A Journey of Continuous Growth
I have a confession; I initially didn’t plan to be at Roche for very long! Like many people fresh out of their studies, I thought I would get some early valuable experience and then perhaps move on to another challenge. Yet I ended up enjoying my experience so immensely that I’m still here over a decade later. I love to learn, and Roche has afforded me the opportunity to continuously enrich my skill set, grow my leadership, and increase my impact. So far, my time at the company has led me on an incredible journey that has spanned 8 roles and 3 countries.
I started my career at Roche focused on successfully commercializing our medicines in the United States, but I have long held a strong passion for global health. I expressed the desire to pursue an international role, and I had the opportunity to gain experience in the global setting as a Strategy Lead in our company headquarters in Switzerland. I wanted to return to working closer to the patients in a country setting but retain this focus on global health, and I was therefore thrilled to have a chance to serve as the General Manager of Roche Pharmaceuticals in the Philippines. It has been an excellent opportunity to work with an incredible team as we drive access to medical innovation in a very dynamic healthcare environment.
Filipino Talent is Full of Focus, Fortitude, and Fun
When I arrived in the Philippines in August 2019 I had no idea just how dynamic the year ahead would be; I have learned so much about resilience through the strength of my team in facing the challenges and opportunities 2020 has brought us! We have ensured continued access to our critical medicines despite volcanic eruptions, super typhoons, and, of course, the global pandemic. Through it all, though, we are guided by a constant and strong collective focus on “Doing Now What Patients Need Next.” This is our North Star at Roche that we use as our foundation across countries to serve our community and drive our business.
Though we are a smaller affiliate here in the Philippines, we always maintain these high expectations for our impact to serve our customers, patients, and the healthcare system today and to shape improvements for the future. I have never before seen such a huge amount of energy and creativity that our team here throws at any problem they encounter! The positive outlook Filipinos hold in the face of adversity means our team finds a way to turn each challenge into an opportunity. Especially during this pandemic, our local team has shown tremendous resilience and dedication to our work, thereby allowing for business continuity and still progressing our organization toward our longer-term strategic priorities.
Filipinos are no stranger to tough situations, and my team has taught me that surviving a crisis requires some balance, too; for all the seriousness we bring to achieving our purpose and our goals, we still regularly come together as Roche Philippines to have fun. Although months have gone by without seeing each other face-to-face, our culture is felt through the screen as the team continues to sing together, compete in costumes contests, and pull together video montages that would impress any professional cinematographer. They are very competitive when it comes to games and prizes, so be prepared to bring your best! (Of course, I never win; they are way too talented!)
Covid-19 As A Talent Accelerator
One of the examples of how we have turned the challenge of the pandemic into an opportunity to accelerate a strategic priority is around the development of our talent. We have long believed that our ideas and contributions do not need to be limited by country borders. We encourage our talent to pursue their passions, but this may have previously required an assignment or international move to contribute to the broader organization.
We have used the opportunity of the virtual setting to enhance the fluidity with which we apply our talents to different opportunities that pop up around the organization. This allows us to develop our Filipino talent to succeed in a variety of environments. When we identify a local strategic priority, we call for volunteers with a mix of skills but all with the intense interest in making a difference in that area. The team is then empowered to self-manage to achieve (and they often exceed!) the goals; we take this approach with our culture and for our business, too.
We also apply this concept beyond Roche Philippines in our interactions with the broader organization. We support our talent gaining new experiences and perspectives through global job rotations, and our talents often get involved in above-country “communities of practice” where many people from around the globe get together to solve a particular problem for the broader Roche business.
In addition to these opportunities we encourage individuals to pursue, we select focus areas for overall development of our whole team. For instance, this year we have focused on the topics of agility, influencing others, new approaches to leadership, and digital capabilities. Collectively, this positions our talent to make an impact today and to adapt well to the requirements of the future.
Fresh Perspectives Welcome
In addition to this heavy focus on developing our own people who are already in the Roche organization, we recognize we can also build our diversity of our talent pipeline and organizational capabilities in other ways as well. We continue to hire people from outside Roche with high potential and desirable skills and competencies. Equally important to us is the mindset that a candidate brings into our team. We welcome new perspectives that shape our view of the opportunities ahead of us, and we remain unwavering in our search for those who share our mission, vision and values of our culture. An employee who feels valued and ‘at home’ is more engaged and, in turn, has a positive impact on others and the business.
Even in the hiring process, we ensure that our culture is embedded through the standard agility questions for interviewing applicants. We want to understand each applicant’s thought process and growth mindset since sustaining our desired culture requires systemic change and support. We highly encourage experimenting, taking risks, stepping out of our comfort zones and innovating in alignment with our agile ways of working. We even encourage people to co-create their own job descriptions and responsibilities, in consultation with their peers and manager on what is needed from them now and in the future . The world is moving too fast for us to stay in one place for long – we recognize that to be relevant means constantly learning and improving!
Our Culture is Patient Centric, Agile, Accountable, and We Show Malasakit
Culture is vital to an organization because it shapes its corporate identity and provides ideal growth, paving the way for success and a lasting legacy. We took a pause as an affiliate team to reflect on what was required to succeed in our transformation journey, and together decided to spend some additional effort over the past year focusing on building a strong culture. We believe it is a crucial foundation upon which we can move forward and achieve our goals.
At Roche, we believe that the most fulfilling personal development happens when our passion meets our purpose. We exist because we want to bring better outcomes to our patients and personal fulfillment to our people. To serve that purpose, Roche Philippines must be patient-centric, agile, accountable and treat each other with malasakit (genuine concern). For that culture to be truly embedded, we must continue to consistently practice the agile mindset and behaviors, in order to maintain the appropriate organizational processes and structure necessary for our growth.
Currently, I can say that I am very pleased with the culture of inclusivity, transparency, achievement, and fun that I am seeing within our team. We are constantly working to create a safe space wherein our employees are empowered to act and be accountable, to discuss with curiosity & interest and, most importantly, inspire growth in each one. All our engagement efforts have paved the way to a deeper understanding of our already-purposeful journey.
The strong foundation of culture has been laid thrusting and enabling the affiliate to reach even greater heights. More importantly, it strengthens our resolve to embrace our continuous evolution – no matter what may lay ahead! We are confident that with our team’s strong mindset, our creative approach to problem solving, and our commitment to excellence, we will continue to succeed in our mission of bringing more medicines to our Filipino patients, faster.
Kara Brotemarkle is the General Manager of Roche Pharmaceuticals in the Philippines and a Trustee on the Board of Directors for the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines. She has experience working in health care on a global scale and at a country level. Most recently, she was serving as a Strategy Leader in the Roche Global organization, leading teams to bring innovative oncology medicines to market. Prior to her time in the global organization, she held several commercial roles spanning multiple disease areas and functions at Genentech, Roche's US organization. Before joining the biopharma industry, Kara was a consultant at Booz Allen working with governments around the world on their strategic priorities and operational issues. Kara earned an MBA with a concentration in Health Care Management from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and an AB in Economics from Harvard University.