Emerging Pharma Leaders: Eric Dube

Jul 17, 2012

Eric Dube, Senior Vice President, Strategy, Planning, and Operations, US Pharmaceuticals, GlaxoSmithKline.

 Eric Dube joined GSK in his late 20s, just after the merger with SmithKlineBeecham was announced, and has held seven "very different" roles during that time, providing him with the invaluable gift of perspective across business functions. He's currently senior vice president of strategy, planning, and operations for US pharmaceuticals—a big title for someone under     40—despite the fact that working in the pharmaceutical industry"was definitely not in my professional plans" early on."I got my PhD [from Cornell University] and wanted to teach and do research as a college professor," says Dube. "That was really borne out of a strong desire for learning and teaching...I grew up with about five people in my family who are teachers." There are some natural overlaps between teaching and working in pharma, most important of which is the desire to have a hand in the march of progress: to make things better at the macro level. "I realized that much of what I enjoyed personally about teaching and learning and about helping society was also a mission of the pharmaceutical industry," says Dube.

With an academic background in social and developmental psychology, which included the study of culture, gender, ethnicity, and "how we relate to one another," Dube is responsible for "the transformation agenda for our commercial model, as well as training and analytics operations, including call centers and incentive compensation for the field." This last piece—GSK's much discussed redesign of sales force incentive structures—represents "a major change," one that facilitates the "move from being a brand-centric industry to one that takes the time to understand the needs of our customers."

Reporting to Deirdre Connelly, GSK's president of North America pharmaceuticals, Dube says Connelly values diversity, which fits with his belief in the importance of a strong internal corporate culture. From a personal perspective, Dube says he's learned two important things in the last few years. The first is the importance of listening skills, and the second is balancing humility with confidence. Collaboration is also critical. "I have said to my team that my job starts and ends with building a strong, value-based culture of accountability and collaboration, a culture of strong accountability," says Dube. "My team is broad and very easily moved into silos, so the value of understanding, collectively, what's going on in the organization and the marketplace has to come from collaboration...that's how we ensure that we're meeting society's expectations of us."

Speaking of societal expectations, prior to his current role, Dube served as vice president, oncology, and was brought face-to-face with one of the biggest challenges for pharmaceutical companies: access and pricing. New cancer drugs are very expensive, making them unaffordable for some patients. "While leading GSK's US oncology organization, I was very pleased to have a team that worked on a new patient assistance program that removed an access barrier. For me, business improvement is about listening and removing barriers as a leader, and not just about becoming more lean and continuing to remove resources...it's about aligning your resources to where they can best deliver value to customers."

In his spare time, Dube enjoys travelling and cooking, and in recent years, yoga. "It's taught me a lot about balance and being present wherever you are in the moment...I've learned a lot about leadership from yoga. Staying focused, being present, and frankly, breathing under times of stress."

Elaborating on the crucial balance between humility and confidence, Dube says he's seen "a lot of individuals who are incredibly bright, but are so confident that they don't listen to the people that they're leading, or they don't listen to the signals in the marketplace, and they fail." Having the confidence to lead during uncertainty, and the humility to approach new roles and new situations with humility is a "really important combination" of skills, says Dube.

Dube says his biggest concern for the industry going forward is that it won't "stay on top of the evolution that we see across our customers and across healthcare: understanding the needs of our customers, understanding the challenges around access to medicine, and making sure that our business model continues to evolve at the pace of the marketplace. When we don't do that, the level of trust diminishes very quickly."

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