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Mar Gimeno: ‘I don’t have a typical day… I could wake up anywhere’

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Mar is Vice President, Head of Supply Chain, International Markets and Israel & Asia Pacific. 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.

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