Women Leaders in Pharma Interview Series

Women Leaders in Pharma Interview Series

Interview With Lisa Martin

About Lisa

Lisa Martin is the Senior Vice President, Global Procurement and Chief Procurement Officer for GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), a science-led global healthcare company with sales of £34 billion ($47.2 B).  She is the first CPO to lead global procurement across all three businesses: Pharma, Vaccines and Consumer Healthcare. Lisa leads the development and implementation of sourcing strategies and procurement activities on all externally purchased goods and services categories, including research and development, raw materials, packaging, manufacturing services, marketing and sales. This totals over £12 billion ($16.7 B) per year.

Lisa also leads Worldwide Real Estate and Facilities for GSK, that drive informed decision making across all of GSK’s real estate, and manage facilities services for 419 properties, 89 countries and 51 million square feet.

Prior to joining GSK, Lisa was CPO of Teva Pharmaceuticals where she was responsible for the transformation of the Procurement function, delivering $1 B in savings two years ahead of the original strategic plan.


What risks have you taken in your career that have paid off?

  • Early on in my career I had the courage to make a proposal to my boss, who was the CFO in a non-pharma company, to combine Procurement with Accounts Payable into one Procure- to-Pay function. My colleague and I debated about advancing the proposal as we knew it would be putting ourselves at risk, but we knew it was the best thing for the company, and would support the end-to-end process in the new Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system the company was implementing. This was before Procure-to-Pay as an end- to-end process was well known so it was very forward thinking. He accepted the proposal and combined the leadership role. Unfortunately, I did not get the role, and it was extremely traumatic – everything I knew in my career was coming to an end. However, it resulted in me leaving the industry, and was also the lever for my family to move back to New Jersey where I found a new career in pharmaceuticals joining Warner Lambert in 1997. Sometimes when a door shuts a bigger window opens.

What role has networking played in your career advancement?

  • This links closely to the last question, as I used my network to land a new role. I had recently attended an industry event, and I had a picture in my office of the attendees. I looked at the picture and pinpointed some of the executives that worked on the East Coast of the US. I picked up the phone to re-introduce myself, and explained that I had a change in my life circumstances and how my husband had got a job on the East Coast, and asked if they had any vacancies. The Chief Procurement Officer at Warner Lambert did, and he flew me to New Jersey for an interview and the rest is history. At the time, I received a few other job offers too, but I liked the way Warner Lambert had positioned the function which was more about productivity and company strategy vs transactional or operational excellence. Six months after I joined Warner Lambert, the CPO announced he was retiring, and I was offered and took the CPO role. Networking hasn’t just played a role in landing new roles for me, as I have always been plugged into industry related associations like DCAT, ISM and diversity advocacy organizations. It’s the best way of working with peers, and what I learn from my professional network is so important in terms of advice for me personally and for my company. Sometimes you can find that a peer network is a safer place to lean on for advice than your own Line Management.

What life lessons do you give the children and young people in your life?

  • My main advice is you better really like what you do as you spend a lot of time at work. Be authentic and tap into what motivates you and what’s important to you. What motivates you can obviously change but be honest with yourself as life is too short. What has motivated me over the years has been investing in people and teams and having a small hand in helping people develop their careers. Many have gone on to do amazing things and I deliberately stay in touch with people who I’ve worked with and mentored over the years. Also, become an Enterprise Leader at work. If you see something outside your responsibilities that needs solving or addressing, then say something – it’s important to do the right things for the business you work for.

What industry organizations are you involved with and how has this enhanced your leadership skills and career development?

  • Firstly, I’ve always been connected to the Institute for Supply Management (ISM), being part of the ISM was a catalyst for me to fall in love with the function. Secondly, I think extremely highly of DCAT (The Drug, Chemical & Associated Technologies Association). My leadership team and I get involved with their schedule of events, programs and services on a regular basis. I’m also extremely passionate about inclusion and diversity and supplier diversity, so we support many diversity and advocacy organizations like Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC), National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC), and Minority Supplier Development UK (MSDUK). I get a lot of energy from these groups and we learn so much from each other. I have so much respect for the women and minority suppliers who have such resilience and creativity. Lastly, the World 50, Inc. organization is great for senior executives, I’ve found the sessions and dialogues with other executives extremely valuable.

Final piece of advice:

  • My three areas of advice would be: 1) Be your authentic self and don’t try to emulate male leadership characteristics, or what you think is expected of you. 2) Make sure the company culture you are working in is connected to your own value system. I struggled with that early in my career and tried to adapt to the company culture, but I lost a bit of my identity and was not as effective. 3) Be aware of what you are good at and surround yourself with people who complement your weaknesses – and be OK with that.