The 37-year-old CEO of the US arm of a top French pharma company lays out the precise strategy he uses to advance his career
- David Lee is the 37-year-old CEO of Servier Pharmaceuticals, the US operation that's a part of Servier, the second-largest pharma company in France.
- Lee, who graduated from Harvard with a degree in biochemistry and a graduate degree in business, has held leadership positions at a number of large pharmaceutical companies like Novartis and Shire.
- Lee told Business Insider about the three R's he uses to advance his career: results, reputation, and relationships.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
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David Lee has been inside his fair share of pharmaceutical companies.
The 37-year-old exec has taken a winding route to the top of Servier Pharmaceuticals, with stints at Novartis, GlaxoSmithKline, Baxter, and Shire. He graduated from Harvard with a degree in biochemistry and then a graduate degree in business.
Servier Pharmaceuticals is the US unit of French pharma giant Servier. The newly formed Boston-based arm is focused on cancer treatments and rare diseases, and Lee became the CEO in 2018.
Previously, he spent most of his career at Novartis, taking on roles across the Swiss pharma giant before leading the commercial strategy for its vaccine portfolio. The business he was in at Novartis was part of an asset swap with GlaxoSmithKline, and shortly after he left to join Baxter. Through a series of transactions, he landed at Shire, where he was the global head of the oncology and genetic disease franchises.
That Shire business was later acquired by Servier in a $2.4 billion deal, and Lee was named to run Servier's US operation.
Lee shared with Business Insider the strategy he's used to guide his career and reach the CEO role.
The three R's guiding Lee's career
Lee said he breaks down the advice guiding his career into three R's: results, reputation, and relationships.
Living up to the expectations you set for yourself and producing results is first and foremost, he said.
"You have to deliver what you say you're going to deliver," Lee said.
Doing that can build credibility within the industry and the teams you work with, leading your coworkers to trust you with more responsibility.
Even better is overdelivering on the work you're expected to do.
"It quickly builds reputation for you," Lee said.
That brings Lee to his second R: reputation. It's important to think through what kind of response people in your industry have when your name is brought up. That's especially true in the tight-knit biotech community in the Boston area, where Lee's based.
"Even though there's over 700 biotech companies in the greater Boston area alone, it's actually a very, very small industry. Most of the people know each other," he said.
If you have a good reputation, "all sorts of doors open," Lee said.
Having the results and reputation in place, the third important R Lee keeps in mind is his relationships with his colleagues.
"A lot of people during my career gave me opportunities I didn't deserve. They put me in functions, in jobs, that I probably didn't have the right background for," Lee said.
But because he had their trust based on the results he delivered, they went for it.
"They trusted me and they were willing to put me in those jobs," Lee said.
It also meant Lee was tasked with difficult situations, like business groups moving from one company to another as part of a sale. Ultimately, you want to show that you can be the person to rely on during times of transitions.
In addition to using the three R's to guide his own career, Lee said he uses a similar model when building his teams within companies.
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