement of diversity, equity and inclusion in companies.

Listen to the audio interview

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Show Notes:

0:06 – Introduction

0:26 – Dr. Weisz shares the best solution that makes documenting standard operating procedures drop-dead easy, highlighting a 14-day free trial. No credit card required.

2:55 – Ms. Pinnix tells us what Chimera Bioengineering is about and what they do.

3:35 – Ms. Pinnix explains how the Chimera antigen works.

4:57 – Ms. Pinnix talks more about the functions of the Chimera antigen.

6:22 – Ms. Pinnix talks about the first version of Chimera, the new uses, and more tools that have been created. 

7:18 – Ms. Pinnix talks about the genesis of the company.

10:07 – Ms. Pinnix explains how to best recruit people to work and how to retain people working at the company.

11:00 – Ms. Pinnix describes what she finds most important when it comes to recruiting.

12:51 – Ms. Pinnix gives advice to people who do the little things and not the main science work, and that their contributions matter.

16:37 – Ms. Pinnix talks about diversity, equity, and inclusion in relation to recruiting and retaining people at her company.

23:31 – Ms. Pinnix gives suggestions on things that can be done better about diversity, equity, and inclusion.

24:21 – Ms. Pinnix talks in more detail about steps that can be taken to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion.

26:01 – Ms. Pinnix talks about Chimera and how they go about diversity recruitment, and how they retain workers.

27:05 – Ms. Pinnix gives an example, using Dr. Weisz to further explain her point.

31:48 – Ms. Pinnix explains how having an uncomfortable conversation helps to dissolve the tension and helps a person feel at home.

33:55 – Ms. Pinnix explains how to reach out to people who feel estranged, and how to break barriers of unnoticed segregation in the workspace.

35:40 – Ms. Pinnix talks about what she did in solidifying and forming partnerships for Chimera.

36:58 – Outro

Guest Profile:

Michon Pinnix - COO, Chimera Bioengineering

Michon Pinnix is COO at Chimera Bioengineering.

She is an experienced company builder with 20 years working in strategy and corporate development across various industries. She studied chemistry at Spelman College, chemical engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology, attained a master’s in business administration at Harvard Business School, and attained a master’s in civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University.

Transcript of the interview

Intro/Outro: Welcome to the Process Breakdown Podcast, where we talk about streamlining and scaling operations of your company, getting rid of bottlenecks, and giving your employees all the information they need to be successful at their jobs. Now let’s get started with the show.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Dr. Jeremy Weisz here, host of the Process Breakdown Podcast, where we talk about streamlining and scaling operations of your company, getting rid of bottlenecks, and giving your staff everything they need to be successful at their job. Michon, I always like to mention some past guests people can check out. We have some really cool guests, including today’s guest, which I’ll introduce in a second. But we had David Allen of Getting Things Done. I’ve read his book many times, and Michael Gerber of the E-Myth and many, many more. So check out more episodes.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: This episode is brought to you by SweetProcess. So if you’ve had team members ask you the same questions over and over again and it may be the tenth time you spent explaining it, Michon and I always like to say there is a better way. There is actually a solution. SweetProcess is a software that makes it drop-dead easy to train and onboard new staff and save time with existing staff. I was talking with the founder, Owen. Not only do universities, banks, hospitals, and software companies use them, but first responder government agencies use them in life or death situations to run their operations. So you can use SweetProcess to document all the repetitive tasks that eat up your precious time so you can focus on growing your team and doing what your company does best. So sign up for a free 14-day trial. No credit card is required. Go to It’s sweet like candy, S-W-E-E-T,

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Today we have Michon Pinnix, and she has over 18 years of experience in strategy, corporate development, commercial operations. When I was reading up on you, Michon, I was like, "Everyone considers themselves a slacker compared to what you’ve done and worked on." I want to call you master, but you won’t let me.

Michon Pinnix: (laughing).

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: But Michon has been serving as an executive at Chimera Bioengineering, which we’re going to talk about, working on controls for cell and gene therapy in solid tumors. She’s been instrumental in their fundraising partnership efforts, as well as building out their operations and strategy. She received undergraduate degrees in chemistry and chemical engineering through a dual program with Spelman College and Georgia Tech and went on to obtain her advanced degree in fluid mechanics from Stanford and MBA from Harvard Business School. So we have no slacker on the line here. So Michon, thanks for joining me.

