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Head of Northern and Central Europe, Oncology, Novartis
IN HER JURISDICTION: 27 countries, 400 employees, travels half the time ... and still average seven hours of sleep a night
You're a nice chemistry PhD, but you don't know the business,'" Susanne Schaffert was told when she joined Novartis in 1997—and was promptly sent into the field. "It was tough, but a great learning experience." Being pushed out of her comfort zone is something the 41-year-old Germany native welcomes because it challenges her to be creative and adaptable.
An "aha!" moment struck when she was global brand manager in Basel. "I understood how headquarters has to think about the big picture," she says. "From there, it went very fast." Now she leads an $800 million regional oncology franchise. But Schaffert isn't much impressed by big numbers. "I select carefully where I want to be, and don't look too much at how high I am in the hierarchy," she says. Oncology may be the most complex, competitive category, but for Schaffert it's also about "what topics I want to address, what challenges I'm looking for, what I enjoy." The fact that half of the members of the executive board of Novartis Oncology are women was a spur to achievement. "That encouraged me to go further, to take risks," she says.