Clara Jimenez has been drawn to science for as long as she can remember. She recalls getting fixed on medical and chemical questions when she was a young girl living in Colombia. “One of the earliest memories that I have of being attracted to science was when my grandmother, who raised me, survived a heart attack,” Jimenez says. “I became infatuated with the work of cardiologists—I wanted to know all about the heart and how it worked.”
Jimenez graduated top of her high school class in Colombia, but when her family immigrated to the US shortly thereafter, she faced brand-new challenges to navigating and pursuing an education. “After moving to Boston, I was in a very interesting situation because suddenly, going to college became a more realistic option than it had been. But I had also landed in this place where I couldn’t even speak the basics of the language,” Jimenez recalls. “And so it was a really transformational period for me, because I didn’t even know where to start.”
Jimenez went on to be the first member of her family to graduate from college; she began by studying chemistry but quickly switched to chemical engineering when she realized how advantageous that degree could be for future professional opportunities.
After graduation, she landed her first job as a process engineer, in which role she helped design and start up chemical plants. But the role was formative because of more than just the technical processes she learned.
“I think that’s when I started to become cognizant of the lack of representation of Latinas in STEM. Oftentimes, I would be the only woman in the site, or the only non-native English speaker,” Jimenez reflects. “Those days really shaped my ability to adapt and work with people from different backgrounds, and just be comfortable being in those spaces where it was unusual to see someone like me walking around.”
Later in her career, however, Jimenez began to fear that her day-to-day was in danger of becoming repetitive and that she would eventually get bored. Looking to expand her horizons, she decided to apply for a PhD program. But friends and colleagues also pointed out that she had the makings for a great lawyer.
“I like to find solutions—that’s how I thrive. My work at Johnson & Johnson allows me to exercise that part of myself daily.”
“At first I just laughed and said, ‘Have you not heard me speak English?’” Jimenez recalls. “In fact, one of my favorite things in engineering was that when I was at a loss for words, I could come up with an equation, formula, or diagram that could speak for me. But then again, I’m a really curious person, and so I decided to also study and prepare for the LSAT.”
In what Jimenez describes as “divine timing,” her two letters of acceptance arrived at the same time, and she was given the freedom to choose between the two paths. “It was very empowering to have these two letters before me and to know that I could make a choice,” Jimenez says. “Ultimately, I decided to go to Boston College Law School because the opportunity to learn a completely different body of knowledge was very appealing to me.”
After law school, Jimenez dug into patent law at Finnegan in Boston and Washington, D.C. Her scientific background turned out to be an extraordinary asset as she helped her team craft and defend patents. Even her earliest interest, in cardiology, resurfaced when she needed to become an expert in defibrillation for one of her cases. “That is really where I noticed the common thread through my whole career. I am curious and I love to solve complex problems. My approach to science is not that different from how I tackle my legal strategy questions,” Jimenez explains. “There is always a goal, and I see my legal knowledge as another tool to accomplish an outcome.”
Now a senior counsel in patent litigation at pharma giant Johnson & Johnson, Jimenez gets to exercise her scientific prowess every day—and constantly learn about the newest technologies, products, and therapies that both her company and its competitors are developing.
“This is really my dream job,” Jimenez enthuses. “What I’ve found about myself over the years is that in my core, I like to find solutions—that’s how I thrive. My work at Johnson & Johnson allows me to exercise that part of myself daily.”
As Jimenez explains, her ability to visualize solutions extends to both her leadership of her team and her passion for advancing women of color in intellectual property law and STEM fields. “I can easily connect seemingly unrelated people and concepts to maximize impact,” she says. “And I am intentional about understanding the people I engage with. As an immigrant, I have felt unseen and unheard so many times that I want to make sure that whenever someone works or interacts with me, regardless of the scenario or substantive outcome, each person leaves knowing that their opinion was heard and it mattered.”
Imagine the Possibilities
When Clara Jimenez isn’t working at Johnson & Johnson, she can be found lending a hand as a volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA). She works directly with children in the New Jersey foster care system—many of whom are from Latin America—who have experienced abuse and neglect and are in need of a permanency plan. “Sometimes I am the first person they come in contact with that is also a native Spanish speaker,” Jimenez says. “I get to share a little bit of my experience with them and encourage them to imagine life outside their immediate box of possibilities. It’s a full-circle moment.”
“We are proud of our partnership with Johnson & Johnson’s Clara Jimenez. We admire Clara’s leadership and dedication to improving the lives of patients and underprivileged children in the United States and South America. We congratulate Clara on this very well-deserved recognition.” —Irena Royzman, Partner, Kramer Levin