Diego Gola and his sales colleagues in Novo Nordisk Brazil

Discovering an underlying current of purpose in our careers, especially one that has the level of social impact as helping people with chronic illnesses, is one we might expect in positions in the medical field like doctors, nurses, medical scientists, and so forth, but what happens when it extends beyond that? 

When you think about a career in sales, it is usually not associated with the same level of benevolence. As the name implies, it's generally more about selling products or services than it is about saving lives. However, according to Diego Gola, our National Head of Sales in Brazil, at Novo Nordisk, exactly the opposite is true.

Diego has been with Novo Nordisk for almost four years. He's still the new guy in comparison to average tenure at Novo Nordisk. And as he has risen through the company, he has found that the majority of his jobs have been about fostering relationships, and improving is soft-skills, rather than driving for sales or financial results. Both with his current position as the Head of National Sales (Obesity), as with his previous positions, it's always been about helping people that need Novo Nordisk's medicine to live happy and fruitful lives.

"When I look back on my career with Novo Nordisk, I started as the head person responsible for business intelligence, the patient support program and digital marketing. A year and a half later, I started working as the product and marketing manager in the Obesity department. A year on from that, I took on the role of National Head of Sales in the Obesity department.

What I feel fortunate about, on this career path I have followed, is that it's been more about taking opportunities to improve my soft-skills and getting to know various areas of the company and our patients—rather than following the conventional ideas of being a specialist and never deviating from a set role. I feel it's given me the insights to see things from different perspectives and to look at sales as more than just selling stuff."

In speaking with Diego about his daily work, he was adamant throughout the interview that he felt his work felt a lot bigger and more purposeful than if he was only responsible for driving the sales number up. He expressed a sense of pride at feeling responsible for providing the knowledge and solutions that individual doctors and health care providers around the various states and regions of Brazil.

"On a day-to-day basis, I am responsible for about 40 salespeople spread around the country, who together look after the entire Brazilian market. Brazil is a large country with many cultural, regional and economic differences, meaning just having one solution for everyone wouldn't work. So, together my sales team and I ensure that the doctors in each state have all the information that they need, as well as the solutions that fit exactly what they need for their patients.

This means speaking with the doctors daily, trying to understand the specific difficulties their patients are having, and providing them with answers that make their lives, and the lives of their patients, better."

It was evident in speaking to Diego that he is fully aware of the classic view of a 'salesperson.' He knows that traditionally this view doesn't entail taking responsibility for providing life-changing solutions for people at the end of the sales funnel. But to him, this is where things start to deviate from the norm inside the walls of Novo Nordisk.

"I know that when you think about sales, the first thing that often comes to mind is, of course, selling stuff. However, the way we see ourselves as salespeople here at Novo Nordisk is not as people merely trying to sell more products. We are much more driven by taking care of lives.

It's my team that handles the topic of obesity in Brazil, and when you start to look at obesity as one of the main catalysts for all the chronic diseases that Novo Nordisk works to provide health solutions for, it's a big responsibility. In fact, in my team, you could say that each employee is responsible for more than 6000 lives, so it's huge. So you can see that for us, for myself, it is more about the larger purpose than it is about selling, you know?"

One of the clear motivations that drives Diego on a daily basis is knowing that he is working for a company that practices what they preach. He understands that one of the core attributes of a purpose-driven workspace is that actions speak louder than words.

"My motivation is honestly driven by knowing that I work for a company that is truly concerned about the welfare of people that suffer from chronic disease. You know in many situations in a sales office, you might see motivational words or values on the wall to inspire a sense of purpose—but they're just there for show. The company might act in complete contrast to those words and values. But with my job, I know that I am working for a company that thinks and acts in the same direction. They walk-the-talk, you could say."

That understanding of the actions that Novo Nordisk takes, both big and small, to live up to the values that the brand embraces and puts forth, is clearly evident in the way that Diego speaks about his job. Not once during our interview did he mention sales numbers, profit growth or other metrics which you might associate with someone leading a national sales department. His words seemed to be driven by a sense of pride in delivering an essential service to society.

"We see ourselves in Sales as much more of a support network, rather that you would traditionally call a "sales-force." We don't just call or visit healthcare professionals and just hand them some marketing material, say a few nice things, then go away. In my job, we are much more like consultants that can help doctors solve their problems, to make sure that their patients—the people of Brazil—have all the care they need.

In just the short time that we spoke with Diego, it became clear that the purpose and meaning that propels him in his own work as Brazil's National Head of Sales, is wholly intertwined with the same values and purpose that drives Novo Nordisk. Once again reiterating that for Novo Nordisk employees, no matter where on the globe, or on what career path, the lighthouse to look to for guidance and direction is the same for everyone—helping to provide the best care for patients.