2019 SEEN Changemaker Omonye Phillips

December 2, 2019

Omonye Phillips, regional vice president of Rite Aid pharmacy, is one of the youngest top executives in any Fortune 500 company. She uses her drive and motivation to help elevate others and lead them to success.

By Carmen Nesbitt

Photography by Hayden Stinebaugh

Omonye Phillips, 32, of Troy became regional vice president of Rite Aid Pharmacy in September, making her one of the youngest top executives for a Fortune 500 company. Phillips oversees 160 store and pharmacy operations in Michigan and measures her success in her ability to inspire and motivate colleagues.

Omonye Phillips, Vice President of Rite Aid Pharmacy Courtesy of Omonye Phillips

Phillips was born in Lagos, Nigeria, and says she is a proud Nigerian-American. In 2003, she moved to Oxford, England, where she received her International Baccalaureate from St. Clare’s, Oxford. She then attended the University of Michigan to pursue her doctorate in pharmacy. “I knew I wanted to be a pharmacist for many reasons, but for two that stand out. I loved chemistry and math a lot, and those were very applicable to pharmacy,” she says. “And my mom also passed, when I was very young, from cancer. And just seeing her go through everything she went through, I was interested to know how drugs work in the body, and why there wasn’t a natural cure for cancer.”

She began at Rite Aid as a pharmacist in 2011, and her leadership propelled her up the corporate ladder — but not without challenges. Phillips recalls taking charge of an underperforming district, one that others warned would never improve without hiring all new employees. “I do believe in performance management if people are not delivering,” she says. “I believe that you have to let them know and hold them accountable. But I’m also very big on motivating people, inspiring them, bringing out the best in them. And I really had a lot of faith that these people probably just did not have the right guidance that they could have had.” Phillips’ hunch was right: Within six months, her region rose to the top three performing districts throughout the East Coast and Midwest.

Omonye Phillips, co-founder of My Dream Big ClubCourtesy of Omonye Phillips

Her drive to help others become the best versions of themselves is also a standard she holds for herself, says Amber Hay, 32, of Washington, D.C., Phillips’ friend and colleague. To inspire herself and others to grow, Phillips and her husband co-founded Detroit’s My Dream BIG Club in 2018. “We really just wanted to bring a whole bunch of young professionals together to discuss transformative topics, support each other and motivate each other to dream big,” she says. The club has grown to 80 members, and Phillips says they are working to expand nationally — starting in California, where her family plans to move in December.

Phillips will maintain her role as regional vice president and oversee a large portion of California. She’s excited to begin her new chapter and says Detroit has been a wonderful experience. “Detroit has been amazing to my husband and myself. We’ve just seen a lot of goals in a short amount of time.”

Omonye Phillips is the 2019 SEEN Changemaker in Business. Read more about the 2019 SEEN Changemakers here.

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