As an organization, Roche is fuelled by research and a commitment to advancing science. Much like many of our peers within the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry, we recognize that the single most important function of our business is our ability to discover, develop and commercialize innovations - both diagnostics and medicines - that fill significant gaps and meet patient needs.

We are especially proud of the fact that many of our Canadian employees contribute directly to our innovations, guiding our global research programs, delivering data to teams across the world that will bring our medicines and diagnostics to market, and finding new ways for us to implement clinical trials that will allow patients across the globe to access novel medicines as they are being developed.

As one of five product development sites within the Roche global community, our Product Development (PD) site in Mississauga supports the development of our medicines, one aspect of which is managing all clinical trial research and recruitment in Canada, as well as studies in select therapeutic areas in the United States.  When the Canadian PD site opened in 2011, we started with roughly 100 employees. Today, we have nearly quadrupled in size, growing to 387 employees who fill unique global functions and senior roles in Canada. This level of growth wouldn’t have been possible without the strong leadership of our people and their ability to think globally, locally.

So what does it take to be a great leader in a global organization like Roche? We sat down with Jennifer Cook, Global Head of Clinical Operations for Roche Pharmaceuticals, and two members of our Canadian Product Development Leadership Team - Christina Archer, Site Head for PD Clinical Operations, and Heather Graham,Site Head for PD Regulatory, to get their perspective.

How do you define success as a leader?

Jennifer Cook: “I define success as knowing myself, finding my true purpose and leveraging my strengths to contribute my best while enabling and inspiring others to meet and exceed their potential. The journey to leadership success begins by figuring out what you can uniquely contribute, and having the courage to bring that to the table. Many leaders focus on being what others want them to be, rather than doing the work of finding their own purpose and value.”

Heather Graham: “To me, successful leadership requires looking both outward towards my team, and inward, at myself. A successful leader  creates an environment where members of their team can achieve their own goals, perform at a high level, and know the value they bring every day. They also operate from a place of authenticity, are aware of their own strengths, and leverage the expertise of their team to create and reinforce an environment that supports the team to achieve their goals.”

What has informed your leadership style?

Jennifer Cook: “Managing large, global teams significantly shaped my leadership style and forced me to face some of my limitations. I am a perfectionist.  I don’t like to be wrong, and I used to try and do everything myself. However, once my job responsibilities got bigger and I mentally and physically couldn’t do all the work myself, I thought, what if I just admit, “I don’t know”? What if I ask for help? Letting people see that I wasn’t perfect and that I didn’t have all the answers meant being more vulnerable. And how could I lead if I was vulnerable? Well, I have learned that perfect is not only impossible, it isn’t even interesting! Individuals like to follow leaders they know, trust and understand - a person who comes from a place of authenticity.”

Christina Archer: “I like to think that in part it was my father who informed my leadership style.  He was a corporate executive for many years in the retail industry, and although he had climbed the ranks and was very successful, he never forgot the value of the hard work that got him there.  He was never too busy or important to roll-up his sleeves and help his team.  He led with a tremendous amount of kindness and always took the time to rally the people who worked for him.  I remember a time when he had to make a difficult decision that was in the best interest of the business, but was not what his team wanted.  He was honest and transparent about the ‘why’ which  earned the respect, trust, and ultimately the support of his team.”

What do you wish you'd known earlier in your career?

Christina Archer“I would tell myself that it’s okay to take risks and fail, and that doing great work doesn’t always mean being perfect. Over time, I’ve realized that my fear of failure, or concern about getting it wrong, was keeping me from pushing myself and my team further.  Playing it safe wouldn’t allow us to reach our full potential.. I learned to push myself to take smart risks and now I see those instances as a learning opportunity for myself and my team, rather than a mistake.”

Heather Graham: “I wish I could go back and say ‘Just be yourself.’ Early in one’s career, the environment of a large, multi-national organization can be intimidating, and it’s tempting to mimic the behaviour and style of people around you. At the end of the day however, leadership in part about building authentic connections with people, which can only be achieved by being true to yourself and what you bring to the table.”

Great leaders must have the ability to lead diverse teams and bring together different personalities, ages and cultures around a common vision. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach, each of these women understand that it’s important to know who you are, what you stand for, and how to empower the people around you to bring out the best in every member of the team.

At Roche Canada, we take pride in embracing diversity and in fostering a culture of inclusion where female leaders can flourish. In fact, every member of our Canadian Product Development leadership team is a woman, and across our Pharmaceutical and Diagnostic divisions, our executive team is reflective of our employee base with female representation around 65%. This focus on diversity extends across our global organization and we are proud of the culture these and other leaders have helped shape at Roche.

Jennifer Cook, Christina Archer, and Heather Graham

November 14, 2017

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