Read the Conversation

EF: How has the ICC evolved since our conversation one year ago?

GB: The priorities remain the same. Our main goal is to develop Takeda's digital capabilities continuously. This has been our guide from the start, and over the last months, we've had strong support from all sides of the company. It's been a great blend of learning and doing. We had a concept a year ago based on our already-opened center in Bratislava, Slovakia. We leveraged that opportunity and learned from past experiences. We were starting to build the team and conceptualize the center then. Now, we have more than one hundred team members in the center. It's an excellent platform for collaborative work and innovative digital development. It's been a great first year, and our objectives remain unchanged.

EF: Could you tell us more about what is coming in Takeda's, the digital capabilities pipelines, and how they synergize? How do you make sure that they work for each other?

GB: Takeda's digital transformation spans many areas, supporting the company's vision and strategy. First, there's the employee experience—how we all work more connected and digitally. We enable mobile and fixed environments functionality and integrate artificial intelligence into our internal processes. Another impact area is our regular operations, particularly in automating and making our supply chain more efficient before treatments reach the market. Lastly, there's the external experience, which includes our interactions with medical professionals and patients. As you mentioned, there are digital companions for patients, guided by doctors, who can record symptoms and reactions easily. This helps patients provide specific information during doctor visits. These digital companions are just one part of our digital transformation, but they are highly visible as they reach the market.  

Overall, digital transformation is happening across all areas of Takeda and what I can tell you is I t we're advancing digital initiatives in our external experience. We're enhancing our outreach to medical professionals and developing mobile-based companions, which you may have seen on display during your visit to the center. Some are already in the market, with more on the way, and they will be released just as we release our medical treatments.

EF: How do you choose different talent skill sets, and how do you know what you will need to build your digital capabilities?

GB: In the early stages of our workforce of the future strategy, Takeda focused on combining external and internal capabilities for technology innovation and data transformation. We are strengthening our internal capabilities by identifying key areas of expertise needed to create multidisciplinary teams that deliver digital solutions quickly and accurately. This isn't just about technology; it's also about design, human-centered approaches, and change management to ensure all employees worldwide adopt the new technological programs. We're also focusing on supporting change through agile methodologies, which are built into our centers and reflected in our hiring practices. In addition, we are enhancing our software engineering for enterprise-level platforms and emphasizing the critical role of data in our strategy. We're bringing in various data disciplines, such as data engineering, architecture, and data science, which are foundational for artificial intelligence. To advance our adoption of AI, we must focus on the data layer, making it a critical capability.

We are also focused on cybersecurity, ensuring compliance and risk monitoring are built into our organization's capabilities. It's not just about building or optimizing technology platforms but also about quality monitoring, testing, and data science. We practice functional analysis, which involves process engineering and business value realization within the center. When we think about the innovation capability center, it's not just about technology. We believe in a multidisciplinary approach to digital transformation; hence, it encompasses different disciplines. We are building these capabilities globally, organizing them into chapters. For example, we have an external experience global lead in transformation enablement and a global chapter lead in customer experience based in Mexico, both leading international teams. Other chapter leads are based in Bratislava and in LA, India, where we are hiring for a few open positions. Our center is purpose-built for global collaboration. All spaces, including open areas, are designed to facilitate seamless connections with US, European colleagues, or other ICCs. This setup makes remote collaboration feel natural and part of our daily activities.

EF: How are you collaborating with academia and other partners outside Takeda?

GB: The most important element of our center is talent. While we are excited about the facility, its value comes from the people working there. We actively interact with universities to learn and recruit the talent we need. Universities provide access to undergraduates, graduates, and postgraduates, and they foster discussions about the impact of new technologies. One exciting initiative is our apprenticeship program, which I recently discussed with colleagues in ICC Bratislava. This program aims to attract younger generations to the center, allowing them to experience working with us and join us after graduation. Besides hiring full-time professionals in Mexico, we are launching internship programs to reach a wider community this year. We keep our doors open to university career centers to promote our job openings in data science, cybersecurity, software development, and design. Design, while not purely technological, is crucial for developing our solutions.  