Michon Pinnix: No, thank you so much for having me. Pleasure to be here.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: We’re going to dig deep, and you’ll talk about partnerships. We’ll talk about recruiting and retaining in the umbrella of diversity, equity, inclusion, but I want to get you to start with what is Chimera, a little bit more about what Chimera does.

Michon Pinnix: Okay. So we are in the fight against cancer. So I always tell people that we supercharge a patient’s immune cells to fight a cancer. So think of us as lowly human beings, and what our control technology does is it puts Superman powers onto a regular human being. Then our controls help that human being control the superpower so it doesn’t overwhelm this lowly human.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: So does it signal to attack the tumor where it is instead of other cells of the body?

Michon Pinnix: Exactly. Oh, so you knew a little bit about the cell and gene therapy. Yeah. So what we’re doing is we have the chimeric antigen receptor that has been in the news for the past couple of years. So we have that part of the therapy, and then we put on … We’re using RNA in regulatory controls, which I’m sure you’ve heard about now with COVID and all the different RNA sequences, but we actually use the RNA to control when a therapeutic is released. So our control finds its way to the target, which is just the cancer itself, and it differentiates between a normal tissue cell and this cancer cell. Then once it gets to the cancer, it then releases an additional payload of therapy in addition to the CAR T that can actually break through the walls of the tumor and get inside and hopefully help get it killed.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Yeah. What I visualize, and you can correct me, is I kind of visualize a heat-seeking missile that basically … because the issue with cancer treatments is it attacks healthy … I mean, a lot of kind of conventional cancer treatments is it attacks healthy cells and the cancer cells to hopefully kill off enough of the cancer cells for the body to fight itself. But this is really kind of a heat-seeking missile approach.

Michon Pinnix: Exactly. The one other layer I would put on there is sometimes you have to worry about the cancer attacking healthy cells, but sometimes you have to worry about your healthy cells attacking the treatment. So remember, your immune system is there to surveil and make sure that there’s no foreign obstacles in the way. So you think about people having allergies. It’s springtime. Your body thinks that the pollen is a foreign invader and attacks. So it’s the same thing with cancer and the immune system. So our controls are not only heat-seeking, but they’re also dodging some of the surveillance of our own immune system by … It’s almost like by having an invisible cloak.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Yeah. I love it. I love it. People can check out … When I say Chimera, it’s C-H-I-M-E-R-A-dot-bio. There is amazing, crazy-looking technology that is green and purple, and you should check it out on their website.

Michon Pinnix: (laughing). Yeah.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: With this, this is just this cutting-edge stuff, with cell therapies. I’d love for you to talk about along the way you’ve pivoted and that those pivots have created new uses and more tools. So talk about some of the pivot points and then some of those new tools you’ve been able to create.

Michon Pinnix: Sure. So the company was founded five years ago with something called the ribozyme switch. So we were thinking of how do you turn the therapy on and then off? The problem with our original technology that came out of Christina Smolke’s lab was that it was leaky. So when it was off, it would still kind of secrete anything that you didn’t want to be secreted. So along the way, we ended up uncovering a gene regulatory node that could actually work with the endogenous … By endogenous, it works with the natural system of the cell to turn on at the appropriate time and then turn off or dial down. So our pivot really was going from a switch on and off to then going to something that kind of had a more nuanced knob along with it.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Hmm. Talk about the genesis of forming this company. Okay? And some of the team members. I know I was looking at Ben Wang and Gus Zeiner. Why did they create this company?

Michon Pinnix: So this company was created out of passion and out of love. So Ben Wang and Gus Zeiner met on their own personal cancer journey. So Ben Wang’s wife was diagnosed with AML, and Gus Zeiner was diagnosed with MDS. They met while undergoing treatment for their respective diseases. Then, unfortunately, Kim passed away earlier in the year, and Gus is still … He is cancer-free.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Sorry to hear that.

Michon Pinnix: Yeah. So Ben, it was sad. He was actually an entrepreneur doing startup in the tech space, and Gus was working in the lab at Agilent on something completely different from cancer. He said, "Now that I kicked cancer in the butt, I think I want to work on something that’s valuable. I want to do something with my life that I’ve been given, that I’ve been gifted after this cancer diagnosis." So he went and dragged Ben out of his sadness and grief and said, "Let’s take your startup money, and let’s take my experience with RNA biology and cancer," basically. So they started the company just on a napkin at a restaurant in San Jose that has some nasty barbecue. I’m plant-based. I don’t eat that crap, but they love it. We kind of like [inaudible 00:08:46] south.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: You’ve been in Texas, too. So you can’t say those words if you live in Texas.

