Pharm Exec's 2013 Emerging Pharma Leaders - Pharmaceutical Executive

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Pharm Exec's 2013 Emerging Pharma Leaders

Pharmaceutical Executive


Leading Without Authority: A Contradiction that Works


Buket Grau, Senior Director of Program Leadership and Management, Biogen-Idec
Buket Grau's career in the healthcare industry has led her to many unexpected places. Trained as a scientist, she got started working in commercial roles in consumer healthcare at Procter & Gamble, then moved on to financial services, and next was a strategic management consultant to pharmaceutical companies. From there, Grau moved on to global medical technology company Stryker Corporation assuming various commercial leadership positions. Most recently—just a couple of months ago—Grau began the next leg of her journey by accepting the role of Senior Director of Program Leadership and Management at Biogen Idec, working on the company's multiple sclerosis asset, Tysabri (natalizumab). In this role, Grau provides leadership within the cross-functional program team, drives a high-value program strategy to enable continued growth over the next 10 years and serves as the global business lead for multiple external partnerships. As to why working in the healthcare sector is important and fulfilling for Grau, she says, "I've been fascinated by the challenges the industry is facing—my mindset is: challenges are new possibilities for positive change. The healthcare industry is constantly going through various changes and challenges, and I would like to be part of that and have an impact."

Making a difference is something that's important to Grau outside her professional life as well. Volunteering and nonprofit work have always been a huge part of Grau's life, ever since high school. She's been an advisor to and an active participant in many global nonprofit organizations, and is currently heavily involved with the Healthcare Businesswomen's Association, a volunteer membership organization that focuses on building career development and leadership skills for professional women in the healthcare space. Grau was the 2012 HBA President and has been volunteering with the organization for the past nine years.

In the past 20 years of Grau's professional life, she has come to realize the importance of mentors. And while some professionals might count themselves lucky to have one or two great mentors throughout the course of their career, that's not enough for Grau. "All my life, I've always built a group of mentors," she explains. "I have mentors from HBA, mentors from my previous companies, and mentors from my family. I believe in leveraging different perspectives when making a decision and that people from different professional and cultural backgrounds can offer unique insights. It's akin to having a personal advisory board." The biggest skill she has picked up on from her personal panel of mentors, she says, is listening. "Listening is such an important skill that helps you uncover the real opportunities. Being actively engaged and understanding the evolving needs and interests of diverse stakeholders, especially our customers, is critical."

In addition to listening, another leadership skill Grau sees as crucial to the healthcare industry is risk-taking. "After actively listening and evaluating all the options, it's imperative to move forward in making decisions and taking actions, even with imperfect information or facing risks" she says. "Thinking strategically and critically is important, but then turning that into meaningful action that will have an impact is the ultimate goal—it's the realization of strategy in the concrete world." Great teamwork is another success imperative for Grau—a skill she learned to value during her years as a professional volleyball player several years ago. "Volleyball is a team sport—so we enjoy success if we see that it's a collective success."

Despite her team of mentors and the valuable life lessons she's learned along the way, Grau acknowledges that the healthcare sector is facing some very real challenges. For her, one of the biggest challenges is the idea of operating efficiently in a leaner organizational model and doing more with less. One way to face this, she believes, is through stronger collaboration efforts, both within companies and across stakeholders and even sectors. The ultimate goal of this collaboration, as Grau sees it, is to create and deliver value in the best interest of the patients. "And every single person has a role in that," she says. "It's not a challenge for the manufacturer, or the payer, or the regulator—it's an opportunity for all of us in the industry." Globalization and an increase in cultural diversity is also part of the solution, says Grau. "We're all aiming for continuous healthcare innovation, and innovative ideas can emerge from anywhere in the world, from any discipline or function or background. Diversity helps you to answer the critical questions in a more informed and more rigorous way. You have a much higher chance of success when you bring all these diverse perspectives into the equation and factor them into the decision making. I always trust that the best ideas will emerge, if all the ideas have a chance to be heard and to compete with and to cross-fertilize one another."

—Jennifer Ringler


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