When I on a December evening back in 2012 got the offer to join MSD in Denmark as a Health Economist, I had no idea, what a whirlwind of a career journey I was jumping into. Now 9 years later, I am at my 7th position in the company and have been across 5 geographies in 3 continents. And I am grateful for the opportunities I have been given.
Recently, I have joined MSD’s spin-off, Organon, appointed as Commercial lead for South, East and Southeast Asia. This means I am technically leaving MSD, but in a way where I am part of bringing life to MSD’s new entrepreneurial adventure committed to women’s health. This also makes it a good time to reflect over my career journey in MSD and what learnings it has brought me.
Before going into more details of my career journey, let me share my key learnings up front:
1. Career management is a multi-decade discipline. The implication is that you need to build a certain level of broadness in your profile to ensure multiple career pathways despite changes in your organization or tighter competition as you move up in the ranks. If you are in the first part of your career, you should also spend more time considering what should be your 2nd or 3rd job after your current, while the next job, should be an enabler for the following.
2. Build a strong network. That goes in your own company and outside. Here it is important that the network has both size and quality. It does not help to have many contacts if no one will vouch for you, and on the other hand, you cannot rely on a few people. There are many great resources out in the world on building network, and I am hardly an expert. A key advise I once received was however that you should always try to give more value in to your network, than you expect to take out. If you are not available for coffee chats, mentoring etc., you cannot expect others to be so either.
3. Focus on what will matter in the future. Early in my career, digital marketing became a key interest. I spend significant time and effort learning the mechanics of disciplines such as SoMe marketing and marketing automation, even if not required in my positions. I had the chance to lead experiments with gamification and flagship projects. That turned out to be a good investment, when we at a later time were developing our organization in Denmark towards scaled digital execution.
When I joined MSD, it was not least from the urge to experience something new. As a political scientist, I was almost destined for a career with a public or semi-public organization. I was also both proud and happy to have a place in the epicenter of public administration in Denmark, as I was working for the influential Ministry of Finance. When I applied for the position in MSD Denmark, it was almost irrational restlessness compelling me to try something new before committing finally to a life in the realm of Government Administration.
In MSD Denmark I found both purpose, intellectual challenges, and great colleagues. I also had the fortune to have a boss, who was not only highly skilled but also a mentor and coach. From day 1, where I had a lot to learn, he helped me grow and plan toward new career opportunities. I was even pushed to state a long-term career aspiration. I wrote I wanted to be the Managing Director in MSD in Denmark.
The first significant career step was, when I was able to join the Danish Leadership team 2 years after joining MSD. I was selected to set up a new unit and faced the terrifying but exciting task of leading a team of professionals with significant more experience than me.
As a first-time people manager, the learning curve was steep. Being clear in setting expectations was something I quickly got (and still have) as a focus point. I was also searching for how to enable empowerment, while still supporting the individuals where needed.
I was expecting to stay in this position for at least 3 years, but after 1 year the company offered me to join a development program and move to the HQ in US for a 1 year posting in Global Marketing. Here again the sponsorship in the organization from both my Managing Director and Nordic Lead was essential.
When you have a family, and a wife with a career, such a decision is not easy, and you make it together. It was not easy, but who could say no to such an opportunity? I remember giving the final “Yes!” on my mobile phone, while sitting on a hotel bathroom floor vacationing in San Francisco, while one of my children was showering.
What I have learned from this move is that when relocating with your family, your family is your most important team. And it does require great team work to settle a family in a new country. If you don’t succeed in settling as a family, it will very likely be your last international posting.
On the job, the posting in the US gave me a completely new and broader view of the Biopharma business, as I was submerging myself in best practices from around the globe together with top strategic minds of the company. It completely blew me away, how much there was to learn. Looking around on my colleagues, my manager and meeting senior leaders, also made me realize that I was at the infancy stage of being strategic. In some respects, I felt I was starting all over, but I tried to learn a little every day.
It also opened my eyes to the importance of broadening your profile. I noticed that all the leaders I admired, had not a straight path upward. More the case, they had approached their career as a learning journey. This has guided all career choices I have made since. I have actively sought positions, where I would have more responsibility. But at the same time, I have always looked for which positions, that could bring me new learnings and personal growth and hence enable me to progress further.
