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Senior Vice President, Worldwide Preclinical Development, Merck
CAREER JOLT: Moved to Manufacturing
YOU DIDN'T KNOW: "I can't swim"
As the head of preclinical development, Rich Tillyer has helped lead Merck's radical redesign of its storied R&D establishment. In this overturning of tradition, his youth—and abundant British charm—have played a critical role. "I think younger leaders are much better at connecting with employees, so that folks can understand the macro decisions we make," he says. "But we also work to keep folks motivated and focused on their mission."
Like other young stars, Tillyer credits his passion in the lab for his fast rise. But in fact, his capacity to embrace change may have been the decisive factor. His biggest break came disguised as his biggest disruption. Six years in and still a self-described "immature chemist," he was yanked out of the lab and installed as support for the president of the manufacturing division. "At first I was reluctant. Here were these big executives and I was running meetings for them," he recalls. But the two-year stint provided a crash course "in what manufacturing's all about, including the marketing and regulatory aspects."
Once back in the lab, he began integrating—gasp!—cost-effectiveness.