Coen van Tonder riding a mountain bike down a sandy slope

Striving for Excellence in Sports and Business

Work hard, play hard

Roche employees balance fast-paced careers with athletic excellence

Tags: Outstanding employer

Many Roche employees have interests and hobbies that they pursue outside of work, but a few are literally going the extra mile. Meet four people who manage to balance their demanding careers at Roche with participation in high-intensity athletic competition. These employees succeed at their sports not in spite of their jobs at Roche, but because of them: with support from their colleagues and managers, and the discipline, passion, and team spirit honed in their Roche offices, employee athletes never stop striving for excellence whether they’re behind their desks, on the road, or in the ring.

  • A man and Coen van Tonder after the finishing line clapping at the audience of the Cape Epic race while riding their mountain bikes
  • Coen van Tonder pursued by another contestant riding his mountain bike down a muddy course
  • A helicopter with a camera team hovering over a group of mountain bikers who cross grassland
  • Coen van Tonder and another mountain biker at the award ceremony after the Cape Epic race
  • Coen van Tonder pushing two mountain bikes

Raja Amasheh

Portrait picture of Raja Amasheh

Born in Jordan and raised in Berlin, Raja Amasheh complements her job at Roche Mannheim as Implementation Lead EMEA Global Supply Chain, Diabetes Care, with what many people would consider a full-time job in and of itself: she is a world-champion professional boxer. Raja, who fights under the name “The Cat,” began her sports career as an amateur kick boxer and Thai boxer, and turned to professional boxing in 2009. Her greatest accomplishment to date is becoming World Super Flyweight Champion of the World Boxing Council in 2013. While many may find it hard to reconcile the images of a pharma professional and a champion boxer, Raja finds the commonality in her dual roles: “In sports you always have to do your best and try to be faster, stronger and better,” she says. “In a company like Roche with a high standard of innovation and development you need the same attitude.”

Coen van Tonder

Portrait picture of Coen van Tonder

When Coen van Tonder isn’t in his office at Roche South Africa, where he works as a Sales Manager in Renal Anaemia, you can often find him training for an upcoming mountain bike race. Coen spends 8 to 18 hours a week on his bike in preparation for a race, a gruelling schedule which he says requires “a lot of planning, sacrifice and commitment” to balance with his lives at work and at home. In 2014, Coen participated in the Absa Cape Epic, an 8-day-long mountain bike race that covers over 700 kilometres from Cape Town into the dramatic South African countryside. Not only does Coen receive support from his Roche colleagues – “My manager also does mountain biking, and this certainly helps,” he says – but he finds that mountain biking reinforces Roche’s values for him: “Without Passion, committing to the training and racing requirements would have been impossible. Courage is needed when things get really tough or dangerous. … Integrity is needed to ensure competing on equal footing, … and goes hand in hand with respect for your fellow competitors.”

Gary Chalkley

Portrait picture of Gary Chalkley

Gary Chalkley, who works as a Desk Support Analyst at Roche Welwyn, located about 30 kilometres north of London in the UK, has a special midday ritual: he likes to go for a run on his lunch break, and he’s begun bringing some of his colleagues with him for a fun stress-relieving excursion. Gary has been running intermittently since 1983, and took up the sport seriously in 2004 in order to get fit for a dog sledding trip in the Arctic. Today he may run as much as 15 hours a week when preparing for an event. His accomplishments in the sport are impressive: he ran the 2013 Barcelona Marathon in under four hours, and also ran over 85 miles in 24 hours, although his goal is now to surpass 100 miles in that time. But running is more than just a hobby for Gary: he uses his accomplishments in the sport to connect with his Roche family and raise money to give back to the community. ”Most of the events I do are for the charity of the year that [Roche chooses] each year in Welwyn,” he says. “I can usually rely on work colleagues to sponsor me.”

Krzysztof Kaczyński

Portrait picture of Krysztof Kaczyński

For Krzysztof Kaczyński, Commercial Manager at Roche Poland, mountain biking is a way of life as well as a way to stay healthy and have fun. His dedication to his training, which includes a 50 kilometre ride on a road bike beginning at 6:00 each morning in summer and cross-country skiing in winter, has brought him much success over the years: in 2011 he won Poland’s Amateur Mountain Bike Championship in the category of over 40 year olds, he’s also won 12 other races and has finished 2nd or 3rd in many others. His proudest achievement in cycling was finishing 4th in the Polish Race Track Team Championships. Krzysztof believes that his training has had a strong positive impact on his career. “Having a passion definitely helps at work,” he says. “Your passion reflects in your personality, and at Roche, we need real and strong personalities. The awareness of having the best product portfolio to benefit patients and the best career opportunities develops a certain attitude in our employees. This is very similar to sport, which teaches discipline and humility.

Sport gives me the opportunity to think a lot more about work (and life in general) than would be the case if I were sitting in the office ... The isolation helps with improving focus. I have solved many work-related problems on the bike.
Coen van Tonder