In the interview with Florencia Velasco on her personal experiences and feelings during her career path, we also discussed about different steps and decisions of the role as a female leader.
Florencia Velasco is currently Global Head External Relationship Management with overall accountability for the management of global outsourced activities. In this role, she focuses on the delivery of the best class externally provided services to develop a compelling, innovative vision and strategy for the different services. Previous postings include:
– Global Head, Trial Budget Management where she was responsible for development of budgetary business models and optimising development costs
– As Former Regional Director of Clinical Operations LACan (Latin America & Canada) she was responsible for leading the Clinical Trial Organisation Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominica Republic, Mexico, Panama, Peru and Venezuela.
From Argentina to New York
After your studies in Argentina, why did you decide to start a career in New York?
It was always a place that conjures up images of concentrated energy and opportunity, always connected to the pulse of the world, something that as you develop you realise you can benefit from.
Which cultural experiences did you make in New York?
I loved the total mixing pot nature of New York, all the districts had a different feel and tempo.
Celebration of success and learning from failure was a theme in this environment and I became to understand that once you are outside of your narrow studies where your peers are following the same classes and you often think alike, the working environment benefits from the experiences and different thinking.
“The working environment reflected this with a kaleidoscope of diversity and you were assessed on your contribution and merits.”
What was your most interesting experience within the organisation in New York?
When I arrived to New York, I needed to rent an apartment. So I placed an advertisement on the “village people” to look for a roommate to share the cost of the apartment. New York was too expensive and I did not have money. The first night with my roommate was a scary experience but we ended up being good friends!
Why did you decide to go back to Argentina?
New York is so large and was constantly changing, it was a home from home but I did not have the pull of my family, friends and the culture which I love and need.
Was it difficult to decide between your career and your future private plans?
Yes and no. My time is New York gave me so many rich learnings and opportunities. Leaving a place where every day was unpredictable and wildly exciting would leave a gap. But I always knew I would miss the volume of opportunities and felt I could apply the newly found skills with greater focus and personal reward.
Clinical Research at Novartis
Back in Argentina, you got the chance to work for Novartis. How did you develop the clinical research department?
Really the first thing I did was to take time to understand the status quo and needs of the local organisation and how it contributed to the global mission and success. The next step was to compile a plan and finally involving the team in these plans with commitment to work together. At this time, the great thing was that the global team at Novartis listened, supported and provided feedback, so locally we were sure of alignment. Of course, it was not simple at the beginning I came back from New York. But the New York energy and learnings from the past really gave me the can do attitude to succeed.
After getting promoted after only three years, how was your motivation to grow further and your feelings?
It was a bit of a “Yes” moment. I was personally recognised for what I had achieved but more importantly it was also an “Aha” moment that proved to me that the courage to set and implement a plan works but rapidly forced me to set new targets and continue to bigger and better things.
Back to today, do you think the promotion was too early in relation to your age?
Yes, I think I was not prepared for it, it took me by surprise. But then little by little, I gained experiences from internally and even outside of Novartis. I could demonstrate on a global stage that the way I was working was able to achieve desired outcomes and the company had faith to judge my work and not me.
How did you feel to work in an environment with many men?
At the beginning, I was afraid since I was born in a macho Latin world were not too many women were able to be part of the managerial team.
“However, I need to admit that now I love to work with men. I am fortunate that my actions demonstrate my values and behaviors have been the things that colleagues tend to focus on.”
Yes, there are some areas where men are the majority but when this is the case, I like to think that my own ideas and abilities are equal. In the area of pharmaceutical research and development the facts and figures are more important than the gender.
Further Career Steps
After a long time working in this field, why did you have the feeling to change your position to finance?
The business environment became harder, more and more of the core business decisions were driven by financial impact. Even large organisations do not have limitless resources. Understanding and providing better uses for these seemed to be a good opportunity to learn something new.
Why did you decide to do an MBA? Private or business purposes?
One the one hand that was really something that I wanted to do privately. Being a mother and working long hours has put this aside for a while, however it was always a pending goal. On the other hand, the role in finance required a broader expertise in technical matters. To take that new finance role and to be truly successful and confident, I needed to better understand and learn the business world.
When did you figure out that the finance sector was not the right one for you?
When I missed the expansiveness for innovation and became more detached from the reason for the R&D which was clinical research to benefit the patients who were living in the real world and not on a flat screen.
After you realised that you would like to change your position again, how did Novartis help you?
It was a great experience, albeit not a rapid one. By then, I clearly knew the things in a role that made me smile and went to work energised. My management supported my networking with a range of friends and former colleagues. They all gave great advices and suggestions. I spoke to different managers to understand a wider range of jobs and genuinely studied the purpose, deliverables and daily actions.
Florencia Velasco continued to expand the operations in the Latin America region and was able to motivate new countries to increase the footprint of Novartis for clinical research activities. She provides the medical community with new solutions and potential better alternatives for treatments to patients in need.
We are looking forward to discuss with her the crisis of multilateralism and the rise of a tribal world at the Global Female Leaders 2018.
Global Female Leaders 2017: A Thorough Look Back
To sum up this great event in a single blogpost would be nearly impossible. Fortunately, we don’t have to try this, because our dear partner Accenture provided us with an in-depth White Paper, that you can now download on our website!
Just fill out the form below and enjoy over 50 pages of insights and key takeaways from the 2017 summit. We thank Accenture for their contribution and hope you enjoy the read!