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Trish Sweeney is Global Head of Clinical Operations at pharmaceuticals company Roche. She talks about her career and how Roche values experienced workers.
Trish Sweeney says her years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry have made her feel comfortable in her own skin and that that has affected the kind of leader she is.
Trish has worked for Roche for over 11 years, starting in the early development division where she set up and led oncology clinical operations. In 2012 she took a more senior role running the global clinical programme in her department which involved being in charge of global clinical trials. This was followed by a sideways move to an affiliate organisation because, for family reasons, she could not move to another Roche site. Her son was finishing school at the time.
Although the move was lateral, it gave Trish much needed commercial experience and broadened her knowledge, connecting her with a different part of the organisation. In that multifaceted role, Trish was accountable for all the global and local clinical trials in the UK. She says there is too much of a tendency to think of careers in terms of an upward climb when just as much value can be gained from doing things in different ways. She states: “We do tend to get stuck in thinking that everything has to be linear and that we have to keep climbing the ladder to progress, but that role helped me get to where I am now and has been one of my greatest learnings.”
She started her new role at the beginning of 2020 as Global Head of Clinical Operations in Roche Early Development, a return to early development, but in a more senior position. She is based in Switzerland which means she has had to relocate as 80% of her time is spent there.
Trish, who is in her 50s, has always worked full time since she joined Roche and says the company is very open and values experience. “It is seen as an advantage,” she says. “I am at a stage in my life where I am very comfortable in my own skin. I do admit that I still have a lot to learn and I’m happy to share my experiences with younger leaders. I have no personal agenda or aggressive sense of ambition and I have enough experience to be resilient. If there is no role for me in the future I know I can find another job supporting a smaller company. That is really positive.”
Trish says she has supported younger colleagues who have reached out to her and has joined panel discussions to share her experience and to show that you can be a senior leader and be yourself.
For now her full focus is on her new role, which is a three-year assignment. She has not thought much further down the line. However, she does reflect on her legacy in the role, particularly how people will view her tenure when she finishes the three years.
She has left organisations in the past because of poor leadership so being a good leader is important to her. In fact, asked what the main changes she has seen over her career are, she highlights the different way leaders are viewed now as one of two big transformations. “We now place much more value in leaders who do not operate in the old command and control way, who are more about empowering others and being visionary. The leadership model has completely changed and is so refreshing,” she says.
The other big change is the impact of technology, particularly when it comes to the creation of new job profiles and the shift away from more traditional ones. “Today’s roles require a different, more agile mindset. You have to be really adaptable which is something the younger generation is brought up with. The older generation face a more difficult challenge, trying to unlearn things they have done in certain ways. It’s a more flexible way of working which puts an emphasis on a growth mindset, which is a real positive,” she says.