How I made it featuring Elizabeth Egan, President of Havas Lynx Group
Hanson Search steps inside the world of global healthcare communications group Havas Lynx Group to interview its President, Elizabeth Egan for our 'Inspiring Stories' career series. Elizabeth shares her career journey, tips for success and thoughts on the future of the pharma communications industry.
How did you get into the communications and marketing industry?
I started life at an agency that worked predominantly in sales promotion. I worked in the information department pulling pitch information and credentials together and learning the ropes. I loved it and got to work across brands including Rover, Heinz, and Sony.
I then took a role on the client-side with Electronic Arts (EA) where I stayed for seven years. It was an amazing company to work for with a great culture. We worked with fantastic talent with big budgets and a fantastic team of designers and developers. During my time there I worked across different departments in different countries and learned a huge amount about sales, marketing, business development, production, and operations.
I then made the move to Weight Watchers which, at the time, wanted to transition into digital and it was the perfect opportunity to go from EA to help them with that process. I stayed there for twelve years and worked all over for the world; it was another inspiring organisation which really cared about people and their weight loss goals.
I then met the Head of Global Commercial Excellence for AstraZeneca, and subsequently ended up working for the business. It was quite unusual to go in at such a senior level having never before worked in pharma, but my task was to think beyond the medication and provide insight into what products and services we could create for people that would help them on their journey. Havas Lynx Group was one of my favourite agencies to work with while I was at AstraZeneca and three and a half years later the opportunity came up to run their London team. I haven’t looked back since.
Did you have a mentor or someone who inspired you to succeed?
Linda Huett, the former CEO of Weight Watchers International is a smart, strong and brilliant leader of an organisation of circa. 50,000 people. She has the ability to make every single person in that business feel special and is a very inspiring character.
What has been the biggest challenge that you’ve overcome in the course of your career?
The biggest challenge has been entering pharma at a later stage in my career. I’m very proud of it, but it’s not an easy thing to do when it feels like everyone is speaking a completely different language and you’re surrounded by peers who have been in the industry for 25 years.
I overcame that by getting to know people, understanding what made them tick and thinking about where I could add value and bring experience from other roles I’d been in.
Working in healthcare I get to wake up every morning and think that what I’m doing really makes a positive difference to people’s lives – it’s so important and I can’t imagine working in any other industry now.
With the knowledge you’ve now gained, what career advice would you give your 20-year-old self?
I don’t have any regrets in life, and I think that everything happens for a reason. I’ve worked hard and contributed and always tried to do a good job. On reflection, I could probably have been a bit more chilled out about things and realised that it’s okay to leave the office!
What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in the industry since you started your career?
Technology. I started life with a phone on my desk and no email or Google. Fast forward to now and we’ve got data analytics, artificial intelligence, chatbots - tools which help to inform and measure what we do.
Another change is how significant working in healthcare has become. Every big brand is trying to do something in healthcare, and I see that continuing.
What do you think it takes to be successful in 2019?
It’s really important to stay relevant to our clients and listen to their needs. We constantly need to re-evaluate what products and services we’re offering and ask if we’re relevant both in terms of client needs and ways of working. Also having the best talent in the industry – at the end of the day, we are nothing without brilliant people.
What do businesses need to do to improve diversity in the workplace?
Firstly, don’t ignore it. At Havas we have created a bespoke diversity and inclusion programme which we’ve rolled out across the whole network. We passionately believe that we’ll get better results with a diverse team that has different ways of thinking, different ideas and is from different walks of life.
What are the key qualities it takes to be a leader in today’s communications industry?
You’ve got to have a relentless passion for people and for developing and retaining talent. You also have to have a willingness to change and adapt as required – and that’s every hour of every day. You’ve also got to have the strategic ability to back the right horses and know where to invest.
What do you see as the key to the growth of a successful team and a positive working environment?
One of the first things I want to look at in my new role as President at Havas Lynx Group is how we will continue to be an agency employer of choice in ten or twenty years. I look around at the moment and the culture of our agency is incredible; we really look after people and understand modern ways of working and it’s a cool place to be where people really want to work, but I still need to worry about how we maintain that. After all, if you’re not being relevant in people’s lives they will go and work somewhere else.
What do you love about the industry?
I love the speed. I’ve always liked working really quickly and I love that we’re making a big difference. We listen to a lot of patients, healthcare professionals, caregivers and family members that have been touched by the work that we do, and it feels good.
What is the biggest challenge that you think the industry will face over the next few years?
Being on the front foot with technology and deciding where to place our bets and invest so that we don’t waste money in the wrong areas. As an agency we can’t try to be all things to all people at all times so it’s about knowing when to take things on and when not to.
Name one technology other than your phone which you cannot live without
My Fitbit – I’m obsessed! I have definitely adapted my behaviour since having one; it’s a very powerful tool.