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Upon joining Takeda Pharmaceuticals as president of the global oncology unit, Teresa Bitetti had two important goals: to transform the business and create greater synergies between commercial and R&D operations. In just three years, her vision is coalescing and leading to significant improvements for patients and the organization.
Bitetti says she and her team have done a tremendous amount of work in the last 36 months to build out the commercial operation to include greater capabilities around insights and analytics while working with R&D to identify priorities around the pipeline and maximize access to the medicines that Takeda Oncology hopes to bring to market.
With more than 15 products in the pipeline, six of which are in late-stage development, the intense planning has given Bitetti and her team many opportunities for success.
“We’ve done a lot of work in terms of building out the commercial organization — our capabilities around insights and analytics, access, commercial excellence — and then we did a lot of work with R&D in terms of planning and integrating around where our pipeline is going and how to accelerate our clinical studies,” she says. “At the end of the day, we all know the lifeblood of our industry is what comes out of the R&D organization in terms of transformative medicines. I’m very pleased to say that the connectivity now between the commercial organization and the R&D organization is very tight.”
To realize her goals, Bitetti is reaching into her bag of leadership capabilities — finance, marketing, strategic planning, authenticity and a willingness to learn — acquired over her career that has spanned Big Oil to Big Pharma.
In this episode of our Woman of the Week podcast, Bitteti shares how advice from her dad to “repot” herself led her to the C-suite, the unconventional way in which found her voice and why confidence is the most important asset.
Welcome to WoW, the Woman of the Week podcast by PharmaVoice, powered by Industry Dive.
In this episode, Taren Grom, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus at PharmaVoice, meets with Teresa Bitetti, president, global oncology business unit, Takeda Pharmaceuticals.
Taren: Teresa, welcome to the WoW podcast program.
Teresa: Awesome. Thank you for having me. I appreciate it. Looking forward to it.
Taren: It’s my pleasure. It’s been a little bit since we last connected and you were recognized as a PharmaVOICE 100 back in 2020. It feels like it was eons ago, but it’s only really two years. And you just had joined Takeda. Can you catch us up as to how you have transformed the organization because I know that was one of your goals when you joined the company.
Teresa: Yeah. You have a good memory. And actually, it is hard to believe that it has been two years, given how fast time flies, and particularly, with the COVID world coming in and out of it. The last we talked, I had been onboard I think it was almost like a little bit less than a year. And so we’ve done a lot of work between now and then in terms of building out the commercial organization, building out more of our capabilities around insights and analytics, around access, around commercial excellence, ensuring that we have some of those fundamental capabilities, and then did a lot of work with R&D in terms of planning and integrating around where our pipeline is going and how do we accelerate things, working together and ensuring also that our clinical studies and our approach will maximize the access of the medicines that we hope to bring to market. So it’s been busy.
Taren: It sounds like you’ve been busy. And I want to dig in, if you don’t mind, just a little bit. Another one of your goals was that you wanted to build a stronger integration between commercial and R&D. Can you talk to me about how that’s going? And then we’re going to talk about the pipeline.
Teresa: I mean, look, it’s true in all therapeutic areas. I think it is even more critical in oncology given the pace with which the science moves it involves that the commercial and the R&D organization be inextricably linked in terms of working together side by side. And at the end of the day, I think as we all know the lifeblood of our industry is what’s coming out of the R&D organization in terms of transformative medicines.
I’m very pleased to say that the connectivity now between the commercial organization and the R&D organization is very tight. And over the time that I’ve been here, we’ve now established a joint operating committee between the two organizations that allows us to make sure that there are a lot of things that will fall more strictly into the remit of, say, the business or R&D, but there’s a lot of items and things that happen where there’s crossover. And so we now have an appropriate forum to make sure that we’re handling those issues quickly and efficiently, and they’re getting addressed, and that there is a place for development teams to bring issues or problems so we can move things forward. And I have found that it has sort of making it more of a structured process, we’re moving faster.
