Yolanda Courtney Lyle ’01: Chief of Staff to the CEO of Pfizer. Pay it Forward: She is a member of the Jackie Robinson Foundation’s (JRF) Northeast Scholar Advisory Committee, and an alumna of JRF. Healthy Respect: In 2017, the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association honored her with a Luminary Award.
“BC Law was the only school I applied to,” recalls Yolanda Courtney Lyle ’01, vice president of executive operations and NYHQ site lead for pharmaceutical giant Pfizer. “It had a strong reputation for excellence, and I was eager to return home to Boston.”
Lyle, a Brookline native, excelled in high school, but the expense of a private college seemed out of reach. Fortunately, a scholarship from the Jackie Robinson Foundation, together with a Boston College Tip O’Neill Scholarship, paved her way to entering Boston College as a sociology major and set the stage for an exciting career in corporate America. After graduating, she spent four years working, including a year volunteering with AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps, a network of national service programs, in an effort to give back and positively impact the community.
After graduating law school, Lyle practiced law for three years at Nutter in Boston, and then moved to New York City. Leveraging her experience as a clinical study coordinator at Brigham & Women’s Hospital, she joined Pfizer in 2004 as an attorney supporting their global research and development operations.
At Pfizer, Lyle has learned a lot about what it takes to navigate and sustain a successful career in corporate America, emphasizing the importance of being agile, flexible, and receptive to making transitions. “Early on in my career, I had a tendency to resist change,” recalls Lyle. “I was comfortable in my role. I was good at what I did, and I saw no reason to rock the boat. However, it ultimately occurred to me that if I continued to decline new opportunities, there would come a day when people would stop asking.”
With that in mind, in 2010, Lyle joined Pfizer’s compliance division. It was a period of transition and growth for compliance at Pfizer which, as Lyle saw it, presented great opportunity—and she was right. She went on to lead a team responsible for ensuring the overall effectiveness of Pfizer’s compliance program through the development and implementation of comprehensive risk management strategies for the company’s research and development, medical, and manufacturing operations.
In June of this year, she was appointed to her current position as Chief of Staff to the CEO. “When I left BC Law, I never could have imagined that my career would lead me to this point. I’m thrilled to join the Office of the CEO, and am excited for the important work ahead,” she says.
“I’ve always been proud of what we do at Pfizer. But now, as we work to develop a Covid-19 vaccine and identify therapies to treat this deadly virus,” she explains, “I’m more inspired and more grateful than ever to work for an organization so committed to public health and to being a part of the solution to combat this evolving crisis.”
Lyle, who is a member of the Executive Leadership Council, a network of the nation’s most influential African American executives, is often asked for career advice. Drawing from her own experiences, she says: “What I’ve learned over time is not to underestimate the importance of taking risks. Growth often happens when we step outside of our comfort zone.”
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