Michon Pinnix: I know. I live in Texas, and I know that my former friends [crosstalk 00:08:55].

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: You’d be shunned if you rag on barbecue there.

Michon Pinnix: Oh my gosh. My brothers and family are in Texas now, and they would probably shoot me for saying that barbecue is gross. But yeah, so the company was founded by two people who had fought cancer. One person lost, and the other person is still winning to this day. So it’s a beautiful story. It’s actually why I joined the company. It’s because of the passion and the energy that these two men have put towards this cause, and also, it doesn’t hurt that they’re probably the most intelligent people I’ve ever met.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: It’s not common that you see someone forming a company like this on a napkin. I visualize software companies, but not necessarily a cell therapy company.

Michon Pinnix: No, these guys … Yeah, many napkins and beers were drank coming up with this company.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: You talk about the mission, and that’s why you joined the company. It kind of relates to what we’re going to talk about, recruiting and retaining. So talk a little bit about what attracts, how to best recruit and retain, and we can start off with kind of maybe mission and other things you feel is important.

Michon Pinnix: Well, I think you want to recruit people who are aligned with your mission and who are aligned with the values, because at the end of the day, people come to a company because of the marketing or the jazz or the sexiness, right? But people tend to stay because the people. It’s very, very rare that people say, "Oh, I left because I don’t align with the science" or "I don’t align with the mission." It really comes down to, "Oh, I left because my boss sucks" or "because there are a lot of jerks that work in the company." So I think for us, getting people in the door is really, "Here’s our story. We’re fighting cancer. We’re selling gene therapy. It’s sexy. It’s hot." But really keeping people is where that inclusiveness comes in, where everyone feels that they belong to the tribe.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: What do you find is important in the recruiting piece?

Michon Pinnix: Oh. I mean, the biggest thing, I think, is … Oh my gosh. I can’t believe I’m even going to say this, is someone’s objective function. Hopefully this recording will not go to Ben Wang, because he says this all the time. I mean, it’s what are people looking to get out of life? What is their purpose? Right? We have a team of 16 folks. When I think of everyone that’s on our team, we haven’t lost any … Everyone who leaves leaves to go to school or to go be a philosopher or something, right? It’s people who want to do something bigger in this world, right? A lot of people say that, but that’s really the first step, is you want to be part of something great. You want to be part of a company that feels like a family, which we can talk about balancing being a family versus having a more professional culture, but we definitely have a strong sense of loyalty, a strong sense of belonging, and a strong sense of the mission.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Yeah. I’m curious your advice on this part. So I could totally see if you’re a purpose driven company, mission-based, especially if you’re fighting cancer and you’re creating these cutting-edge gene therapies or cell therapies, I could see that. What would you say to someone who is, "I just create a widget" or something? Really, I mean, it’s baked into the DNA, no pun intended, of this company. What would you say to someone who doesn’t have that? It’s totally obvious with what you do, but "I just sell a widget."

Michon Pinnix: Oh, that’s a good question. I’m just thinking about my career and some of the places that I’ve worked. I’ve always felt like there’s a bigger purpose, right? I mean, DuPont, I mean, we’re making coatings for people’s boats and the solar panels, right? I did some consulting projects for some consumer products around shampoo and conditioner, which it’s important to me. I think it’s-

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: So maybe making people feel good about themselves or something like that.

Michon Pinnix: Right. I mean, fighting cancer is obviously like I win in terms of things to do for the purpose, right? (laughing). But I think that there could be a sense of purpose in making people feel beautiful with the skin care products and consumer products. I think widgets can help enable devices for helping people get around, whether it’s wheelchairs for disabled folks or disadvantaged folks. Our mission is creating a piece of equipment that’s going to help automate a process that’s very labor-intensive for people, right? So it’s just kind of finding that purpose and teasing it out. But then again, not everybody is purpose-driven, right? Some people are driven by money or whatever it’s called, coin out, right? That’s okay, too. It just depends on what you’re trying to get out of and pull out of your team.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Yeah. But I think with any product, I just wanted to bring that up, because people may be thinking, "Well, what" … I think there’s always an application. Even with your DuPont and you worked on the Teflon stuff, you could arguably say, "I help men and women not get frustrated when they’re cooking to help feed their family." I don’t know. There’s always something you can create.