It’s been great. And also on the business side, we’ve enhanced our own capabilities and talent in the organization so that we’re supporting the R&D organization in a bigger and better way.
Taren: That’s excellent. And obviously, with your title being President of Global Oncology Business Unit, you oversee that whole the business unit obviously, and that does encompass all those different functional areas. You talked about that joint forum where you can bring issues to the forefront. And obviously, you don’t want to develop drugs that are not going to be right for patients or that are not going to be applicable to patients in certain areas of oncology. How much does that marketing business side of it play into your R&D strategies?
Teresa: It’s a good question, right, because there’s one piece that you have to follow the science. That’s sort of where the innovation is coming from. But I do think that when you look at all the things that say a discovery unit can explore, I think that there’s a lot we’ve been able to do in terms of, for example, saying out of all the various tumor types, these are the ones that have the greatest need; and out of this particular tumor type, these are the areas where there’s still an incredible gap in terms of what can be done.
So if you marry that, which gives them some directional sense of where they want to look or where they want to look for partnerships – because we also have a very strong partnership model in R&D, and then you balance that with things that just come about because they have found something that makes sense, then our job is to look at and say, is that viable? Is there a market for that? Is there something we can do with that? And does it make sense to continue to develop it? What’s the competitive landscape? Are you going to even be able to have patients that need it, or are you going to be too late to market by the time you bring it?
So it’s a parallel run where you really are working together. But yeah, I think the business can have a very big say in helping to sort of morph and work with the science and where it is and where it goes.
Taren: That’s fantastic. I love to hear when those two sides work together because as you said, they’re parallel tracks, but they have to be intertwined to bring the best medicines, as you said, and following the science to market to address patient needs. Let’s talk about the oncology pipeline. And then I’m going to talk about some of that innovation that you mentioned before. So what are some of the updates around what’s happening within the oncology space for you?
Teresa: Our focus at Takeda – and it’s interesting because the science and oncology is what fascinates me how quickly it’s moving. But I mean I think as you know, there’s a lot of work being done with the immune system, and the realization that the immune system plays an awful lot in the control of errant cells, such as cancer cells.
There’s two elements of the immune system, they’re sort of what they refer to the innate immune system and the adaptive immune system. The adaptive immune system is where a lot of pharmaceuticals are paying attention to, and there’s been an enormous amount of success, I might add, in that area as well. Your PD-1 inhibitors are all around the adaptive immune system, which is when your system goes out and then recognizes that there is a problem, and then it rallies the immune system to attack.
Then there’s the innate immune system, which is it’s just sort of the troops that are constantly surveilling the body and looking for foreign invaders. That’s very simple language. We’re focused on that, on the innate immune system, and how do you bring those forces to bear in a faster, better, more efficient way.
So there’s been some very exciting compounds that we have in our pipeline that are very much focused around the innate immune system. Where I would say that we’re modality agnostic in that we have the biologics, but we also have CAR-Ts cell therapy that we’re focused on in terms of all looking at that innate immune approach.
It’s very exciting to me when I sort of look at the possibilities as I love talking to the people in R&D. It’s just so fascinating to me when you hear the possibility of what’s there, and the more we can understand it, and the better we can harness it, it’s very exciting. But that’s the focus of our pipeline here at Takeda.
Taren: And when you said modality agnostic, so cell therapy, et cetera, but are there any areas within oncology, like specific cancer types, and I’m starting to hear that cancer is becoming almost like a rare disease because being the science is so sharp right now that you can really – liver cancer can be 15 different kinds of cancer.
Teresa: Yes, yes.
Taren: Like lumping it into like, oh, it’s oncology, but it’s not, it’s very specific. So are you looking at that as well – very specific types of cancer?
