Dealing with change has been a large part of my life. Having grown up as a child of a career military officer (a.k.a. “Army
brat”), I moved frequently and learned to adjust quickly. I realized early on that I needed to learn from those around me.
One of my earliest and most influential mentors was—and still is—my father. As a general in the Army, he not only set clear expectations, but also routinely used the same leadership skills he learned in the military as he went about his life. I saw the respect he generated from those under his command and found myself wanting to instill that same feeling in others. I still come to him for his insight and advice about my business challenges.
Other mentors supported my career and advocated my talents to senior executives. Each helped me in different ways. They saw potential in me, advocated on my behalf and helped me develop the skills I needed at each phase in my career.
I joined Pfizer in 1988 as a field sales representative in Washington, D.C. My mentor and hiring manager helped me develop the sales skills I needed in my entry-level role. As I moved up into sales leadership, mentors helped me see the value of building high-performing teams.
My current position overseeing Pfizer’s $2.65 billion business unit for oncology, infectious disease and HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) requires different skills. Once again, mentors and advocates continue to help me develop my strategic thinking and navigate our complex organization.
Keeping your focus on succeeding in the job at hand, while keeping an eye to the future, is a philosophy that serves any leader well. It is important for all of us to understand that we must excel in our current position before we can be considered for more responsibilities.
While it is our responsibility to gain an understanding of the career opportunities that lie ahead of us, we also should look back and assist other colleagues coming up through the ranks. I’ve come to see what my mentors obviously knew—the best leaders are those who are committed to developing other leaders. What a great legacy it would be to know I’ve been able to help others grow and develop as others have helped me.