After the US, I moved into the relatively specialized field of vaccines, where I was leading the effort in our Nordic Cluster to repatriate the business from a joint venture. The complexity of vaccines and vaccine production – something now familiar to everyone – was one of my key learnings. I also had the opportunity to collaborate with pretty much all functions in the company. This was when I realized the power of having a great network. I was both benefiting from the network I had build in the headquarter and now I was expanding it across functions and divisions. It has helped me ever since.
Establishing the vaccine business for MSD in Nordics remains one of my career highlights in terms of personal pride. I was of course just one of many involved, but I believe we did something special. Today we are protecting many more children and adolescents against diseases than we did when I started. That is purpose in the highest potency.
During this time, it became clear to me, that we needed to get on the forefront of digital engagement. It was already a trend in the health care sector. The pharmaceutical industry – in my blunt view – was however far behind many industries. With the constant threat of vaccine hesitancy, I became much more focused on learning how we could better the use of digital communication channels in a way, where we were filling information gaps between the medical professionals and the broader public, rather than pushing product messages in emails.
When I had delivered on the vaccine project, I was more than keen to go back to people management. The perfect opportunity came when I was selected to lead a Business Unit in Netherlands. A significant larger market than Denmark and now being a 2nd level manager. This was a very different management task, as I was by no means an expert on the business nor the environment. It became clear that it was less important what I did or said, compared to what the managers in my team did and said to their sub teams on a daily basis. Facilitating alignment, creating excitement, challenging the team were now the main disciplines for me.
In Netherlands I also found a new leadership role model and my boss showed me, how to have a much more strategic approach to organizational development. However, I didn’t stay long in Netherlands, as I was given the opportunity to come back to Nordics as Managing Director in Denmark. The exact position I put as my career aspiration 5 years before. This was the dream job.
I came “home” to MSD Denmark, and during my 2.5 years there, we managed to develop a more agile, more digital enabled, a collaborative and highly successful organization.
Working closely with Nordic and European colleagues we made many organizational changes, but we did not loose momentum. When COVID came, we in Denmark had increased customer engagement, as we were advanced in especially webinars.
When we did an employee survey, we saw a level of satisfaction and engagement, which I could only dream of. And when we looked at the financials, we were setting new highs. I will remain deeply proud about the time leading MSD Denmark together with a remarkable leadership team which made this happen.
I was as happy as I could be with my job, and I had no reason whatsoever to look for new opportunities. But the restlessness did start to come crawling. I was getting ready for new adventures. The chance came before I even realized it. In 2020 MSD announced its intention to spin-off products from its Women’s Health, trusted Legacy Brands, and Biosimilars businesses into a new, independent, publicly traded company.
MSD gave me the opportunity to join that effort in February 2021, and I was announced as commercial lead for South, East and Southeast Asia. A new adventure, a new chance to develop, and the end to a career journey in MSD. A career journey, which I am more than grateful for.
In February 2021, Andreas was appointed Commercial lead for the SEA Cluster (South, East and Southeast Asia) in Organon, which is a spinoff of MSD, focused on Women’s health.
From 2012-2021 Andreas has held positions of increasing seniority in MSD. He started his career in the biopharma industry in MSD Denmark as Health Economist and his final position was Managing Director of MSD in Denmark and Iceland. In Denmark he held board positions in the pharmaceutical industry association (LIF), American Chamber of Commerce, Denmark (Amcham) and a Market Intelligence corporation (DLI & DLI/MI).
In between his roles in Denmark, Andreas had commercial leadership roles in the US, Nordic Cluster and Netherlands.
Andreas has published several articles in peer reviewed journals with epidemiology research using the national Danish health care registries.
Before joining MSD, Andreas was Head of Section in the Danish Ministry of Health and Ministry of Finance. In parallel he was teaching courses in applied health economics and health policy in college and university classes for Danish and international students.
Andreas graduated as Master of Political Science from University of Copenhagen in 2007, after specializing in Health Economics and Health Care Managing. During his specialization he also studied in Sydney, Australia.
Andreas is married and has three children.