There are as many ways of describing that experience of starting a new role as there are people who start new roles! Amongst the most common? ‘Drinking from a fire hydrant’ or ‘drinking from the fire hose’. Based on my first week in my new role I can definitely relate to this.
There is so much data to absorb; so much information to digest; so much knowledge to acquire. And there is such a desire for this learning to happen somewhere between immediately and quickly.
I am naturally inquisitive. I like to ask questions and love to hear answers. Insights and experiences. Observations and opinions. Sometimes I feel as if there is no limit on how much time I could spend listening to these. Which is good. Or bad (as the case may be). Not least since this week I have experienced not just role change but also company change.
The fire hydrant resonates because that is exactly what it feels like. Just as you receive, and start to consider, one piece of information then five more…ten more…fifty more immediately hit you. It’s as if you were thirsty…and – just when you thought you had that much needed mouthful of water – the hydrant opens fully in front of you. You are immediately saturated…and the vast majority simply flows by.
An example. Many companies operate over multiple locations. Each location has its own people, capabilities and focus. Within that company these elements are known and assumed. No-one prefaces a site reference with descriptors of country, personnel or skill sets. But when you are new to that company – as I was this last week – then none of this is knowledge. Whenever a site was referred to, I found myself thinking about where that site was, what it did and who was there. In the time it took me to work this out, whoever I was talking with would have completed an additional three sentences. I was swamped and trying to catch up.
That having been said, everyone was amazing. Everyone gave me time. Everyone wanted to help me. Everyone offered their support. I knew more (and more people) after five days than I did after one. I will know more after five weeks that I do after one. I will know more after five months than I will after one.
By the end of this week, I felt I was working on a complicated jigsaw puzzle. The sort of puzzle where there are hundreds of pieces with intricate colours and strange patterns…but in my case all the pieces were face down. Gradually, piece by piece I will turn them over and start to put the pieces together. Patience….
And of course the business is running all the time as fast as it can and as fast as it has to. Nothing stops because I have started – and nor should it. The pharmaceutical industry is unrecognisable from how it looked and operated three, five or ten years ago. And every component part of the industry has to adapt, has been adapting and will continue to adapt. The focus is on patients and getting drugs through to the market; but it is also on dollars and on return on investment.
Success requires persuasive strategy and exquisite implementation. It will require compelling leaders and outstanding colleagues. Exceptional individualism and extraordinary team work. Local uniqueness and global harmonisation. Best practice sharing and best practice doing. It will require persistence and determination. It will depend on inspiration and innovation.
This can be – at times – the most challenging industry to be part of.
It is – always – the most rewarding.