The Catalyze podcast: SEVEN Talk, by Malini Moorthy ’91: “We Are Not in Golden Rock Anymore”
Today’s episode is a recording of a SEVEN Talk from the 2022 Alumni Forum. This talk, given by Malini Moorthy ’91, is entitled, “We Are Not in Golden Rock Anymore.” Malini is the General Counsel of argenx, a biotech company.
More about Malini
Since 2022, Malini Moorthy ’91 has served as the General Counsel of argenx, a biotech company committed to innovating and delivering lifechanging immunology solutions to patients. She has extensive global legal and compliance experience in the pharmaceutical and medical device industries and is a devoted leader known for building, developing, and mentoring high-performing and inclusive teams. Malini is also passionate about equity, diversity, and inclusion and is leading argenx’s internal efforts to establish a formal DEI policy and programming and to champion robust sponsorship and mentorship initiatives.
Before joining argenx, Malini was the Senior Vice President & Chief Deputy General Counsel, Legal, Compliance & Government Affairs at Medtronic. Prior to Medtronic, Malini spent four years as the Head of Global Litigation & Investigations at Bayer and ten years at Pfizer where she progressed to lead civil litigation globally.
Recognized for her handling some of the most challenging and complex litigation in the life sciences industry, Malini was named a Visionary Leader in litigation by Inside Counsel magazine and selected for Lawyers of Color’s inaugural Nation’s Best List. Malini also has been recognized by the National Center for Law and Economic Justice for her service to the legal profession and to the nonprofit community, the South Asian Bar Association for her achievements as corporate counsel and Lawyers for Civil Justice for her contributions to civil justice reform.
How to listen
Catalyze is hosted and produced by Sarah O’Carroll for the Morehead-Cain Foundation, home of the first merit scholarship program in the United States and located at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. You can let us know what you thought of the episode by finding us on Twitter or Instagram at @moreheadcain or you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It is hard to believe that it was 35 years ago that I was a freshman in Chapel Hill. I was the second woman of Indian origin behind Rupal Nayak, who was in the class ahead of me. Yes. Shout out for Rupal. I still think of myself as that wide eyed 18-year-old girl Stephen Aldrich pointed out that might be an example of a beginner mindset. And then I’m reminded that I’m more seasoned than that, being the second speaker in today’s roster rather than the fourth or the fifth.
So how many of you have prepared intro slides like this one? So they’ve become a common and very handy and useful tool to tell one story and one’s arc. This is obviously mine. It’s the one I use to introduce myself to my new company earlier this year. The reason I have this up is there is one constant that I will never change. In this slide, this photograph, it is a photo of my extended family celebrating my father’s 80th birthday, which was exactly four years ago yesterday. It tells not only my own journey but also that of my family with which my own story is inextricably intertwined.
It also tells the lessons and the values that are central to our journey. The first of these lessons for me is gratitude. I was and am incredibly fortunate to have been born into this family. It is colorful, diverse, loud. Boy, is it loud, resilient, and deeply loyal. It is the kind of family where blood is thicker than water and sticks together through all the trials and tribulations that life throws at you. Through it all, my parents, who are in the center of that picture wearing garlands, have been the matriarch and the patriarch. Not because of birth order, but because of their immense generosity, their deep sense of duty and service, their loyalty, their unabating love and their respect, tolerance, and acceptance of difference. All lessons in leadership without even knowing it. And my dad likes to point out we’re the United Nations. We span four countries, multiple faiths, and including believers and non-believers alike. Although it was just my brother and me, we still managed to have four weddings because we married people of different faiths. But none of this would have been possible without the risks and the leaps of faith that my grandparents took.
My father’s parents were from Golden Rock in southern India, a little village. And let me tell you, the only thing golden about Golden Rock was its name. It did have a railway station, and my grandfather had a job at the station and a coveted pension. But my grandmother, who was married to my grandfather at the age of twelve and was wise beyond her limited formal education, knew that my grandfather’s greatest passion was to become a journalist. She also realized that that dream could not occur living in Golden Rock. And they made the decision to take a leap of faith, give up that coveted pension, unexpected at that time and unheard of, and took their gaggle of children for whom they also saw greater opportunity outside of Golden Rock, and moved to Mumbai. While my grandfather never became a journalist, that move and subsequent moves by my parents and their siblings were the sparks that ignited my family. It taught us the importance of following one’s passion, the value of education and being fearless. I’ll admit this last one is more of a work in progress. In two generations, we have doctors, professors, CEOs, communicators, community leaders, teachers, dancers, singers and yes, a lawyer or two.
But for all of the love of my family, I would not have shared this photograph as that wide eyed freshman when I arrived at Chapel Hill. And candidly, I would have been embarrassed by it. You see, I grew up in the world desperate to assimilate. It was a schizophrenic existence. On the one hand, within the cocoon of my family and community, I immersed myself in my Indian culture. But outside of it, like the little girl in Tony Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, I wanted to be blonde, blue-eyed, and named Diane or Mary. My own legal name is Hemamalini. Ten letters was too much to hold on to and carry. During my four years at Chapel Hill, I had the space and independence to explore and find my own passions and voice. Faced with a world which was largely black and white. In fact, I remember a panel about white Greeks and black Greeks and asking, “What about the brown Greeks?” I’m not sure I actually ever received an answer or one that was satisfactory. I learned that if I did not embrace my own culture and heritage and my own brownness, then no one would. That lesson of self-acceptance and self-worth is one of the many lessons that I learned in this place that, as Billy Crudup said, “is touched by a strange and special magic.”
And I am forever grateful.
Thank you and happy Diwali.