In Mexico, there's a strong startup culture among university graduates, who often return to engage with their alma maters. This interaction helps us stay informed about the local ecosystem and continue learning. We are always learning and keeping our ears open to the latest trends. In our new center, we will continue our webinar series, inviting experts from various fields to discuss current trends. We will extend this series into a hybrid format, allowing for ongoing conversations that benefit our ICC team and the broader community. We have numerous touchpoints with universities in Mexico. For example, we collaborated on a hackathon with the Instituto Politécnico Nacional last year and participated as judges in Shark Tank-style events. This constant exchange fosters open collaboration, which is essential given the rapid pace of change. Mexico is a privileged location for our ICC. We have a 60-year commercial presence, strong ties with medical professionals, a manufacturing facility, and now a global center for digital innovation. Access to this rich ecosystem is incredibly beneficial for us.

EF: Have your three sustainability pillars changed since our last meeting? If so, what are your three pillars now?

GB: One key area of our activity is innovating how we work by leveraging our new facility. This custom-built facility supports three different modes of interaction. About one-third of the facility is dedicated to focused work, with seven different sitting modes to encourage a change in how employees work and come to the office. The second third is designed for innovation, which is participative. We have various themed areas and creative zones with sofas for brainstorming sessions, where colleagues can talk without staring at screens. We also have a unique feature called the water cooler. It's a screen you can knock on to connect with our offices in Bratislava and Boston. When someone hears your knock, they can click on the screen and talk with you. These moments allow for brainstorming and conversations away from the computer. Another third of our facility is dedicated to community spaces for interacting with Takeda colleagues and the broader ecosystem. These open areas include designed thinking rooms and a space to showcase demos or commercially available apps on tablets or mobile phones.  

My initial focus, working with the team, will be to change how we utilize the office space. This isn't a separate pillar but an activity aimed at adapting and improving our work environment to take full advantage of this wonderful facility. It's a great opportunity to shift our approach and embrace new working methods. The second area of focus is talent development, particularly as we aim to tackle increasingly challenging projects requiring more capability. We prioritize reaching out to others in the ecosystem for fresh ideas and continuous growth. The third aspect involves launching activities centered on sustainability, diversity, and inclusion, which are core values for Takeda. We aim for the center to align with these strategies, engage in local initiatives, and meet the Takeda criteria. Our focus areas include leveraging the new space for innovative work, enhancing operational excellence through talent development, and integrating sustainability and diversity into our agenda.

EF: Briefly reflecting on the past year, what moments stand out for you, and what are your key takeaways over the past year?

GB: Firstly, I'm deeply honored to be part of this team. Building something new as an executive is incredibly exciting and motivating. Secondly, it's humbling to discover the vast array of innovations and initiatives Takeda is involved in worldwide, all aimed at improving patients' lives. Regarding the center, we've poured our energy and passion into creating a fascinating facility. We've even incorporated digital art to inspire our teams and remind us of the impact of digital technology on every aspect of life. The fusion of Asian and Latin American cultures displayed in the center's core adds uniqueness. However, the most rewarding aspect is welcoming new talent, which remains the highlight of each year. Fortunately, we get to experience this regularly, welcoming new talent every two weeks. It's a luxury to share our purpose, see them connect with our mission, and begin their projects. This opportunity to nurture the team and witness continuous growth is fantastic. I'm excited for the past and future 12 months as we continue to thrive and evolve together.

EF: Is there anything else you want to discuss or a final message for our readers?

GB: It's evident that Takeda is committed to leveraging data and digital technologies to enhance our business and patients' lives. This aligns closely with our CEO's vision, and the ICCs play a vital role in realizing this vision. While Mexico is part of our global network, the ultimate goal is to cultivate digital leadership across all areas of Takeda, not just within the centers. I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to everyone who has supported us over the past 12 months. From the global team that crafted our strategy to the local team that provided unwavering support and to Takeda Mexico for hosting us during the center's construction. Special thanks to the talented individuals who believed in our mission and chose to join us on this journey. Moving forward, the global team plays a crucial role in driving transformation across the entire organization. With continued support, we are confident in our ability to positively impact Takeda's future.

June 2024