Michon Pinnix: Right. Yeah, exactly.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: It’s not going to be like fighting cancer, maybe, but there’s some-

Michon Pinnix: Yeah. Fighting cancer, I feel like I’m winning right now. I was like, "I’m kind of a big deal, because I’m fighting cancer." But, I mean, when I was at DuPont, I mean, I was there for five years. I worked, gosh, at a plant in Orange, Texas, and then I went into Wilmington, Delaware, and I’ve got to tell you, I was excited about working there, too. I was like, "DuPont, people look at have a bad name about the environment, but look at all the ways that we’re doing" … We actually put measures in place for protecting the air deep water wells and deep wells, things like that. I remember when I left, thinking, "These Teflon films are helping create photovoltaic panels for renewable energy." So it was like solar energy. It’s going to be the next thing, where people are going to have solar panels on their rooftops and not have to use other forms of energy. So you can twist that. You can frame it so that you’re purposeful in anything you do.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Yeah. Let’s talk about the diversity, equity, inclusion piece. I mean-

Michon Pinnix: One of my favorites.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: I’m going to just throw it out there and let you chat about it, because, I mean, it’s always important, but now it’s just come to the forefront of everything in society based on what is happening in the world. Now it’s not that subtle thing. It’s right in front of everyone’s face all the time. So how does the recruiting, retaining … Talk about it under the diversity, equity, inclusion umbrella.

Michon Pinnix: I’ve got to say, okay, being a woman of color, obviously nonwhite-

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: If you’re watching the video, yes.

Michon Pinnix: I mean, I don’t know if you’d noticed, but, I mean, this is something I’ve dealt with for the past 18 years, right? This is something that my mother and my father dealt with in the seventies and eighties. So I am really hopeful about this opportunity with DEI. I know, I mean, I guess-

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Just expand on dealt with for a second and what you mean.

Michon Pinnix: I mean, there are systemic barriers that are in place within the United States, honestly within the world, right? I can speak to the United States, because that’s where most of my jobs have been. But there are barriers in place that prevent people from moving up, and it’s not something that’s necessarily very obvious. Some of the examples that I give, when I was consulting on a project, my name could be a masculine name. This is more of a woman slant of dealing with something. When we had a project and we were going to this company’s kind of meet and greet, and we get there, and the meet and greet was at an establishment that I would not … It was at a gentlemen’s club that I would not feel comfortable-

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: A gentlemen’s club?

Michon Pinnix: A gentlemen’s club. Right. I was like, "Oh, so there are women there," but all the other women were topless. I felt extremely uncomfortable.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Wait. Back up. There’s a meeting at a gentlemen’s club?

Michon Pinnix: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Like a business meeting?

Michon Pinnix: Like a business meeting, and I’m relatively young. This is in the 2000s. So talk about an awkward moment. Sadly, I felt like I felt more uncomfortable than anyone else there. When I came back and when I reflect on this moment, I’m like, "They should’ve been super uncomfortable. They should have been really like, ‘What the heck?’" Who has a meeting at a gentlemen’s club? Apparently this company does, and this is the boys’ boys’ club, right?

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Wow. Yeah.

Michon Pinnix: I excused myself, and one of the partners at the company also went home with me. The way it was dealt with, we didn’t lose the client. They kept meeting. I just was no longer on that project. So that was an opportunity for me to … I could have added value to that project, but instead of rocking the boat, we just removed the awkward situation, which was me, right?

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Instead of evaluating, "Why are we having a meeting in a gentlemen’s club?"

Michon Pinnix: Right. Exactly.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: So not going to the source of the issue. Basically putting a patch on it.

Michon Pinnix: Right. So I think when women or when marginalized communities are put in these awkward positions, usually the easiest way for someone to deal with it is just to remove that one person or remove those two people or just kind of politely step around something. But then over time, there’s a cumulative effect where I’m not getting the same experiences that Dan is going to get, because he’s a male, or that someone’s going to get because they’re like, "Oh, Black people don’t like to ski, so we’re not going to invite her, because I don’t want her to feel uncomfortable," right? So a lot of those-

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Just making a lot of assumptions and stereotyping. Yeah.

Michon Pinnix: Right, right. So I think to have to [crosstalk 00:20:12].

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Have you found people say that, Michon, outward, or is it-

Michon Pinnix: [crosstalk 00:20:19].

