Encourage associates to take risks and provide an environment where they can test their ideas, says Celine Landie, Managing Director, Singapore & Emerging Asian Countries, Novartis, in this exclusive interview with Jerene Ang.

Q Having spent over 15 years in the pharmaceutical industry, what drew you to it?

Definitely passion. Working in an industry that seeks to improve people’s lives aligns very well with my personal principles and values.

Family life is very important to me and health is a big determining factor for good family relationships – it gives people joy when we are in the pink of health, or grief when our family members are suffering. Innovative medicines help us tackle the hard-to-treat conditions, earning days with loved ones and a better quality of life for patients. This is what keeps me motivated in my job.

Q Having been with Novartis for nearly five years, how would you describe your journey?

I am very fortunate to be able to work with different teams at both the regional and local level. I started as the APAC Franchise Head in Ophthalmology, and then took on my current role.

My roles allow me to nurture strong talent and create an environment to foster their curiosity, creativity and spirit of collaboration. If I must pick one memorable moment, it would be the establishment of the Novartis office in Myanmar earlier this year. We are passionate in bringing innovative medicine to countries where we see disparity in healthcare access, and to help to improve patients’ outcomes.

Q I understand you believe in building a culture of curiosity. How are you trying to achieve such a culture at Novartis?

We encourage our associates to take risks and provide an environment where they can test their ideas. We provide training to support people in the process of innovation – from generating real-world data to walking in the patients’ shoes. We also ensure people who constantly think out of the box are rewarded. Our business is built upon teams with diverse experiences and leaders who lead with curiosity. We cultivate an atmosphere that encourages everyone to ask “Why not?” to challenge fixed mindsets, develop healthy risk appetites and make room for discovery.

Q As an advocate for gender equality in the workplace, what do you think organisations can do to empower more women leaders?

An important first step is to recognise the gender inequities that exist in the business world. Organisations can bridge the gender gap by instilling values that promote diversity, and be more intentional in supporting women to help balance their roles at home and at work. At Novartis, our goal is to achieve gender balance in management by 2023. I am proud to share our Singapore executive leadership teams in our pharmaceuticals, oncology and solids manufacturing divisions have more than 50% representation of women.

Over the years, we have actively advocated for gender equality by attracting, developing and retaining great women leaders, and building a culture that ensures every individual is valued and respected.

Q How closely do you work with your HR head and on what kind of issues?

Human resources is a highly strategic business function as it manages the biggest asset of our business – people. At Novartis, the HR department was rebranded as People & Organisation (P&O) because we truly believe our people form the foundation of the entire organisation. We recognise that an organisational culture underpins business performance. To develop and cultivate smart talent, the key focus areas for our P&O department is to build an inspired, “unbossed” and curious culture which promotes a diversity of thinking.

Q If not this career, what alternative career path might you have chosen?

There are two possible alternative career paths I would have chosen. Firstly, I would run a travel agency which specialises in adventurous trips. I love to travel with my family and organise adventures for my family holidays. Next month, we are trekking and camping on the Great Wall of China! Secondly, I would have been a mathematics teacher. I love maths, numbers and have a passion for teaching as well.

Photo / provided