I had worked in commercial roles in the pharmaceutical industry for nearly 20 years. My most recent post was with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in London, where I spent a lot of time doing research behind the sales process. I engaged in exploration of patient behaviours, measuring what they did and did not know about specific diseases or medical conditions, etc. I was part of a customer experience (CX) team that explored patients‘ treatment journeys: from diagnosis to treatment on to how patients handle the emotional and rational aspects of treating their
In early 2014 I learned that my position at GSK would be cancelled based on an internal decision to downsize some operations. However, I didn’t take this news in a negative way. I had just under a year to plan a transition and was certain that I would find a suitable job from among multiple internal roles that GSK had open at the time. Ultimately though, after submitting several applications, the right job match just wasn’t there.
So I took this opportunity to do some thinking and deep reflection on what I wanted to do during the next 20-25 years of my life. Did I want to be self-employed or go the consultant route? Did I want to stay in pharma or move to another industry? Essentially, I used this moment to carry out a detailed self-evaluation of my professional skills and experiences.
Everyone approaches analytical and developmental processes differently. I tend to engage in brain-storming-type assessments. So, once I understood that I would have to look for a new position outside GSK, I went to work making mind maps. I outlined all my skills and experience; focusing particularly on what type of jobs or roles I might find where I could make a true difference for customers and the given organization. With support from my family, I took a month to specify and define that direction of my job inquiry, i.e. what I really wanted to do in the next phase of my professional life. I also took advantage of outplacement support programs arranged by GSK and enrolled in one of their coaching programs. This included one-hour sessions with a professional coach every 3-4- weeks, which gave me important insight into how recruitment processes currently work, how to edit and improve my CV, how to write effective letters to HR departments and how to conduct impactful job interviews. The GSK-arranged support programs also provided other invaluable input that later helped in my job search: lessons in reputation management, using LinkedIn as part of the search process, etc. During the 9-month period for the redundancy package provided by GSK, I even had options to work with counsellors on analysing the pros and cons of corporate vs. self-employment.
For me, the entire transition process lasted 7 months. However, these were seven months full of intense work and development of my personal job search tools. During that time, I sent out 35 applications for positions, where I thought I was a suitable candidate (i.e. roles in commercial sales, medical positions or CX-facing functions). I was strongly interested in jobs, where I could add value and make a real difference. Ultimately, I only interviewed for 5 jobs and got offers for 3 positions; and I used this process – specifically following up on rejections to job applications – to collect insight from various companies. I wanted to learn why my application was passed over or did not move forward. This helped me improve my approach to companies in subsequent applications.
In April 2014, I was contacted by the UK offices of the pharma company, Teva. This was the start of an interesting, professionally-executed interview process that ran for roughly two months, and during which I learned that the roles we envision for ourselves can sometimes be different from those where we can truly succeed. For example, I applied for a role in the UK, but Teva recruiters told me they had a role for me in Amsterdam. Yet ultimately, I didn’t end up in that second role, but rather a third (new) position in their Amsterdam offices. The role was my dream job: one where I got to work in a patient support program, while using my skills in behavioural and economic analysis.
Now I am in a situation where I commute between London and Amsterdam, since my family remained in the UK (due to my wife’s career and our having children still in school). I have been lucky that my family is so open and flexible as regards my career change. Also, I work with a very supportive line manager in my new job, which has helped me better deal with spending time between two cities. Needless to say, the reality of commutes is much different from what it seems to be on paper or how we tend to initially imagine it. Yet, I now have my dream job and I wouldn’t change that for anything in the world.
Improve your self-awareness: the transition period allowed me to think not only about what I wanted to achieve in my future professional life, but also about what was/is my maximum future value for employers. I did my best to set up a professional structure for managing the entire application process: noting which companies had received my CV and reassessing where it made sense to follow-up and push for an interview, etc.
Bring clarity to your professional experience: one drawback that surprised me during the search process was the breadth of my personal experience. When asking for feedback from different HR departments and recruiters, they told me they found my professional experience in multiple fields confusing. They asked why I hadn’t chosen to focus on a specific area? Why had I seemingly dabbled in a little bit of everything? This led me to re-focus my CV writing and underscore how different skills or tasks served to fit a specific mission.
Start your job search early in redundancy situations: one lesson that became evident to me quickly in my search process was that I should have begun looking at external positions sooner. In some cases, there are options for internal transitions with your current employer, but this should not be taken as a given.
Understand job search as a learning process: for me personally, doing research and reading books on professional development and even industry trends were critical parts of my transition. I committed myself to not just researching what roles were available, but also to investigating the day-to-day tasks and skills needed for specific positions. At this point in my career, I didn’t want just a job, but a great job! Additionally, I read a number of books on the importance of timing in the job search process.
