10 different roles, one global career

16 years, ten different roles and 5 different countries make for one impressive leader. We caught up with Dipal Patel to talk about her career journey and life as a leader.

Dipal, General Manager of our Singapore Pharmaceutical business joined GSK as a sales rep in Australia in 1999. Since then she’s travelled the globe, working in Belgium, Thailand,the UK and now Singapore. She’s taken on roles across a mixture of marketing, sales, medical roles  including a stint in government affairs.

Four of those years were spent as part of our ESPRIT programme, our accelerated development programme for postgraduates, following the completion of her MBA in 2006.

What drew you to a commercial role in the pharmaceutical industry?

My first job was as a GP Sales Representative in Glaxo Welcome. Growing up in Fiji, I was familiar with GW products. I’d always wanted to work for the company.

Prior to joining, I had started my PhD. A couple of years into it, I realised I would like to join the industry when I finished so I decided to take a break and start early.

I probably didn’t realise it at the time, but my early years conditioned me to become agile, flexible and adaptive. Change is a constant - particularly as the world around us keeps evolving.

You were born in Fiji, studied in US and Australia, and have worked in multiple countries since. How have those experiences helped you in your career at GSK?

I probably didn’t realise it at the time, but my early years conditioned me to become agile, flexible and adaptive. Change is a constant - particularly as the world around us keeps evolving.

Every country I’ve spent time in has been a unique experience; giving me a different perspective and demanding a different skill set - all of which has contributed to who I am today. In such a large and multicultural organisation, it’s so important to understand and work with different perspectives if you want to bring out the best from the people around you.

You came through the ESPRIT Commercial programme - How has that helped you inyour career?

ESPRIT gave me an opportunity to broaden my experience. Crucially, the programme allows you to develop an enterprise perspective. It was a critical period in my development and career.

GSK is a large and complex organisation. In order to be able to navigate the organisation, to be successful and ensure your business is successful, you need to understand not only how the wider enterprise operates as a whole but also how you can operate within it.

We have a growing number of women in General Manager roles at GSK, but currently most of our commercial leadership positions are male-dominated. What are your views on this? Has this had an impact on your development as a leader?

Both a gender and cultural balance are valuable in a team as both men/women and people from different cultures bring a unique approach to the business and help us to reflect the societies in which we work and the customers and patients we support.

My own development has always been based on merit, results and a hunger to learn. I simply focus on ensuring my organisation performs, develop my people and ensure we stay true to our values.

What are your on views on ‘leadership style’?

I think my leadership style changes as the organisation evolves. We’ve been through times of great challenge and uncertainty followed by a need for direction, to set new goals and tomove people towards a new shared vision.

There have been times when we’ve had to set pace and drive performance; and there have been times when the organisation has needed a coach, development, teamwork and morale boost.

During all times it’s been very important that I continue to listen to the people around me and feel the essence of the organisation.

A good leader is someone who is in touch with the heartbeat of the organisation... It’s simple - without our people we don’t have a business.

What do you think makes a good leader?

A good leader is someone who is in touch with the heartbeat of the organisation; someone focuses on business and people equally. It’s simple - without our people we don’t have a business. Humility and venerability are very important to me.

Which business leaders (inside or outside of GSK) do you admire?

Within GSK, I have a number of fabulous leaders who I look up to  my manager, my colleagues and my mentors and coaches who have been my guides through my career.-Outside of GSK, I respect strong women leaders such as Michelle Obama and Sheryl Sandberg their strength, grounded perspectives and defiance is admirable. All of these people have been a strong influence in my career.

Most importantly my dad  he was a true entrepreneur. He gave me determination and spirit.

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