This month we celebrate ChiWIP’s newly-appointed Chair, Rebecca Rokos. She has been an active member of ChiWIP since its inception, serving on a number of committees and the board, and is thrilled to be stepping into her new position. This leadership role is the most recent accomplishment along a career path that has taken several turns along the way but always centered around Rebecca’s interest in science and engineering.
As her life evolved through different stages that prompted her to reevaluate her goals and reinvent herself, she learned to be open to new opportunities and never underestimate the importance of positive relationships with everyone she encountered.
A degree in chemical engineering led her to environmental consulting and the chance to wear a hazmat suit some days while working at hazardous waste remediation sites. After a few years, and a master’s degree in environmental engineering, Rebecca pivoted and applied to law school, with the intention of transitioning her engineering experience to a career in environmental law. Through a series of fortunate events, she learned about patent law and launched her legal career at an IP boutique firm. At the law firm, Rebecca was fortunate to have many rewarding experiences as she progressed from new associate to partner with her own clients to member of her firm’s Board of Directors in the last six years there. Then, satisfied that she had achieved her goals and aspirations as an attorney in private practice, Rebecca again pivoted when presented with a chance to extend her skills into a new setting at Rush University Medical Center. She currently supports the research enterprise at Rush and finds it fascinating to work in a healthcare setting during the pandemic.
Rebecca is grateful for the support and inspiration she received from colleagues and mentors over the years. She believes that developing respectful and authentic connections is a key to success. She credits interpersonal skills and her ability to remain calm and objective under pressure as characteristics that help her develop positive relationships with coworkers, clients, and even adversarial parties. She believes that all interactions build up your reputation. As she remarks, “you never know who may become your next champion to propel you to a new opportunity.” She also recognized early on the importance of not only being open to accepting opportunities whenever they arise, but also having the courage to chart your own path and create the change needed to reinvent your career.
Rebecca is most proud of her positive impact on the women she has worked with. Throughout her career, there were times when she was one of a very few women, if not the only woman, in the room. She made it her goal to “be the voice” for others whenever possible. As a member of the Board of Directors, Rebecca was directly involved in the management of the firm and strategically positioned to advocate for practices and policies supportive of the women at the firm. As an attorney with a successful client base, she was able to mentor newer attorneys, particularly women, and create opportunities to help them develop as attorneys. She recognized the important responsibility of leveraging her position to sponsor her female colleagues and applaud their successes whenever possible. Outside of work, Rebecca also utilizes her deep knowledge as an IP attorney to counsel women entrepreneurs through organizations such as angel investment groups.
Rebecca’s dedication to the championing of women translates to the mission of ChiWIP. She marvels at what ChiWIP has accomplished in its six years, as both a professional organization and as a group that facilitates relationships within the IP community. When looking back at how ChiWIP has created this dual purpose for its members, Rebecca remarks, “that’s been one of our unique strengths.” ChiWIP’s range of programming and social events provide a space for its members to grow both professionally and personally. Looking to the future of ChiWIP, Rebecca is excited to carry on the organization’s objectives of amplifying member voices and welcoming members from myriad backgrounds and career paths.
In addition to her professional successes, Rebecca takes immense pride in being a mother and role model to her soon-to-be-teenage daughter. She has appreciated the change in pace of working at Rush and the opportunity it has provided to spend more time with her family and focus on their health and wellness during this unique time. And she enjoys any chance to inspire new generations of girls to get excited about STEM and maybe even become future members of ChiWIP.