Digital Transformation in a Novo Nordisk Blink of an Eye: Novo Nordisk’s Jonas Thinggaard on Digital Health

    11 October 2017

    Jonas Thinggaard, Associate Director for Digital Health at Novo Nordisk in the United States, helped sow the seeds for digital health within the organization and now, as he describes it, “is working on the next important piece of the puzzle in the U.S.”

    After significant time spent making a case for digital health and the forming the different partnerships and initiatives to move it forward, notably with the California based start-up, Glooko and IBM Watson Health, Jonas can say with confidence that the digital health movement is maturing swiftly within the company.  

    There’s been a tremendous excitement building, he explains. “Novo Nordisk has come to see digital health as a fundamental component, moving toward the future, for providing amazing opportunities to people with diabetes and obesity,” says Jonas, “and this has all been over the course of, what by Novo Nordisk terms, is the blink of an eye,” he explains.

    But what is digital health? While Jonas holds there are many definitions, at Novo Nordisk, he explains, the focus has been on “digital solutions that improve or support patients in managing their treatment.” It’s not just about building something new, but about utilizing what is already out there in abundance. Jonas describes it as a new era of technological advancement, fueled by data and generating insights in increasingly clever ways. “If we start utilizing the technologies, mechanisms and offerings already out there, enhanced with new innovation on the horizon,” he explains, “we can change the world.”

    “It’s not a Novo Nordisk thing, it’s a society thing,” he adds.

    Just when he thought the hard work was done and the dust would settle a bit, Jonas was offered the chance to continue the journey by focusing on the momentum overseas. “Now my focus is on supporting the establishment of digital health within the US organization, with a keen mission to drive innovation and develop the market footprint.” This, of course, comes with challenges, he explains, but also an abundance of unique opportunities. For Jonas, success is all about identifying what drives meaningful impact. He argues this means thinking digital health, healthcare systems, but moreover, how people live their lives.

    Jonas started in Novo Nordisk in 2013 through the Global Graduate Programme on the Business IT track. As he explains it, “I got offered a positon and jumped on it.” While he doesn’t consider himself a natural fit for pharma, the mission, value proposition and ultimately the ownership structure of the company drew him in. “Our fundamental ownership is anchored with a foundation that gives back to society,” he explains. “That is quite inspirational.” Beyond this, though, “Novo Nordisk lives its values, which creates a special company culture, one that I am proud to have developed in.” Ultimately, Jonas was hired directly from the graduate programme and was shorty after put to work on Novo Nordisk’s digital health efforts, working closely with senior leadership.

    Jonas explains that what is truly exciting about digital health, in addition to the opportunities it affords, is the organizational change it demands to succeed. Digital health will change Novo Nordisk, Jonas is sure of it. Though, as he reflects, “change is not a new phenomenon to our more than 90-year- old leading pharmaceutical company.” Openness to change, he explains, is something he’s felt continuously while pushing for digital health. As he describes it, he never felt anyone adamantly against the work that was being done and he never felt dissuaded from pushing forward. “I’ve only ever had the feeling ‘ok we need to put more skin in the game in order to get there.’”

    This openness, Jonas explains, is essential, but not always easy. “We are so good at developing innovative pharmaceutical products, I would say better than anyone else in the world. We’ve built our entire machine around that and it’s not a small machine,” explains Jonas. “That machine, however, was not built for short end-to-end development cycles.”

    As Jonas holds, though, “Now is the time to pursue digital health. Patient digital innovation groups have been popping up seemingly overnight and non-healthcare players are aggressively entering the domain along with massive investments from industry players”. Moving toward digital health, Jonas explains, is a global trend. While the movement is comparable to the digitalization that other industries have gone through over the last decades, he explains, digital health is unique because at the end of the day, it’s about the most precious thing in the world: people’s lives. 


