Every accolade and award that BMS Latin America has received – for best workplace, best company to work for, or best employer – all come back to the people behind the company. At BMS Latin America, there is an ongoing investment in inclusion and diversity, with leadership that commits to it alongside a workforce that embraces and champions it. But while awards are an acknowledgment of progress and a welcome mat for candidates, the real rewards come via a diverse BMS culture that demonstrates greater creativity and innovation, stronger problem-solving abilities, and collaborating teams all working toward the single-focused goal of transforming patients’ lives through science.
Two colleagues who are an important part of fostering that culture are Mariana Santos, Senior Director of Human Resources in Latin America, and Maria Fernanda (MaFe) Vernaza Franco, Franchise Manager of the Thoracic and Genitourinary business unit. Mariana’s location in Buenos Aires and MaFe’s office in Bogota are both part of the large BMS Latin American footprint that stretches from Mexico to Chile, except for BMS Brazil, which is its own department.
A Strong Presence from Mexico to Chile
As head of HR, Mariana explained the geographic and business footprint in the Latin American sector. “BMS’ Lat Am headquarters is in Buenos Aires, plus we have a presence in regional markets in Chile, Mexico, Colombia and Peru,” she said. “And the many areas in those regions include commercial and research & development, which are the largest, but there are also regulatory affairs, finance, HR, IT, quality, supply and legal, among others.”
MaFe joined this comprehensive Latin American team knowing she wanted to end up in marketing despite having an engineering degree, which highlights how different skill sets in different departments contribute to that diverse workforce.
Diverse Skillsets Lead to Innovative Thinking
“Studying industrial engineering helped me understand the big picture of the business,” MaFe shared. “In university, I had the opportunity to do some consumer care work, which I enjoyed, but what was missing was purpose. I never thought I’d work in pharma, but at BMS I found that purpose, and my skill sets seemed to be a perfect fit for our cross-functional team.”
When speaking of hiring and building out a diverse workforce, Mariana leans into what sets BMS apart when attracting, retaining and growing the best talent available with a focus on development. “Development is our top priority,” she said. “A large percentage of our people have experienced development opportunities, such as promotions or temporary assignments where they can explore avenues at BMS different from their current role. Over the next year, BMS is launching six new products, and with this ambitious goal, we need to make sure that BMS is attracting the talent we need.”
Growth Opportunities to Challenge Oneself
Some of the development aspects that Mariana touched on were confirmed by MaFe, even as early as one year into her 3+ year tenure at BMS. “I was a brand manager on our kidney cancer portfolio,” she said. “I helped launch the first line that became the leader in the market. A year after that successful launch, I spoke with my manager and was given the opportunity to expand my responsibility with the melanoma franchise in Colombia, defending our market position. A year later I was taking on a big, new challenge – to break the inertia in lung cancer with 9LA launching. I get many opportunities to challenge myself in this role.”
Attracting the best talent and keeping them engaged will not happen unless people are comfortable bringing their authentic selves to the workplace. Mariana spoke passionately about the benefits from creating such an environment.
Different Perspectives Build a Stronger Company
“Diversity enables this growth we’re talking about,” Mariana said. “And by diversity, we’re talking about more than gender or sexual orientation, but experience, background and perspective. That’s what enriches the conversation and enables innovation. There are a lot of people in BMS Latin America that are dedicated to inclusion and diversity.”
MaFe agreed. “Having different perspectives and different people in the same room helps you go further than you expected,” she said. “I have amazing friends who are part of the LGBTQ+ community and we didn’t yet have a PRIDE chapter of our People and Business Resource Groups (PBRG) in Colombia. After planning and showing that this could benefit us all – that 10 to 14% of our workforce were a part of that community – we launched the PRIDE Alliance two years ago and it’s been the source of great education and conversations.”
Colleagues With a Dedication to I&D
Inclusivity and diversity happen through a whole range of initiatives at BMS Latin America to accomplish a variety of objectives. “We have leaders and coordinators who dedicate part of their time to work on Inclusion & Diversity and cultural priorities,” said Mariana. “That could include sustainability, working with our regional cultural teams, creating activities related to I&D, partnering and supporting external associations. And in BMS Latin America, we are proud that 60% of our teams are women, and most of our leadership teams have a 50/50 representation.”
Explore BMS LATAM for Inspiring, Fulfilling Careers
When asked for advice for someone who might not check every single box in a job description but has a real desire to pursue that position, MaFe weighed in without hesitation.
“Dreaming big if you don’t think you’re qualified can be scary,” she said. “But if you say, ‘I can’t’ without trying, you’re cutting off your dreams before giving them a chance. Take the risk. Whatever happens, you will learn from it.”
Mariana took the risk of joining BMS after 18 years with another company, and she’s glad she did. “I’ve not experienced the feeling I get at BMS at other companies,” she said. “This feeling that every day you’re doing something for the patient. And it’s quite emotional when you meet a patient or see a video of one. My father died of lung cancer and my mother had breast cancer. We all have someone we can relate to. It’s something that inspires us, something that we live for and work for at BMS every day.”