Anne Kaas, International Medical Director at Novo Nordisk, understands first-hand what a truly global company Novo Nordisk is. She works with multinational colleagues and stakeholders from all over the globe, yet still, no matter where she is in the world, when she steps into the Novo offices she says, “ It kind of feels like home.”
Anne recalls a trip to Mexico City, a stark contrast to her home country, Denmark. She recalls the huge city, with cars all over and people shouting in different directions. “It was busy busy all the time.” She was there for a high-stakes presentation and knew she had to be at the top of her game, but she was a little out of her element. Walking up the hall, though, she explains, and seeing the Novo Nordisk offices and all too familiar pictures on the walls—what she calls “the same way more or less of decorating,” put her at ease. Anne even recalls one trip to the UK where the selected wall art featured one of her colleagues from back home. “I of course sent a photo to him and told him how famous he was,” she said laughing.
With all her international experience, Anne still claims she’s only tapped into one percent of the opportunities the company has to offer. “I think you can put it in different levels,” Anne says of her experience working in such a global way. On one level, she says is coming into work every morning and greeting your colleagues from all over the world in English. Anne explains that she feels a special obligation to check in with non-Danish colleagues “I don’t do much more than ask how’s the family, if they’ve managed to settle in and offer up a name if I know someone that may be able to help,” she says modestly.
Then on another level, she explains is the interactions she has with various medical sites around the globe while designing and carrying out clinical trials. “You constantly have to bear in mind how you communicate in email correspondence, think about time differences when you schedule meetings, but also just be aware, all the time, of the different starting points from my different stakeholders,” she explains.
Finally, Anne points out, there is the global reach she has in terms of treating patients. As Anne recalls, when she first decided to work for Novo Nordisk, she was nervous she would lose out on the patient interaction. “Being a medical doctor,” she explains, “you are taught right from the beginning that it is all about treating patients.” She quickly learned, though, what she says is captured best in one of the Novo slogans: “We don’t treat one we treat millions.” She goes on to explain what this means to her: “It’s not hands on in the same way,” she explains. “So you can’t help Ms. X sitting in front of you, however, you help a lot of Ms. X’s, all over the globe, all the time,” she says with an excited and genuine smile spread across her face.
Of course, global work is not without challenges. For instance, she explains, each culture has its own way of working and different respects for time or communication. Further, each country has its own quality checks. As Anne describes, “sometimes it can get tense.” What helps, she holds, is remembering that they are all working toward the same thing. “People can get wrapped up in taking care of their own interest,” says Anne, “but I think every time it comes back to remembering that we have the same goal—that’s very good to keep in mind.”
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