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INSEAD Participant Interview

Gaining Fresh Management Perspectives in a Multicultural Environment 

Rodrigo Palma Dos Reis

Global Medical Director, New Products CNS and Immunology, Takeda Pharmaceuticals

Rodrigo Palma Dos Reis shares his experience of the Management Acceleration Programme: "The focus on the leadership skills helps you explore your personal life and your goals as a person. In addition to that, the functional business skills that you develop on the programme can create concrete assets you can bring back to your organisation and implement. It is a very rounded programme."

Can you please introduce yourself?

I am a Medical Doctor by training and my background is in the pharmaceutical sector, in which I have been working since 2003. I have held positions with Pfizer, Johnson and Johnson (Medicinal division/ Janssen) and I am now Global Medical Director for New Products CNS and Immunology at Takeda Pharmaceuticals in Switzerland.

Why did you choose to enrol on the Management Acceleration Programme?

My department stresses the importance of personal development. This could be either by undertaking functional business training (which has been the most frequent case throughout the years), or by taking more personal training to help develop the individual objectives we have set for ourselves. 
So, we have lots of internal training opportunities that have been designed in-house. Things such as technical, clinical, marketing and business training. Whilst these are excellent, what they lack is a fresh approach. In other words, they give you the same approach that matches the company and wider industry objectives in a predictable way.
The Management Acceleration Programme, on the other hand, is unique. You get that fresh perspective. I looked at a variety of programmes across Europe. What attracted me to INSEAD was the fact that I have worked with MBA alumni and I liked their structured approach. I also liked the fact that the Management Acceleration Programme looked like a diverse programme, both in content and participant make-up and one that would help me tackle the challenges I face in my career.  

What did you think of the approach faculty took to teaching the subject matter?

I appreciated the fact that the programme zoomed in and out of the various topics constantly. What this means is that you are able to get the macroscopic view of business, but at the same time you also focus on the small details through case studies, group work and discussions. These really allow you to dive into each area. This was quite different to training I have done in the past, where you get one or the other.

The zooming in allows you to connect the dots. It allows you to connect each area with the wider discussion. You cover all the important business aspects, from finance and accounting, to marketing and organisational behaviour. And there are discussions to help dive into each.

Did the Management Acceleration Programme surprise you with new knowledge?

Very much so. The one that most stands out is probably the finance and accounting modules. I usually don’t focus very much on finance numbers in my job; I see the end result (usually in the form of a neat report with an ‘unquestionable’ eNPV). But I don’t usually get the opportunity to take a look at how we got to that end result – how the numbers are calculated and the rationale behind the decisions.

I discovered that numbers are not an exact science. Just like any other part of the business, there is an array of decisions that come into play in finance.

So, the Management Acceleration Programme allowed me to understand the output of functional areas in my company better. Coming back to work, I now have a much better understanding of how the numbers are reached.

What does being on campus for three weeks do for the learning?

The immersion on campus for three weeks contributes to a greater depth of learning. This is a fundamental aspect of the Management Acceleration Programme and creates a very impactful experience.
You are isolated from external distractions and that is vital. Otherwise business carries on as usual. It was quite funny in the first week. If we answered our phones, we had to pay a small contribution to charity. This was part of the wider plan to keep us focused.
At the end of the day, it is hard to break habits, such as multitasking. Normally, multitasking is good, but not here. You need to be focused. This contributed to not only your learning, but also to the relationships you built up with faculty and with the participants.

What was the diversity of participants like on the programme?

The diversity helped a lot and contributed to the learning. We had many personalities in the group and interacting with each of them made the learning curve steeper. The diversity in personalities, cultures, professional backgrounds enriched the environment and was an added value. It would have been significantly poorer without this.

We changed working groups each week, which further encouraged interaction with a lot of different people. These were people who were established in their industries, so one-on-one time was vital. Getting to know people who work in vastly different areas to your own helps you gain perspective of your own work. You take a step back and see things in a non-biased way.

How does the programme help develop your leadership skills and encourage self-development? 

What I understood is that leadership skills, or people skills, are fundamental. They come into play on a daily basis. And you have to adapt these skills to suit each situation and different work scenarios.

In the first week of the programme, you focus on getting to know yourself better. It’s almost a psychoanalytical approach to who you are and what you are striving for in life. With the help from faculty, you go through deep self-reflection to understand what really motivates you. I found it a ground-breaking experience as it’s not something you normally have the time to do. Life is too chaotic to focus on this.

But this is only the beginning. The Management Acceleration Programme kick-starts the process of self-development. It helps you to make the first step, which is often the hardest one. You begin to understand that there is a path to take and the Management Acceleration Programme helps you think about the challenges you may encounter. With the coaches and other participants, you discuss these challenges to understand how to overcome them.

The whole process leaves you with more questions than answers. Some of these are answered on the Management Acceleration Programme. Others will be answered later in life as you gain more experience. The programme is the start of a journey that helps you understand the difference between what makes you happy and what does not - both in your professional and personal life.

So, the focus on the leadership skills helps you go into your personal life - your goals as a person. The functional business skills that you develop on the programme can create concrete assets you can bring back to your organisation and implement. It is a very rounded programme.

How will the Management Acceleration Programme help in your work?

Since leaving the programme, I have been involved in the usual meetings and strategy discussions. Some of these discussions have focused on blue vs. red oceans. The change was that I fought to keep us in - what I now confidently believe is - the blue ocean. During these discussions, I was able to use knowledge I had learned on the Management Acceleration Programme. The programme gave me the confidence to fight for something because, on the programme, we were exposed to many case studies which illustrated what went wrong or right and in a wide variety of business scenarios. Leaving the Management Acceleration Programme, I have something structured and evidence based that I can share with my colleagues. With my new knowledge, gained from case studies from a number of industries, I bring more to the discussion. This is important in my work as we rarely look beyond examples in the world of pharmaceuticals.

So the Management Acceleration Programme has helped me make more informed decisions and to positively challenge ideas.

Looking at other ways the programme has already helped in my work:

  • In finance and accounting, I now have the technical skills to look beyond the figures; to understand the story behind them
  • In terms of organisational management, leadership is now easier to understand and I understand better how to communicate with the different layers within the organisation

What would you say to someone who is thinking about doing the Management Acceleration Programme?

The Management Acceleration Programme is a versatile programme that can add value to both junior and more senior executives. It gives you the ability to analyse business in a much more structured and knowledgeable way than you came in with, and you leave with both the hard and leadership skills, to better understand the world of business - as well as human behaviour.
Interested in INSEAD's Management Acceleration Programme? Have a look at the webpage or download the brochure

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