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Talent That Takes You into the Future

Pharmaceutical ExecutivePharmaceutical Executive-06-01-2017
Volume 37
Issue 6

There's no shortage of talent, expertise and passion in the biopharma industry. It's time for that talent to shine.

What do you want to be when you grow up? That’s a question we’ve all heard at some point in our lives, usually when we are in grade school (though for some of us, we may still be wondering). When I asked my sons when they were grade-schoolers that question, the choice was fireman or dog walker. Now in high school, it’s much more nuanced, but neither has said “CEO” or definitely not say Chief Digital Officer or

Lisa Henderson

Chief External Innovation Officer. But these are the roles noted in our Pharma 50 article from consultants at Russell Reynolds as up-and-coming in the pharma C-suite. In fact, there has been much talk about what future pharmaceutical executives face, and the skills they will need, in regard to industry disruption.

Recently, Senior Editor Michelle Maskaly attended the FT US Healthcare & Life Sciences Summit and came back with the news that future pharma leaders may not only not be from pharma, but will have learned how to fail. If you can’t explain how you learned from failure, then you won’t be able to address the complexities of the pharma company of the future.

We are currently in the process of accepting nominations for our annual Emerging Pharma Leaders feature, which highlights those up-and-coming individuals that show promise in taking pharma to the next level. What are the qualities that will make them the leaders of tomorrow? We encourage you to submit your nominations online by the end of June. 

This month also marks the annual meeting of the Drug Information Association, where industry professionals network, engage and collaborate with their colleagues. We recently spoke with Barbara Lopez Kunz, Chief Global Officer of DIA, about the current challenges in our industry. She said, “This is a time of enormous dynamism in the healthcare space. And many of the stakeholder communities have been working hard to optimize within their particular part of the ecosystem. But what we find, is that the opportunities to really make step changes sit at the system level. And that’s where DIA plays an really important role. We need to make sure that we address the right problems and think about what people we need to bring forward to make sure we get the regulators integrated with innovators and increasingly, the payers and HTAs, and, of course, the patients have a very strong voice in healthcare product development. We capture the insights that come from these discussions and turn them into action plans, which can be taken up by industry leadership and policymakers and others across the community.”

Terese Waldron, Director, Executive MBA Programs, for Saint Joseph’s University, and Pharm Exec Editorial Advisory Board member, noted some interesting trends in its 2017 Pharmaceutical & Healthcare Marketing MBA graduating class. 

“This year, we noticed that many of the titles include ‘leads;’ so while they have the skills, workload and responsibility of an executive, their titles don’t necessarily reflect that,” said Waldron. She believes that is because companies are more compressed than ever and the “executive” roles are fewer. “This, of course, leads to increased competition to advance in one’s career,” noted Waldron.

In addition, also potentially based on the shrinking employee base, many of the graduates are wearing multiple hats. “We see that they are definitely taking on more duties that cover multiple roles,” said Waldron. 

“In the next two to three years, the pharmaceutical industry is going to become even more dynamic,” she explained. “Of course, I’m a big believer in graduate education. SJU’s Pharmaceutical & Healthcare Marketing MBA helps high potentials to acquire the skills and strategic strengths necessary to tackle the issues that are coming quickly to the industry. Pharma companies need that strength. I encourage our corporate clients to continuously build their talent. Companies need to invest in their talent now, and not just at the executive level. The middle-managers, directors and leads may be the pivotal employees that need to be leveraged for the future.”

Based on a third-party study of SJU’s graduating class, nearly 70% have further developed the skills that have already translated into career advancement; compared to 50% averages at nationwide levels. “I look at my Pharmaceutical & Healthcare Marketing MBA graduates, and I know they have the confidence and knowledge to go forward and grow their companies,” Waldron concluded.

Whether or not members of this year’s MBA graduating class ever imagined themselves to be the next Chief Transformation Executive, or the next Emerging Pharma Leader or the next thought-leader speaker at DIA, there is one thing for sure, there is no lack of talent, expertise and passion in this industry. It is time for the talent to go forth and conquer. 


Lisa Henderson is Editor-in-Chief of Pharm Exec. She can be reached at lisa.henderson@ubm.com. Follow Lisa on Twitter: @trialsonline

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