I began my career in the healthcare industry in 1985 – first at the Hematology & Blood Bank department at the National University Hospital (NUH) Singapore for a few years, before moving on to Medical sales and finally joined Boehringer Mannheim which was later acquired by Roche.
This was more than 25 years ago, and I’ve remained with the company ever since. Many ask what has made me stay on, and one of the primary reasons has been the opportunity to learn, grow and develop during the two decades I have been here.
This is a philosophy that’s at the core of Roche’s talent development strategy. We want everyone at the company to reach their potential, further their careers and make their mark. Lifelong learning and development opportunities are central to this, and are an integral part of being an employer of choice.
Throughout my career at Roche, I have held various roles from Applications Support, to sales and marketing, before I was promoted to Business Unit Head.
In 2005, Severin Schwan, who was then the Head of Region at Roche Diagnostics, and today is the CEO of Roche, relocated me to Hong Kong as General Manager of Roche Diagnostics.
Developing people means recognising something that perhaps, they themselves might not. I experienced this firsthand when Severin Schwan believed I could lead an affiliate and has since become a personal leadership mantra.
His faith in me taught me the value of leveraging the potential of human capital.
In my current role as Head of the Developed Growth Markets, a sub-region within Asia Pacific which covers Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Hong Kong and Taiwan, I am committed to ensuring that we provide employees with the right resources, experiences and roles that promote learning and growth opportunities. This includes:
• On-demand learning with Cornerstone which provides relevant content for our people, including access to courses and modules from LinkedIn Learning.
• On-the-job learning, an important element of the learning experience, which is why we offer Express Development Opportunities (EDO) to employees in the APAC region. As part of this program, employees gain different work experiences across businesses and affiliate offices. Since its launch, we have had many employees from the Developed Growth markets participate in EDOs.
• Own your career: This is what sets Roche apart from other companies. At Roche, we aim to provide a work environment where our employees are encouraged to build their careers and pursue their passions. We believe career development is a partnership between our employees and their managers, but with employees driving their careers. To do this, employees are encouraged to actively develop their careers and interests by:
o Managing their career to pursue personal goals.
o Seeking candid feedback on their performance and encouraging regular Check-Ins.
o Creating and implementing individual development plans.
• Leading by example: As leaders, we are responsible not only for the success of our business, but also our people. At Roche, we believe every employee deserves a great leader.
o Our leadership philosophy is reinforced through a range of learning experiences for leaders such as Leading@ Roche, APAC Discovery and Development Centres (Assessment) programs.
o Furthermore, employees in the sub-region, participate in the advanced Leadership Program, which is a regional program in partnership with INSEAD, to identify and prepare potential successors.
Learning to thrive amidst change
If there’s one philosophy that’s stood the test of time – it is the willingness to change, adapt and have a growth mindset. As one of my favourite leadership experts Robin Sharma says: “We grow fearless when we do the things we fear.”
I have continually challenged myself by being willing to step out of my comfort zone. I moved from Singapore to become GM of Hong Kong, then Taiwan, and just when I was starting to get comfortable with being overseas, I found an opportunity to come back to Singapore in my current role.
What’s helped me on this journey is the desire to use every career opportunity, setback and challenge as a way to grow in both my professional and personal life. It’s taught me to be more open to new ideas, people and cultures and have no fear in admitting when you don’t have the answer.
Sometimes the best ideas come from collaboration. As a Sub-Region Head, I find it fulfilling to orchestrate and leverage on the resources from our experts in the regional office and encourage the affiliates to help one another.
While COVID-19 has accelerated transformation in the healthcare industry, the shift in the healthcare environment had been underway for quite some time.
These changes require us to not only look at how individuals can work together in different ways, but also at how we can become more agile as an organisation. This is happening at two-levels
• Leaders undergo training called Coactive Fundamentals, and Kinesis (part of the Leadership Circle Profile Program), aptly named because it represents the ever-changing landscape and the agility needed in our leaders’ response to those changes.
• At an organisation-wide level for employees, we have introduced squads and sprints that empower employees to develop and test new, better and faster ways of working rather than be limited by pre-defined structures and hierarchies.
Furthermore, the adoption of digital health into traditional health settings has been accelerated in the current pandemic. This digitalisation, and the growing demand for our digital solutions, requires us to develop and enhance the digital capabilities of our people as well as bring on board external digital specialists.
To drive greater awareness and understanding of the digital ecosystem, teams from several of the sub-region affiliates are part of a startup accelerator program called Creasphere to learn new ways of working and foster a knowledge exchange between our teams and the startups.
There is no formula to having a successful career – ultimately it’s about the journey of each individual and what they make of it. But having a purpose gives you a greater sense of clarity and direction. In recent years, I have been mentoring and coaching the next generation of leaders, and I found having a clear purpose for why I want to coach helps to motivate me in my coaching journey.
This, I believe, is important for people looking to advance their careers at Roche – find your purpose and see how it can align with the work you do.
We offer employees opportunities to develop their full potential and provide a rewarding, inclusive work environment that supports innovation, creativity and diversity.
Doing this, allows us to attract and retain highly skilled people who are committed to making a positive difference to the lives of people, in our region and around the world.
Agnes is the Head of the Developed Growth Markets at Roche Diagnostics Asia Pacific which covers Hong Kong, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Taiwan. She brings over 25 years of healthcare industry experience.
Agnes began her career as a Medical Technologist at the National University Hospital, Singapore, before going on to join Boehringer Mannheim.
While at Roche Diagnostics, she has been General Manager for Hong Kong and Taiwan. After 13 years, she moved back to Singapore in 2018 to assume her current role.
Agnes is a certified facilitator for The Leadership Circle and is training as a Coactive Coach with CTI (Coactive Training Institute).
Agnes holds an Executive MBA from University of Buffalo, SUNY, USA and a Bachelor Degree from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT).