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Mylan exec builds culture of leadership

Dan Roberts and Brian P. Watson | March 9, 2016
Former CIO Michael Smith focused on succession when transforming Mylan’s IT organization. It worked — and it could continue to pay dividends.

There wasn’t much forward thinking, Smith said. Innovation was pretty much nonexistent. And it wasn’t a lot of fun.

So Smith set out to build on the best pieces of Mylan’s culture, but also empower his team to take more calculated risks. But it went further. It was about bringing forth new ideas that would be valued, developing talent, and celebrating successes together.  

He summarized his vision for the new ethos in a word: Joy. “Fun dissipates, but joy is sustaining,” he told us. “One definition of joy talks about a sense of achievement, a sense of well-being — that’s what I want.”

Building a culture is always a work in progress, but Smith said he is seeing big gains. He and his team continue to bring high-level talent to Mylan’s Pittsburgh headquarters, and they’re seeing increased employee engagement through events like hackathons and Lions’ Den (an in-house take on the popular television show “Shark Tank”), as well as awarding military-inspired challenge coins for success in demonstrating the company’s values. Smith has also ramped up an internship program, aimed at bringing more “digital natives” onto the team from top area universities. When Smith first arrived, they have five interns; in 2015, they had 75, with plans to hire as many as 60.

And since 2012, Mylan has experienced dramatic growth — it finished 2015 with $9.8 billion and forecasts around $11 billion for this year — outperforming both the generic pharmaceutical industry and the broader sector in terms of revenue growth. And in that time, while transforming the company’s IT and shared services operations, Smith began to see his earlier investments in talent start to pay some big dividends — so much so that, in December, one day after his third anniversary at Mylan, Smith was promoted to Global Head of Digital Innovation and Global Business Services.

In his new role, Smith will oversee all innovation for Mylan. He declined to disclose many specifics about what that entails, except to say that the company would be morphing from a generic drug maker into more of an end-to-end healthcare company, and that his tenure at Nike — during which it transformed from a company focused on footwear to apparel and later services — offers Mylan significant experience in driving change. Smith will also oversee all digital marketing, e-commerce and digital health initiatives.

Sliding into his old role is former Ranbaxy CIO Ram Rayapureddy, one of the external hires Smith made while rebuilding his leadership team. There are several other senior team members who can eventually step into the role, Smith said, having been hands-on in both the planning and execution of Smith’s transformation strategy. And at the end of that leadership bench are the interns, who, through the succession management processes he’s put in place, Smith believes will become Mylan IT leaders in the coming decades.


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