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Tell us something about your childhood. What values had been instilled in you that helped you excel later in your life?

I am an only child to parents who challenged the status quo. My father was a progressive scientist, before his time and my mother was a natural born leader who brought joy and calm wherever she arrived. My father spoke eight languages and could write in several of them. He would not participate in the custom of a dowry and raised me to be an independent woman from childhood. In the fifth grade, I had my own bank account and he showed me the value of financial acumen and independence by pushing me to manage my finances and make deposits into my account. In high school, while many of my friends would go to typing/stenography class and I wanted to join them, he held the belief that my education would take me much further than typing/stenography, and that one day someone would be typing on my behalf, so instead, my parents engaged a music teacher to teach me music. She was a widow, and per the dreadful custom in those days, she had to wear unflattering widow’s garb, and made a living by teaching music. She took two buses to get to my home, and my parents urged me to think about the effort it took her taught me to appreciate, support and practice kindness toward the marginalized. Plus, I learned and earned the gift of music from her.

My mother was an eternal optimist with a can-do attitude, and when she walked into a situation with disarray or difficulties, she had an innate ability to restore order and harmony, instilling a sense of calm in thorny situations. She filled gave rise to the positivity and confidence in my upbringing.

Growing up with the combination of my father’s values of embracing knowledge, being independent and challenging the status quo along with my mother’s positivity, confidence and can-do attitude laid the foundation for my career, family, work, and leadership.

When did you discover your passion for technology/

With a father who was progressive and ahead of his time, I was surrounded by innovation and technology from childhood. He had a passion for technology and was an innovator himself. He had a hobby of building vacuum tube radios and playing around with frequencies to listen to stations like BBC. I remember one year during Diwali we were watching fireworks and I noticed a curious phenomenon: you could see the fireworks going off in the sky and the sound of the explosion would follow a second or two later—and I wondered why? My father explained to me that light travels faster than sound, and that’s when my fascination with science of technology and began.

He worked for the overseas communications services of the Indian government, which was conducting research on using underwater cables and radio waves for international telecommunications. Sometimes we would take a trip to his office on the top floor of his building, and we would make calls to someone outside of India and to hear someone so far away on a different content was the coolest thing! Even relatives from out of town would want to experience it and asked to visit every time they came to see us.

What made you join Cure as CEO?

I have always been drawn to organizations that have a noble purpose, audacious goals, and impossible dreams. I also love building things from the ground up, bringing together individuals, teams and communities and uniting them around a higher purpose focused on making a positive impact on the world. Cure is all of those things. Our goal is to advance healthcare, and we aspire to cure. Period. We want to do this not by acting alone but by bringing together industry leaders and innovators across private and public sectors to collaborate across disciplines in a free exchange of ideas and building a robust and thriving community and ecosystem that aspires to cure and ultimately prevent disease.

Please tell us about the journey and evolution of your magazine – SEEMA.

It began when I was a young girl in India, when I received my first paycheck from a publisher for an article I had written. I saw my name in the magazine and thought how my words and my voice can have reach and be used to effect positive change. At the time, the change that I wanted to make was to uplift people of India and especially women whose status in the male-dominated society was at times dissatisfying and at times appalling. When I came to the U.S., about 20 years ago, I thought about the concept of a magazine for South Asian women as there wasn’t anything like it at the time. I pitched the idea to publishers in NYC, but no one took interest, so I thought – I’ll do it myself. Today, I’m proud that we showcase amazing women of South Asian origin who are in leadership positions and doing amazing things to make the world a better place in multiple disciplines. Normally you wouldn’t read about these types of women or watch interviews with them in mainstream media here in the US, and I’m proud that I’ve created a platform that brings those stories and awareness to others. I have met some brilliant women, both famous leaders but also unsung heroes who are doing extraordinary things. Other topics include self-care, recipes, music, and dancing cultural connections.

Looking back on your journey and knowing what you know now, what is the one piece of advice you would have given yourself along the way?

Don’t be in a rush. I was eager to start doing things and to get working. It’s ok to take another year or two to learn and grow. You have a long runway. Savor every moment.

How can more women shatter the glass ceiling in their careers?

Don’t focus on limits. Think about the possibilities. Focus on your noble purpose or the impact you want to create, instead of an artificial finish line or a glass ceiling. When your purpose is powerful, your vision audacious, your passion fierce, your focus laser-like, and your momentum unstoppable, the glass ceiling will melt away like a mirage.

Don’t focus on the finish line—there is none. Focus your eyes beyond the line, on your purpose. Run towards that purpose as if you were running toward your child or a loved one. Imagine a mother and child 5 miles apart. When she starts running towards her child, she only thinks about reaching her child and not reaching the finish line, really nothing else. So, when you’re reaching for something that has a higher purpose, you end up running toward it as fast as you can rather than aiming on going past the finish line or on breaking the glass ceiling. When your eyes are focused on the end prize like finding a cure for cancer or developing a vaccine or creating an ecosystem that advances healthcare for all, or empowering all women to use their voice, finish lines don’t matter, and glass ceilings melt away.


CEO, Cure

Seema Kumar joined Cure Experience in 2022 as the Chief Executive Officer. Prior to Cure, Ms. Kumar spent nearly 20 years at Johnson & Johnson in senior leadership roles, including most recently as the Global Head, Office of Innovation, Global Health and Scientific Engagement, and served on J&J’s Innovation Strategy, Public health leadership and the COVID-19 vaccine steering committee, where she led the company’s external affairs efforts and public education program on COVID and vaccine literacy. Before her tenure at J&J, Ms. Kumar played a leadership role in the Human Genome Project, at the Whitehead Institute/Massachusetts Institute of Technology Center for Genome Research. She also has held leadership positions at the U.S. National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the National Institutes of Health, and Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.