Tammy Guld, Global Team Lead for Janssen Clinical Innovation and Nicole Cohen, Managing Director of Accenture Global Life Sciences, took the opportunity to catch up, connecting on some of Tammy’s latest achievements, including her award from PharmaVoice. They also explore Tammy’s passion for Triathlon and how she uses triathlon training to help her navigate both her professional and personal life.

Tammy Guld and Nicole Cohen

An interview with Tammy Guld and Nicole Cohen

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NICOLE COHEN: Can you tell us a bit about your role at Janssen and what being named to the Pharmavoice 100 means to you?

TAMMY GULD: So, my role with Janssen Pharmaceutical is to lead their clinical innovation team. We are a small group of innovators looking to disrupt the way clinical trials are run today. We're exploring new technologies and new ways of working – and trying to rip up the original infrastructure and railroad ties of the traditional models of the last 30 years. My role is, really, to bring that platform of transformation to the team.

For me, the award from Pharmavoice isn’t a recognition of myself. It's a recognition for all of the team's work and what they have done – because it is their grit and determination, their resiliency, that forges demonstration pilots into scale up projects across our clinical operations environment. The award truly is a testament of the team's work over the last nine years that Janssen spent at this.

NC: As the leader of this great team, what is your leadership style?

TG: I believe my leadership style – not only with this team, but in all of the roles I’ve had across pharma – has the main characteristics of being incredibly transparent and authentic when I turn up to work every day. I believe having a very consistent leadership style is really important, so the team understands who I am, why I am that way, and why I make the decisions I do based on the data at hand.

Pharma is an industry that hasn't always been about innovation, so I try to empower the group as much as possible so they have a real true range of freedom to innovate and ideate. I think some of the strengths that I bring, in particular to this innovation atmosphere and ecosystem, are the ability to be calm and resilient under very stressful and pressure situations – and also to be courageous. I see a lot of these characteristics being applicable in many of the areas that I've worked, but also in my personal life as well.

NC: So, let's talk a little bit about your personal life. You’re a triathlete. What got you into that?

TG: Some people think about their exercise routine as work, but I think about my triathlon career as a part of who I am as a person. For those who don’t know, it's combination race involving a swim, bike and run. As a kid, I was one of those renegades around the neighborhood, constantly on a ten-speed somewhere getting from place to place. There's a sense of freedom being on a bike and seeing places and being able to cycle with people. It’s a really awesome feeling for me to be able to share those experiences and the challenges of the road and the hills with other people ¬– and it resonates with life as a journey for me as well.

Some of those leadership characteristics I mentioned before are also in play here. Commitment and consistency – and the fact that you have to show up as your genuine self. Triathlon certainly teaches you about have goals, both short-term and long-range. There is very structured training that has to happen in the sport, just as you would in building out a project plan or a longer term goal in the workplace – how you set yourself up with milestones and check points along the way in some of those micro-environments to reach those long-term goals.

It resonates really well with the workplace and how we grow and develop over the years – working and being curious in new environments and maybe moving from one area of the business to another. There will be times where you're going to feel very uncomfortable, and like training, there are times where you have to push through that, you're at your threshold and you're feeling very uncomfortable – but that's a growth moment.

NC: With that in mind, how do you view the role of coaches and mentors in the workplace?

TG: For me a coach and a mentor are incredibly important, just to get that ongoing feedback and to help push myself to limits that I thought, perhaps, were not achievable on my own. Personally, I like to change my coach every two to three years, just to get that different viewpoint on training and what it might do for me personally.

I also find myself doing the same thing in the workplace. I get a little itchy and scratchy after a few years being in a role. I’m curious to learn from other people and learn different parts of the organization and change my role and become uncomfortable again. There is an entire network of people who can support you from your athletic career and you have to leverage it – and it's the same the same in our working environment.

I know, Nicole, you're very aware of this – that working and growing your network to gain different perspectives and connections from other industries and other viewpoints is incredibly helpful. In triathlon it could come from leveraging those in a different discipline, like nutrition and how does nutrition impact your training? So, there's definitely a really important role of having some sort of coach in your life – or multiple coaches in your life and different portions of your life.

