Editor’s note: This story is part of our 2022 PharmaVoice 100 feature.
Throughout her career, colleagues say there is no communications or marketing challenge that Jennifer Gottlieb couldn’t overcome nor problem she couldn’t solve. As global president and chief client officer of Real Chemistry, Gottlieb has been with the company since its early days when she joined founder Jim Weiss to help lead Weisscomm Partners. Since then, the healthcare communications and marketing agency has experienced tremendous growth and two rebrandings — W2O and now Real Chemistry.
Throughout 2019 to 2021, Gottlieb was instrumental in helping guide the company through “a very complex phase when it took on a new private equity sponsor and acquired nine companies all while remote and fighting the global pandemic hand-in-hand with clients,” one of her nominators says.
Gottlieb’s “commercial acumen” ensures business decisions are well researched and examined.
“Once a decision is made, she executes with excellence, instinctually understanding whether to lead from the front, the center or from behind. Because of her deep relationships with clients, she is probably one of the most well-connected people in the healthcare ecosystem and is generous in leveraging those connections for the benefit of others,” a nominator says.
Gottlieb’s business acumen is equally matched by her people management skills, particularly her commitment to addressing gender parity within the agency and throughout the industry.
“I have personally seen Gottlieb’s leadership and character shine through in her commitment to her people — and especially the women of Real Chemistry,” one of her nominators says. “Since the pandemic, [Gottlieb] has spearheaded multiple efforts within Real Chemistry to support women in the workplace, at home and in their careers. She serves as the executive sponsor for the company’s ACE program — a leadership and career development program focused on building the next generation of women executives. She also launched Real Chemistry’s Lean In Circles, the signature program started by Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook, with whom [Gottlieb] developed a relationship, which is now in its second year and has connected over 200 women across level, function and geography to learn, share and grow together. I’ve worked with Gottlieb to share Real Chemistry’s success story of women-focused efforts to the broader healthcare industry at events like the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association Annual Summit, to encourage other leaders to take similar action for their women.”
A long-time proponent of diversity, equity and inclusion, Gottlieb lends her talents to the industry beyond Real Chemistry “ensuring the company has the lens it needs to always be inclusive.” A nominator says Gottlieb lends “her voice and considerable resources to appropriate causes. For example, she is on the board of the Ad Council, an organization dedicated to driving social change. During the pandemic, she led a team for the Ad Council’s Vaccine Education Initiative — the most significant public education effort in U.S. history — that increased COVID-19 vaccine confidence among healthcare professionals.”
Colleagues note that Gottlieb is the “brightest source of positivity in whatever room she’s in. This is why, time and again, she has been able to bring people together like no one else. She is so successful as a people and business leader because she leads with humility and ensures everyone has not just a seat at the table — but a voice — when it comes to making important decisions. What I believe is even more impressive, is how she pays it forward, mentors others and pulls them up the ladder with her.”
“Consumerization, personalization and digitization are the trends that are driving what will be a new and better healthcare experience for all.”
Global president, chief client officer, Real Chemistry
Here, Gottlieb shares the biggest lessons learned during COVID, her leadership style and how she’s paying her success forward.
PharmaVoice: What new leadership skill did you hone over the past two years that you will continue to bring forward?
Jennifer Gottlieb: Flexibility. The past two years have redefined and demanded this skill of all of us like never before. From how we live and manage our personal lives, to how we work with our people and clients, adapting our lives to be more flexible has become a necessity. It’s taught us how to be there for each other, with true teamwork, picking up the slack for each other when ‘life happens.’ In many ways it has brought our people and our clients closer together.
As a leadership skill, flexibility has meant much more to me than just adapting to this virtual working ‘new-normal.’ As someone who was always in the office, I have had to adapt to our new hybrid work environment and make it work for our people. It has been a journey and we are still figuring it all out together, but I am invigorated and excited to see how we can make it the best it can be.
What’s the most meaningful item on your desk, and why?
Since the pandemic, the most meaningful item on my desk is my laptop camera. For two years it was the ‘window to the world’ for all of us. It kept us connected and productive when we otherwise couldn’t be — whether to meet with colleagues and clients or to catch up with family and friends. It even helped us get to know each other in surprisingly intimate ways — giving us a peek into each other’s lives, homes, bookshelves, families and even our furry friends. That little camera is also changing the future of the workplace. The very meaning of ‘the office’ has changed, and in many ways that camera is the doorway into our ‘new office.’ To me, it represents more than just a tool for Zoom meetings. It’s the experiences we now can be a part of virtually — collaboration, learning, connecting with colleagues and clients around the world face-to-face in mere minutes — that shows the real impact this device has had on our world.
What initially drew you to the life-sciences industry?
Healthcare has always been my passion, and I’m incredibly proud to be in the life sciences industry. I’m a total science geek and love solving problems. If I wasn’t in my current position driving patient education and science communications, I would have dedicated my career to being a bench scientist, on the front lines of solving the unsolvable and finding solutions for major public health challenges. Working in life sciences has given me purpose and meaning. And in my 30-year career, I’ve never been prouder to work in this industry as I’ve been over the past few years. This industry stepped up to the plate, saved millions of lives and proved to the world why we do what we do.
What is your blue ocean?
Leveraging advanced data — AI and ML, in particular — that allows us to deliver more precise actionable insights to drive breakthrough strategies and ideas. We are seeing this across many disease areas, but nowhere more impactful than when we can use real world data and AI to uncover misdiagnosed or undiagnosed patients suffering from rare diseases and shorten their time to diagnosis and care. This amazing combination of capabilities allows us to help our clients educate, empower and inspire patients and their HCPs to drive the best healthcare experience and care they can receive.
We are finally seeing a data-driven healthcare ecosystem, with the digital connectivity we expect from every other industry, including the coming of age of telemedicine, virtual MSLs, and many other innovations that are on the horizon. This is not only impacting how we communicate and market healthcare brands, it is changing the very nature of how healthcare is delivered. The pandemic accelerated the digitization of healthcare tenfold, and I am so excited to be part of where we are headed — it’s game changing.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I have always led with courage and empathy. I communicate early and often, and I take the advice I’ve received from mentors, clients and colleagues, and pay it forward to the next generation of leaders across our organization. My biggest focus in leading my teams is to help them push the boundaries of what is possible for ourselves, our clients and the greater healthcare industry. Our industry is changing faster than ever before and there is so much opportunity to improve the patient experience and health outcomes to make the world a healthier place. And while I encourage our people to be courageous and ‘take the hill,’ I also believe in no people left behind. Empathy is a critical leadership trait and it’s important to me to treat people like people. This has proven to be a critical element in building the strongest, most loyal, most resilient and most innovative teams who deliver the best work time and time again.
How are you paying your success forward?
Mentorship and coaching are both very important to me as an executive. I regularly mentor others and lead group coaching sessions. I have also been a fierce advocate for women in leadership and in educating all of our teams, men and women, about the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion for all.
One of my favorite mentoring opportunities is each year when our summer interns arrive. These people are the future generations of our industry, and I enjoy the chance to teach them about the business of our business but also about the soft skills — how to show up in a meeting, how to be accountable to each other, how to fail fast and learn, how we all are in service to the client — all insights I wish I knew at that stage of my career. My No. 1 objective is to make sure that all my learnings and experiences, successes and failures can help guide others. I have built up rich experience in pharma, healthcare, communications, marketing and business in general, and I want to always make sure I can pay these experiences and lessons forward for the people I lead.