The Women to Watch Series was established by the Women in IP Committee as an avenue to recognize women within the AIPLA community for excellence and accomplishments. Through a peer-nomination process, the Women to Watch Series strives to honor women who have created their own paths, who lead through strong examples, and who are achieving successes as a result of their choices and leadership, but who may not be widely known in the AIPLA community.
We are pleased to introduce Rachel Carnaggio, in her own words:
Years working in IP: 12
Years with current organization: 4
Current location: Denver, Colorado
Current role: Senior Counsel
What I do: I prepare and prosecute patents and trademarks for individuals, start-ups, and large corporations. I have been actively involved in the Colorado BioScience Association for over a decade serving on multiple committees. I do pro bono patent preparation and prosecution for low income inventors in the USPTO ProBoPat and Mi Casa Resource Center program. I serve on the Board of Directors of Second Wind Fund, a Colorado non-profit organization that provides education, awareness, and treatment services to prevent suicide in children 19 and younger.
Previous roles: I worked as a research associate in molecular and cellular laboratories at University of Arizona, University of Maryland, Johns Hopkins University and Denver Health Medical Center. I was an emergency medical technician in the Denver area. I practiced law as a litigator in Denver area law firms. I served as a guardian ad litem representing children in domestic violence cases for several years. I previously volunteered for seven seasons as a Girls on the Run coach with local elementary school students in a curriculum that included daily lesson plans on positive emotional, social, mental and physical development, and training for a 5K (while practicing law!).
Years and involvement with AIPLA: I have been involved with AIPLA since 2011. I am a member of the Biotechnology and Women in IP Committees. I have organized and hosted the AIPLA Women in IP Global Networking Event in Denver at the Rocky Mountain USPTO for the past two years.
- What was the best professional decision you ever made?
- After finishing a BS in Biology and a MS in Biotechnology, and spending nearly a decade in molecular and cellular medical laboratories as a research associate, I decided to go to law school. Many people think I switched careers but I combined my background in science and medicine with law. In fact, my coursework in my graduate program at Johns Hopkins University included patent law, legal aspects of biotechnology, and bioethics. My work has included different legal aspects of pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and life sciences, such as products liability and intellectual property. There are days when I miss being at the lab bench but overall being an attorney has been a better fit for me. I still contribute to the progression of science and medicine but in a different way. My job is very rewarding.
- What was the worst professional decision you ever made?
- When I graduated from law school, I took a job in an aggressive plaintiffs’ medical malpractice firm. I had a previous IP internship at Roche Colorado Corporation and a previous internship at an IP boutique firm but because of my medical background, I took the medical malpractice job. Unfortunately, I was exposed to an unhealthy work environment. Also, many of the physicians that I used to work for felt “betrayed” when I began working in medical malpractice, and, as a result, those relationships were strained. And, even when I saw red flags, I stayed too long with people who did not support my growth as an attorney or as a person. The job went against many of my ideals but I was naïve, had the burden of a large law school debt, and lacked the confidence to seek more for myself. If only I knew then what I know now. Fortunately, everything works out as it should. I am now wiser about choosing a healthy work environment and working with solid attorneys and inventors who are also really good people.
- What would you consider your greatest professional achievement so far?
- My greatest professional achievement has been learning patent preparation and prosecution after practicing in general litigation. Undoubtedly, changing my career path from the research world to the legal world was challenging. However, deciding after spending committed years in litigation that I really wanted to be in patent preparation and prosecution took perseverance, a patent bar exam, hard work, and patience. It was challenging to take a few steps back in order to leap forward. And, I did it!
- In your opinion, what could women be doing better to advance their careers?
- In my opinion, women could be doing better to advance their careers by being their best cheerleader. More women are increasingly doing more to empower other women in law. This is very important. But, in my opinion, in order to advance their own careers, women should be doing more to promote themselves. I think some women worry about how self-promotion is perceived by others. Self-promotion may be uncomfortable but it is essential to be competitive in the legal world.
- What is the best advice you have received?
- The best advice I received was that you can have anything you want but you can’t have everything you want. As I strive to create work-life balance, I understand that I do not need to have everything in order to be happy. I’ll also add the second best advice I ever received- no one cares about you more than you in the workplace. This relates back to my “be your best cheerleader” advice. While it is advantageous and necessary to have good mentors, you must take responsibility for your own path and you cannot rely on others to get you to the finish line.
More about Rachel:
If they bottled my personality, the label would read: Persevering, Conscientious, Adventurous, and Alc. 13% by Vol.
Something I said I’d never do, but did anyway: I never say never!
One thing people are surprised to find out about me: At 22 years old, I traveled 10 European countries, including Germany, Italy, Austria, Czech and Hungary, alone. I then traveled to three more European countries by the time I was 25 years old. I also lived in the Netherlands in the summer of 2002 while earning an Intellectual Property Law Certificate through the Tulane Center for European Union and Intellectual Property Law at the University of Amsterdam. I got to see part of the Slobodan Milošević war crimes trial at The Hague, which was amazing!