    Working Worldly: A Talk with Novo Nordisk’s Natasha Munhóes Corrêa

    11 October 2017

    Natasha Munhóes Corrêa, Global Project Manager within Global Medical Affairs – Medical Operations has lived in three countries in the past four years, something she’s quick to say she’s super thankful for. Currently working to support global clinical trials with patient recruitment and retention activities, Natasha holds, clinical trials are very complex, particularly with regard to coordinating with many different countries and cultures.

    Even on the most basic level, she notes, she must consider time zone, working hours, national holidays and visa issues. “You have to have a good overview of what is happening in the world,” she explains. She recounts a time where a global meeting was planned to take place in summer 2016, to which she asked, “Which summer?” For such reasons, her department keeps a spreadsheet of employees with specific local knowledge.

    A spreadsheet, which would have to be rather expansive, because as Natasha notes, “We are more than 20 nationalities in my department.” When she comes to work each day, Natasha explains, she can expect to be greeted by colleagues from all over the world bringing their own experiences, culture and very often, homemade desserts. 

    Working in such a global fashion, though, does have its challenges. For one, Natasha explains, sometimes solutions that seem unquestionably valuable simply aren’t because of cultural barriers. Natasha recounts a time where they tried to implement an SMS service to help patients globally remember their appointments and better prepare for them. “In one country, some of the patients lived far away in small villages and didn’t even have mobile phones.” Ultimately, the service was suspended in the countries where it wasn’t of use. “The most important thing is to be useful,” Natasha explains.

    Natasha, who’s always had a fierce interest in traveling, says she’s felt heard and supported through every step of her international journey with Novo Nordisk. She’s always been able to talk openly with management about development opportunities and at times has even been appointed coaches to guide her along the way. A perk, she says, was particularly helpful when first making the switch from a local affiliate in her hometown of São Paulo to the regional office in Zürich. “They listen to you if you have an interest in working abroad, or even if you want to move around within the company,” she explains. “They see the value of learning from different parts of the organization.”

    This is so important, because as Natasha says, “The international experience helps you to make decisions here in headquarters now.” She goes on to reason, “One size does not fit all,” at the end of the day we have to adapt strategies to local needs. Further, she adds, the opportunity to move around in the company allows you to experience the company “from different perspectives and at different levels,” something she is really thankful for.

    Home for Natasha is a 15-hour flight away and a three to five hour time difference, depending on the season. Her fiancé, whom she’s been with for 12 years now, still lives back in Brazil, “It has been a long journey,” explains Natasha. That said, Natasha claims she’s gotten used to it and that Skype, FaceTime and WhatsApp have been lifesavers.

    Natasha, who has a plan A, B, C and D at any given time, says she hopes to bring her fiancé here and stay for good, but even if it doesn’t work out, she says, she feels there are still options on the table. “I’m constantly telling my fiancé,” explains Natasha, “even if it’s hard what we’ve been through, I think we need to be thankful for having the opportunity to choose.  Some people might not even have one or two choices.”

    While Natasha admits having a global career has had its challenges, she’s never once doubted her decisions. “I think your motivation gives you some fuel through all the challenges of living abroad,” she explains. “You actually spend most of your time at work, so I believe if you do what you love, it makes things easier.” Always a planner, Natasha says she never would have thought she’d end up here in global headquarters. That said, she is an adamant believer that sometimes you simply get led to a place, follow your intuition and as long as you’re happy, you should go with it. She realizes this isn’t for everyone. “Each person is different and you have your personal life and things that you wish for your career.” Beyond this and borrowed from Facebook COO Sheryl Sandburg, she has a question she suggests you ask yourself when tough decisions are thrown your way:  “What would you do if you didn’t have fear?” 


    Feeling at Home All Over the Globe: A Chat with Novo Nordisk’s Anne Kaas on Working Globally

    02 October 2017

    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.”


    Getting the Best of Both Worlds through Mutual Understanding: Novo Nordisk’s Beatrice Yang on Working Globally

    02 October 2017

    Beatrice Yang, Global Project Manager within Global Medical Affairs, works daily to recruit and retain patients for complex clinical trials and is adamant that there is no one-size-fits-all approach.

