Managing director, WCG

When Wyoming native Erik Hawkinson—WCG’s new managing director—graduated from college, he thought his marketing career would be best served with a job on either coast. “There weren’t many sheep farms that needed marketing,” he says, laughing.

After landing in New Jersey, he worked for a small firm before starting his own agency. But he soon realized that some of the biggest clients in his area were taking their needs over the Hudson rather than to his shop down the road.

“I was a few miles from Roche. I was trying to get my foot in the door, but I couldn’t because I was competing against big New York agencies,” Hawkinson explains, “But I always let them know that I’m very local and willing to take on any work they had.”

And that’s just what happened. “I get a call on Saturday morning from one of their top marketing people. They can’t get in touch with their agency and have work that needs to go out Sunday,” he says. “Ironically, I was already wearing a suit for my brother-in-law’s wedding, and so I get in the car and showed up in a suit.”

He created such a strong first impression that he became the drugmaker’s internal agency. And while a lucky break and some quick thinking helped him make his foray into healthcare, his passion for the industry only grew from there.

Hawkinson’s career would include digital work at Bayer as eBusiness head and Novartis Oncology as director of digital innovation. It would come full circle when he landed a role as global digital marketing lead at Roche.

Even with a background in strategy and digital practices, Hawkinson says one of his career’s biggest takeaways has been realizing that these channels are only as useful as their messaging.

“It isn’t about digital—it’s about branding—it’s about the customer,” he says. “It’s not, ‘if you build it they will come’… It’s about influencing ­customers where they are.”