Learn how to speak impactfully: since many interviews are conducted over the phone or on Skype, I found it very valuable to have consultations with a speech expert. She provided me with great tips on how to speak clearly and with confidence, which words to use, which words to avoid and how to sound authentic. I found this really important for making the right impression over the phone or on Skype.
We are delighted to announce the hire of Dr Eva Wuellner, Regional Practice Group Leader, MEA - Family Businesses and Technology “Based in Dubai, Eva will support our clients in both Executive Search assignments and Human Capital Services projects (Leadership Development, Assessment Centres, HR organization…). Having worked in multinational enterprises and family groups (Unilever, Amazon, FANUC, Lindab, Wadi Group), Eva has gained a broad cultural and professional expertise while working in Germany, Luxembourg, Russia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Egypt and Kuwait. Along her career, Eva grew her expertise in Talent, Change and Performance Management and Recruitment/Talent Acquisition. Eva holds a Master degree in Economics from the University of Passau, Germany, and an MBA General Management from the European University of Economics and Management in Luxembourg. She earned a Doctorate of Business Administration from Surrey Business School, UK, with the doctoral thesis titled “Talent Management in Luxembourg”. Eva is a fellow of the University Forum of Human Resource Development (UFHRD) and the European Institute for Advanced Studies in Management (EIASM). Eva speaks German, English, French, Italian, Spanish, Arabic, Russian, and Portuguese.” Says Cedric d'Halluin, Partner, Emerging Markets - Middle East, Africa, Russia, Turkey. “I am thrilled to join a multi-cultural team of Executive Searchers and HR professionals in a company that is grounded on high ethical values and family spirit with a strong customer-centric approach.” Says Dr Eva Wuellner, Regional Practice Group Leader, MEA - Family Businesses and Technology.
Xenia Becker and Cedric d'Halluin of SpenglerFox collaborate with GoINPHARMA to discuss compliance and globalization changing approach to leadership search in pharma and healthcare. Executive search and recruiting have changed rapidly over the past decade. Most of these changes stem from a deep restructuring of client needs. Whereas, some 10 years ago, businesses were asking executive search firms to fill top leadership and sales management roles, clients, in the past half-decade, started asking for placements in the fields of Market Access or Medical Affairs. The way larger pharma companies approached their business had changed. Many went from a commercial sales view of doing business to adopting a more scientific approach to bringing goods and services to market. Demand for leadership with deeper technical know-how grew. In emerging markets, the situation is not that different. Compliance issues have had a big impact on how corporate HR picks new leadership hires. The expat vs. local approach to hiring has come full circle. Initially, expats were brought in to emerging market countries to mentor and help with transition and economic restructuring, then local talent hires gradually replaced them. However, during the last five years or so, the environment in many emerging markets (i.e. Brazil, Russia and Turkey) has changed. Markets have become more regulated and subsequently ways of doing business have changed. Market buzzwords no longer include “expansion”and “adding headcounts”; instead, headquarters for multinationals in these markets now speak of “compliance” and “rational growth”. Because of new regulatory demands, company leadership teams are generally more cautious and calls for expat-influenced management have once again grown: due to their more extensive experience in handling compliance-related decision-making. Management and Leadership Skills Candidate skills have always been important. However, businesses (as our clients) have gone through significant evolution and this has changed their demands. If you go back a decade, it was very likely that a German company filling an executive post abroad preferred to, and did, hire a German candidate. This is no longer the case. Also, mobility is an increasingly important factor. More businesses seek people for leadership roles who are willing to relocate. This fact breaks with previous industry standards where business executives and upper-level managers focused primarily on career development. They took on a position expecting to advance within that specific worksite (geography). Today, however, markets like Germany are opening up to foreign talent: businesses are putting knowledge and skills at the top of their recruitment qualification wish lists. Key Skills in Demand Soft skills have grown in importance. This is particularly true for the pharma industry, and this stems from the fact that regulatory norms have changed a lot over the past twenty years. Previously, sales teams (and their leadership) had much more freedom in their approach to business. However, this has all been halted by regulations that look to curb potential corruption. This means that companies have had to look for new ways to build relationships with healthcare professionals. Businesses need leaders that keep an eye on compliance and work within the letter of the law and focus on sales team monitoring. Alongside that, pharma businesses now also place greater importance on executives’ ability to manage multicultural teams and to work within so-called matrix organizations. This means leading and providing guidance not only for local business units, but also therapeutic divisions, which can be a challenge. A further critical skill is executives’ ability to optimize production processes. Business leaders now look more at efficiency alongside improved production. This has been the case for the past few years: businesses are looking to minimize waste and focusing on lean management tools. The Great Recession did much to push this trend. Prior to the economic slowdown, there had not been such a big need to focus on efficiency. Now, this has all changed. Clients have excellence centers for lean management in pharma production. This, in