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My job explained: Company president

company presidentChris Brinsmead, president of pharmaceutical company Astrazeneca UK, talks about what inspires him to wake up each morning and provides some insider tips for making it big in business.

What attracted you to this field?

Working in the pharmaceutical industry provides a fantastic mix of science, medicine, business, diversity of people and complex problems. It also delivers enormous value to healthcare for people throughout the world, which gives me a good reason to wake up each morning.

What did the training involve?

In some senses, you never stop training. Throughout my career, training has involved a combination of formal study (e.g. studying part time for a masters in business science) with real on-the-job experience in different cultures and situations.

Can you describe a typical working day?

I don’t think that there is such a thing! I’ll describe last Monday, as an example of how varied my days can be: I started with a teleconference with our European leadership team, spent some time on an innovation project discussing how we could try new ways of working with senior managers from different parts of our business, dealt with a variety of phone calls and updates including discussing a new medicine in development, met with the Secretary of State for Health and then went running to wind down at the end of the day.

What's the best thing about your job?

Dealing with people who are passionate about what they do. Our customers are all committed to providing great healthcare to people in the UK and our employees share this goal. I get a tremendous sense of energy from working with the various teams to find out how we can continually improve our business to ensure that many more patients will benefit from our medicines.

Have there been any challenges in getting to where you are now?

There are many challenges in getting to a role like this. Here are just a few:

  • Patience: It takes time to broaden the skills and experience you need to manage a large company.
  • Commitment: Sometimes you will have to work long hours and travel in many different countries. This may mean making a few sacrifices, but on the plus side, you see quite a lot of the world!
  •  Embrace your mistakes: The odd mishap is inevitable - realising that you can learn as much from these as you can from your successes is an important step.

What qualities and skills do you think are important for your role?

  • Motivation: Being able to drive to achieve without needing to be pushed.
  • Decisiveness: You need to be confident enough to make sound judgements in uncertain situations.
  • Persuasiveness: Learn techniques for influencing others in different situations.
  • Management skills: Leading people and having the ability to work with a diverse crowd.
  • Stay grounded: Nobody is always right – listen to others and be prepared to change your mind.

What advice would you give to someone following in your footsteps?

Be prepared to work hard! There’s no substitute for this. But remember that it’s easier to stay motivated if you continue doing things you find interesting, so try to give yourself a broad range of experiences, without constantly thinking of the next promotion.

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