Vanessa Thirion-Cullity, Novartis Oncology

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Vanessa Thirion-Cullity
Executive director, U.S. net marketing, Novartis Oncology



What would you do if you didn't work in healthcare?

I would choose another environment where I could help people live better, more fulfilling lives. I would seek to support individuals and organizations pursuing mindfulness and exploring the power of the mind-body connection. Being able to have an impact on helping people live healthier lives is something I've always been passionate about. I am so fortunate to be able to fuel this passion in the field in which I currently work. 

When was the last time you endured an "agony of defeat" moment? What did you learn from it?

Not long ago, I was confronted with a particularly challenging assignment that seemed so insurmountable, it felt impossible to succeed before having even started. 

What I learned from that experience is: First, a focus on generating small wins helps build precious momentum. Second, give it your best at all times, no matter how strong the headwinds or how fierce the market dynamics may be. Focusing on things I could control and letting go of things I couldn't helped me maintain a positive outlook on issues throughout the mandate. Third, and most important, the secret to any turnaround resides in the power of building a cohesive team of people motivated by a shared vision and common set of values. Working together in lockstep made the insurmountable less agonizing.

What do you find frustrating about working in healthcare marketing?

We in healthcare marketing, particularly oncology, have extraordinary life-prolonging products that provide substantial benefits to the patients and customers we serve. Today's and tomorrow's technological advances and digital media innovations provide practically unlimited possibilities for marketing savvy individuals. Yet we are limited in the “how,” “what,” “when,” and “to whom” regarding promotion.

Our organization is still in the infancy of consumer and digital marketing, as compared to other industries. This is, in part, due to the nature of our industry environment, which faces the importance of protecting patient privacy and the overwhelming number and fragmentation of healthcare, consumer, and societal databases.

To ensure pay parity and career advancement for women I will...

Continue to mentor aspiring female leaders early on in their career to help them find their voice in the corporate world, and more broadly, receive the professional opportunities and recognition they rightfully deserve. I am a firm believer in helping women communicate their strengths effectively and with authenticity, while supporting the development of strong professional networks. 

Throughout my tenure in healthcare, as well as in all of the various positions I've held in the industry, I've taken great satisfaction in advocating for women's leadership development. It is immensely rewarding to be able to foster opportunities that help talented women reach their leadership potential faster. 

What are your words to live by?

I have two sets of words I live by:

“Stay true to yourself, engage with your followers, and ignore the critics” – Ella Woodward. 

“Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life” – Confucius.

What is one thing you would tell young women starting their careers in healthcare marketing?

Believe in your dreams and aspirations. You may not have a clear path mapped out in your head, but the important thing is to stay hungry for more to learn, explore, pressure-test, and not settle for anything that doesn't sit well in your gut and with your ethics.

Favorite drink?

My favorite drink is water, plain and simple, yet absolutely essential. It is 100% natural, the most precious liquid on earth, and a vital source of life. I cannot think of a better beverage to replenish core energy. Drinking water is also a constant reminder to me of how precious it is, and how we all need to be more mindful regarding its use and conservation. We still have a great deal of work ahead of us on this.

What three people, alive or dead, would you like to host at a dinner party and why?

Michelle Obama to experience and enjoy her innate charisma, down-to-earth character, and spontaneous sense of humor while discussing her latest initiatives in support of women, education, and healthy nutrition.

Prince, to get a sense of how a multi-faceted and truly extraordinarily gifted musician and accomplished artist thinks, while also enjoying some of his musical talents over dinner. 

Oprah Winfrey, because she has done so much to give women a voice and is passionate about supporting young women's education, and exemplifies what the American Dream is all about.

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