Senior Clinical Operations Manager Kelly Cho (RPh, Master of Science in Pharmacy), and Senior Marketing Manager, Cardiovascular John Yoo (RPh, Master of Science in Immunology) are two colleagues among more than 200 who make Bristol Myers Squibb, Korea, a thriving pillar of our Asian and global strategy. Headquartered in Seoul, John and Kelly personify the fact that there is no one way to become a leader within BMS. Each takes their own journey while at the same time playing critical roles in furthering the BMS mission of transforming patients’ lives through science.
Early Influences Provide Direction
Kelly recalls an emotional incident regarding her father over 20 years ago that inspired her to pursue a career in clinical operations. “My parents wanted me to become a community pharmacist,” she remembered. “But when I was in graduate school, my father developed cancer. He joined a clinical trial, and I would accompany him to the visits. Unfortunately, the trial didn't work for my father and he passed away, but the experience of that trial really affected me, and I decided I wanted to be a part of developing new medicines to help people.”
John’s family was affected by cancer as well, and he relates how an early position in regulatory affairs and business development during his substituted military service in a local pharmaceutical company eventually led to a position within BMS.
“I’ve also had family members who died from cancer,” John said. “When my compulsory employment period at my previous job was ending, BMS was in the spotlight thanks to their emerging immuno-oncology portfolio. And with a master’s degree in immunology, I was intrigued by working at a company with such paradigm-changing oncology medications that could change the trajectory of cancer patients' lives; intrigued intellectually, but also on a deeper level of being able to help large numbers of patients.”
Work with the Potential to Help Many
Work with the potential to help large numbers of patients also played into Kelly’s decision to look into an open role as a clinical site monitor over 16 years ago. “As a community pharmacist, I had direct interaction with individuals using medicine that’s already available,” she said. “But at BMS, I could help develop new and transforming medications. Contributing more in that way was a powerful incentive.”
There are interesting contrasts between Kelly’s exemplary and steady climb within her career specialty to a critical leadership position, and John’s beginning at BMS as scientific advisor before carving a somewhat different path as senior marketing manager. Each advanced in their own way and via slightly different directions. But in looking for opportunities to benefit the company and its mission, they also benefited patients as well as their own personal and professional growth.
“My learning curve from medical to the commercial side of things wasn’t as steep as it might have been for others,” John recalled. “Since I continued to work with the same drug in a different capacity, I was already familiar with the disease and product. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t have six months of ramp up time. But it really interested me, I enjoyed it, and it took me out of my comfort zone.”
Individual Opportunities that Benefit the Company and the Patients
Kelly shared one of the larger opportunities involved in her career growth. “BMS was making the change from an Electronic Study file system we used to archive documents of clinical studies,” she said. “The new electronic Trial Master File (eTMF) system was more advanced and required serious training and changes in work habits, so documents could be created, reviewed, finalized and approved in the system itself. I became a super user of the system, and while there were global guidelines, our team felt we needed guidelines that better fit our RCO Asian hub colleagues. This entailed lots of feedback from each function. The journey and our success in its incorporation has been a great learning and growth opportunity.”
John was involved in launching a gastric cancer indication in Korea, which was a high-profile project because of the disease's incidence in Korea. “Even before I transitioned to a marketing role, I was medically involved in the brand and strategy planning processes for the launch of I-O into a line of therapy for those with no effective options,” John said. “These were overseen by the worldwide brand team who were flown into Japan to see our presentations. It was challenging and engaging for me, but we were also doing something very important that could impact the company at large as well as cancer patients in Korea and Asia.”
Personal Career Paths, Shared Values
While Kelly and John have varied experiences while pursuing career growth, both bring similar values to their day-to-day, values that can be felt across BMS, no matter where on the globe a colleague might be situated.
“Passion is the BMS value that especially resonates with me,” added Kelly. “I might be volunteering for something like the system change I mentioned. Those kinds of projects can be challenging and need extra time and energy invested, but they offer opportunities to grow fast in a very short time.”
As John’s level of responsibility grows along with his career, he counts on his innate curiosity and genuine interest to assist teammates through challenges. “I’m covering a lot more intellectual ground than I did as a scientific advisor for a single drug and disease,” he said. “And continually building on that base of knowledge is important. That comes from a genuine interest and open sharing.”
Reasons to Join BMS Become Reasons to Stay
When questioned about reasons for staying at BMS Korea, and what has kept Kelly here for 16 years and John for close to eight years, both colleagues credited a strong culture supported by interesting work and support for development and growth.
“I feel I have grown a lot every year at BMS,” offered Kelly. “And I never get bored. When early-career people join us, they find plenty of learning and growth ideas, which is refreshing. I really love working here.”
“And really great people,” added John. “Dealing with first-in-class therapies that can significantly influence people's lives can be high-pressure at times. But at BMS, everyone is supportive and works toward a single goal to deliver innovative medicines to patients faster. And on a practical side, BMS has a robust pipeline. That, in turn, provides a sense of security as opposed to a smaller company that might have one or two therapies in their pipeline.”