NC: I want to test a couple of thoughts with you now. Again, exploring the similarities or differences between the life of a triathlete and the life of a business leader – especially as a woman – do you see any similarities in the workplace?

TG: Triathlon does also tend to be a bit more male dominant and we have a saying when there's a female that is in the middle of a race and they pass a male, we say that the guy has gotten “chicked” – which is good. It’s probably not as exciting for the guys in the race, but nonetheless you feel pretty proud, but there's a level playing field from a triathlon perspective. Everybody has their own journey, their own race, their own training. And in my mind, the hardest part is getting to the start line; then you can just enjoy the challenge of what it is.

The workplace is a bit of the same – ensuring that you can get to that start line. Ensuring that you have an equal opportunity to demonstrate your strengths and have that chance to show up.

I do see the ability of sports growing your confidence in being able to carry yourself in the workplace. It definitely has helped me personally. Any time I need to show up on a given day and am feeling a little bit uncomfortable, I absolutely have to get that workout in in the morning. For some people it's having a cup of coffee. For me, I have to have that good training session – and sometimes that has to happen at 4:30 in the morning. I'm also a wife and a mom, so I’ve got other things that I need to balance in my day. But having that early commitment helps me bring that best self to work.

NC: You lead to a good question. Being a leader, a change agent, a wife, a mom, a friend – the list goes on – how do you fit this type of a commitment into your life?

TG: It's about having conversations with the people in your life that you love about your values – and our values as a family, and what's important to my husband and my two daughters. It’s being really transparent about those long-term goals and what we might need in the short-term. I have a really good support structure and try to work through those conversations.

I have to say it has been a bit off balance being stuck at home during the pandemic and I’ve certainly gotten some feedback from my kids in the last few weeks, saying, “All you do is work.” For me, this is valid feedback and I’m trying to make some adjustments for that – so now it’s a matter of getting up early and getting in. Taking care of so many people requires so much of you throughout your day, whether it's your children, your team at work, your partner at home, your dogs, your castle – everybody is asking more and more of you. So, for me, doing something first thing in the morning for myself is really rewarding and energizing for the entire day.

NC: It's a great point. That time before you start your days is like gold – however you choose to use it. Some people are like you: they're out the door, they're on a bike, they’re on the move. Some people just use that time to meditate or work on a project that is important to them. I think doing something for yourself is a great piece of advice.

Finally, I wanted to bring it all together, celebrating you as a change agent and leading this incredible team around innovation. I would say in almost everything we do right now, we're all innovating, we're trying to work in the new, succeed in the new. So, the question is, if you were to leave folks with a few pieces of advice, how can individuals bring the most innovative parts of themselves into the work they do?

TG: I think it doesn’t have to be complicated. It doesn't have to be big. It doesn't have to be super shiny or super sexy. Innovation comes in very small packets. It can affect one very important piece of a process and you don't have to think at a grand scale. If you're adding value by changing the way that you’re doing things and you're thinking of innovative approaches to your work – try those micro experiments, see what the outcome is. Just make sure somebody has your back. Every time we step out of our home we take a risk, and you have to be able to learn from every experience that you have and ask yourself, “What did I do well and what have I learned from this?”

Try to pull away from any kind of fixed mindset and move yourself to that growth mindset, because there is something to be learned in every project, all of our encounters, all of our experiences. Be forgiving and understanding of yourself. We're social beings, we're learning beings who are curious people. So, you definitely have the ability to innovate.

Remember that you are growing when you're a little bit uncomfortable and you have to get to that place of being comfortably uncomfortable. I always tell my girls at home: every problem has a solution. It may take money, or it might take time or something different, but certainly every problem has a solution and it's just a matter of how you approach it. It’s about having that grit and determination and stamina and resilience that we spoke about earlier to ensure you can find the solution.

NC: Thank you so much, Tammy, for chatting with me today and sharing your stories and insights and lessons: consistency, dedication, curiosity, believe in yourself, take the time for yourself – all very inspiring. Congratulations again on the honor of being a change agent. You certainly are an inspiring person altogether.

TG: Thanks, Nicole. It was great to chat with you.

Nicole Cohen

Managing Director – Life Sciences

Tammy Guld

Global Team Lead – Janssen Clinical Innovation


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