    In her daily work, Beatrice interacts with health care professionals and colleagues from all over the globe, involved in any one trial and, as such, has become privy to the cultural differences that impact them. For one, she explains, factors motivating patients’ willingness to join a clinical trial and stay in it until the end can be highly dependent upon the country. The kinds of trials Beatrice works with, which range from two to five years, or longer—as opposed to the more standard trial length of a half year, require a particularly in-depth understanding of local incentives, she explains.

    In order to remain cognizant of cultural barriers or issues of importance for each unique trial, Beatrice’s department develops training and support materials, such as motivation guides. While such materials encourage local input and customization, Beatrice explains, sometimes a situation occurs where the basic assumptions upon which they are based is flawed.

    Such was the case, Beatrice discovered, on a recent trip to India. A certain guideline was based on the idea that doctors have the time to sit with their patients and interact. In India, though, she explains, a doctor sees roughly 200 to 300 patients a day. “Talking to the Indian doctors about how this works in practice,” she explains, made it clear that “some of the things you are proposing might never be possible in that setting.”

    Since joining Novo Nordisk, Beatrice has worked in both the regional Zürich and affiliate Beijing offices, in addition to where she currently sits in global headquarters. Beyond giving her an outlet to practice her Chinese learnt from childhood, these international experiences, she explains, have afforded her a much better understanding of the need for local adaption. “I understand the headquarters way is not always the best way, so I consistently try to take this into consideration.”

    For this reason, Beatrice makes sure to talk with country representatives weekly, if not daily. She explains, the intent is not to make them adhere or bend to global headquarter ideals, “it’s about listening and understanding their reality, what they do and trying to make them reach success.” Beatrice holds that thinking globally ultimately boils down to mutual understanding—a give and take.

    The extent of Beatrice’s global experience, she explains, does not end with her two stints living abroad. At Novo Nordisk, she says, she gets the global experience daily. “Looking around the office, it’s nice to see people from many different countries and cultures.” Further, things like the working language being English and speaking to affiliates from all over the world, she explains, are constant reminders of the global nature of the work. She is also quick to add that the array of times that one might receive an email depending on the time zones of the people you’re working with is a pretty good reminder as well. “I’ve been working on projects where I’m in communication with the US and China simultaneously,” Beatrice exclaims, with an exasperated expression.

    Beatrice, who started her journey with Novo Nordisk through the Regulatory Affairs Graduate Program, put her PhD studies in Diabetes and Endocrinology on hold in order to partake. “That was seven years ago,” she laughs and adds, “I haven’t regretted it, I’ve been very happy.”

    For Beatrice, always interested in diabetes research, Novo Nordisk’s expertise is what originally caught her eye, but as she says, “that wouldn’t have been a deciding factor as such.” Beatrice holds that the culture and truly global nature of the company are what sealed the deal for her. While other large companies are certainly working globally, she explains, here at Novo Nordisk, she feels the importance of spending the resources to tap into stakeholder knowhow all over the globe is prioritized.  “There is a Novo Nordisk culture that somehow has been disseminated out in the entire organization,” she says.  Even as far away as China, when she steps into the offices, Beatrice claims, she can feel that there is Novo Nordisk in the air. “I would say it’s a very successful implementation of the Novo Nordisk Way across the globe.”


    Working Smarter by Working Less? Novo Nordisk’s Mads Hofman-Thaysen on the Rise of the Machines

    29 September 2017

    Mads Hofman-Thaysen, Vice President of Client Services and IT infrastructure, is a strong believer that automation is the key to both better work and happier employees. In his words, with the help of automation, “we can ask employees to do something more motivating and, on the other hand, we can do better work because computers are consistent, whereas humans make mistakes.”