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: … in that situation that people actually said that outwardly, or is it more just, "Yeah. We’re not going to invite you," and it’s reading between the lines?

Michon Pinnix: This is just my personal opinion. I don’t think that people intentionally leave out folks or exclude people. I think it’s just … I mean, it kind of goes into the … I’ve talked about this with Chimera, how we are a tribe. We all belong together, right? That’s a wonderful thing, and it’s great to be part of a community, but what ends up happening when you put together a belonging or an in-group is that there’s someone that’s being left out. So you have to be really hyper-aware of the people that you’re leaving out.

Michon Pinnix: So kind of circling back to this idea around recruiting, right? Everyone’s like, "Oh, you want to work with people that you know. You want to work with people that you’re comfortable with, because if you know someone, you know how they’re going to respond and how they’ll deal with situations." The problem with that is that who you know, especially when you’re in an insular bubble, it excludes people on the outside that are not getting that chance. So one of the things that we do at Chimera, aside from the, "Oh, who do we know?", it’s also making sure that we open-source all of our positions, things like LinkedIn, for instance, right? Where you’re able to use social media to get to the masses is, I think, one way to get rid of the hiring barriers. There’s no one in the pipeline.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Yeah. It’s like a bubble, sort of.

Michon Pinnix: Right. Exactly. So, I mean, in this country, most people live in very segregated neighborhoods. Most people, they work … Even at our incubator space, I’ve been there three and a half, four years, and there was a time, I mean, I was the only Black person in the building, right? So in order to recruit, you’ve got to open up the boundaries, open up the borders, and open up how you’re looking at things. It’s not about who you know.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Yeah. Yeah, I would love to hear your thoughts on how companies can be better about this, because even if you go to big metropolitan cities, like I’m in Chicago, it’s very diverse, but it’s very … I mean, people live in neighborhoods. You can go to Little Italy. You can go to different areas of town, and people live around the people they are comfortable with. So no matter how progressive or large city, it still happens all the time. I don’t think you can top, Michon, that story about the gentlemen’s club.

Michon Pinnix: Oh, [crosstalk 00:23:02].

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: I mean, removing someone from an awkward situation instead of getting to the root of the problem. How can companies be better? So you mentioned broadening it on social media and LinkedIn so it gets away from people’s individual network, which may be just more of a bubble of society. What else can people do to be better about the diversity, equity, inclusion?

Michon Pinnix: I mean, I think we can also recruit from colleges and universities that are either historically Black or have a tendency to have a larger population of Asian or international. I mean, when you think about diversity, it’s not just a Black and white issue, right? It’s also LGBTQ. It’s Asian. It’s Latinx. I mean, you go to where those people are, where those people are being educated, and pull them and then give them a network of support and the infrastructure once they get into the company to feel valued.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Yeah. What else? So I like that. I mean, basically, go, because there’s top people at all universities. So you can pretty much recruit from anywhere.

Michon Pinnix: Yeah, exactly. I mean, I could tell you at Harvard Business School, I mean, 56 out of the 900 students that come in a year are Black, right? That’s a stupidly small amount of students, right? But where do they go recruit? HBS goes to Spelman College, where I went to school. They go to Hampton University and to Howard University. I mean, there are a lot of schools that are producing really top-quality candidates. They just need to go and say, "Hey, come here," and get them into those programs.

Michon Pinnix: I mean, I think the other thing about recruiting, I find that there are a lot of programs to recruit, but I find that there are not as many programs to retain, right, and to promote within. Just like when you think about someone being brought up to being groomed to being a CEO, you need to groom people, right? You need to meet them where they are and help them along the way. I think that’s probably the biggest challenge that we’re having now. In addition to those systemic barriers, it’s really you bring the diversity in, but then also how do you make them feel included and like they belong and that they have a voice?

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: So how do you do that? I want to comment on that for a second, because it’s like a chicken and the egg, right? If you don’t recruit properly and you don’t have the diversity of the recruiting, well, then you bring people in, and they’re not going to feel comfortable, just naturally. So you can’t have one without the other, I see it.