Teresa: Yeah, we are. I mean, we have two drugs in our portfolio today. So I’ll just give you one example. We’ve got one that’s looking at a very, very specific subtype of a non-small cell lung cancer – Exon20. So yes, I mean, I think that as we look at these drugs and we understand the mechanism of action better, then you’re able to sort of pinpoint and design medicines to address that. And it gives you better efficacy because it’s very targeted and specific, but it also means a smaller population, and hence, the sort of nomenclature of rare disease.
And so I think that as we go forward, I see one of the big trends in oncology is much more, whether we want to call it biomarker-driven or personalized, that’s where it’s moving. And a lot of that is because the science is becoming more sophisticated and the ability to target with more precision is getting better and better. And quite frankly, when you look at that also from access to medicines, you will have payers far more willing to pay for drugs, put your drugs on formulary if there’s a higher – if there’s a better way of being able to identify those patients that will best respond. So a lot of dimensions in that there.
Taren: A lot of dimensions, and that’s really good news to hear about that formulary access piece of it. When you said personalized medicine, that was the term I was going to use. And I’ve been around this industry long enough to remember what personalized medicine first meant back in the day. And now, it feels like we’re really realizing what that promise of personalized medicine can mean for patients. So it is exciting times, and the science and the technology is moving at such a pace that I would imagine sometimes it’s hard to keep up. Your scientists and your researchers are going, and how does that mean? What does that mean when working with even regulatory agencies? Do you get involved with that at all?
Teresa: Absolutely. Yes, I mean, we obviously have a regulatory group that handles and manages interactions with the agency, but I mean, it’s kind of like you don’t leave home without your regulatory person.
Taren: I love that.
Teresa: We are in a very highly regulated industry. And there’s so much data, there’s so many rules, there’s a lot of things that change in terms of expectations and what needs to be done. And if you’re not savvy and aware and knowledgeable about what those parameters are and those parameters change, then you’re going to get caught flat footed at the end of the day when you want to get your drug approved.
And so that has to be very front and center in terms of understanding what’s the data that we need? What are the right comparators? What is the right design? What do we consider to be the right optimized dosing approach in terms of doing it, so the safety studies, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera? So regulatory plays a very key role as we’re looking at developing these medicines.
Taren: Absolutely. I know that you don’t leave home without your regulatory person. We started off talking about the fact that it’s been a couple of years since we’ve caught up. So you’ve been now at Takeda for almost three years. Has there been any aha moments since you’ve taken on this immense role that do go, wow, now I’m settled in, and that was really quite something?
Teresa: I don’t know, Taren, that I’d say there’s been one discrete moment. But there have been so many small wins along the way. And sometimes, it’s not always just like one big burst of success, but when you see continuous smaller successes and changes and processes improve and higher and higher quality of analytics and presentations and understanding, that, to me, is what I find very energizing and satisfying and sort of, I guess, provides the fuel that sort of keeps you going to continue on the path.
So I can’t come to mind of any like one event where I’ve been like wow, but there have been a lot of them along the way of smaller ones where it’s like, ‘yep, we’re going in the right direction. This is good.’ Like, I’m really happy to see this. Does that make sense?
Taren: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Let’s switch tacks just a little bit. You made an interesting leap – and I didn’t know this about you – moving from Mobil Oil Corp to BMS where you spent more than 18 years. So you went from oil to pharma. Fascinating.
Teresa: So when I was with Mobil Oil, I was really in it. I was in their corporate treasury, the Capital Markets Group, and I was doing the pension investing. So there were three of us. So it was a very financially investment-oriented type role. We were managing big pension funds, all actively managed. I would do some of the derivative overlays, et cetera. I have to tell you, Taren, I know I was good at it but didn’t really like it. And I thought, oh my god, I’m going to be 50 and I’m going to get up and I’m going to have to go do this every– I didn’t care what was happening in the Bloomberg machine, I didn’t. But I know this is a problem, this is a real problem.