    Mads explains that for the past years, there has been a tremendous focus on the role that automation and technology, in general, can play within Novo Nordisk. Both on a sophisticated level, as can be seen with the approach to digital health, but also on a very practical level, where Mads has been most focused. Such automation, Mads explains, means “instead of having humans do tedious, repetitive tasks, you build a script that can run those tasks for you.” Toward this end, Mads has been working on piloting robotic process automation throughout the organization. He is quick to tell you, though, it’s not really a robot, it’s just a program!”

    In Mads’ line of work, he is no stranger to the question of whether robots will take over our work and to that his firm answer is: No! “Robots won’t take over our work, they will simply change the nature of it,” he explains. The key, he continues, is to understand which parts need to be automated and which require humans. As Mads holds, “Automation is not for everything. There are some tasks that are really good for automation, some that are really good for humans and some that are a mix.” It is toward this area of collaboration that Mads claims we are going. He envisions that a robot could maybe take 80% of the tedious aspects of work and employees could retain the 20% that requires thinking, judging and deciding. For now, though, focus is on the low-hanging fruits, on a continuous path to working smarter.

    Regarding the future role of automation in our lives, Mads admits, “I think it’s hard for us to have a clear thought about how it is going to look ten years from now when we work in a different way.” Regardless, he holds, “People are clever and we will find a spot. I think most people want to have something more motivating, where you work with your colleagues, consider different cases and find solutions.”

    Mads, who joined Novo Nordisk in 2008 in a business consulting role, has been working for the last decade in different Corporate IT functions. Over the course of his tenure, he has experienced IT within the company from pretty much every angle. Always eager to seize the next opportunity to grow, Mads launched his way into Novo Nordisk from a career in management consulting and has worked with everything from the internal change request and non-conformities system, to IT strategy setting and, most recently, he accepted a new position controlling the behind the scenes of employee devices such as computers and phones.

    While IT has played a tremendous role throughout his career, Mads claims that it is not the technical parts that interest him, so much as the practical applications of technology in daily business at Novo Nordisk. As such, Mads enjoys helping the specific business areas think long-term about what they need to succeed in terms of technological infrastructure. “It is a bit of a unique function because you need to be able to span understanding both the business and the processes, but then also translate that into an understanding of how systems can support this.”

    When Mads joined Novo Nordisk, now 10 years ago, he initially made the switch to be able to see out his work end-to-end. Having come from management consulting, he explained “before you had seen the results of what you did, you were on to the next task.” At Novo Nordisk, he explains, not only does he come out with the entire cycle of learning involved in each new project, but he is constantly supported and challenged by his managers to continue to develop. “ They are very good at continuing to challenge your development plan, both on the personal side, but also on the professional side, to ensure you don’t just get stuck in one position,” Mads says of his managers. Mads finds that what makes Novo Nordisk truly special is that you know you have good colleagues, motivating tasks, a good team spirit, managers you can talk to and that you can have fun.

    At the end of the day, Mads explains, “Even though Novo Nordisk is a manufacturing and product-based company, the focus is very much on people, both externally, with our patients, but also internally, with our employees.” His job, he asserts is to find ways to use IT to support the journey of finding smarter ways to work to continue to support happy employees.


    AI is the New Black: Novo Nordisk’s Lene Bjerregaard on the Rise of the Machines

    27 September 2017

    Lene Bjerregaard, Senior Vice President Quality Coordinator is adamant that as far as technology has come, it will not replace us. “I know artificial intelligence is like the new black, but we have known about AI and looked into it since the early 90s,” she argues. “It hasn’t been a threat so far.”

    In Lene’s line of work, the application of new technology is something she must consider often. “I’m constantly thinking about what kind of new technology we can apply to improve the reporting and the collection of data that we use and improve our manufacturing processes.”

