A leadership role with impact

My role at Roche bridges East and West, science and management. I am from Changsha, the capital of Hunan Province. I became interested in science at an early age and studied biophysics in Beijing. Then I received a full scholarship for a PhD in molecular biology and immunology in the US. I remember boarding the plane with two suitcases and only USD 80 in my pocket.

After finishing my degree, I worked as a drug discovery scientist in the US. Then I became a strategic consultant and joined Roche as a manager in 2002. I returned to China in 2008 to establish the Roche Partnering Shanghai office, and joined pRED in 2012 as Site Head for the Roche Innovation Center Shanghai. After nearly 20 years abroad, it took some time for me to re-acclimate. Even the Chinese language had changed with the Internet age. Shanghai is now a high-energy, cosmopolitan city, with a mix of many cultures. We reflect that diversity at our Roche Innovation Center.

I am convinced that a purely American, Swiss or Chinese way won’t produce the best results in the immensely complex task of drug development. Beyond gender, ethnicity and nationality, we need diverse experiences and ways of thinking to be successful. My background helps me work across cultures and functions. In China, employees are often reluctant to speak up at meetings and accustomed to having decisions made for them. I practice inclusive behaviour by creating a safe environment where there are no bad questions. And I encourage people to take an active role in finding solutions. I lead a team of over 150 researchers. Being a scientist gives me credibility, but I cannot be an expert on every subject. I try to keep the big picture in mind, ask the right questions and support the teams to perform their best.

Our people are happier, more engaged in their work, and our productivity has increased significantly.

When I arrived in 2012, my primary task was to integrate our previously independent research into the Roche global organisation. Our R&D efforts in Shanghai focus on infectious diseases, especially the hepatitis B virus. The integration aligned our strategy and broadened our pipeline and talents. We now have a more structured performance management and career development process built on customised plans. A wide range of trainings help our people grow professionally and we offer job rotations to other countries.

"For me, communication is key. I often join team members for lunch and listen to their concerns."

As a result of these and other initiatives, employee engagement scores in our internal survey, known as GEOS, have jumped from 36% in 2011 to 82% in 2014.

Our people are happier, more engaged in their work, and our productivity has increased significantly. As a leader, it is very motivating to have that kind of impact.

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