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#ImBlackInPharma | Josie Afolabi

Josie Afolabi - Head of the Executive Vice-President's office, Oncology Business - AstraZeneca

What do you do?

I’m the Head of the Executive Vice-President’s Office, Oncology Business for AstraZeneca, a large multinational biopharmaceutical company. I work together with the Executive Vice President Oncology Business Unit and the subsequent leadership team to make time, information, and decision-making processes more effective and impactful. My main remit is around delivering the future vision, improving collaboration, facilitating enterprise thinking and resolution of complex strategic issues affecting the organization.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

It is acutely focused on bringing cutting edge cancer therapies to patients, around the world, as soon as possible. That is a major factor for my job satisfaction – seeing the work you do impact patients and their families’ lives.

How did you get into Pharma?

I did an undergraduate degree in Pharmacology. I specifically studied pharmacology because I didn’t want to be a doctor (mum’s choice) or a pharmacist (dad’s choice). I was always very interested in healthcare and how medicines worked in the body, specifically around what happens when equilibriums are disrupted, and the subsequent treatment choices needed to bring things back to homeostasis. Pharmacology was the ideal subject for me.

Why Pharma?

Post my degree, I became interested in the business of science and how it interacts with society. I started off in Regulatory Affairs , a highly specialized function in R&D combining scientific knowledge with legal and guideline knowhow to ensure medicines that get developed make it through the substantial regulatory processes of health authorities. I stayed in Pharma because there is so much to learn and explore, and I’m quite a curious person. I’ve been very privileged to work in many areas of the pharma industry and the ability to make connections between the science and business side has been a positive differentiator.

What has your experience been being #BlackInPharma?

Pretty positive. I’ve had mentors from various backgrounds, and I think being engaged, empathetic and enthusiastic helps. I’ve always had two main mindsets: being ‘a very diligent worker and thinker’ and ‘be a fun person to work with’ and they continue to serve me well. I think building a network of peers who are going through the same things you are is always helpful when you are from a minority group.

Top tips to getting into your role / Pharma?

Ensure you have a strong scientific education and/or passion. Learn how to be a lifelong learner. Be inquisitive about the work you do and how the world interacts with it from various angles: finance, economics, psychology, sociology to become as informed as you can so you can contribute unique and helpful viewpoints to discussions.

Fun fact

I’m just about to take up horse riding as a new hobby! My favourite sport is Formula 1.


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