And I remembered a friend from business school, who was with Bristol Myers Squibb – and I mean, I had a very strong finance background that because I had gotten an MBA, and that’s what I was doing. And she said, ‘why don’t you come on over here,’ and she put me in touch with their finance people. And so that it was easy for me.
And I kind of realized at that point that I was more interested in the idea of marketing, but I was always interested in science. And so I got very lucky, she put me with just the right people, interviewed, got a job in finance. And given the background, it was relatively easy for me to perform well in that finance job. But what I really wanted is I wanted marketing. And so I did take a bit of a circuitous route because I did the finance for about a year, and then I think they liked what I did and they saw I was so interested in the business and kind of got involved probably beyond the scope of just what I was asked to do that then they moved me to strategic planning.
And then after another year and a half in strategic planning, I ended up getting a marketing job. So part of that was like, I had support from managers who knew what I wanted, I connected a lot with people. And I was very happy. I was very happy, I’d loved that. And I also loved the industry. I loved what Bristol Myers was doing. I have to admit that I sort of felt less and somewhat conflicted by the whole oil industry at large. So there was a lot of things that helped on that little shift.
Taren: I have to giggle when you were talking about derivatives, you said it with such disdain. I was like, oh.
Teresa: I know. I know! I didn’t really like it. I didn’t really like it. I was good at it. That was the thing. Oh, good Lord.
Taren: So you had a really great run at Bristol Myers Squibb of 18 plus years, you did a lot of things. So what led you to join Takeda?
Teresa: It’s interesting because I mean, I loved Bristol Myers Squibb. I’m still very connected to all the people and folks that I know there. But what was really exciting was that Takeda, when they reached out, they were looking to sort of really rebuild oncology – and not rebuild but really make it into something that was bigger than where we were. And at that point, it was exciting because it was a direct report into the CEO. I was enormously impressed with our CEO, and remain so, very authentic, socially minded, excellent business person. So there was that appeal.
I remember my father giving me this advice, and he said to me, “you know what, Doll, it’s time to repot yourself. Because plants grow better when they’ve been repotted after five years. I think it’s time for you to do something different.” And I just sort of laughed because that was my father’s perspective.
But there was something that I found very energizing at the thought of going into a new organization, taking all of the skills and the opportunities and challenges that I’ve learned from, and to be able to apply it to a new global operation that didn’t have what I was used to with BMS, and to sort of see what I could do. And I’ve loved every minute of it. I love the culture at Takeda. I love the autonomy that I’ve been given. I love the commitment on the part of the organization to do things well, the way people treat one another, the focus, the very genuine focus on doing the right thing and making it happen for the patient.
So, for me, it’s been a great move, and one that has been really fun. And it’s fun when you reflect back and realize, oh, like I can really help here. Within 30 days, I was like, okay, I think I know what I can do here, like we can do this. And there’s something very gratifying and energizing about that. So that’s how I ended up making the shift.
And it was a big decision. I would be lying to say that it wasn’t because when you’ve been at a company for a very long time, you have an established network, you have an established reputation, people know what you can do, you know how to get things done, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. So it is not without, I think, some sense of risk and the unknown going to a new company, but it’s been a great move.
Taren: Absolutely. Well, Doll, it sounds like you made the right move. I love that anecdote from your dad – repotting. I think that’s fantastic. I think that’s great advice, too, and it does take a certain amount of courage and risk taking. You’re comfortable. As you said you had your reputation, you had your network, and to then think well this is unknown for me. And sometimes that can be very scary. So kudos and congratulations to you. And I’m glad you followed your dad’s advice. That’s excellent.
You noted you report into the CEO. And that’s also a great lane to be in because it gives you that direct access to understanding how the strategy of the company is evolving, what’s going to be going on in the next five, ten years. So it gives you a lot of visibility in terms of how you can make an impact. And that’s also very appealing.
Teresa: Yeah, it has been. But you also end up getting a real enterprise perspective on the broader issue so it’s been great. It’s been really good.
