A day in the life of… a former VP & General Manager, Eastern Europe at Genzyme
Ji?í He?mánek is a Chief Development &, Marketing Officer for Czech BioTech company SOTIO a.s. Here he shares his background and what his time was like at Genzyme as the VP &, General Manager of Eastern Europe (Prague).
Continuing our series where we speak with individuals from various roles and functions across the pharmaceutical industry on what a typical day is like for them, we speak with Ji?í He?mánek.
Ji?í is a Chief Development &, Marketing Officer at SOTIO a.s. (Czech BioTech company). Having only just entered this new role, Jiri shares with us what his time as VP &, General Manager Eastern Europe (Prague) at Genzyme was like.
RA: How did you come to be in this role?
JH: After 12 years with Eli Lilly in different sales and marketing positions in different countries I was approached, in 2005, by Genzyme with a very interesting task to lead their expansion in Central and Eastern Europe. At that time we had only individual employees in CEE countries and we wanted to build gradually, but relatively quickly, a reasonable presence in those countries. Firstly, I was managing six countries in CEE (Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia), later in 2010, Russia and CIS countries were added to my region.
RA: What did a typical day / week at work look like for you?
JH: My typical week included visits to at least one affiliate (in general, I travelled 70–80% of my working time) and my typical day consisted of business reviews, meetings with key customers, negotiations with payers and regulators and usually ended with a business dinner with customers or our employees. In general, I had very colourful working days – each day was different – and this made my job very interesting and rewarding.
RA: What were the biggest challenges you faced on a day-to-day basis?
JH: The biggest challenge of my day-to-day business was to defend equal rights of rare disease patients to get access to state of the art treatment regardless of the extraordinary high price of modern therapies. The second biggest challenge was probably to select the right people for our small organizations in CEE countries. By contrast to mid-size or large pharma companies, we never had enough resources to cover all necessary tasks, therefore our employees had to be highly motivated individuals capable of managing multiple tasks.
“The biggest challenge of my day-today business was to defend equal rights of rare disease patients…”
RA: What were the parts of your job that you found the most rewarding?
JH: The most rewarding part of my job was direct contact with our patients – due to the rareness of their diseases we knew most of them personally and could appreciate the benefit our targeted therapies brought to their life. This was by far the most motivating element in our job.
RA: What are the most important skills in doing your past role well?
JH: The most important skill for my role was the ability to select the right people and ensure they have all necessary tools and resources for their work in their respective countries. In addition, the ability to lead “from a distance” – setting directions and standards, however, at the same time trusting people and delegating to the lowest possible level.
RA: What is the likely progression from where you are now?
JH: The most likely logical development from this role was a geographic expansion (like in 2010 to Russia and CIS), however, the completion of integration processes after acquisition by Sanofi changed this prospective significantly. Currently, my career path is changing quite dramatically from sales &, marketing and general management towards strategic clinical development (Chief Development &, Marketing Officer for start-up Czech BioTech company SOTIO).
“…the right developmental opportunity will always come to people who work hard.”
RA: What advice would you give a job seeker looking to get into a career path similar to yours?
JH: First, enjoy and do well whatever you do right now – the right developmental opportunity will always come to people who work hard. Second, be open to new challenges and opportunities – you never know which the right one for you is. And finally, always respect people working with you, your business partners, patients – our industry is relatively small and a good reputation is your most valued asset.
RA: Who inspires you the most?
JH: Hard to mention all the people who inspire me without forgetting anyone! Anyway, I should start with my father who set high standards for me from early childhood simply by demonstrating those standards. In my business life, I was always inspired by people, who knew more than I did – and I was lucky enough to meet many of them…
RA: Thank you for your time.
JH: Thank you for your interest.
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About the interviewee:
Ji?í He?mánek graduated in Medical Biochemistry at Medico-Biological Faculty of 2nd Moscow Medical Institute, and obtained his Ph.D. in immunoparasitology at the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences and his MBA at Henley Management College (U.K.). Following eight years of scientific work, he joined pharmaceutical industry and spent twelve years in various sales and marketing positions at the global corporation Eli Lilly. Since 2005, he worked for Genzyme, initially as General Manager for the South-Central European region, with the task to build organizations and market access for rare disease medications, and later as Vice-President for Eastern and Central Europe, including Russia.
Ji?í He?mánek joined SOTIO in August 2012. Here, he will leverage his long-standing experience from the pharmaceutical industry in managing clinical development and preparing market entry for company’s product portfolio.
What advice would you give a job seeker looking to get into a career path similar to yours?