The Navigator: Charlotte Sibley - Pharmaceutical Executive


The Navigator: Charlotte Sibley

Pharmaceutical Executive

"She has courage, internal fortitude, and an incredible drive to overcome difficult obstacles and be successful—all while remaining down-to-earth, incredibly supportive of others, and a genuinely nice person," says HBA President Elizabeth Mutisya. "It's a rare combination."

As for Sibley, she believes in taking the good and bad alike in stride. "I've been hired, I've been fired," she says. "I've been upsized, I've been downsized, I've been promoted, I've been demoted, I've been acquired, I have been the acquirer. I look at all of this and say, 'You know what? This is what happens.' I've gone through tough times and good times, and neither lasts. You just have to try to keep a sense of humor and resilience."

So You Want to Be a French Professor...

Charlotte says she and her husband, Leif, enjoy life. In particular, they are avid opera fans. They met on a blind date to see The Marriage of Figaro at the Met, and they married in 1998.
Sibley was born in Natick, MA, 15 miles outside of Boston. She was the first in her family to go to college, attending Middlebury, a small liberal arts school in Vermont, where she majored in Romance languages and music. In the summer, she worked as a waitress to make money. But come school time, she doubled and tripled up on course load so she could graduate early, working toward what she thought would be an academic life as a French professor.

That plan changed when recruiters from the US Trust Company came to Middlebury hunting for summer interns to staff the international division in New York. Sibley says she didn't know the difference between a stock and a bond, but she majored in French and German, and that made her "international enough" to get an interview. Besides, a stint in the Big Apple would allow her to spend time with her fiancé there. By the end of her second interview in New York, she no longer had a fiancé—but she did have a job, and she became US Trust's first female intern.

It was 1967, and a bull market on Wall Street. Business was great, and New York had it all. By the time Sibley returned to Middlebury that fall, she had changed her mind: She was going to business school. She attended the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, making connections and learning about the value of teamwork. But when it came time to graduate, she didn't take a job at an accounting or consulting firm, like most of her classmates. Instead, she joined Pfizer as a market research analyst. "Maybe it was a sign of the times," says Sibley. "The people at school said, 'Fizzer? What is that, an agricultural company?' They didn't understand. The joke was that I worked on 42nd Street and pushed drugs."

At Pfizer, Sibley learned the fundamentals of data collection and management. She was also exposed to the bureaucracy of corporate life. "You think American business is the most efficient," says Sibley. "Then you see the reality, which is that it's not as efficient as what you were taught from books. And you have to make things work in the real world with the constraints of never having enough time or money."

If Pfizer was Sibley's introduction to pharma marketing research, then her next job as a drug securities analyst for Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette taught her the basics of sound company management. "I had to step back, look at the industry, and determine what made a successful company," says Sibley. "Thirty years later, it's still the same things: good pipeline, financial controls, and visionary management."


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