3 Pharma Leaders on How to Use your Career to Make a Big Impact
The 2016 eyeforpharma Lifetime Achievement nominees share the story behind their success.
What does it take to become a leader in pharma?
Our three nominees led very different careers, but they all shared common qualities: they sought out new ways of thinking, took an interest in collaborating with the people around them, and (unfortunately for those seeking shortcuts) they had the capacity to work very, very hard.
When planning out our career trajectories, many of us look to people like Guillaume, Soren and Monika as individuals to emulate. But it can also be very difficult to see the many steps it takes to get there.We sat down with our nominees and asked them to dispel some of the mystery for our readers.
Q: Thank you for spending time with us, what, in your eyes, is your greatest professional achievement?
Monika Lessl: Early in my career, I established a new research area in gynecological diseases which had a high unmet medical need. We now have successful products on the market and in the pipeline that are making a difference for these patients. But today I see my greatest professional achievements in terms of developing others and empowering them to grow and realize their full potential.
Guillaume Leroy: I’m not sure that I have accomplished my ‘greatest professional achievement’ as yet…there is still lots of time and lots to be done. To date, I am perhaps most proud of the work that I am doing as leader of the Dengue Vaccine Project at Sanofi Pasteur. This R&D project took 20 years of rigorous work and collaboration to bring an innovative dengue vaccine first to the people in the world who are at greatest risk to this disease.
Søren Eik Skovlund: Advocating and helping drive Novo Nordisk’s Diabetes Attitudes, Wishes and Needs (DAWN) initiative since 2001. I worked to inspire and mobilize stakeholders on all continents to improve people-centered care and support for people with diabetes and their families.
Q: What does a typical day look like for you in your work life? Is there such a thing?
Monika Lessl: Innovation needs connectivity and collaboration, so my days often revolve around meeting people to discuss solutions to challenges. I also spend much time linking the right people internally and externally to fuel collective innovation.
Guillaume Leroy: A typical day is hopping on a plane to attend a meeting in the U.S. to discuss public health imperatives with people from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, or going to Brasilia to attend a meeting with Minister of Health in Brazil. My work gives me the chance to talk to such amazing people. Whether I am talking to a political leader, community activist, public health specialist, diplomat or fellow industry person, what is exciting is when we realize that we share a common goal and vision for how we can work together to achieve great things…today, that goal is to work together to bring down the dengue burden globally.
Søren Eik Skovlund: Meetings with many different internal (regulatory, development, affiliates, marketing) and external (scientists, patient advocates, societies, policy makers,) stakeholders to plan and execute global research and business projects aimed at improving access for patients to optimal treatment and care.
Q: Is there anything unique about your company and their values that allowed you to get to where you are today?
Monika Lessl: Bayer has a very clear mission statement: Science for a Better Life. This always fit my personal purpose to use science to help others. I very much appreciate that our people are encouraged to challenge the status quote and explore new ways of doing things.
Guillaume Leroy: With Sanofi Pasteur, I have had the opportunity to work all over the world. In fact, I spent 15 years living and working abroad with my family, learning about the business environment and building an international public health network in these areas, which has been very relevant to my work with dengue vaccines.
Søren Eik Skovlund: Novo Nordisk stands out by being passionate and committed to the patient. We are highly effective and professional in delivering on our mission to create value for people affected by the health conditions through a patient-centered business model.
Q: What do you hope to achieve in the next 5 years?
Monika Lessl: Drive innovation that solves the biggest challenges in our world - healthcare and food supply.
Guillaume Leroy: The successful introduction of the dengue vaccine in all endemic countries and territories of the world!
Søren Eik Skovlund: Ensure that more people with or at risk of chronic diseases world-wide gain access to best possible personalized care and optimal therapy.
Q: No small ambitions then; speaking about the future, what does it look like for pharma?
Monika Lessl: Novel upcoming technologies such as gene therapy or digital tools offer great opportunities to find new solutions for areas with high unmet medical need especially in our aging society. However, increasing regulatory hurdles drive long development times and result in high costs. We need to use the new technologies, especially the digital, to get innovations to the market quicker for better-defined segments.
Guillaume Leroy: The biggest opportunity is to position public health as a strong business proposition for industry and a good investment for governments around the world. We can do this by documenting the value that preventative measures like vaccines can bring to populations and governments. This will help curb the spread of emerging infections like dengue and zika both within endemic countries and to other countries around the world.
Søren Eik Skovlund: The future is very centered around the patient. We have a huge opportunity to improve the impact and speed of innovation by finding new ways to partner with patients. On the other side, there is a big threat to pharma if we lose sight of our primary stakeholder. We have to stay focused on how we can best serve people at risk of health conditions throughout the long-term.
Hopefully, readers have now learned all they need to know to become pharma’s next leader.
But in case you need even more inspiration, we have some final words from Guillaume:
“My favorite quote is from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. He says, ‘your task is not to foresee the future, but to enable it’ …none of us has access to crystal balls to foresee what will happen in the future, but we do see the challenges and obstacles that exist today. If we can work together to overcome these successfully, then we can enable a better future for us all.”
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