With the HBA NY/NJ region “Spotlight on a Rising Star” series, we want to learn more about the people behind the award. In this first interview, we talked with Katherine Stultz. Katherine is the general manager (GM), Spain and Portugal, for Celgene. She was awarded her Rising Star in 2014
1. Please tell us a bit about your background.
I am a career professional in the pharmaceutical industry with over 20 years of experience. I entered the industry as a young engineer in product development. During this time, I have worked for three companies and have had the fortune of having many strong mentors and champions along the way. As such, I have been able to evolve my professional contributions from technical development to commercial leadership as well as clinical development strategy and execution.
2. The HBA 2017 theme was Transforming with G.R.I.T. (Gratitude. Resilience. Influence. Tenacity) Which one of these did you focus on in 2017? Why?
In 2017, I primarily focused on Influence. I have no doubt this will continue in 2018. These are four very powerful words and the meaning behind them must show up with us when we show up. The clearer we are on the purpose we are bringing the more the volume has a chance to increase through our actions.
3. What advice would you have for yourself as you started your career? What advice do you wish you had ignored?
I would say constantly learn, stay on top of trends, look at the work you do from as many perspectives as possible. People love to teach – ask questions and then ask more questions. Take the path of learning and seeking to understand – it grows your own capacity, but in times of difficult negotiations or challenges – it will pay dividends. We rarely have the “right answer” on our own perspective.
I received this advice quite a bit when I started – be patient coupled with follow a timeline. This often came up when looking for career advice or the potential of a next assignment. What I have learned is there is no right timeline. We make this up as we go. Rather than the “time element” perhaps we should coach our talent on what you want to accomplish in this role/assignment. When will you know you have been successful? What skills does this opportunity afford you? What capabilities will you gain from this assignment? If we are thoughtful in these types of questions it will be clear to you leaders around you when you get there – it is time. But it is a different conversation that moves us from the all too common – take this role for 2-3 years and then you’ll be ready. The answer is maybe, but someone may be ready in 18 months and someone else in four years, or maybe never. We need to be honest as to why we take opportunities and what we hope to get out of the experience to measure the “time” necessary in a role. I have tried to evolve my coaching discussions to this direction, but I know not all leaders and managers think this way.
4. Fill in the blank: After receiving my Rising Star award, it propelled my “________”? How?
Voice. I realized quickly that I was given a gift that far exceeded the recognition. I knew that I was advocated for, that my experiences and leadership were discussed in venues where it was not always clear to me before this recognition. Your Rising Star award can be a thank you for all you have achieved. I chose to see my Rising Star as a start and place where I could leverage my voice differently. This is a precious gift and every Rising Star has this chance, because you were chosen with a very high likelihood that was not an individuals decision.
5. What’s your next (personal or professional) project?
My current role is a professional and personal project. I have told people a match made in heaven. Taking on an international assignment is about getting completely out of my comfort zone and jumping into the highest leadership position in one of our major markets. It forces me to think about the cultural differences, leading through example, the connection to the corporate priorities and many, many more aspects. I mentioned to someone recently that every leadership tool I have is being stretched and sharpened. This is a good thing. It is application at the most intense level I have had in my career to date. This of course is coupled with a personal adventure to relocate my family – three kids spanning from elementary to high school and working through their emotions and my husband taking on a very different set of challenges in navigating his own professional and personal journey. We are all on this giant adventure together and I am grateful my family is in deep with me to go on a pretty fun and wild ride. Not to mention Spain simply has fantastic weather, wine, food and culturally rich that we couldn’t imagine a better place for us as a family than being in Madrid.
6. And last question: What is your current personal motto/quote/mantra?
Keep it simple. There are so many things that are complicated, but I am learning and observing that often the outside forces aren’t making it so, but perhaps our own perspective causes things to be less straightforward than they could be. Most problems and challenges are complex, but the solutions do not need to be. Keep it simple.