    A lot has changed since she first started out, she explains. “We have a lot more information and can do more advanced statistics…I think that’s a huge help.” Lene’s ultimate goal for technology, though, is that it can replace any potentially labour-intensive, or high-turnover positions that could stand to pose threats to health or wellbeing. “If it requires very little training and is very repetitive,” she explains, “then it’s ideal for automation,”

    In terms of what this means for Novo Nordisk, Lene holds, “We always need to optimise our processes and the rapid development of technology enables us to improve in new ways every day. We have the knowledge and understanding of our current systems and processes, so we should help each other see and evaluate new opportunities and only make value-adding changes.”

    The problem, Lene explains, is when we automate for the sake of automation. “I think a lot of companies want to be so much in the forefront that there’s a risk that the technology drives the development, rather than the other way around.” Lene points out that some processes can be optimized so much that they become detrimental to other ones. In her words, “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.”

    We must use machines wisely, she cautions. For Lene, this means when there are issues with retention, when processes are difficult for humans to perform without error, when there are safety issues, heavy lifting or simply if it is overly repetitive work. Technological advancement, she argues, “needs to come from an issue or opportunity.”

    All and all, she holds that machines will never be suitable to take over fully. Machines are designed to take over very specific, pre-defined tasks. As such, she explains, “computers will simply be fast support tools—we’re in charge of developing the equipment and direction, so ultimately we’re still involved. Lene uses the example of self-driving cars to show that ultimately they exist to support human transportation. “There will always be a purpose behind designing a machine, even if it’s based on artificial intelligence,” she explains.

    Lene’s ultimate vision for technology and her job: that she could spend 100% of her job on the 10% that she loves. For her that would mean that analysing and making recommendations, without the hassle of getting all the data. “I think the fun would be to figure out what kind of analysis we need to do next, where we can improve and then get the computers to do the dirty work,” she laughs.

    When she reflects on whether she’ll get there, she says her hopes are high because at Novo Nordisk, company and process development are of the utmost importance, she explains. There is an innovative and supportive culture and management, she adds. Still, though, the exercise of picturing how dramatically her work will continue to change in the future is a rather abstract and challenging task, she explains. “It is funny to think about what the future will bring and how it will affect your work,” Lene reflects, “because it pushes the limits of your thoughts a little bit further than you are able to yourself.” The advice she gives to those weary of the rapid rate of technological change:  “don’t be scared of technology, just embrace it and make the most of it.”


    Robots will Replace us, but not to Worry

    21 September 2017

    A Talk with Novo Nordisk’s Sorela Kurbegovic on the Rise of the Machines

    Sorela Kurbegovic, Senior Engineer at Novo Nordisk, says with confidence and a challenging glint in her eye that one day robots will make our jobs obsolete. “In the future, robots will take over even professional jobs—maybe even my own,” insists Sorela.

    Sorela, who is currently working to build more intelligent processes and machines at Novo Nordisk, acknowledges that while the rise of the machines hasn’t fully affected her work yet, trends she sees in the industry indicate that this won’t be the case for long.

    Her argument is simple: robots learn and retain knowledge quicker and cheaper than we humans. For instance, if we have to learn something new we might go to a training session. To pass that info along, we’d either have to teach someone else, or send them to the same session. For robots, this is the click of a button. This brings about the situation, explains Sorela, where “robots don’t even have to be better than us, they just have to be as good as us.”

    The goal for now, as Sorela explains of her work, is “trying to build more intelligent machines so we can get more information out.” Then, as she describes, the task is to find smart ways to use this data. Ultimately, she hopes, this will mean self-learning, self-optimizing machines that can do more than pre-programed tasks. To reach these goals, management must be open and supportive because, as she notes, “there is always a higher risk in the beginning when you implement new things.” Luckily, this is a support she feels she has at Novo Nordisk. “I can see management becoming more open to this and seeing the light,” she exclaims.

    In terms of robots taking over our jobs, Sorela acknowledges, “It will not all happen from one day to another, but over time a lot of jobs will be eliminated.” With technology developing at lightning speed and at cheaper costs, she explains, we might see major changes sooner, rather than later. Further, she notes, many jobs already have been converted into more interesting things.

