Jessica Ralyn, Exact Sciences Corp.

IB’s Professional of the Week is the premier way to meet Dane County’s professionals. This week features Jessica Ralyn, senior manager, Quality Systems, Exact Sciences Corp.

What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your job and why?

The most challenging aspect of my job is ensuring we embed quality into our products and processes without stifling innovation, ensuring patient access to our products and moving new technology forward for an even greater impact on lives.

By far the most rewarding aspect of my job is hearing positive feedback from patients. We know that as part of the Exact Sciences team we are impacting lives in a positive way every day. However, the impact isn’t only to patients. Exact Sciences also strives to make the community a better place. Being a part of moving the needle in the right direction for those in our community is rewarding beyond words.

Who do you look up to or admire in business and why?

Ursula Burns, the former CEO of Xerox. Burns was born in the projects and started her career as an engineering intern, at a time when it was considered an unconventional path for a female person of color. Early in her tenure at Xerox, during a company meeting in which a fellow employee asked why Xerox was focused on diversity, she stood up and challenged the EVP’s seemingly flat explanation. She chided him for displaying a lack of passion and principles to those diversity initiatives. That confrontation led to her being offered an executive assistant role, her first exposure to the C-suite. A series of successes eventually got her to the top, where she credits a backbone and courage as being key ingredients to her success. Her successes aren’t only in the corner office; she was appointed by President Obama to lead the White House national program on STEM. She is a pioneer for women, especially for women of color. She didn’t let go of her dreams for a more predictable journey. Her mother instilled confidence and courage in her, enabling her path to more.

What has been the high point of your career so far?

The true highlight was being named Exact Science’s first United Way of Dane County Loaned Executive. This opportunity afforded me the ability to immerse myself in the issues Dane County faces and how the business community is helping make a difference by giving, advocating, and volunteering. Exact Science’s CEO Kevin Conroy believes that a stronger community makes for a stronger Exact Sciences.

Thinking back on your career, what advice would you give your 21-year-old self?

Be brave and live your mission. Borrowing words from Ursula Burns, “… Women trying to get into STEM … you will be the minority … instead of that being a burden, it should be an opportunity for you, to distinguish yourself.”



What would you say are the best things about living and working in Dane County?

Dane County affords many opportunities: a multitude of recreational activities, music, and the arts, as well as access to STEM-related success and the tech hub it is becoming. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t call out the inequity and all the work needed to improve Dane County for people of color. This works begins by utilizing the progressive ideals that garner all the top-10 accolades and trophies consistently adorning the mantle of the county.

Do you have any secret talents or abilities that people would be surprised to discover?

I’m a very soft-spoken and typically quiet person. Most wouldn’t know that I can sing and crack jokes. I like seeing people’s faces when something unexpected comes out. I like making people smile and shake their heads.

What are your guilty pleasures?

Dessert — specifically, rich, chocolaty, gooey desserts. I’m not ashamed to say that I eat dessert often and have been known to have seconds. Life is too short to be bland and say no to dessert.

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