Pharma Faces: Shirley Xu, Baxter China


The pharma industry tends to see a lot of personnel movement, particularly at management levels, but since the Chinese market started heating up a few years ago, the labour market has been left playing catch-up. As the Chinese government looks to streamline its regulatory approval processes, MNCs plan to expand their commercial operations in China, and local pharma and biotech companies seek to build innovative pipelines, the competition for experienced and skilled industry executives is cutthroat. Already, we have seen an exodus of seasoned MNC execs jump ship to up-and-coming biotechs.


Our slogan – saving and sustaining lives – really resonates with me. Being able to grow with an organization over a long period is a beautiful opportunity

Shirley Xu

This makes the story of Shirley Xu, region head for Baxter Greater China, even more remarkable: Xu has been with Baxter China for over 26 years. She reminisces, “My childhood dream was to work in healthcare. Baxter is truly a great company, offering not only pharmaceuticals but also medical devices and services. Our slogan – saving and sustaining lives – really resonates with me. Being able to grow with an organization over a long period is a beautiful opportunity. I have seen how the organization has been built from scratch.”


Another reason for her long tenure with Baxter is the positive work environment. She reveals, “Baxter strongly supports women leaders, offering a very inclusive and balanced working environment. This is reflected in the gender parity on our Greater China leadership team.” As for how she manages the intense talent competition, she explains, “as leaders, we must prepare for the present and also anticipate the future. We must formulate solid talent development, pipeline as well as succession plans. We need good managers.”


In terms of organizational culture, she adds, “we participate in Aon Hewitt’s ‘Best Place to Work’ survey every year, and we have been recognized as one of the top employers for the past three years. We recently participated in another renowned survey, the ‘Great Place to Work’ survey, and we have been recognized there as well.” She also works closely with the HR department to promote the right kind of work environment, sharing, “we have many initiatives to develop and support our employees, such as our core +Me program, which encourages individuals to volunteer for additional responsibilities outside their usual work scope, for instance, in CSR or digital; programs that allow people to try different verticals if they are interested to explore other functions; and remote working opportunities.”


However, Xu knows her story is unique. She concludes, “for me overall, Baxter has truly been a fantastic company to work for. But that is my own journey. Each individual’s journey is their own. Talented people have many choices. What is important is that we feel that our job reflects our passion, it energizes us, it gives us new learnings, we feel that we are making meaningful contributions, and we are rewarded and recognized for our efforts. At Baxter, we try to foster that kind of positive growth environment for our employees.”


Read the full interview with Shirley Xu here

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