    If what you’ve read thus far makes you picture flying cars and food pills, fret not. Sorela stresses, these aren’t full-sized robots just walking around. They can be anything from an arm on a conveyer belt to a software system. They are, however, becoming more user-friendly. In the past, she explains, such machines required intensive coding and were dangerous. If you walked in front of them they would likely hit you. Now, she explains, there exist machines with sensors that will stop if you come in their path and can mimic motion with little to no programing required—Perfect for robot human collaboration.  “In the beginning I think it will be a lot of collaboration with the robots and then, eventually, they will take over,” reasons Sorela.

    So what does this mean for us? It is a good thing, she explains. While the thought of machines taking over is daunting, explains Sorela, it’s happening slowly and much of it has already happened. We have robots vacuuming our homes, GPS in our car, self-driving lawnmowers, planes that can land themselves—and we like it! Right now, Sorela continues, a doctor can perform surgery on a patient in another room, soon he or she can be in another country and eventually, we don’t even need the doctor. “I don’t think I can even remember how to use a map anymore,” she laughs, reflecting on the prevalence of GPS these days.

    This is not to say there won’t be value in the human touch, explains Sorela, “I think people will always want to be in contact with other people and they will want to purchase things made by people.”

    Right now it’s hard to look 20 years ahead and picture what the world will look like, Sorela explains, “I can also not imagine everything being done by robots. It’s hard to imagine these things.” That said, she continues, “It will come. I just can’t say when, how and to which extent.           


    It’s Novo Nordisk, but it feels like a start-up: Novo Nordisk’s Thomas Angelius on working with Digital Health.

    07 September 2017

    Thomas Angelius, Vice President of Digital Health IT, is excited and energized for the future of digital health.  His excitement is hard to ignore when you hear the speed and intensity with which he talks, all the while keeping each sentence he speaks packed with meaning and intention.

    Digital health, to Thomas, means the ability for constant health monitoring and data reporting to allow for personalized and precise treatment. The problem is, though, nobody really knows what this will look like at Novo Nordisk. “We have to build the roads while we’re driving on them,” says Thomas of the tricky task. 

    So what kind of workplace does this create? Thomas describes it as a start-up within a large organization—a team of 15 working toward a future they cannot yet fully comprehend. “It’s exciting because there is no one established player,” he explains. “It’s a bit like when the internet was commercialized.”

    Working in this way makes five-year plans something more like five-year aspirations and certainly presents its challenges.  For one, Novo Nordisk, a well-oiled machine in the area of drug delivery, has quality checks at every corner and for good reason. As such, Thomas explains, “Projects don’t fail...and now we work in an environment where we will fail repeatedly in order to succeed long term.” For Novo Nordisk to succeed in digital health, failing and learning is something we simply must be able to do. We’ll have to take a leap of faith. “Everyone is a little out of their comfort zone,” he explains, but this can be a catalyst for innovative solutions because it produces a lot of energy.

    The company has taken steps to show it’s aligned with the cause, for one, it has removed much of the normal red tape, which Thomas explains, is often  put in place to eliminate risk and, thereby, weed out initiatives such as theirs.  Further, the program has its own one-off steering committee to manage them.

    Even still, attempting start-up agility within a giant organization, is, as Thomas describes, “a constant balancing act.” That said, the first solutions being built now won’t just change the products being made, but will spur a whole new dialogue and understanding of patient care. Thomas holds, this is more than one-off innovation. This is a revolution.

    Novo Nordisk is a great place to be during this revolution, he explains, because of the “many clever people,” brand new technologies—such as cognitive computing and the cause driven work—where real impact can be made. Still further, Thomas explains, while they’re experimental like a start-up, they have the muscle and quality of a large organization determined to succeed. This means if you have a good idea, you can actually push it pretty far and have a high chance of success. “Start-ups struggle to realize their dreams because they don’t have the resources,” Thomas points out. “We have the resources.”

