What Does it Mean To Be One of Boston’s Most Influential People of Color?
We sat down with Damian Wilmot to learn what the award means to him.
For the second year in a row, Damian Wilmot, Vertex’s Vice President of Litigation and Compliance, was honored as one of Boston’s 50 Most Influential People of Color in Healthcare and Life Sciences. The list celebrates the culturally diverse leaders and role models who are advancing Massachusetts as a world leader in life sciences.
We sat down with Damian to learn more about his leadership at Vertex and in the broader Boston community.
This is the second year you’ve made the list. What does it mean to you?
I assume that most people would first wonder why this sort of list is needed at all. There’s a perception that Boston and, in particular, the healthcare and life sciences sectors lack diverse leadership. While the healthcare and life sciences sectors must continue to work on improving its diverse representation, the list is intended to counter this perception and to celebrate the companies and leaders driving diversity and inclusion in these key industries. It’s a statement that Boston has accomplished, diverse leaders who are making significant contributions to our Commonwealth—economic, social and otherwise—and it provides an easy way to find them. This list is really important for Boston, regardless of whether or not I’m on it. And while it’s only 50 people, there are certainly a lot more who could be listed.
How has your experience at Vertex shaped you as a leader?
Vertex is very different from other organizations in that we’re not siloed. As leaders, we aren’t confined to our departments or areas of expertise. In fact, the opposite is expected. This environment has helped me become even more comfortable weighing in on things that are not traditionally in my lane. For example, I recently filled the HR leadership role during a period of transition, which I certainly wasn’t expecting to do when I came to Vertex to lead litigation. But those are the experiences you’re not going to get in other places. Those are the things that shape you as a leader. Vertex is a place where you can have an impact on other areas of the business by thinking outside the box and being innovative.
What inspires your work?
I was a partner at a law firm before coming to Vertex. At a law firm, you tend to focus on the task at hand and move case to case, matter to matter. You typically have very little insight into how a particular matter or issue fits into the larger picture for a client. But when you’re “in the building” and part of the team and mission, it’s a dramatically different experience. What we’re doing for patients at Vertex is exhilarating. We have accomplished things that no other company has ever accomplished. And knowing that patients are waiting for us to find cures drives me and all of my colleagues in Legal and Compliance to work as hard as we do.
What are you passionate about?
I’m really passionate about mentoring young people, especially underserved and underrepresented children in urban areas. The first time I stepped in the Thomas M. Menino Vertex Learning Lab and saw what those kids were getting out of that experience, I realized the deep social impact we could have as a corporate citizen in our community. It’s pretty powerful. And that’s just one of many examples at Vertex – we also support organizations like Bottom Line, Citizen Schools and others that share our mission.
Outside of Vertex, I serve on a few boards of local organizations. My favorite is the Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston. Working with those kids and teens, mentoring them through school and to college, getting them excited about areas they hadn’t previously thought about—biotech, for example—I love doing that.
What is your favorite Vertex memory?
Earlier this year, we held Vertex’s first ever Diversity and Inclusion Week, which was dedicated to celebrating our diversity at Vertex and the role we play in the community. We developed 12 events, hosted four external speakers and encouraged employees to participate in a challenge where they shared why diversity is important to them. I really enjoyed that. It created a space where folks could network, get to know each other and share ideas. It was incredibly energizing and wonderful, frankly, to see the number of Vertexians that attended the events.