Taren: That’s fantastic. And you’re obviously sitting in that C-suite. So what advice do you have for other women who are looking to make that move into the corner office? You said you took a little bit of a circuitous route, but you also made a bold leap. What advice do you have?
Teresa: So I don’t know if it’s advice really just for women, whether it’s really more just advice in general. I think, one is always be authentic because I think that if you’re not authentic and sort of allow yourself to come through, you will be less effective ultimately. And I mean, I’ve always been told that you laugh too much. You’re too loud in terms of the colors you wear, blah, blah, blah, blah, like, I ignore most of that, quite frankly.
Two, I think it’s very important to be curious, to always be seeking to learn. And so I think the more that you seek to understand not only what you’re doing, but really understanding others in the organization, what other functions do, how your function impacts them, like a genuine sense of curiosity, I think that also is an enormous success factor. Because just asking questions, you can see through. So many times I just really want to understand. And when you seek to understand, sometimes you’ll uncover things that maybe are an opportunity, or you might uncover something that well, that doesn’t make sense. Help me understand. And I think that taking that open approach but with a genuine, authentic intent to learn goes a very long way in terms of your success in business.
And I also think it’s very important to be, in particular as you get more and more senior, you’re only as good as a talent you have around you because I mean, at certain point in time, you may have done every single job, but you’re one person, you can’t do any of it anymore. And so it’s your leadership and you are setting the vision of what good looks like that’s important. And people aren’t going to work for you if you’re not a caring leader, which that doesn’t mean to say you’re not a tough leader, it doesn’t mean to say you don’t set high expectations, but I think it is very important to be a caring leader.
And when you do that, I think most of the time what goes around comes around, and then good people are going to be willing to work for you. And you take care of those people, you promote them, you develop them, but it’s a little circle of life there in terms of how well you do. So I think those are some of the things that come to mind for me.
Taren: I think you’ve hit on three really key areas, certainly being authentic to yourself. And it’s that insatiable curiosity, like that’s one of the hallmarks of great leaders that I have found. And that caring piece, I think we’ve seen that emerge over the last couple of years amidst this COVID pandemic, that empathy which was often considered to be almost a soft skill. That’s a woman’s leadership trait. But it’s really not, it is a solid leadership trait, as you said, because it does carry that circle of life if you will for your people. So I love hearing that from you. Thank you for sharing.
Teresa: It’s true. It’s very true.
Taren: We noted that you’re sitting in the C-suite, and whether you like it or not, you are a role model to other women. What does this responsibility mean to you?
Teresa: Taren, I will tell you that I’m not blind to the issues that sometimes face those of us when it comes to sort of diversity and inclusion issues. And I’ve certainly had to deal with some of that myself, but honestly, I don’t keep it top of mind because I always sort of think I’m going to continue to do the best that I can do, I’m going to try and be as direct in my communication as possible. I think it’s very important to make sure you can, but honestly, this goes across the board, regardless of gender, speak up, be a direct communicator, don’t be passive. Don’t be passive-aggressive. Don’t be passive, make sure that you speak up, that you address what your concerns are.
It’s not that I’m blind to it. And I’m very sympathetic when people will talk to me about, well, this situation or that situation because I’m going to have dealt with the boy’s club at various points in my life. But I’ve always gotten through it by very directly addressing my concerns nicely but directly. And you kind of have to just keep plowing through, but I do think it’s important to speak up. So if I see something and like, I don’t stand by and not say anything. Generally, people don’t do it twice too when you’ve spoken up.
Taren: Not to you, they don’t do it twice, but yes, okay.
Teresa: I’m not saying just because I’m in a senior position. I think that even in a junior position, I learned to say when I didn’t like something, I’ve learned to speak up about it. And it’s very important and that is a hard thing to do.
Taren: Agreed. Finding your voice. And I think that that is a challenge, and more so for women, it’s just true for men in most cases. So how did you find your voice?