    Regardless of where you are, though, this is unchartered and exciting territory that stands to change the face of patient care. “Increasingly digital health will not be thought of as a side feature, but will actually be built into the products we create,” exclaims Thomas excitedly, “we are part of shaping the future, not just for Novo, but beyond.” 


    Working Worldly: A Talk with Novo Nordisk’s Natasha Munhóes Corrêa

    31 August 2017

    Natasha Munhóes Corrêa, Global Project Manager within Global Medical Affairs – Medical Operations has lived in three countries in the past four years, something she’s quick to say she’s super thankful for. Currently working to support global clinical trials with patient recruitment and retention activities, Natasha holds, clinical trials are very complex, particularly with regard to coordinating with many different countries and cultures.

    Even on the most basic level, she notes, she must consider time zone, working hours, national holidays and visa issues. “You have to have a good overview of what is happening in the world,” she explains. She recounts a time where a global meeting was planned to take place in summer 2016, to which she asked, “Which summer?” For such reasons, her department keeps a spreadsheet of employees with specific local knowledge.

    A spreadsheet, which would have to be rather expansive, because as Natasha notes, “We are more than 20 nationalities in my department.” When she comes to work each day, Natasha explains, she can expect to be greeted by colleagues from all over the world bringing their own experiences, culture and very often, homemade desserts. 

    Working in such a global fashion, though, does have its challenges. For one, Natasha explains, sometimes solutions that seem unquestionably valuable simply aren’t because of cultural barriers. Natasha recounts a time where they tried to implement an SMS service to help patients globally remember their appointments and better prepare for them. “In one country, some of the patients lived far away in small villages and didn’t even have mobile phones.” Ultimately, the service was suspended in the countries where it wasn’t of use. “The most important thing is to be useful,” Natasha explains.

    Natasha, who’s always had a fierce interest in traveling, says she’s felt heard and supported through every step of her international journey with Novo Nordisk. She’s always been able to talk openly with management about development opportunities and at times has even been appointed coaches to guide her along the way. A perk, she says, was particularly helpful when first making the switch from a local affiliate in her hometown of São Paulo to the regional office in Zürich. “They listen to you if you have an interest in working abroad, or even if you want to move around within the company,” she explains. “They see the value of learning from different parts of the organization.”

    This is so important, because as Natasha says, “The international experience helps you to make decisions here in headquarters now.” She goes on to reason, “One size does not fit all,” at the end of the day we have to adapt strategies to local needs. Further, she adds, the opportunity to move around in the company allows you to experience the company “from different perspectives and at different levels,” something she is really thankful for.

    Home for Natasha is a 15-hour flight away and a three to five hour time difference, depending on the season. Her fiancé, whom she’s been with for 12 years now, still lives back in Brazil, “It has been a long journey,” explains Natasha. That said, Natasha claims she’s gotten used to it and that Skype, FaceTime and WhatsApp have been lifesavers.

    Natasha, who has a plan A, B, C and D at any given time, says she hopes to bring her fiancé here and stay for good, but even if it doesn’t work out, she says, she feels there are still options on the table. “I’m constantly telling my fiancé,” explains Natasha, “even if it’s hard what we’ve been through, I think we need to be thankful for having the opportunity to choose.  Some people might not even have one or two choices.”

    While Natasha admits having a global career has had its challenges, she’s never once doubted her decisions. “I think your motivation gives you some fuel through all the challenges of living abroad,” she explains. “You actually spend most of your time at work, so I believe if you do what you love, it makes things easier.” Always a planner, Natasha says she never would have thought she’d end up here in global headquarters. That said, she is an adamant believer that sometimes you simply get led to a place, follow your intuition and as long as you’re happy, you should go with it. She realizes this isn’t for everyone. “Each person is different and you have your personal life and things that you wish for your career.” Beyond this and borrowed from Facebook COO Sheryl Sandburg, she has a question she suggests you ask yourself when tough decisions are thrown your way:  “What would you do if you didn’t have fear?”