Leadership Lessons: Featuring Anne Swan 

Anne Swan is an experienced pharmaceutical executive with both Canadian and UK experience. Her most recent role as a GM for a startup company complements her many years of progressive success in big pharma where she enjoyed roles with increasing responsibility in sales, marketing, access and executive leadership. She has depth and breadth across a large portfolio of products and throughout all stages of the product lifecycle. 

Anne is an authentic leader with a passion for people. Her ability to actively listen, synthesize information and clearly communicate a strategic vision has been instrumental in her success. 

Anne holds a BA and an eMBA from the University of Western Ontario. She is certified in change management and executive coaching and has found this skillset to be critical in a time of ambiguity in her role as coach and mentor to peers and individuals in career and life transitions.  

What is an important lesson/skill you learned that has helped you progress in your career?
“Be open to opportunities and not regimented in a set career path”

  • “Get fat” in your current role before moving up
    • Take on roles that challenge and develop you, Focus for the first two years on learning and implementing (grow tall). The third year, work on enhancing your leadership and furthering your interaction with others (expand, ‘grow fat’).
    • Get good at what you do
    • Practice and develop skills for next role i.e. leadership
  • If you move up too quickly and into the next role, you may set yourself-up for failure-lack the skills, knowledge to do the job well

What has been the biggest challenge you have faced in your professional journey and how did you work through it?

  • Not being able to act on every opportunity presented in order to balance family and career 
    • This can typically be more of a challenge for women in the industry than men
    • Important to have a three-way contract with self, work and family when taking on new opportunities. 
    • Be transparent with work and family
    • Give work and family the permission to voice needs or concerns when they arise about any imbalances. It is only then that you can make good decisions. The rest of the time it’s just unnecessary worry. 
  • Your priority is not everyone else’s priority 
    • Put yourself in the other person’s shoes and try to understand where they are coming from and why they may be making the decisions they are
    • Others at work may have other priorities you are unaware of such as Global ones
    • Try not to get frustrated with the decisions made. Seek to understand the why behind it as it may then make sense and change your perspective. Context is everything.

What advice do you have for women looking to advance their careers?

  • Women need to bring all their good skills to the workplace and remember to do so in a very professional manner suitable for your work environment. This will be more impactful.
  • Women need to speak up for themselves in a direct professional manner- make it known what you are looking for next in your career.  
  • We are our best advocates.
  • We can’t rely on others to notice us or tap us on the shoulder. Learning to be brave and speak up can be empowering but it is not a skill set all women come by naturally. 

What value can HBA Toronto bring to business professionals in healthcare?

  • The HBA is a great place for women to find others with similar interests and goals in order to build a network of mentors to help navigate career challenges.  
    • Prior to communities like the HBA setting up in Toronto, networking with women and finding mentors was more challenging.
    • Women really need to work on raising each other (and men) up.  I always try to remind myself that I am setting an example for my daughter every day in the way I talk about work, about my co-workers about gender roles, etc. 
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