12 Questions with Tak Matsuoka
Tak Matsuoka is on a mission to improve medical communication in healthcare. As Managing Director of M3 (EU) Ltd, responsible for running Doctors.net.uk and leading M3’s global medical communication business outside of Japan, he’s in the perfect position to make real change. With 10 years’ experience in investment banking at Goldman Sachs, and 10 years offering strategic omnichannel marketing services to pharmaceutical companies in Japan and the UK, he has proven he’s up to the challenge.
What are the main responsibilities of your current role? I oversee day-to-day operations for the Doctors.net.uk business unit within M3 (EU) Ltd., and lead M3’s global medical communications business in collaboration with other M3 business units around the world.
What is your background prior to this role and how did it prepare you for the work you do now? My academic background is in aeronautics and astronautics engineering, where I researched and developed a robust autonomous control system for unmanned helicopters using neural networks. This was after Deep Blue beat reigning chess champion, Gary Kasparov, but before deep learning (a subfield of machine learning) was developed, with its far advanced computing power.
After graduation, I moved away from science and towards business, joining the investment banking division of Goldman Sachs shortly before the merger and acquisition boom in Japan. An important part of this role involved learning how to evaluate a business’ performance, and how to interact with the C-Suite clients who were leading those companies. After ten years at Goldman Sachs, I joined M3.
M3 has always been a clear leader in the Japanese IT healthcare sector and is responsible for many of the technical and business innovations seen in the field. As a group leader in the Medical Communication business unit, I led a team offering strategic omnichannel marketing services to pharmaceutical companies, which often also required technical product innovation.
I would say these three key pillars of my experience - understanding of base technology, advanced business management, and innovation making - have made my career path unique and have been vital in my current role as Managing Director at M3 (EU).
What motivates you about working in pharma? When I entered the industry, one of my most simple and obvious learnings was the fact that doctors are people first, and no one has perfect knowledge. For example, there are so many rare diseases; no one can have a full understanding of all known rare diseases, which means there is a knowledge gap to fill. By definition, a rare disease is rare and the chance of you or someone you know having one specific disease is small, but, once you start to consider the full range of rare diseases, you would be shocked how likely it is that one of your family, friends, or colleagues may be diagnosed with one.
Many potentially life-threatening rare diseases are treatable if they are diagnosed early enough, but they are easily overlooked or misdiagnosed due to that knowledge gap. That’s what motivates me: proper medical communication can fill that knowledge gap and has the potential to save the life of someone I know.
What is your personal mission statement? What values keep you centred in your work? Be obsessed with producing high-quality work, and providing a tangible value to the society. Provide greater value to others than the value you expect to receive.
What are your biggest short-term goals for this year and next year? M3 is the largest ‘network of HCP networks’ across the globe, with more than six million verified doctors, and that keeps growing year-on-year, but I want M3 to have wider recognition as a global leader and provider of digital solutions in the medical communication field. There are always more doctors and more pharmaceutical clients we can be working with to shrink the knowledge gaps in healthcare, so we need to keep getting our name out there and reaching new people.
What are your biggest long-term goals for five years or 10 years from now? I want M3 to provide high quality medical communications for all pharmaceutical brands and all available treatments, to all healthcare professionals globally. M3 already disseminates information for the majority of pharmaceutical brands to the majority of healthcare professionals globally, but there is much more we can do.
What excites you most about current industry trends? One of our big challenges in the industry right now is increasing public pressure to suppress medical spending, while expecting larger investment in drug discovery, launch, continued medical communication, and professional education. But a tough corner is also a chance for innovation and I am sure the industry will find new ways to accomplish its goals in this challenging period - we just have to start thinking outside of the box.
How do you foster diversity in your workplace? There is a written policy, and everyone is adhering to it, but, more importantly, M3’s complex business goal and our team’s passion to achieve that goal would naturally promote inclusion and diversity, resulting in a diversified team.
M3 is working with around 100 pharmaceutical companies in the UK alone and at the same time providing services to six million global doctor members in order to drive patient outcomes. Our value is to be an independent third party and try to achieve the goals of both pharmaceutical companies and doctors. We have dedicated teams facing pharmaceutical clients day-to-day, who structurally have to understand the issues doctors face. We also have dedicated teams facing doctor memberships, who have to understand what the pharmaceutical industry is trying to solve with us. Having a diversified background and accepting differences between each other is an essential part of our business when it comes to solving the complex business goal.
Just for stats, two thirds of the Doctors.net.uk team are female - a rare case for a Japanese headquartered company. I myself am, perhaps, a living example of ‘minority’, being the only Japanese member on the team.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed your work or your workplace culture? M3 has always offered a flexible working style, but we moved to full remote working during 2020, along with the rest of the world, and the vast majority of our team have opted to continue with either a partial or fully remote working arrangement.
But, other than that, as a company who worked in the digital space pre-pandemic, our core working culture has not changed at all. We remain focused on our three action agendas: 1. Be obsessed with clients and quality of work; 2. Embody a CEO mentality – everyone in the company is important enough to be able to effect positive change and come up with new ideas; and 3. Be respectful to those you work with.
What advice would you give to a young person starting out in your field? Find your core value and focus on it. Other things around you may shift, and at times it may be difficult to keep up, but your core value will remain your constant. You can come back to it in periods of change and use it to reframe and refocus your aims, stay optimistic, and stay open-minded to wider world.
What’s the best film or TV show you’ve watched in the last year? Sherlock!
What is your all-time favourite book? A favourite non-fiction title that taught me a lot is Shi-ji (Records of the Grand Historian). This is an important Chinese history book written by Han dynasty scholar, Sima Qian, in the 1st century, that tells the history of, large and small, approximately 200 countries/kingdoms to be unified to the Han dynasty in the end, over a period of 800 years. It explores human nature and how organisations (countries) emerge, succeed, and collapse. But my personal passion is Slamdunk, one of the most famous Japanese Manga, a story of a weak rural school basketball team that beats the national-leading team through competition and teamwork. These books made me realise I might be the one who is eager to learn how to win as a team/organisation.
If you could have any superpower, what would it be? I’d love to be able to know the abstract of every research paper ever written. The field is moving so fast, and there is ever more being published that it would help immensely to connect different dots.
What is your dream vacation? Travel to the moon. It should be the dream for anyone who earned a degree in astronautics engineering, shouldn’t it?
Connect with Tak Matsuoka on LinkedIn.