turn, has changed pharma companies’ approach to talent sourcing. Previously, businesses had been more conservative, i.e. they hired talent with pharma backgrounds for pharma roles. Yet in recent years, they have switched up their search approach in the quest for efficiency. Now, it is common that a pharma company will look, for example, to the automotive sector to find the efficient leaders it needs. In emerging markets, retention and development of executive talent is just as important as the search process. Businesses increasingly focus on leadership development and use of assessment centers. Executive HR teams have moved from mass recruitment of new employees to intense development of existing teams; businesses are moving away from operational approaches and focusing more on strategy. They put more effort into strengthening the teams they have in place, rather than running external searches. One could say that companies have moved from an expansionist view of doing business to a strategist one. Impact of Technologies and External Influences Businesses increasingly talk of pushing forward with technological advancement; for example, as part of phenomena like Industry 4.0. However, the key ask organizations now have for their leadership at present is greater creativity. Businesses want their executives to be more flexible. You also see a greater push for a bottom-up approach to leadership versus traditional top-down models. Company leadership increasingly feels that customer-facing team members have a more direct relationship to the consumer: they have direct feedback on what the market wants. A specific reality impacting emerging markets involves local manufacturing. This is the case in Brazil, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Turkey. Governments now have requirements that businesses invest in local manufacturing in order to get approval for price reimbursement for medicines and medical devices. Essentially, companies must localize production or they get booted from the market. This creates a further dilemma for multinationals as the talent for managing production is not always readily available on local markets. Overall, this is part of a broader cycle involving the expat/local/expat-hybrid recruitment cycle mentioned earlier. Some businesses have looked to bridge the expat-local talent gap by recruiting via national diasporas. They put together special packages to bring their countries’ expats back to their home markets. This has been a preferred recruitment strategy for emerging markets in recent years: businesses search among talent that has relevant, important cultural ties but who have also worked in different cultural environments and can offer a fresh perspective. The Future Executive Executive talent must increasingly be people-oriented. Businesses are shifting away from hierarchical leadership; these days, the focus is more on the team. This also stems from generational changes within businesses where younger leaders place greater importance on meaningful work assignments. Meeting this need has also become critical due to a lack of talent in many areas: need for retention is a key motivator. Leaders also need to focus on the needs of their teams and what younger generations now expect of work environments. For example, perks like home office have become standard. Whereas, a decade ago this was rare or unthinkable, most businesses now offer a mix of on-site (workplace) presence coupled with home office days. On-site vs. home office arrangements also place a new set of demands on executive leadership. Directors need better communication skills and they have to invest in developing trust across teams that may not be physically present on a daily basis. Executives have to check in regularly with their managers and lower-level teams and agree on reporting schemes that satisfy both sides. In emerging markets, executives increasingly expected to focus on effectiveness and efficiency. For example, you see pharma companies moving to an FMCG mindset. As the market for OTC products begins to grow more rapidly, sales demands a more aggressive approach. Pharma companies are looking for consumer-empathetic (consumer-minded) talent to drive and manage operations. Moving Forward: Take-aways As has been summarized in the text above, global economic forces are rapidly changing what businesses need from their top executive management. Our view at SpenglerFox is that clients must consider leadership placements within the framework of ever-changing business environments. Top executives will need to put together teams that can work within new regulatory structures, run flexible organizations that react quickly to new production needs, and introduce management styles that accommodate multi-generational employee teams. Investment in the development of forward-thinking and strategy-focused executive talent will ensure that your business succeeds on global markets in the coming decade. For more information please contact Xenia Becker Image credit : rawpixel
We are delighted to announce the appointment of Maciej Kotowicz, Country Manager - Poland. “It is with great pleasure that I announce our latest addition to the SpengerFox Group, Maciej Kotowicz, who will assume the role of Country Manager – Poland. Maciej will be based in Warsaw, one of our firms strategic hub locations and drive further growth in Central Europe as part of our overall business strategy.” Says Jens Friedrich, CEO of SpenglerFox Before joining SpenglerFox, Maciek spent the past 12 years as a Partner at Heidrick & Struggles in Poland. His focus has been on Executive Search and Leadership Advisory mainly within the Consumer and Industrial space in CEE. Prior to that Maciek gained substantial experience in General Management as the MD of Tate & Lyle as well as in strategic HR as the HRD of Ahold. “I am delighted to have joined SpenglerFox during this exciting chapter in the companies history and bring my experience to grow and develop the business and team in Poland as well as across wider geographies of SpenglerFox. To succeed in this industry you have to be a true expert and that is the minimum requirement of our clients, the generalist era is over” Says Maciej Kotowicz, Country Manager - Poland of SpenglerFox