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Planning Ahead with Korn Ferry's Dr. Paul Pospisil


Korn Ferry's Dr. Paul Pospisil talks to HBSHAA's Michael Wong about why biopharma employees should be excited about the industry's prospects.

In this installment of the Harvard Business School Healthcare Alumni Association (HBSHAA) Q&A series, providing executive insights for readers to shape their own career paths, Dr. Paul Pospisil speaks to HBSHAA co-president Michael Wong about why biopharma employees should be excited about the industry's prospects and offers recommendations for those with aspirations for a career in healthcare.     Michael Wong: At the 2019 HBSHAA annual conference,1 one cited challenge was pharma’s continued poor reputation among stakeholders. When even the federal government is ranked higher on Gallup’s annual poll,2 should my pharma friends continue to work in this industry?  

Dr. Paul Pospisil

Paul Pospisil: Absolutely! Current employees and prospective newcomers to the industry should be excited about the prospects of biopharma for two key reasons. First, from my perspective, few other sectors provide as much opportunity to have an impact and improve quality of life for so many patients and their loved ones. For instance, Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is one of the leading causes of preventable death globally, with nearly 400,000 deaths each year attributable to HCV-related liver disease. A few years ago, there were no therapies to treat patients; today the disease is curable with drug therapy. Several biopharma companies producing HCV drugs are creatively collaborating with governments and non-profits to help get these life-saving products to a broader set of patients.   Second, healthcare and biopharma will both grow and evolve. Companies will need to be more innovative and nimble in serving patients, including an increasing global aging population and those with unmet medical needs such as Alzheimer’s, more efficiently and cost effectively. Being able to solve complex business problems and harness the value of data and analytics are skills that will provide exciting, fulfilling career opportunities.   During my decade with Korn Ferry, I’ve already seen an uptake in client demand for biopharma leaders who are entrepreneurial, can articulate a vision, and have the ability to integrate the perspectives of patients, providers, payors and investors.     MW: With Fortune's top three “Most Admired” firms (2019's report identified Apple, Amazon, and Berkshire Hathaway) placing big bets in healthcare and emerging technologies (Machine Learning and Robotic Process Automation to name a few), should my pharma friends join these firms instead, since they could still remain in this sector and work for employers which have better brand reputations…at least according to this well-established survey?    PP: While a successful engagement between any given company and prospective employee is complex and challenging to generalize about, here are three recommendations to consider with respect to career aspirations in healthcare: First, join an employer who truly invests in people and innovation-not only in terms of employee training and development but also in terms of a culture that supports the conversion of new ideas to revenue-generating businesses.   Next, do your research and think hard about how the sector is evolving: How will innovation play a role in understanding the patient journey? Which patients will benefit most from a targeted therapy? How will you get that therapy to patients most efficiently? How will the therapy get paid for? Given these future developments, what combination of skills do you need to develop or acquire in order to contribute real value?   Finally, develop a personal communications strategy to amplify your capabilities. Even if you already possess an impressive combination of customer focus, industry knowledge, and business, innovation and tech skills, do employers know that? With Korn Ferry’s research showing that 84% of executives believe their organizations do not have the skills and capabilities to deliver on their digital ambitions,3 it’s up to you to appropriately but assertively inform others of your unique value proposition. Keeping these considerations in mind will help guarantee that your career growth is smooth and successful.   Paul Pospisil has a Ph.D. from Harvard University and significant sector experience in strategy, business development and investing. He is currently a Senior Client Partner with Korn Ferry’s Global Life Sciences Market. He is also an active member of the American Chemical Society and on the Board of Directors of the Société de Chimie Industrielle and the Mark Foundation for Cancer Research.   Michael Wong is co-President of the Harvard Business School Healthcare Alumni Association.  


1. http://www.hbshealthalumni.org/s/1738/cc/index2.aspx?sid=1738&gid=11&pgid=57576

2. “The pharmaceutical industry is now the most poorly regarded industry in Americans' eyes, ranking last on a list of 25 industries that Gallup tests annually”, McCarthy, Justin, Big Pharma Sinks to the Bottom of U.S. Industry Rankings, Sept 3, 2019, https://news.gallup.com/poll/266060/big-pharma-sinks-bottom-industry-rankings.aspx

3. https://www.kornferry.com/challenges/digital-transformation

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