Teresa: Well, Taren, I’m lucky enough to come from a family of six girls that I am the youngest. And so I had a lot of advice from five older sisters, who all sort of learned, and I realized, I learned from them so much in terms of how to have authority without– yes, I mean, and it’s small things that I try and tell people, it’s the volume of your voice, it’s the intonation, it’s how you’re sitting forward in a room, it’s he cadence. If you’re upset about something, well, sit back in your chair, slow yourself down. You have more power when you’re less emotional.
All those things kind of helped me find my voice. And it helps you learn how to say what might be an unpopular opinion or to say to someone, ‘you know what? I’m concerned about what I just heard because of…’ But if you say that when you’re sitting back in your chair at a slower way, it’s still a very powerful statement. But it’s all in how you deliver it is also really important.
And so I think I was also lucky in that getting a lot of coaching from five older sisters who lived through – all had very big jobs too – that you learn how to manage that. And that’s how you learn to find your voice. And that sort of thing begins to give you confidence once you do it once, and you get better at it, you do it again and practice obviously. Make sense?
Taren: Yeah, absolutely. It sounds like there’s a consultancy in there somewhere.
Teresa: But I do think that some of those very nonverbals become very important on how you can soften the tension and add power to what you’re saying. And because I always often say to people, ‘you become emotional, you’ve lost power, right away, boom.’ I’m not saying cold, but if you become emotional, then you’ve lost the battle there. So you don’t want to do that. Which is not to say you have no emotion, there’s a difference. There’s a difference.
Taren: That is great advice. I think at times, we all fall into that trap of becoming, because we’re so passionate about a project that we lose that perspective of remaining calm and cool. And you’re right, it’s not cold, but it is just remaining calm and taking the emotional piece out of it. It does give you more power. That’s a great tip. And I love the fact of those nonverbal cues – I think sometimes we forget those as well, how you present yourself, how you sit, the cadence of your voice, as you said, those can be real tools in your arsenal.
Teresa: Yeah, no, no, no, no, and when you don’t… the one thing that I do tell people is the most precious asset you have is your confidence. Do not let anyone take that from you. It’s very important. Very important, I think. And I hate to say it, but I do think women sometimes tend to fall more prey to having that diminished.
Taren: I agree. I think, sometimes, it’s a slow chip away and that’s given away all at once, but it’s so small little steps or the small little things that get taken away that can certainly diminish one’s confidence. So how do you rebuild? I mean, I’m just curious, if that’s happened to somebody and you’ve had your confidence chipped away, how do you go back and rebuild that for yourself?
Teresa: It’s an interesting question because I’m sure I can’t imagine there isn’t any senior leader that hasn’t had an experience of where either a meeting hasn’t gone well or someone has dismissed you in a meeting. And so I always think it’s very important too. I remember someone used this phrase with me once, I think, would often, is that learn– and again, this is I remember one of my sisters saying, like, oh, yeah, you really messed up on that one. But that’s it. So fine, just don’t do it again, like, just stop talking about it and move on. I was like, okay. But it’s kind of true.
So it’s sort of like, you do have to talk to yourself a little bit and say, okay. So that didn’t go well. Here’s why, I’m going to try not to let that happen again. And remember someone saying to me, it’s important to occasionally look in the rearview mirror, but don’t spend too much time looking in there, you’re going to drive off the road. And it’s true because you have to sort of make sure that you recognize and be self-analytical of like, okay, that wasn’t the best. But don’t dwell on it. Like, it is what it is. It’s done, just move on, learn from it. And I think that you guys can have to learn to give yourself a little pep talk of like, okay, instead of going into a whirlybird routine, it just has to be okay, that didn’t go well, so next time, what I learned from it, okay, let’s move forward. And that’s what I do, to be honest with you.
