Meet Leslie Oaks, Head of the Compensation and Performance Management at Roche

Tell us a bit about yourself

I’ve been with Roche for 12 years. I actually started in 2001, in a company called Ventana Medical Systems in Tucson, Arizona, which in 2008 became a part of Roche. At that moment, I couldn’t imagine all the interesting opportunities ahead of me!

For my husband and me, living in Switzerland has been a very big change. We have always lived in the desert, so Switzerland was a huge move for us: Southern Arizona is certainly not known for snow!

I really love Switzerland. It’s a beautiful country, all the people are very friendly, and the outdoor activities are amazing!

Where did you study?

I studied at the University of Arizona. I started with a double major in Finance and Accounting. I quickly discovered that while I really enjoyed Finance, I didn’t enjoy Accounting, so I moved into HR studies. I have a Bachelor’s in Business Management, but my emphasis was in Human Resources, specifically labor relations (unions). When I graduated, I started in HR and then quickly moved to Compensation since I like the financial aspects.

In which Roche location are you currently working?

I am working at the headquarters in Basel on Grenzacherstrasse.

What can you tell us about that location?

I enjoy my commute to work. In the US, I carpooled every day. In Basel, I enjoy riding to work on the tram. It gives me the opportunity in the morning to get my thoughts together, wake up, read, do different things, without having the stress of driving and fighting traffic.
We’ve got a nice location where my team is sitting with a beautiful view of the Rhine!

Why did you decide to join Roche?

Back in 2001 when I joined the company, I really wanted to work at a global company and I wanted to have more global experience. At the time the company I worked for was a small company with a small global presence. That changed significantly when I became part of Roche.

I also wanted to work for a company that was doing something important. I think helping patients with various diseases, in particular cancer, is very rewarding. Even if I work in HR, I still feel like part of the group working to help patients. This became even more important to me when my father was diagnosed with prostate and colon cancer in 2009. Thankfully, he is doing fine now.

What is your current job?

In my current job as Head of the Compensation and Performance Management Regional Support Team, we work with all affiliates across the globe to run global compensation and performance management processes. We’ve had a lot of new programs and systems that we have been rolling out over the last three years.

What makes it such a great job?

It’s a really interesting job: One moment you’ll be speaking with China about a specific plan, and then the next conversation is with let’s say, Iran or Chile on another topic. It truly is global and you really get to learn a lot working with different people all over the world.

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

  • Products: When I look at the products that we have, I’m continually amazed. Last night I saw a report on television saying that over the last 20-30 years things have really changed; now typically 80% of people survive cancer, and I found that just shocking – that treatment has progressed so far and that we are a big part of that. So when I think about what we do, with all the different drugs or therapies, I’m continually impressed and I feel like we’re truly making a difference to patients and their families.
  • Interesting jobs: When I look back at my career at Roche, every year has been a different opportunity and a different challenge; I have been able to do some really cool things over the years. The acquisition and integration into Roche was an amazing experience – incredibly demanding and busy – but it was an excellent opportunity. I have a hard time imagining working at another company where I would have the same opportunities, in terms of the variety and the responsibility that I have here.
  • development opportunities: I think at Roche there are huge development opportunities. As an expat, I’ve been here now for three years on assignment. I hope to continue for a couple more and I’m looking at other opportunities. I think the company is really willing to invest in employees. As I look at what I want to do or the next moves I want to make, the amount of support that I get from my boss, other leaders in the organisation and just the resources available is truly impressive.

Please complete the following sentence:

Roche is a great place to work because… there is never a dull moment! We are truly an innovative, fast-paced, creative, dynamic organisation, and it really gives you a positive, good feeling to be a part of it.

How would you describe the people working here?

When I look at my team in particular, we work really hard but then I think we play pretty hard too. We really have fun with what we’re doing. Having fun while getting everything done is an important part of how we actually work.

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

If you want to do the same thing day after day, if you are looking for something repetitive, Roche is not the place for you. If you are someone that really wants to be able to think outside of the box, likes challenges and has a high level of energy, this could be the place!

Tags: Career Blog, Switzerland