Mar is Head of Supply Chain for International Markets and Israel & Asia Pacific. Here, she discusses her role ensuring the right countries receive the right amount of drugs at the right time, being a role model in Japan… and what she keeps in the secret drawer in her office.
I’m a qualified pharmacist but I never really planned to work in a pharmacy. When I finished university, I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do. It took me a while to find myself and I tried a number of different roles and jobs before I thought about supply chain.
Most of my friends don’t understand what I do. Not many people really understand what supply chain is or what my job is. Most people think it’s linked to engineering but I’m a pharmacist so that can confuse them a bit. I usually start by explaining that supply chain is the middle bit, between operations and commercial sales.
I don’t have a typical day. There are months when I might be travelling every other week and wake up in Russia one day and Japan or Singapore the next. I could wake up anywhere. Today, for example, I’m in Russia but I only found out I was coming here last week. I try to be as organized as possible and condense everything I need into one small bag. I try and schedule all my meetings in over one or two days so I can make the trip as short as possible and balance it with my personal life.
The novelty of travelling hasn’t worn off despite the fact I have to do it so much for work. If I go to a new country, I try and squeeze some sight-seeing in or check out a local restaurant in between meetings. Being away so much for work hasn’t dampened my enthusiasm for travelling or visiting new places at all.
I never thought I would work in Israel or marry an Israeli. I’m Spanish and it’s just not somewhere I had ever really thought about living but when the opportunity came up to work here, I thought, ‘why not?’ It’s changed my life and given me lots of opportunities I never thought I’d have.
Sometimes, people presume I will be a man before I meet them, especially as I have a Spanish name so they don’t necessarily know what gender I am. They are often surprised when I arrive, especially since I’m also relatively young – 36 - to be in a senior-management role. My gender and my age are usually both quite surprising for people. I’ve had people assume my male colleague was the vice-president and I was his assistant. They were really embarrassed when they found out it was actually the other way around and very apologetic about it. I was quite amused.
One woman in Japan told me I was a role model and said she had never met a woman in a senior-level operations role like mine. She said I had inspired her to aim higher in her career. That was really touching.
Working in HR taught me how to listen to people. I was covering for a colleague who was off sick and I was only there for a short while but it helped teach me how to listen properly.
I have a hidden drawer in my office: it has cookies for emergencies.
The best advice I could give to another woman in this industry is to forget about gender. It doesn’t matter if you are a woman or a man. What matters is that you can do your job to the best of your ability. If you are confident about that, it shouldn’t matter if you are a woman or not. Just do the best you can and work hard. Believe in yourself and the rest will follow.
Meet more of our experts! Like Sara Zavaleta, who talks about what it takes to run a huge supply chain operation and the importance of doing the Gemba Walk every day.