May 30, 2017
I’m truly humbled and honored that tomorrow evening I’ll be receiving Hugh O’Brian Youth’s (HOBY) Albert Schweitzer Leadership Award. HOBY gives this award to individuals who, “through their leadership, have made significant contributions to the education and motivation of youth.”
For those who may not be familiar with HOBY, it was created by actor and humanitarian Hugh O’Brian to help cultivate tomorrow’s leaders by inspiring a global community of youth and volunteers to a life dedicated to leadership, service and innovation. In creating the organization, O’Brian was acting on Dr. Schweitzer’s belief that the most important thing in education is to teach young people to think for themselves – a life lesson that was instilled in me at a very young age.
My family, particularly my parents, always taught me to be curious and independent and that I could do anything I set my mind to if I worked hard enough, was willing to take on challenges and had the courage to think differently. As a girl in an often very traditional Italian family, I was sometimes overlooked for the jobs that were considered to be “boy jobs” in our small-town West Virginia family businesses, which I worked at from childhood. But I was determined to show that girls could do anything boys could. For example, in order to prove myself to a doubting Italian grandfather, I once personally sold more cases of soda than there were people in the small town where I worked, prompted by the fact that my grandfather had negotiated a great deal on a tractor trailer full of soda. Everyone said it couldn’t be done, but I sold every last can that summer.
I also learned from a very young age that perhaps one of the most important traits to make a difference is caring. My great grandmother used to often say “no one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”
I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the message I want to deliver tomorrow evening, and I keep coming back to the description of Mylan’s culture, which is emblazoned on the wall outside of my office – Passionate, Relentless, Committed and Unconventional. As I reflect on these words, I’m struck by the powerful role they’ve played in my life. Not only was I raised to strive for these qualities, but after 25 years with Mylan I’m now privileged to lead this organization whose very foundation is built upon these values. I believe that these are the very qualities that can empower youth to achieve their goals and make the world a better place.
First and foremost, I believe that you have to be passionate about your goals in order to achieve them. At Mylan, we’ve been passionate about providing access to high quality medicine for more than 55 years. We also have been willing to act quickly to right our course when needed to maintain our unwavering focus on this mission. In our focus on increasing access to EpiPen® Auto-Injector in a number of ways, we unfortunately missed the impact to patients of the changing U.S. healthcare landscape, which was shifting more out-of-pocket costs to patients who had been previously insulated from them. We took responsibility and addressed the issue as quickly and effectively as we could. Every day, I am personally learning from that experience, and I believe it has made me a stronger leader. I know it has made Mylan a stronger company.
This is because we also are relentless. We don’t give up on fighting for what we believe in, even if it’s unpopular. This is why we’ve consistently taken a leadership position to tackle tough industry challenges. For instance, we have played a tremendous role in helping strengthen the global drug supply chain and making it safer by working for legislation designed to make sure all pharmaceutical facilities, regardless of location, are held to the same quality standard. This required changing a federal law that had barely been touched since 1938.
Being committed is also key – you have to be willing to see things through. Mylan’s definition of commitment also means “doing what’s right, not what’s easy.” A great example is our focus on helping people with HIV/AIDS in developing countries. More than 15 years ago, we pledged to deliver more-affordable antiretroviral (ARV) medicines to remote parts of the world to patients who needed it. We’ve continually invested in this area, even though it’s not as profitable as other areas of our business, because it’s the right thing to do. Today, about half of all people treated for the disease in the developing world depend on our ARVs every day.
Last, but not least, Mylan is unconventional and I’ve always loved that about us. To achieve a goal as ambitious as getting medicine to the world’s 7 billion people, we’ve needed to be comfortable in our own skin and have the courage to be different enough to make a difference. This doesn’t necessarily mean doing things that are outlandish or deliberately provocative. It can simply mean speaking up on issues when others won’t or challenging the status quo. However, we appreciate and recognize that this isn’t for everybody. Over time, we’ve come to learn that being unconventional can sometimes lead to being mischaracterized or misunderstood, but I consider the uniqueness of each of our people to be their greatest strength. I take great pride in working hard every day not to lose our culture which has allowed us all the successes we’ve had over the last 55 years.
Tomorrow’s generation has to have the courage to figure it out for themselves. They have to be passionate about it, relentless and curious, committed to see it through, and comfortable enough in their own skin to be unconventional. Mylan’s employees around the world bring these traits to life every day. I’ll be accepting HOBY’s award on my colleagues’ behalf. I hope my remarks honor them and inspire others, including the 2017 outstanding young alumni HOBY also will recognize at the event.
Read the original article on Heather's LinkedIn blog