LIFE SCIENCE IN THE DAY of Mat Rosso, Associate Director, Production
My role as Production Lead is to make sure the research unit functions effectively. I ensure that recruitment consultants, data analysts and project coordinators have what they need to do their job and are up to the minute on all aspects of assignments as they progress. I am the point of contact representing the research function and giving the team a voice.
Any troubleshooting that is needed will be flagged to me and I escalate if necessary. We then collectively decide how we would like to handle any challenges we face. This enables consultants to focus on what they do best – business development, relationship management and execution of assignments on the client side, without having to get too involved in the minutiae of each search. Critical to the success of each assignment is that we can all navigate easily.
I am also responsible for the research team’s workload allocation. I help manage this together with the consultants and the other production leads across the global team. To ensure we are working at full capacity and are using our knowledge base and capabilities adequately takes careful management. I know where the specialisms are in the team and who to call on for extra depth of understanding. We leverage this knowledge to help us plan our best intellectual resources for each search and schedule effectively. If another Production Lead in Europe would like special insight into a niche area or vice versa, we exchange ideas. We face similar transatlantic challenges and opportunities and sharing our expertise in this way is truly efficient.
As a cross-functional link, I have an overarching view of all the work we are conducting in the US and, in addition, I track the work going on across the globe. In this way, I can compare data intelligence and step in where I spot connections. We may be talking to a big pharma player in the States, for instance, and one of our team in Switzerland also has a relationship with their subsidiary. We can then explore synergies together and build deeper relationships with clients.
Once a week, the Production Leads meet on a Skype call and we discuss all the work going on in our regions. Then we brainstorm, share thoughts, assist each other with tough searches, draw lessons from our successes and help other team members grow. We really excel as a team at being collaborative and regular quality communication enables this. In addition to informal communication, we also run seminars for one another to share specialist knowledge – OneNote training from our in-house guru Emma, for instance!
US and International Markets
There are of course differences between the various international markets and the US market can be hard to penetrate. At the level we are working, people are often overwhelmed with calls. With many contingency firms in the market, it can be difficult to make solid introductions or receive swift responses and recruiters are not necessarily welcomed with open arms. Medical doctors in the US may be more hesitant to talk by contrast with their European counterparts who are more open and exchange contact details more readily. Nevertheless, the foundations of how we target our research and share connections enable us to navigate these differences and identify our best prospects.
Regulatory considerations vary too from one geography to another and there are different requirements for different roles depending on the territory. When we share information on these international variations with clients and candidates, they understand just how well-versed we are and they value our expertise. We take our membership of the AESC very seriously and abide by their ethical code as strictly as we can. In a market like Regulatory Affairs which is saturated with recruiter outreach, we have been very successful in placing candidates. In the past year, we have worked on around 15 Regulatory Affairs assignments at the senior level across all 3 hubs. We have been meticulous in our communication with one another to manage these successfully in so many different therapeutic areas. We want candidates to last in the job so we try to build close relationships with them to understand exactly what they are looking for.
I have a strong involvement with the desk research strategy as Production Lead and we do as much targeted and local research as we can so that we can try to avoid relocation if possible. However, international relocation may well be a prerequisite for a role. With many of the ground-breaking therapeutics that are coming through, professionals at the level we work are so passionate about what they are doing that relocation is usually of secondary importance. I find that if we reach out to the right target group for the right type of role, we get a positive response.
At the start of a search, we look at the best talent in the market and take a close look at the top companies in the desired locations, which ones are making innovative moves in the industry and which individuals we want to target. We also check the top drugs that have been recently approved and any companies that have been downsizing. We consider any global market intelligence, some of which is supplied to us by Neha, our Business Intelligence Associate. In this way, we really understand the landscape of that market. We explore our network connections and explore who can make new introductions. We are so well networked that sometimes we find candidates just by contacting individuals that we know.
We are widely dispersed in the US, with team members in California, Boston, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, while I run production from Pittsburgh. We are optimally positioned near the most “happening” Life Sciences centers. With the Boston biotechnology hub, New York City and many of the larger New Jersey-based organizations on our doorsteps, we are ideally placed to identify business development opportunities and keep in touch with our networks. In Pittsburgh too, there are many up-and-coming biotechs, while on the West Coast we have access to the Bay Area, Southern California and Seattle.
We make frequent trips to other offices or we gather for a team day, to brainstorm ideas and articulate in an open environment what our goals are and what issues we are seeing in the markets. We can then proactively go about finding solutions together.
“The culture of collaboration is a defining quality of the Coulter Partners team globally. Across all functional and geographic categories, we share and support each other to provide clients with the very best possible advice,” comments Jo-Anne Patrick, Associate Director.
Strength in Diversity and Culture
What makes our whole team unique is that we bring so many diverse experiences to the table. In-depth PhD level scientific understanding, Life Science and other sector executive search experience as well as first-hand senior industry and talent acquisition expertise all add up to a great deal of combined knowledge. Underpinned by new and innovative search techniques and ideas, these credentials give us a strong advantage over other non-niche operators.
Of course, we look closely at our competitors to see what they are doing and how we can learn from them. How do we develop optimal methodologies while maintaining our Coulter Partners culture? We are never complacent. What do we need to do to keep ourselves at the forefront in our field? Our goal is to help the Life Science industry achieve advances in global health by putting the right people where they can be truly effective. We are honest about our capabilities, striving to be the best partner for each client and to outperform the benchmark we have set ourselves. We don’t always win in every competitive situation, but we take stock, review the methods we have used and work out what we could do differently next time to improve.
Maintaining the Personal Touch
None of us is siloed in one position, as in many firms where more emphasis is placed on defining roles precisely, with no crossover into other areas. What I really take pride in at Coulter Partners is that if a candidate calls us in the US and asks a question, anyone of us can handle it. We’re all in tune with what is going on, understand the market and are multi-skilled. I may be doing desk research on one assignment while I lead two others, for instance. Project coordinators often have time to help with desk research and we all have the flexibility and knowledge base to interchange roles. This is very uncommon in the US and gives clients a much higher quality service than they would normally expect.
Many executive search firms don’t take the time to get to know candidates and explain how they are set up. We build relationships and make sure to explain what we do. When we tell candidates that we are a global firm, that we operate under one global P&L and have a team of around 70, they feel reassured that we have their best interests at heart and are happy to entrust us with personal information. So many companies are focused only on the US and candidates are delighted to hear we have a much broader focus and learn about searches we have conducted across the globe.
As a team, we are constantly learning, bettering ourselves and growing in our knowledge base. Although we’re expanding, we maintain a personal approach and this helps us build strong relationships. Career progression has been very good and new colleagues are joining all the time. Although we have a strong organizational structure now as the company grows, we are not constrained by rigid boundaries. Despite each person’s core accountability, there are still plenty of opportunities to expand roles and keep it fresh and interesting.