Michon Pinnix: Yeah, and I’ve got to tell you, I mean, even in our company, so if you think about Chimera as a whole, and I actually wrote this down for you, because I was like, "Oh, I need to think about this," I mean, we’re 44% women. We are 25% Black, 25% Asian. 31% of our company identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and 13% of our company is international. When I think about those stats, I think about the people who come in. When they come in, they see someone that looks like them, right? So that representation matters. Yes, it’s hard to be one of the first, but you just have to stay long enough so you can bring other people in, right? I mean, even in our executive ranks, 50% of our executives are women.

Michon Pinnix: So, I mean, you talk about how do you keep people once they get there? It’s really about putting in the effort, and I’m going to throw a question back to you. Have you ever been somewhere where you were the only male or somewhere where you were the only … I’m assuming that you’re white (laughing), but are you the only white man in the room?

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Oh, yeah, totally.

Michon Pinnix: How does that feel, and what did you do to feel more comfortable?

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: I mean, I think also by religion, I’m Jewish, and so I’ve definitely been in areas where I have felt uncomfortable, even though maybe people wouldn’t know it, necessarily. Maybe they would. Maybe they wouldn’t. So I’ve definitely been in situations where it felt uncomfortable.

Michon Pinnix: How did you-

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: I mean, in that situation, I’m like, "How can I get out of here as quickly as possible?" Okay?

Michon Pinnix: Exactly, exactly. So is there anything that people could have done to make you feel more comfortable?

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: I don’t know, necessarily, because if you’re in a group in a setting in a public place, even if one person does, it’s still the whole environment, right? So it’s possible. It’s definitely possible, but I don’t know if I would stick around long enough to find out. (laughing).

Michon Pinnix: (laughing). I mean, back to your example of the chicken and the egg, right? I found for myself, my secret talent, my superpower, as one of my co-founders likes to say, is that I’m really good at reading the room and working with people. But because I was a military brat and I was constantly moving, I was always the new kid, I developed this power to adapt to different situations and to kind of push through my discomfort. I think now with this new movement with DEI, now we’re finally at a place where, "Okay, how do we get white people to help marginalized people feel more comfortable and not have to put all of the responsibility on that one lone Jewish guy or that one lone person?" Right?

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Yeah. To answer your question, Michon, I think if I’m in a setting like that and I think let’s say there’s a group of people, whatever setting I’m in, that represents that setting, if they pulled me into the group and were super friendly and nice and everything that I would feel like I have a group that I’m with in the broader group. So I think if that happened, I would totally be like, "Oh, cool. These people are super nice. They’re here, and they’re friendly." That would make me feel comfortable, personally.

Michon Pinnix: I mean, and that’s exactly right, right? So maybe I’m being Socratic. Maybe I’m just being provocative. I don’t know. But I’ve found [crosstalk 00:30:04]-

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: No, I’m going along with you. Keep going. Yeah.

Michon Pinnix: Yeah, I was like, "Oh, I’m going in my world." I think one of the things to do is find the similarities. One, bring the person in. It’s my responsibility and it’s the other people at Chimera’s responsibility to bring the people in, to say, "Hey, you belong here." The way that I do that is by looking for the similarities, like, "Oh, you have curly hair. I have curly hair. We both like sci-fi books," whatever it is. It’s kind of finding those common links and then pulling them together and letting everyone else find the common links. But then it’s also working on something together. So if you think about a volleyball team or a football team or something like that, I played sports in college, and the quickest way to get a bond with someone is to play on a team or have a goal against someone else or against something else, whether it’s against cancer.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: A common enemy.

Michon Pinnix: Yeah, a common enemy. Hopefully, maybe that common enemy isn’t another group of human beings, because then you go into this whole violent thing. It’s like Hunger Games 2.0 or something. But, I mean, how do you help people to accept and appreciate the differences and to celebrate them, but at the same time, make people feel more comfortable by showing you, "Oh, here are the things that we have in common"?

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Yeah. I love that. Yeah, common enemy, like cancer or something that everyone wants to kill.

Michon Pinnix: Yeah. I would say just one the last thing I think is a new one for me is also having the uncomfortable conversations, right? So you can come in and be like, "I’m the only Jewish person here," right? Then, "Oh, shoot. Really? Are you?" Have that conversation and talk about the elephant that’s in the room, because best believe whoever that lone person is, they feel that.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: It deflates the tension, I feel like, when you do that. It’s like there’s this elephant in the room, sort of, and if no one says it, the tension lives there.

Michon Pinnix: Exactly.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: I’ve experienced it. Yeah. It’s almost putting a pin in that tension balloon when you bring it up.

