Top 10 most inspiring women 2020

Dr. Teri Quinn Gray

DuPont Transportation and Industrial (T&I) | Technology Operations & Portfolio Manager| Visit Website

Tell us a little about what you do (business, career, etc.) How did you get started?

Today, I am the Technology Operations & Portfolio Manager with the DuPont Transportation and Industrial (T&I) business in Wilmington, Delaware. DuPont T&I is an industry leader in material science providing high-performance solutions in the transportation, electronics and healthcare markets worldwide. The Technology Operations team serves as the business office for innovation with responsibilities for investments, asset planning, intellectual capital, and portfolio management to deliver new products to the marketplace. I went to DuPont T&I in 2015 as the Americas Regional Technical Service Manager, then on to Global Technology Integration Leader during the DowDuPont merger before taking on the Operations role in 2018. 

I’ve been at DuPont for 22 years with my first job as a research chemist in the agriculture sector. I transitioned to a technical management role within 3 years of joining the company and have enjoyed a multitude of experiences in that realm ever since.  

My start as a scientist was in middle school. I put on my first lab coat in 7th grade as an ACS Project SEED student at Jackson State University in Jackson, MS. I really, really liked it, plus I was paid to study and ask a lot of questions – imagine that!  That positioned me well for college studies as a STEM major. By the way, I changed majors 3X – computer science, pre-med, engineering – before landing on chemistry with a minor in mathematics. I never really planned on being a scientist, I just kept following the challenge, the opportunities and what made me happy. Wala! 12 years to HS Diploma, 4 years to a BS in Chemistry, 7 years to a PhD in Analytical Chemistry (not enough time for this now!), 2 years as a National Research Council post-doctoral fellow and I’m here talking about what’s in the first paragraph – crazy!

What is the most rewarding thing about what you do?

There are many things I like about my work as a chemist, so to pick one is difficult. If I must, then it’s being a part of a culture and work process that intends to change lives for the greater good.  Among my favorite experiences was working as a New Product Commercialization Manager with DuPont Crop Protection.  I spent four years leading a multi-functional global team to take a product from concept to market. DuPont™ Pyraxalt®, a novel rice insecticide was launched in 2016-17 in Asia.  Yes, the science and technology were ground-breaking and world-class for the industry.  To be involved with such a product introduction doesn’t happen often and I was truly blessed to be a part of that journey. More importantly, DuPont™ Pyraxalt® addressed a major gap in the rice industry allowing higher yields while preserving beneficial organisms, an uptick in regional production which feeds populations worldwide and ultimately contributing to sustained livelihoods of growers and farmers in Asia.

It’s very exciting that similar examples of STEM innovation happen all the time and particularly right now in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, DuPont materials are used in test kits for the novel coronavirus, in specialized personal protection equipment (PPE), and in biopharmaceutical applications that support development of a vaccine. There are countless examples like these in all sectors of industry, academia, and government.

Can you tell? I fall hard for opportunities to bring STEM, extraordinary people and societal benefit together. The power of STEM to improve people’s lives is the most rewarding thing about what I do. Quite frankly, what professionals and participants across the chemical enterprise do on a daily basis.

When you’re not working, what can you be found doing?

When I’m not formally on the job, I’m either doing absolutely nothing (I try to play as hard as I work) or I’m trying to do my part to make the world a bit better than the one I inherited. “Absolutely nothing” means something like sleep until noon, reading a good book, eating fried catfish and ice cream for all three meals of the day, or enjoying red wine on the back porch. Works for me nearly every time.

Otherwise, I spend a lot of time thinking and working to change the narrative around the public education experience for students in America, particularly our kids who are traditionally underserved or not served well at all. I’ve witnessed that all kids can learn and it’s not them that needs to be fixed, it’s the systems and adults that need to be changed in order for all kids to succeed.

How did you push through a turning point (career or life) and what did you learn from it?

Wow, this is an interesting question. Almost makes me a bit emotional when I think of the several instances when I had to pause and ask myself, “So, why are you doing what you’re doing?”

I’m still dealing with the loss of my Grandmother in Jan 2018. Her passing preceded the death of a favorite Aunt just 2 months prior and in 2017, my Mother’s recovery from a 2-y battle with breast cancer. I was no longer struggling with work-life balance in the same way. “Family first” had always been my motto, but this time it was stunningly different. It was more than time management, delegating more, and taking personal time away. My work colleagues and vocational partners stepped up, and in some cases accomplished more than ever before…without me in the name of giving me cover. By the way, I resented this at first, but I so much needed just that kind of genuine team support at the time. Through the suffering and trials of the three most influential women in my life, I found strength and resilience. It was a whole body (fatigue to energized), mind (confusion to clarity) and spirit (troubled to free) turn-around. I immediately understood what my priorities should be and came to understand how fear was holding me hostage.   

I learned about the power of letting go to make room for something new. The breakdown is often painful, but it’s necessary for a breakthrough.

What advice do you have for girls who want to pursue a career in the STEM field?

Strive for a “C” – confidence, courage, curiosity and competence. It’s a life-changing cycle of fulfillment in the STEM fields. The greatest scientists I encountered are curious all of the time – they are literally nosy people, asking questions, and experimenting is a way of life and work. Curiosity sets the stage for learning and building competence, competence breeds confidence and confidence is a precursor to courage. Try it, it works no matter the discipline or environment.

How do you define success?

Success is not a what (title, status, nor material things). Success is relational, a state of being where I define it for me, not someone else. Success is living empowered, affirmed, without hesitation and freedom to be bold. It’s this give and take, interplay where personal power and positive energy are unleashed on one another. So, I try to have many successes in a day. Sometimes I’m giving and sometimes I’m receiving. By design, everybody gets something meaningful, everybody succeeds.

Give a shout out to the woman or women who inspire you the most.

Ethel Mae Finley Quinn – my Grandmother (showed me how to love unconditionally)

Velma L. Quinn Hodges – my Mother (my #1 fan, believes I can do anything, expects greatness and often gets it; a mathematician, 7th grade math teacher)

Ethel Marie Quinn Veal – my Aunt Ree (a model of grace and humility; taught me compassion; physicist and later IT professional)

Doris Jean Quinn – Aunt Jeanie Baby (taught me the joy of giving; how to bargain shop and look fabulous on low/no budget; mathematician; business accountant and entrepreneur)

These amazing women helped me “recognize” and attract down-home good people to my circle.  So, shout out to Joy Titus-Young, Naketa Ren Thigpro, and Jacqueline Means. All, I’m saying these women are about the business of changing the world – look them up and watch out.

Jane Clark, Owner of Teakettica

Why Dr. Teri Quinn Gray is On this List

“This woman has inspired many others — this I know — because she’s absolutely inspired me. As a modernday woman, you’re faced with so many questions. Am I spending enough time with my family? Am I doing what I love? Am I successful? I admire Dr. Teri’s sense of curiosity until she found the right path for her. I love that her life is comprised of so much more than just herself — she has a huge support system of amazing women and team members ready to step up to the plate. They’ve trained for this, and they have impacted her as much as she’s impacted them. Thank you, Dr. Teri, for setting the example of respect, trust, compassion, and innovation.

Jane Clark Signature

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