Taren: That’s excellent advice. I’m telling you, there is something about that five-sister consultancy. I think you’ll probably market on something there. You’ve given me a lot of pearls of advice, but can you single out, aside from dad, I love his piece, what are some of the best leadership advice you’ve ever received? And then, again, you’ve touched on a bunch of these, but is there a key piece of advice that you provide to others?
Teresa: You know what? Obviously, I think I’ve learned myself across the way in terms of being very authentic, being who I am, the things that I mentioned to you before. Honestly, that I think one of the best pieces of advice I got, and it was at that juncture, when I was considering leaving Mobil Oil and I was younger at the time, and they offered me a lot more money to stay. And I was like, oh! And I remember my mentor saying to me, it matters, at that point. It matters.
I remember him saying to me, “Teresa, we’ve now been talking about why you wanted to go and you know you kind of are more interested in this industry and you want to get into marketing.” He said “Staying at Mobil Oil, what is that going to do for you? Is that going to get you any of these longer-term goals that you have?” “No, it actually wouldn’t.” And he said “well then don’t stay.” He said “Because this is a long-term game and don’t just be thinking about the next promotion or the money. Don’t be blind to that because we all need to make a living. So I’m not saying to dismiss it,” but he said “that shouldn’t be the driver in your decisions.”
And I tell people this often because I think what often happens is that people, there’s always a drive to want to get the higher title and to sort of move up in an organization. And invariably, the easiest way to do that is staying put in the function you’re in, but if you are willing to sort of expand your horizons, so when I did finance, I did strategic planning, I then went into marketing. I did marketing for a while, and then I did sales. And then I had to do global marketing. And I remember thinking, why don’t I want to do both? You really need to, okay.
But toward the end of the day, Taren, when the bigger job of when the US Oncology [inaudible comes up ? 34:59], well, I’m going to be more competitive than the person who got to VP faster because I have a breadth of experience that the others don’t have. So if people take a longer range view of their career and aren’t too anxious to go up the function, the problem you get is if you go very quickly in your career, well, then the breadth of your experience is going to be very narrow and then your ability to broaden your horizons becomes more difficult. Because when you’re a VP, they’re not going to give you a chance in marketing if you have zero marketing experience.
So it’s much better to get that broader perspective when you’re junior in your career without being too rushed to just get to the next level, even though it might be quite satisfying at that point in time. And you might see a few people and your peers pass you in level along the way. And that’s okay. That’s okay. And to me, that has served me very well. And I think if I hadn’t gotten that advice, might not be sitting in the position I am today.
Taren: No, you’d still be doing derivatives.
Teresa: Wouldn’t that be dreadful, Taren?
Taren: Dread is the word. I think that is fabulous career advice. And I think it’s something that everyone, not just women, but everyone should be thinking about because it is a long runway, and think about where your on-ramps and off-ramps are, and where those intersections come into play that work for you. And it shouldn’t be a race to the top for the fastest; it’s about being fulfilled all of the job, as well.
Teresa: It’s very hard, though. It’s easy advice to give, it’s hard advice to follow.
Taren: Shiny things are attractive, Teresa, as we know.
Teresa: Yes, yes.
Taren: You’ve carved out this fabulous, successful career, and you have a very rich life. How do you balance the two? And we often talk to women, can you have it all? And everybody’s like, what does that mean? What does that mean having it all? Maybe we need to redefine what having it all means, but how do you balance your life and your career?
Teresa: I don’t know that I’m the master of balance because I’m not quite sure what balance means, Taren. I’m feeling poignantly imbalance, but I sort of think that it’s interesting, you just have to be very careful, I think, along the way. There’s always going to be peaks and troughs, where there may be point in time when the job, just the reality is, it could sometimes be very consuming, and I hate to sort of like be Pollyanna-ish or disingenuous and say, there were points in my career where I felt like it was very difficult of the hours, et cetera, becoming hard to manage.
