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EF: 2020 was the year of diagnostics, 2021 the year of vaccines; what do you see 2022 being the year of?

DD: 2022 will be the year of experiencing life post-pandemic, living with the virus, and adapting to the new situation. It looks very much like the first year we experience living life alongside the virus. I am not Nostradamus, but I believe we will keep having peaks and lows with new covid variants. The question is how we will live with them and proceed with life.

EF: What are the biggest objectives you have set for yourself at your new appointment?

DD: In accordance with our mission to serve patients, my number one objective is to increase access to Amgen medicines for South African patients. As an affiliate, our goal is to find ways to serve more patients that can benefit from our medicines than we currently do.  

EF: What are the biggest lessons learned as a leader in your experience, and how can they be leveraged for the future?

DD: Great leaders are focused on the future, and always think about the next step and the opportunities that lie ahead. "A winner is a dreamer who never gives up" is a slogan I use in my LinkedIn profile and was used by Nelson Mandela in the past. For me, he is an example of a great inspirator because he was a leader who really led by example. Showing employees how they can succeed individually and for the company is what makes a great leader in accomplishing our mission and demonstrating not only what we want to achieve but also how and by which behaviours. It is about leading the way by giving direction versus being directive. Include people on the journey from day 1, empower them, support them, and guide them, and you’ll see people doing great things.

To be a leader is a responsibility, and it is to lead by example.  

EF: What are the top three factors that influenced you in taking this appointment?

DD: I have been to South Africa many times, and I enjoyed it every time I visited. People are always open, friendly, and smiling at you. It is a great country and has so much beauty.

The second reason I chose Amgen South Africa is because of the opportunities. Amgen has innovative medicines that can have a positive impact on people’s lives, but not everyone who is eligible in South Africa can currently benefit from our medicines. This is a huge opportunity to unlock access for these patients and I am looking forward to working alongside my team and our partners to ensure that we can reach more patients than we do today.  

The third reason is the diversity in both the country and the affiliate. Diversity plays an important role within Amgen as we believe that we can achieve greater results if we are bringing together diverse teams, and fostering inclusion and belonging. I have always travelled a lot and always have been curious about different cultures and countries and it has without any doubt shaped the leader I am today. This diversity in South Africa adds additional perspectives and views. Leading such a diverse affiliate will bring the opportunity to unlock the potential that this diversity brings.  

EF: How do you see the company's footprint developing in South Africa?

DD: One of the issues in South Africa is the regulatory timelines. Some products we recently launched in South Africa are already on the market in a lot of other countries. I think that nobody will deny that having treatments available quicker is an obligation for all stakeholders acting in the South African healthcare system.  

As a company, we aim for patient access to innovative treatments as of day 1 once approved. In South Africa, we see already great progress in shortening these timelines but keep in mind that we talk about a timeline which is coming from about 6 years. There is still a lot of work to do, and we can’t rest until we have accomplished regulatory timelines that are more acceptable than the current ones.  

Amgen’s footprint so far has been very limited in serving our patients in South Africa. One of the things that are high on my to-do list is to accelerate expansion to other countries in the African continent. As our mission is to serve patients, I consider it my obligation to not limit this to South Africa only but also serve our patients the best way possible in the surrounding countries.  

EF: What makes a good leader for you?

DD: A good leader encourages people to step out of their comfort zone by giving them confidence and a protective environment to do so. A vision, a north start and bringing people along the journey is key. Heading into new and unchartered paths is needed, so leaders must equip their people to leave their comfort zones.  

I do not particularly appreciate ordering and telling people what to do as a leader. We have many talented people in the company. My role as a leader is to provide guidance and a vision for the future. This is done by giving responsibility and empowering people to make the best decisions for the company.  

As leaders, we should be aware that failure is a part of success, so we must accept failure as part of learning. The critical factor is making sure people learn from their failures.  

To achieve that, it needs to be very clear who has which role in the decision-making process. One person should make the decision and take ownership of that but always in close cross-functional collaboration and incorporating the different views and perspectives. This will shorten the decision-making time and make the process more efficient. In Amgen, we use the DAI model so that it is clear who has which role in the decision-making process.  

Covid-19 showed us that time waits for no one, which is why many people adapted to making decisions on the spot. The pandemic taught us to be agile, adaptable, and resilient. Agility and rapid decision-making are what I hope to leave as a legacy when I leave South Africa. In dynamic times like these, the fastest way of going backwards is by not acting.

EF: What advice would you give to companies looking to elaborate on their environmental, social, and governance performance?

DD: At Amgen, our mission to serve patients is the foundation for our Environment, Social and Governance commitments and activities.  Our programs aim toward four pillars: Healthy People, Healthy Society, Healthy Planet, and a Healthy Amgen. We intentionally do the right thing, drive change and bring innovations. In my view, great companies genuinely want to make a difference.  

EF: What is your work plan in South Africa with the different therapeutic areas?

DD: At Amgen, our key focus is on the following therapeutic areas: Cardiovascular disease, Inflammation and Oncology. Within these areas, we are providing medicines for high unmet medical needs. In South Africa, we will be identifying which of the products will have the most impact on patients and will therefore need more focus from our side versus others. In South Africa, this is something I need to look at and identify together with my team and our partners on how to serve more patients than we currently do.  

If you try to be everything for everybody, you end up with nothing. If every product receives the same attention and you have a model which could be best explained as a one-size-fits-all model, none of them would meet the potential and find their way to the patients that would benefit from it.  

EF: What are your thoughts on digitalization, and what objectives will Amgen implement in South Africa?

DD: Within just a couple of weeks of the pandemic it became clear that the pandemic would accelerate the digitalization of the healthcare sector and demand a change in the way we work as well as our go-to-market models. We moved quickly and adapted to this new situation by allocating more resources to digitalization and making sure that our stakeholders would be served the best way possible. Digitalization is key for how we drive our business in the future. For example, most of our customer interactions were based face-to-face before the pandemic with a split of  90% face-to-face and 10% digital. Currently, the interaction mix is at 60% face-to-face and 40% digital; and I expect this will further evolve in the future. The human touch will always be important, so I believe face-to-face interactions will remain, but digital interactions provide additional opportunities and new ways for value exchange with our customers.  

Regarding our channel mix, used in our customer engagement, Amgen South Africa is not yet on the same level as our ambitions. There is work to be done to ensure a more diverse channel and promotion mix so we can bring more valuable to our customers.  But one thing is clear, Digitalization is here to stay, and Amgen wants to be a leading company in that.

EF: What achievement will you celebrate at the end of 2022?

DD: My main responsibility in the company is the people that I may lead. We do very frequent surveys amongst our employees to get feedback and input on what people like about working for Amgen and also to identify areas for improvement. I will celebrate if the survey results have improved by the end of the year showing that we are the great company people want to work for. This means for example higher job satisfaction, more fun in their work, and opportunities to develop and achieve personal growth. If this is the case, then for me 2022 was a successful year.  

April 2022
South Africa