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Female Tech Heroes role models #13 - Jannie van den Broek: ‘You can only grow when you get out of your comfort zone’

Aug 12, 2020 12:16:03 PM. By: Anna Mazur

Searching for a bridge between biology and business, Jannie van den Broek got a role in the pharmaceutical industry, where she developed a huge interest in the biotechnology field. So, she made the step to Amgen, the world’s first and biggest biotech company. Now, in her role as Director Value, Access & Policy, Jannie advocates for value-based healthcare. In this interview she shares insights how to embrace your own leadership style and how to grow in your career with faith and resilience.

Have you always wanted to work in the healthcare industry, and in biotechnology, specifically?
It was quite funny how I ended up working in the healthcare field, because I always wanted to be a scientist. While I was trying to get funding for my research, I got a side job at Procter & Gamble. I didn’t even know the name of the company when I started there, but while working there I realized that I fitted well in a business environment. Thus, I started to look for a bridge between business and human biology.

And that’s how I ended up in the pharmaceutical industry. After a year and a half in a regular pharmaceutical company, I switched roles and ended up in a biotech company. I worked there for several years in different positions and then made the step to Amgen, the first and biggest biotech company in the world. I really like biotech because the promise of biology for developing medicine is enormous. So, ending up in biotech was not planned for but turned out really well. The possibilities of biological products still amaze me every day.

You are an active advocate for value-based healthcare in the Netherlands. What exactly does VBHC mean?
We have broadened Amgen’s mission to transforming from a company that sells successful products to a company that contributes to successful treatments that go beyond our products, selling solutions as well. That’s where my expertise comes in place. We use Michael Porter’s (a professor at Harvard Business School) theory of Value-Based Healthcare (VBHC) to collaborate with our partners in healthcare. In the end we aspire to make the transition to being paid for the outcome and quality of the treatment. This requires a healthcare system that also rewards the outcome of the treatment, instead of rewarding how many activities were done.

Even though I already read about VBHC in 2006, it took around ten years before we saw some examples of implementation in Europe. It’s not that no one believed in it, but its implementation was considered much work. But the rising cost pressure on healthcare in recent years, showed that the system is not sustainable, and changes need to happen. The value-driven system was finally seen as a solution. Now in the Netherlands, we see some good examples of outcome-based treatment, and the government makes new rules to make outcomes more transparent. I think, we are making big steps and are on the point of no return. Also, I think that the COVID-19 crisis is a catalyzer for typical value-driven innovations.

The basis for Amgen’s way of working are partnerships with healthcare providers. In these collaborations trusting each other should be addressed straight from the start. The last few years we’ve signed multiple public-private partnerships, in which trust was very important. If you trust each other and work towards the same goal, you can achieve wonderful things.

What is the state of diversity and inclusion in the biotech industry?
I think the gender diversity at Amgen is actually really good. The diversity of nationalities and cultures is much lower for some reason. We have a working group called ‘Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging’ that implements policies and checks for biases within the company. The questionnaire that we did a few years ago revealed that employees generally feel positive about it.
Jannie van den Broek 1 foto VBHC magazine

Personally, I did not experience challenges climbing the ladder at Amgen. On the other hand, little attention is paid to the fact that women and men are just different. A female leader has a different style than a male leader.

The chances for men and women are equal here, but the predominant leadership model is male, which is slightly more directive. It took me a while to understand that the road to success is not via copying male leadership behavior, but by searching for my own leadership style and behavior. I didn’t really have role models, so I mainly had to figure it out myself.

How did you find your own leadership style?
After I attended a lecture about male and female behavior from a psychologist, I delved into this topic and also into myself. It was a lot about figuring out what I want to achieve and how. Interestingly, I discovered that leading a team is a lot like raising kids. I try to raise my children to become responsible individuals who can lead their own lives and have the right values in it. I am sort of a coach to them. Similarly, when leading a team, or even an organization, you want people to make their own choices of values, instead of telling them what to do.based on a certain set 

What other insights helped you grow in your career?
The insight that really helped me came from a book ’The First 90 days’ by Michael Watkins. Every time you take on a new role, you need a new advice council. So, you need people with whom you can discuss your uncertainties and ideas. Generally, when you just graduated you do that with your friends, but at some point in time, you feel that you cannot discuss all your challenges with them anymore. Either because you grow at different paces, or they are in an entirely different business. What we rarely do is actively seek for people who could become our advice council. Every time I made a big step in my career, I searched for people from whom I can take advice.

When I started my current role over three years ago, I asked advices from both a woman and a man from Amgen. I really looked up to the woman and her efficiency in her work. And I also got very interesting male perspective advice. The general thing for women is that they wait until they are 100% confident, they can do the task. And then, they do it. Whereas men often already start doing the task when they have a slight idea of how it works. So, hearing a male perspective and critically taking that into my daily work, kept me sharp. Those 30-minute monthly meetings with the advisors always gave me incredible valuable insights.

What advice would you give to aspiring females in the tech fields?
I learned to believe that whatever happens, you can always find your way, using your mind, skills and expertise. In times of uncertainty and doubt, just keep going, without being too harsh on yourself, and at some point, you will see the light.

You can only grow when you get out of your comfort zone, which sometimes feels terrible. Women normally tend to avoid situations to take a big step out of their comfort zone. But you need to remember to believe in yourself. You got this job for a reason.

What also really helps is to write down three things that went well at the end of each day, to remind yourself that you are growing, and it is not all that bad. And my final advice to younger women: look for an older mentor who has gone through similar experiences. They really want to help you, because don’t forget, they see their younger selves in you.

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