And so I think it’s important to sort of always just keep a lens on the importance of things outside of work and always sort of making sure that you’re carving out that time for yourself and realizing that if on a weekend if you can put it down and not work, it’s better. It’s very hard because I think it depends on the job whether – and I’ve had different points in my career where I feel like I was working all the time, I don’t think it was very balanced, and then other points in time where it was more balanced. It kind of goes up and down.
One thing that I think is important is, one, making sure you have support networks if you can, making sure that you are, a support network of people that are friends, making sure that you have time to go out, outside of your kids and your family, to sort of nurture yourself both physically in terms of exercise and social time. For me, those are the two things that are very important of making sure that I sort of reenergize myself, had time to sort of laugh and find the humor in things. That’s how I manage a sense of balance in my life.
I do the things I like to do, but yeah, there have been times in my career where I feel like I didn’t have so much time to do some of those things. And I’m not sure I’m the best one to give advice on that. I think it’s very hard.
Taren: It is very hard, there’s no doubt. And so I think everybody kind of has to figure out what that is for themselves. I was just curious. And it sounds like that piece of it, you just have to nurture your soul too.
Taren: So you have to take care of little self-care and make sure that all the wheels keep turning.
Taren: I could speak to you for like another hour but unfortunately, we are winding down with our time. So I’m going to ask you the question I ask all of our folks who participate in our WoW podcast program. What is that wow moment that either changed the trajectory of your career or has left a lasting impression on you? And I’m going to challenge you to narrow it down to one.
Teresa: Well, I’ve already shared one with you, which was the advice I got around career and longer-term view. But I also remember one of the things that I think has actually been– I remember I was running a big sales team with like 1,000 people. So I had done the marketing, I had done the sales, I had done the finance, and they decided I needed global marketing. And no one ever wanted to go to global marketing. I remember thinking, like, who did I annoy? Because I thought, I’m like, why do they think I need to do this? Like, I don’t want to go do that.
And global marketing was the arm that worked very closely with R&D. So it’s less of an operational P&L-type job, but it was much more of your tightly connected to business development in the pipeline. And I remember thinking, ugh, I’ve been in the business for 10 years, I understand drug development, I don’t need to go over there. And oh, boy, was that a learning for me. I didn’t really. I thought I did and I really didn’t. I had no idea the complexity of the R&D organization. I didn’t know what I didn’t know.
And that, working in that global marketing role, I think was an opening for me to much bigger leadership roles because I think if you were really going to be a senior executive in a pharmaceutical business with a broad purview, you need to understand R&D. You don’t have to be an R&D person, but you need to understand the complexity of how those organizations work, how things get done in them, where the pain points, where the influence, where the key junctures are, it’s really important. Because when you look at an overall pharmaceutical company, that’s where 50, 60 percent of your spend is. And the more you understand that operation and how it works and how to work with it, the more effective you’re going to be.
And so I think, that changed the trajectory because that then led me– I mean, my belief system was that I had a very big general manager role in Canada. And then I was brought in to run US oncology for Bristol Myers Squibb. I don’t think you want someone doing those roles that doesn’t understand what it takes to develop a drug and bring it along. So that was another important moment for me.
Taren: That is a wow moment.
Teresa: Yeah. No, no, what is, you said, when you don’t know, we don’t know. And you’re like, oh, I don’t want to have to do that. I need to do that. I know that. Like, no, no, I learned the hard way.
Taren: You made me laugh, why did somebody not like me? See, they knew you were the right person for the job. Teresa, it has been great speaking with you. Thank you so much for sharing so many personal stories. And I loved your anecdotes. And I’m telling you, I am going to be a big– I’ll be buying into the five-sister consultancy when you get that.
Teresa: Thank you for having me. It was delightful chatting with you. I appreciate it.
Taren: It’s been great. Thank you so much for being part of a WoW podcast program. And I look forward to staying in touch. Thank you.
Teresa: All right. Fantastic. Take care.
Thanks for listening to this episode of WoW, the Woman of the Week podcast. For more WoW episodes, visit pharmavoice.com.