COVID-19 has necessitated enormous shifts in the way we live, work, and communicate with each other. Nowhere is this more apparent professionally than for those starting a new job. Here, we highlight four recent appointees to new roles in pharma companies across Europe and the USA and how they have dealt with onboarding during a pandemic
Sabine Bruckner, Country Manager, Pfizer Switzerland
“COVID-19 has had a major impact, particularly on the implementation of my very well prepared 90 days plan! My priorities shifted from day one. The responsibility of ensuring the safety and wellbeing of my colleagues weighed heavily on my mind and that very quickly became priority number one. It was so important to remain fully operational all the time delivering our products – fulfilling our purpose of serving patients.
There are challenges and opportunities in every situation and, while there is no doubt that COVID-19 is challenging for all of us, it also creates a lot of learning opportunities.
“Our teams did an amazing job of ensuring the continuity of the business while our offices shut down at the same time. The burden on healthcare workers was more intense than ever, so some colleagues with medical backgrounds volunteered to step in to take on frontline medical work, with others supporting by covering their tasks in the organisation.
“I am privileged to be surrounded by supportive colleagues, many of whom put forward completely new and innovative ideas on how to work together, not just within our organization but also with customers. It was great to see how successfully we were using digital tools to stay connected.
“We learnt a lot during the pandemic situation, and I did my best to facilitate new ways of working that fit with every colleague’s individual situation. Our global leadership team has been very responsive to feedback from the markets on what was working well and mindful of country specifics.
“There are challenges and opportunities in every situation and, while there is no doubt that COVID-19 is challenging for all of us, it also creates a lot of learning opportunities. For example, in August we held a fully virtual conference, involving all our 200+ Swiss employees, which worked really well.”
Kristel de Bisschop, General Manager, Pierre Fabre Benelux
“Implementing a new organisational focus in line with the transformation plan would be a major challenge for any new GM but doing so remotely and without face-to-face contact made it especially challenging!
Our way of working had to be adjusted very quickly and thoroughly
“At the outset of the COVID-19 outbreak, our first concern was for our employees as in the field they have daily contact with healthcare professionals and therefore enter high-risk zones. We had to switch to working from home and had to make some of our staff unemployed for a few weeks. However, they showed great understanding and resilience and were quickly able to start working again remotely.
“This meant that our way of working had to be adjusted very quickly and thoroughly. For our marketing department, this meant developing tools adapted for remote visits with healthcare practitioners (HCPs). The challenge was how to maintain a dynamic dialogue remotely, which we were thankfully able to overcome.
“In the oncology department, our medical science liaisons (MSLs) have worked hard to keep in touch with oncologists and provide any information necessary regarding treatments against the backdrop of COVID situation in terms of drug-drug interactions etc. Additionally, our key account managers made themselves available to hospital pharmacists to guarantee the supply of BRAFTOVI and MEKTOVI, our new combined treatment for melanoma. We cannot afford for a patient to not have access to their treatment; therefore, it was crucial to maintain our deliveries.”
Philipp Maerz, Head of Northern Cluster & GM Norway, Merck
“Visiting the countries [under my remit] and our teams there is a must at some point. I strongly believe that if you want to drive a market and develop it, you need to be there for some time and meet the people, not only employees but the healthcare practitioners (HCPs), patients, and patient organisations as well.
I strongly believe that if you want to drive a market and develop it, you need to be there for some time and meet the people, not only employees but the healthcare practitioners (HCPs), patients, and patient organisations as well
“This is something I have always done, for example when building Allergopharma’s business in India, and cannot be done remotely from a desk. Once the situation improves, I will definitely be visiting these markets.
“We are instead in close and frequent communication using digital tools. I find that this works very well. For example, we are having workshops with our ‘Northern leadership’ team which is all the country managers of the region, as well as the heads of finance, HR and medical to interact and align on areas of focus and priorities for the cluster.”
Gary Zieziula, President & Region Head North America, Kyowa Kirin
“I have a lot of energy and optimism about the future for Kyowa Kirin. Across research, development, and commercialization, our team is focused on advancing innovations that can address unmet needs, and we expect to see huge growth despite the ongoing global pandemic.
The pandemic makes the current operating environment complicated. You know, I have not even been to our Princeton, New Jersey office in my capacity as president!
“The pandemic makes the current operating environment complicated. You know, I have not even been to our Princeton, New Jersey office in my capacity as president! My job right now is first and foremost to keep everyone safe, but also to ensure that our business continues doing the right thing for patients and pursuing the opportunities we see for growth.
“I want to build on our success and make Kyowa Kirin more well-known in the US as a Japan-based, global pharma with a focus on specialty care.”