Michon Pinnix: It is. It is. I think it helps, because if we don’t do that in that balloon, we may lose that person and not only lose that person, but we lose their network of people who could have come after them, right? So, I mean, there are many companies that I’ve actually interviewed, and they gave me an offer. Of course, I called the Black network, and I’m like, "Hey, what do you think of this company? How do you like it there?" [crosstalk 00:32:50].

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: I’m picturing just you have a phone that’s the Black … that you just push it.

Michon Pinnix: Yeah. That’s like, "Hey. Hey, Obama." No, I’m kidding. I don’t know Obama, but it would be great if I did. I’d be like, "Michelle, girl, did you hear about this company?" But, I mean, people talk. So you know places to not go, and you know people not to work with. So you want to try to build and recruit as much as you can by talking about those differences.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: No, I like that as a method to be more comfortable, which is just to bring it up to people, because people may be feeling awkward that they’re singling someone out if they’re like, "Hey, by the way, Michon, you’re the only Black person here." It’s a weird thing to say possibly, right? But maybe if someone is feeling like, "Hey, by the way, I’m the" … But you’re saying maybe for companies to say, "Hey, so-and-so, you’re the only Black person here. How can we help? How can we make you feel more comfortable?" That hard conversation will be good on either side of the equation.

Michon Pinnix: Yeah. I mean, and it’s kind of funny, because we’re all individuals, right? I happen to have a very extroverted personality, and I tend to use humor and things like that, but you may end up with someone who’s maybe a little bit more private or doesn’t want that. So I call it read the room, right? There’s sometimes where if there’s something going on, reach out to that person, I mean, because one of the other things that’s really interesting, especially in biotech, is you have a lot of Asian folks, a lot of Filipinos specifically in biotech. You’re like, "Oh, yeah, great. Look at this. It’s super diverse." But then you look, and I’ve talked to some of my friends who fit into that certain category. They’re like, "Yeah, but how many Filipinos do you see in executive management?" It’s like they’re all scientists, right? It’s like how do you break that barrier and make sure that they’re also having a seat at the table, right?

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: There’s these level of barriers.

Michon Pinnix: There’s so many little layers. To be honest, I mean, you just don’t notice them, right? You don’t always notice all the barriers that other people are going through unless you ask them.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: So interesting. Michon, I have one last question that I’d love for you to talk about. Before we do, I’d like to point people towards, which is C-H-I-M-E-R-A-dot-B-I-O. Check out more episodes of the podcast. Check our SweetProcess. Michon, last question. I’d love to hear about partnerships. You helped Chimera with partnerships and your recommendations for forming these partnerships and what you did in that realm.

Michon Pinnix: Okay. So tell me again the question.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: What did you do as far as solidifying and creating more partnerships for Chimera?

Michon Pinnix: Yeah. I mean, I think the genesis of it is getting our tools out to companies that I think may have some problems that we can solve. What I’ve found is once we go out there and put together these collaborations or partnerships, those lead us to additional partnerships and then also help us with our financing and our investing. So right now, we haven’t publicly disclosed any of the partnerships that we’re working with.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: I see.

Michon Pinnix: But they’re definitely, one, keeping the lights on as we create more money, but they are also helping us validate our technology, and they’re also giving us credibility in the cell and gene therapy field with other CAR T companies.

Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Yeah. Everyone, thank you. First of all, everyone check out I mean their advisory board alone and their whole team is … I mean, I was looking at some of the advisors where like, "Whoa," where you have the bioengineering at Stanford and U Penn and UCSF and all these, UCLA, and including the team. So check out what they’re doing there. Check out more episodes. Michon, thank you so much.

Michon Pinnix: Thank you.

Intro/Outro: Thanks for listening to the Process Breakdown Podcast. Before you go, quick question. Do you want a tool that makes it easy to document processes, procedures, and/or policies for your company so that your employees have all the information they need to be successful at their job? If yes, sign up for a free 14-day trial of SweetProcess. No credit card is required to sign up. Go to, sweet like candy and process like Go now to and sign up for your risk-free 14-day trial.

Owen: Hi. This is Owen, the CEO and co-founder here at SweetProcess. If you’ve enjoyed listening to this podcast interview, actually, you know what I want you to do? Go ahead and leave us a five-star review on iTunes. That way, we get more people aware of the good stuff that you get here on this podcast. Again, go onto iTunes and leave us a five-star review. Looking forward to reading your review. Have a good day.

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