It’s not every day that a scientist shares the spotlight with a celebrity in a TV commercial. The commercial, starring Jennifer Aniston, was part of the latest campaign for Aveeno, for products Sabrina Henry designed. While it wasn’t a typical workday, she’s excited that that her career is never boring. She said she never figured that a scientist would have a role on TV. It’s a new skillset and she’s excited to have it.
“Talking about our products and engaging with the audience, I love being able to bring that to life,” says Henry, a research and development manager at Aveeno’s parent company, Johnson & Johnson, where she’s worked for 11 years.
Her latest creation, Aveeno Calm + Restore, a skincare product for sensitive skin, took two years to develop from concept to market. She embraces these projects, which called on her as a product developer, engineer, scientist, and a consumer.
“I bring myself as a consumer to those discussions and make sure that we as women are represented right,” she says.
As a woman in the technical field, Henry feels a responsibility to be a role model for other women. As a Black woman of Haitian American heritage, she wants to trail blaze for other women of color within the company and the industry.
“I want to put my best self forward and do the best that I can to represent the community that I grew up in,” she says.
Henry, who’s married with daughters, says work and family life is a balance. She’s happy to be a role model for them. One of her daughters wants to be a scientist.
Whether she’s supporting women at work or her daughters, she knows: “I can open the door with what I’m doing for somebody else,” she says, noting, they can “go further than me.”
Holding her head high
As a child, Henry loved learning, especially math and science. As she grew older, she was still interested in science and math at a time when her peers were not. Along the way, she had mentors. In sixth grade, her teacher, Mrs. Mast invested in her, told her to hold her head high and be proud of herself. It’s a life skill she still uses.
“It helps me today for any meeting that I walk into; to sit on that seat, and be a voice at the table,” she says.
In high school, Henry joined an engineering group and spent three hours every Saturday learning from professional mentors. In college, most of the students studying math and science classes were men. She connected with other women studying STEM. “I think there’s a special bond that you build with other women in a technical field,” she says.
Henry mentors other women in the industry. She’s hopeful her daughters will grow up seeing more women in science and math. She advises other females in science and math to pursue their dreams and step beyond boundaries. “Don’t be afraid to be the first person in an industry or a job, and don’t put limits on yourself.”
“Girls can do anything,” she says. “Women can be smart and beautiful.”