Can you describe the process of reaching out to external stakeholders and building a team internally, considering the lockdown that occurred shortly after you became the country director of Norway?

Starting my tenure as the country director of Norway during a pandemic was a unique situation. When taking on a new role, it is crucial to connect, listen, and understand the needs of both internal and external stakeholders.

Fortunately, I had six weeks at the beginning to be physically present in Norway and had ample time to connect with our 35-person team. I was impressed by how quickly everyone adapted to the situation when the lockdown was imposed. We transitioned to remote work, with the team in Norway and myself working from Austria where my family was based. Continuous communication and platforms for informal internal exchange were essential during this time.

For external stakeholders, I had initial meetings within the first six weeks. However, as the pandemic unfolded, everyone’s focus shifted to ensuring the continuity of their organizations, especially the healthcare system working on pandemic preparedness and capacity. This made it challenging to engage with external stakeholders during that period.

At Janssen, we had to respond quickly to secure the supply of medicines and address inquiries from medical practitioners about the use of our medicines. Ensuring the safety of our employees was also a priority. Since February, we have been working on a COVID-19 vaccine and supporting communities. The global J&J foundation has assisted frontline workers worldwide, and locally we made donations to the Norwegian Red Cross for COVID-19 aid.

What skills were necessary for you to transition from an operational role to that of a country director?

Prior to becoming the country director, I had some exposure to external affairs through previous roles in Germany. Additionally, in Austria and Switzerland, I served on the management board. However, stepping into the role of a country director entails being the face of the company in the country and being responsible for the safety and well-being of all employees. This added responsibility is particularly significant during a pandemic.

It is an exciting role because as a country director, I have the opportunity to shape strategy and set strategic priorities. Working with the team in Norway and developing our organization is enjoyable. We are determined to improve the situation in Norway and achieve our goal of enabling patients to access the medicines they need.

What are your strategic priorities for Janssen in Norway?

We already have a transformative portfolio and an innovative pipeline. Our first priority is ensuring that our medicines are available to every patient in need and that they can be used where they create the highest value for the individual patient.

The second priority is to become more customer- and patient-centric. We recently transitioned from being part of a Nordic organization to a fully localized setup in Norway. This change allows us to better understand and address local needs, delivering tailored solutions to Norwegian physicians, payers, and patients.

Thirdly, as a research-driven company, we aim to be innovation leaders in the six therapeutic areas we focus on: haemato-oncology, neuroscience, immunology, pulmonary hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, and infectious diseases/vaccines. The pandemic has presented some complexities, but we have successfully adapted.

What value does Norway, as a comparatively small market, offer to Janssen?

The size or wealth of a market doesn’t matter to Janssen. We believe that every market, regardless of its size, consists of individual patients who deserve access to the best treatment available. While Norway is considered a wealthy country, we see a significant opportunity here to enhance patients’ lives by providing them with more of our innovative medicines.

You may also be interested in...