Meet the Sanofi US 2023 Working Parents of the Year

Published on: October 10, 2023

This year, Dr. Ayanna Santos, Associate Vice President, Head, RSV Franchise in US Vaccines, and Lilya Ziad, International & China Head of Medical Affairs, Specialty Care, have been named as the Sanofi US 2023 Working Parents of the Year to celebrate the honor of Sanofi US receiving a spot on Seramount’s 100 Best Companies and 100 Best Companies for Dads lists. Ayanna and Lila will be featured in the annual listing of the country’s top companies that rank highly in family benefits, including parental leave, family support and job flexibility.

Read on for their stories.

Ayanna Santos
I am a Doctor of Pharmacy by training and was introduced to the industry through an internship in Pharmacy School. This experience led me to a Post-Doctoral Fellowship Program in Pharmaceuticals through Rutgers University. Since the beginning of my career, I’ve been fortunate to have opportunities to work on projects with personal meaning, specifically in therapeutic areas where I have a connection through family, friends, or previous areas of study including Diabetes, Neuroscience, Cardiovascular, and most recently at Sanofi, Public Health with Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV). My family knows that I am personally invested and that this is a “passion project where our Sanofi team is going to help a lot of babies”.

My most important roles are being a mother and wife. I have four children -- Maraya (15), Nathanial (7), Arya (3) and my stepson Ethan (15). Both of my youngest children, Nathanial and Arya, have had RSV – Arya most recently twice last year in the midst of a very challenging RSV season across the U.S. We’ve lived through it, as have many of our family and friends. It’s scary watching your baby struggle to breathe, while feeling helpless. With that said, it’s been an absolute honor to be able to work in this space at Sanofi.

Raising kids takes a village! My husband Ray and I make a great team. He is in law enforcement and shares a similar passion for his career as I do. But there’s more to it. We are very fortunate to have my mother, Mary (Nana to the kids), living with us as well as wonderful close friends nearby. I learned early on to ask for and accept help instead of trying to do it all alone. We are all a part of a “system” that I am so grateful for particularly because my children benefit from the unique gifts that Ray, my mom, and I each uniquely bring to our family unit.

As a very busy family, we find the time to enjoy ourselves, especially in the little moments. Family fun nights are often filled with board games, dance parties, movies, swimming in our pool, or taking walks together. Since schedules can be challenging at times with all the kids’ activities (marching band, soccer, swim class), I make sure that I drive my kids to school most mornings – it allows me time to reconnect and catch up with each of them. We also ensure we’re a part of each other’s lives while even doing activities for personal wellness. For example, I take the kids to the gym with me. While I work out, they’re able to exercise too (i.e. play) in the children’s area.

The best advice I can give to other working parents is to be a role model in how you care about your work or anything you give your time and attention to. When my children can see the passion I have for the work I’m doing – I believe I am setting a strong example for them. I see that example pull through in their approach to their schoolwork and extracurricular activities. They can better understand why mommy or daddy are putting energy into our work and why – and how the work we do contributes to the family and to society overall.

Also, I would fully encourage newer parents that are just getting started to look for opportunities to create harmony between your work and home life. Early on, I tried to keep everything separate (as if by firewalls) and it was an almost impossible task for me. Moving between aspects of family life and work life more seamlessly allows me to bring my best to both settings.

I am currently looking forward to the fall and winter season and especially the holidays. This time will be spent enjoying the little moments together, taking trips to places we’ve never visited and then enjoying the cozy time decorating and connecting as a family. In January, we’ll also be heading to Jamaica, for our close friend’s birthday celebration. I am honored to be one of many working parents at Sanofi. I am grateful for all that I have learned from many of my colleagues that have been strong role models for me in all aspects of my life.

Lilya Ziad
Recognition in the workplace can be a very powerful tool. The work we do at Sanofi is important beyond measure in terms of what we’re doing for, and how we’re impacting patients, health systems, and the communities in which we work and live. But the bigger work is being a parent, at home, and the recognition for me will be the day that my 10-year-old daughter Opale graduates from university. This award has already had such a huge impact on the both of us. To be recognized not just at work, but as a mother – makes us both extremely proud and it is an honor we hold very highly.

I’ve worked in the pharmaceutical industry for 16 years in various roles traveling the world. For the past 10 years, I’ve raised my daughter, as a single mother, in several countries. From France to Switzerland to Dubai and now in Boston, with traveling comes learning, for both her and I. But also increasing responsibility. As a single parent, I own all the responsibility – if not me, who will? Moving from one country to another becomes challenging and is really a limiting factor at times in having a true support system around you. That is why I can’t thank my mother enough for her help and support over the years. She is always willing to help and is truly my hero.

Every day when I get back from work – even when I am traveling, I speak to my daughter about my workday. The work I do allows me to accomplish so much more for her. I’m able to explain to her what I’m doing, what I’m working on. She can then understand the impact I’m trying to create – helping other children and doctors in China for example. Knowing she knows and has that understanding puts me at ease and allows me to focus on what I’m doing at work. When I’m home, I ensure I find time as much as possible. We both look forward to our vacations, and the slow down periods – such as our summers where I’m able to be home and focus solely on her activities.

For those just starting their working parent journey, or those looking for new approaches, let your children see your passion for what you do. Make them a part of your success – be partners! Empower them in the discussion so that they’re a part of, and understand, your career. Never be afraid to let them know both the good and bad side of things either – so that they understand WHY.