Christine Poulin, General Manager Teva Canada
Education: B.Comm; M.B.A.
-Current role: General Manager Teva Canada
-When you graduated, what did you envision for your future?
In the early 90s the pharmaceutical industry was flourishing, significant investments in R&D and infrastructure were being made in Canada. It was one of the very few areas where innovation and growth promised to be sustainable and thought that the industry would allow me to gain valuable experience and develop competencies I was passionate about such as: marketing, accounting, people management etc.
-How has your career evolved since you first started in the profession?
I started working in the pharmaceutical industry as a member of the customer service team for Glaxo, taking phone orders from pharmacists. I held many roles over the years including sales, brand management, mostly on the innovation side. Eventually, I was overseeing multiple functions within the specialty business and finally immersing myself into the generics landscape only in the last few years.
-How would you describe a great day at work?
Still today, having left field and marketing based positions many years ago, what I enjoy the most is spending time with customers and trying to develop a customer centric business model which is rewarding to both the organization, the customer and the patient. The majority of my time is spent supporting my team and our internal business but the best part of my role is to hop in my car to meet customers, catching a flight to Vancouver or Nova Scotia, meeting customers to talk about projects, partnerships and the future.
-What is (or has been) your greatest challenge as a leader in pharmacy?
Our healthcare system is under extreme pressure, Covid-19 has pushed our system to its limit. This is also true of the medicines that are required to treat patients, to treat Covid, but also all other diseases. When the pandemic hit, the level of anxiety resulting from potential site closures around the world was keeping many of us up at night. At the time, we knew little of how it was going to affect our manufacturing plants, and for how long. Slowly, as weeks pass, no significant disruptions surfaced, and we were able to be more confident than ever about our supply chain remaining resilient.
-Was there an “aha” moment for you, when you realized the impact of the difference you’re making?
The aha moment came during the pandemic, when I realized what a great team I am lucky enough to be part of. My entire direct and indirect team, from health & safety staff to critical production staff to key decision-making leaders have been working relentlessly since March, trying to anticipate demand, monitoring supply, working closely with our customers, government, distributors to minimize any interruptions. Our manufacturing, distribution, labs all continued to do their work to support the patients that take our medicines. While Covid-19 was making the headlines, I hate to think of what the healthcare system would have been burdened with, should there have been issues supplying the hundreds of medicines we produce. Sometimes the difference is in the unspoken.
-What do you think needs to happen to have more women in executive roles across various sectors in the profession?
As I was evolving my career, not many women were in positions of leadership, and I think very few were willing to talk about how difficult it is to manage their personal lives and continue to grow in their careers. Women that ultimately reached senior levels were not allowed to fail. For those women, admitting to the challenges and hardships was and is still is sometimes perceived as a sign of weakness, and potential future withdrawal. As more women are now reaching levels of senior leadership, the pressure of perfection will hopefully diminish and they will feel more at ease coaching others, of any gender, on how to release pressure. Still, much education is required at all levels and generations to allow for a fully inclusive environment to emerge.
-What advice would you give to new female pharmacy graduates?
I strongly encourage new graduates to explore roles in the pharmaceutical industry. A few pharmacists have taken roles in pharmaceutical companies, while maintaining their licences, but very rarely do we see young graduates consider these types of roles. I would also encourage women to expand their exposure and competencies in different function and/or areas of industry, especially those that tend to be male dominated.