From bedside nurse to corporate leader
Carolyne started off her career as a bedside nurse before she found herself at the helm of the East African arm of the American multinational, IQVIA, where she is now GM in charge of the region.
“It’s like coming from a caterpillar to a butterfly. They are two completely different animals,” she says of her radical transformation from a care giver to manager of the healthcare consultancy company which had $10.4 billion (Sh1 trillion) in global revenues last year.
The firm provides services in healthcare including pharmaceuticals, hospitals, insurers and governments among other players besides undertaking clinical research.
“Pharmaceutical companies want to know what prescribers of their drugs think, how big the market is, so we (IQVIA) size and quantify the market,” says Carol.
""I remember a patient telling me ‘I hope you find your path and give it your all, just as you are doing here’. I did not understand it then.”"
“For insurers, we provide technology connecting them with clinics and hospitals.”
Leading the commercial business in East Africa for IQVIA is a role that Carolyne would never have fathomed a decade ago.
“I was a bedside nurse at Nairobi Hospital. But I knew I wanted more. I remember a patient telling me ‘I hope you find your path and give it your all, just as you are doing here’. I did not understand it then.”
Well, now she does.
Her drive for more prompted her to change careers to the pharmaceutical market as a representative, a field she had no experience in.
“Transitioning from being a nurse to pharmaceuticals required a complete mental shift,” she says.
It was during this transition that she acquired sales skills that landed her a job at a global medical technology company firm known as BD.
Her role expanded to East Africa, training nurses on injection safety as well as advocating for change in policy on the usage of injections and syringes.
“That gave me a lot of exposure especially in Uganda and Tanzania,” she says.
She took a short break from employment before a call from IMS Health — which eventually merged with Quintiles to form IQVIA — brought her back.
In the beginning, her role was fairly simple. She would connect IMS Health to pharmaceutical firms and distributors as a consultant but with time the IMS Health leadership in the US convinced her to join the team in as a full-time key account manager in Kenya.
She excelled at the role and, after the merger of the two companies, was promoted to commercial manager, East Africa, and a year later general manager, East Africa.
“The challenge for me was to build the business and to recruit people. A few people joined me before I took over as head of the region in 2017,” she says.
Her other challenge was teaching her team the difference between selling commodities and selling services. From the look of things, however, she found the path, just as her patient had once predicted.
“Every role I have had outside being a nurse has challenged me outside my comfort zone,” says Carolyne, an avid reader who at any one time carries five or more books in her bag.
“Reading is a shortcut to becoming a great leader.”
— Doreen Wainainah