Meet Frank Rydbirk, Head of Collaboration at Roche

Tell us a bit about yourself

I was born and grew up in Denmark. After my graduation I was offered a job in Switzerland through a Danish IT consulting firm. As I had wanted to get some experience of living and working in other counties, I accepted this great opportunity. My plan was to get one, at most two years of experience in Germany / Switzerland before going back to Denmark, but I never returned. This is now 17 years ago.

I like to travel and see new places or revisit favourite places. Another favourite hobby of mine is snowboarding in the wintertime. This is another great advantage of Switzerland compared to Denmark. There is actually something fun to do in the cold and dark winter season.

Where did you study?

I had quite a special education (Master’s Degree from Aalborg University in Denmark) in Company Technology. I guess this was an engineering education put together for people like me who could not clearly decide in which direction to go. We had a broad mix of topics like finance, organisational theory, IT, production engineering, machine construction, employee law, and of course all the regular topics like maths, advanced physics, etc.). My education was mostly targeted at production engineering, but at the time I graduated, anyone who could spell Oracle could get a job in IT, which is why I ended up in this field.

What I immediately liked about IT compared to production engineering was the agility and speed with which we could make a change for our customers. One could make a program in a few months or fix a programming issue in a day and there were immediate and positive results. The logical problems and complexity of IT fascinated me from the start, and I love to translate business problems into IT solutions. This interface between business and IT is where I have spent most of my career, and is the area where I enjoy working the most.

In which Roche location are you currently working?

I am currently working in Basel. I started my Roche career in Basel in 2001 and have had since then great opportunities in many different IT positions. In 2007, having moved from IT support and programming into a global management position, I wanted to experience how I could be an effective leader in another country. I had the amazing opportunity to go to Shanghai (China) for two years and build up a new small IT team there to support the Product Development strategic focus on China.

Just as my contract in China was coming to an end, the merger between Roche and Genentech happened and I had the opportunity to move to San Francisco, where I co-lead the Genentech integration for Product Development IT for the next two years. This was a huge programme with 20 simultaneously running projects and a large-scale change management effort. The personal and work experiences I gained in Shanghai and San Francisco were amazing and I will be forever thankful for these experiences.

What can you tell us about that location?

Roche Basel is a great location to work due to the very international atmosphere and diversity across the organisation. In Basel all functions are represented, so you meet and interact with colleagues of many different nationalities and working in many different areas of the organisation. I have always found this fascinating.

Basel is also uniquely located in Europe. Having travelled around for some years, I have come to enjoy the central location of Basel in Europe even more. Travelling by plane, it is only a few hours before you are somewhere completely different. It is less than an hour by car to France or Germany, where you can shop, go sightseeing or just enjoy an environment a little different from the everyday scene in Basel.

Why did you decide to join Roche?

There were a number of reasons why I chose to join Roche in 2001. I was ready to settle down in Basel, which I found to be a great city in a fantastic location. I liked the scientific nature of the business delivering medicines to patients in need. One has a clear feeling that this is a science-based company and culture and it inspires me to work in such an environment.

Another very interesting aspect was that my study was uniquely centred on group work. Each semester we completed a team project and I learned came to appreciate team dynamics and what teams can achieve together. The Roche culture also has a strong foundation in group and team work and hence matches the culture in which I like working.

Finally, I had the feeling that Roche has a good global size, which would allow me to develop and grow within the organisation.  This aspect has proven even more true than I could have imagined when signing my first contract.

What is your current job?

In September 2012 I became Head of Collaboration and Mobility IT in Roche, which gave me yet another amazing opportunity to learn something new and drive great IT into the enterprise. In my current job, the rollout of Google Mail and Calendar (Go-Google) is the most important project in my portfolio right now. Having the opportunity to work with the great global team which, after more than 3 years, will help to overcome the email and calendar interoperability issues between Genentech and Roche, is a fantastic experience.

We are also expanding and improving all the mobile working capabilities. We have migrated more than 12,000 employees to iPhones over the last months, bringing the total number of employees on iPhones to more than 25,000, and we are investing in Roche mobile applications and platforms which enable our employees to be efficient no matter where they are working from.

I am personally very inspired by and very appreciative of the technologies and mobile capabilities I am provided with to do my job at Roche from the office, from home, when travelling, etc. I use the technologies and mobility every day in my job. Just the ability to easily check where your next meeting is on the go, send a note if you are late, connect and share from any meeting room, do meetings from home, etc. these are all capabilities which make you more productive and flexible every day.

What makes it such a great job?

In my job, I have always been seeking opportunities allowing me to make a difference. In the job I have today, I have the amazing opportunity to bring a great technology known from the consumer world into the enterprise, enabling employees to work better together globally.

Can you pick at least three of the attributes of Roche and explain in detail what they mean to you?

  • work/life balance: Work/life balance is very important to me. This is something people always say, but having felt how life can be when the balance is not right, makes this topic VERY central for me in my everyday life. Here again I feel privileged in my job. Technology plays an important role here as well. Working from home when my two kids are in bed, and being able to be efficient everywhere at any time is hugely important to me in order to organise my life.
  • products: The products (medicines) which Roche brings to the patients make me proud to work for this company. When I see the hope that patients put into our medicines and the hope for even better medicines in the future, I feel we all work for a very good and inspirational cause.
  • development opportunities: Development opportunities in Roche are another area I would like to spend a few words on. This was one of the reasons I chose to work for Roche. I personally could not have hoped for a better outcome. I have had leaders who have put trust in me and given me opportunities in which I could grow, and I have learned a lot on the job. I have always felt that as long as I had the right attitude, passion to do what is right and the ability to learn from my mistakes, I had the support of my managers and peers.

Please complete the following sentence:

Roche is a great place to work because... we are all working for a greater purpose of bringing medicine to patients within a diverse and talented organisation providing plenty of opportunities and challenges.

What would you advise job seekers who want to join us?

The advice I have given to people who would like to join Roche, has always been that one needs to find inspiration and passion in what Roche stands for. Visit our career website and don’t hesitate applying!

Explore here how IT at Roche has an impact on patients' lives.

Tags: Career Blog, Information Technology, Switzerland