A Fortuitous, Rewarding Path

Pharmaceutical Executive, Pharmaceutical Executive-05-01-2021, Volume 41, Issue 5

Early career ‘assist’ ignites calling in data and healthcare disruption.

As a pre-med major about to graduate, but not yet ready to go to medical school, Emerging Pharma Leader Teisha Robinson was given an unexpected “assist” that set her on her pharmaceutical path. “My college basketball assistant coach’s sister was working for Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, now Pfizer. So, she connected the two of us, and as I like to say, the rest is history.” Though the world of pharma is a small one, Robinson still has never come face to face with her pharma guardian angel. “I certainly thank her for the opportunity and for believing in me enough to submit my resume,” she says.

Today, Johnson & Johnson’s director of strategic accounts- emerging accounts, Robinson learned the power of networking and learning from your peers early on in her career. “One thing that’s important to know as you’re progressing your career and see people who are doing well, is that it’s okay to reach out to them and ask ‘Hey, how did you do it?’ Because people are also very willing to help if you just reach out. The reality is, we all stand on the shoulders of somebody, and if we don’t admit that, then we’re not paying homage to the people who have helped us be who we are.”

Robinson credits a plethora of colleagues and mentors for tips and lessons throughout her career. Serving as a mentor now, and having led several teams of her own, she finds the success of others just as rewarding as being personally recognized.

Robinson shares with Pharm Exec that one of her proudest moments is having hired half of a team that was awarded the 2017 Infinity Cup, even though she was recognized herself the same year as President’s Circle Winner for District Manager of the Year (as well as in 2015, when she ranked fourth out of 105). “The amazing thing about mentorship is the way it’s always evolving if we are open to the possibilities,” she says. “Since being in our Strategic Customer Group, I have had the pleasure of being mentored by Lydia Dolan, who is the head of our Institutional Business Group. She has been a trailblazer throughout her career and has provided candid insights and feedback in our conversations. My current leader, Mike Barba, is also someone who comes to mind. Mike has an incredible knowledge of the healthcare landscape from all angles and has been helping me to improve my ability to impact our business in different channels. He’s a true visionary that has helped me learn how to expand my view of the healthcare landscape in its current state, while continuing to anticipate what the future might hold.”

Being forward-thinking, agile, and flexible are elements that Robinson considers necessary for not just leaders, but any team member involved in the pharmaceutical industry. “Change is inevitable; you’re going to have to adapt and be flexible,” she says. “When I first started, you would just carry the bag with all the products, and the reality is things are so different now.”

Robinson has seen quite the change in the industry in her eventful 21-year career. Besides medicines obviously being more expensive, there’s been a huge shift from primary care to the specialty care world. With so many new entrants into healthcare, today’s increasingly data-driven world is much more prone to having healthcare disruptors that have a significant impact on the market, she believes. This trend prompted the creation of a new team at J&J, with Robinson chosen as the flagship team member to join the work of Barba, the company’s director, emerging accounts.

“We’re focused on looking at the healthcare disruptors and what else is going on there,” she says. “It’s less about how we can impact the business with them now, but more about trying to anticipate and shape the future of where we need to be going as an organizatio. At the end of the day, we also have to make sure that we’re tying this back to patients; we can never lose sight of that patient centricity, which, quite frankly, is what our industry should be all about.”

Given her passions and the trajectory of her career, will we be seeing Robinson in the C-suite sometime soon? “I’m open to whatever the future brings,” she says. “I want to shape healthcare to make it work better for patients. I thrive when I’m driving strategies that enable us to be successful doing this. I look forward to growing in roles and opportunities where I can lead colleagues in developing innovative ways to support patients.”

To read the profiles of all 2021 EPL winners, click here.

Miranda Schmalfuhs is an Assistant Editor for Pharm Exec. She can be reached at mschmalfuhs@mjhlifesciences.com.