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Caroline Conti

Caroline Conti

Caroline is a Global Product Strategy Director at Kyowa Kirin a pharmaceutical company

  • Location: London, UK 

  • Title: Global Product Strategy Director 

  • Company name: Kyowa Kirin 

  • Sector: Pharmaceuticals University degree: Doctorate in Pharmacy (Université Paris-Cité), MBA (ESSEC)

How does your usual day look like?

I start my day with a fun workout using RingFit Adventures at 6am. After breakfast, my partner takes the children to nursery & school and I'm in work mode by 8:30am, starting with my colleagues in Tokyo. Working from home lets me enjoy healthy, home-cooked lunches. My workday finishes at 5:30, and then it's time to grab my bike and pick up my kids. If I need to, I resume working at 7pm.

What are the things you like the most about your job?

I love constantly learning in this role – from new diseases and therapies to global market dynamics. It's exciting to contribute to potentially life-changing drugs, even if it's a long-term project.

What are some of the skills you utilise the most in your day-to-day at work?

Building strong relationships is key – it fosters collaboration and helps me influence decisions without formal authority. Strategically analysing problems also plays a major role.

What was one of your happiest day in your career and why?

One of the most special moments in my career involved a couple of former colleagues. They had transitioned from consulting to a client-side role and specifically requested to work with me again. It meant a lot to be recognized for the value I brought during our previous collaboration.

What was the toughest career decision you ever made?

Moving from a decade in consulting to a pharmaceutical company. It came at a challenging time, as COVID had hit and impacted my family with my child's hospitalisation. This solidified my desire for a more concrete role, where I could contribute directly to developing potentially life-saving treatments. While it meant leaving a comfortable situation and some financial rewards, the opportunity to make a real difference was (still is!) incredibly motivating.

What is something you had to learn to become better at your work?

I had to realise the importance of truly understanding the people I work with. This goes beyond just their job title or area of expertise. It's about considering their backgrounds, their motivations, and even seeming contradictions. By connecting with them on a more holistic level, I've found I can build stronger relationships and foster more effective collaboration.

How did you get to become a Global Product Strategy Director?

My science background provided a strong foundation for understanding the products I work with, while my business background equipped me with the strategic and commercial acumen needed for success. Consulting was an incredible learning journey – I was exposed to a wide range of problems, markets, and clients. This diversity broadened my perspective and honed my problem-solving skills. Ultimately, however, it was the connections I made along the way, combined with a dedication to going the extra mile (and talking about it), that opened doors and helped me land this role.

If you could give a younger woman one piece of advice (it can be anything) - what would you say to them?

Young women entering the workforce still face a significant challenge: pervasive gender bias. No amount of corporate pinkwashing fixed it. And gender bias isn't limited to the workplace – it permeates personal relationships as well. Be aware of these inequalities and don't settle for anything less than an environment that fosters your growth.

What makes you gracefullyBOLD?

My smile is my superpower. It helps me build relationships and fosters a positive atmosphere for collaboration. But I'm also incredibly focused and driven to achieve my goals.

How do you spend your weekend or downtimes?

Exercising, cooking with my partner for the week ahead every Sunday morning (I strongly recommend the batch-cooking books from Stephanie de Turckheim and Caroline Pessin), and the rest of my downtime & weekends is spent with my kids.

How do you deal with stress and build resilience?

For a long time, I dealt with it pretty poorly! Talking to peers at work and outside of work is a huge help. Having kids has also been a big factor in building resilience. They keep me grounded and remind me what truly matters. And as dull as it sounds, sleeping well, eating well, and exercising is the basis for managing stress.

What would have been your alternative career path or University degree?

I would have been a terrible one but I'm incredibly fascinated by the artistry and skill involved in hairdressing. Hairdressers can literally transform someone's look.

What are you currently learning or what’s one of the last things you learnt?

I’m currently learning Japanese. Beyond the traditional Apps (Duolingo, Drops, etc.), and textbooks, I speak to a Japanese teacher living in japan once a week via Preply

Who is a (female) professional that inspired you along your career journey?

My answer may sound out of place but… While I haven't had a female role model who perfectly embodies my career aspirations, I've learned a great deal by observing men with inadequate skill sets advance in their careers. If they were given opportunities, then I should be even more determined to seize mine and try new things.

On a more personal note, there was an American male colleague, not much older than me, who significantly impacted my career by providing invaluable advice on overcoming professional challenges and opened my eyes to the realities of gender inequality in the workplace.

What would you do if you were not afraid?

Move to Japan with my family for 3 years

What’s the one question we didn’t ask you, but you’d like to answer?

  • Question: What should be an important topic of conversation on gender equality but is often forgotten?

  • Answer: When women take maternity leave or work part-time for childcare, the long-term effects on pensions can be significant. Families should be able to openly discuss these financial implications and have tools to calculate the impact on income and future retirement security. Imagine being able to easily see, maybe even in an Excel sheet, how a 20% reduction in paid hours translates to a decrease in current income and future pension contributions. That kind of transparency could empower families to make informed decisions while ensuring women aren't unfairly disadvantaged.

The previous interviewee left a question for you...

  • Question: Who are the 5 famous people you’d invite to an imaginary dinner party, and what would you cook / serve?

  • Answer: I’d love to have Angela Merkel (German Chancellor 2005-2021), Jacinda Ardern (New Zealand Prime Minister 2017-2023), Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir (Iceland Prime Minister 2009-2013), Kaja Kallas (Estonia Prime Minister since 2021), and Sanna Marin (Finland Prime Minister 2019-2023). I’d love to hear their views on the future of Western Culture and if they’re pessimistic, what could be done to change the current course of action. I’d go for sharing platters with nibbles from Ottolenghi’s book ’Simple’

One word answers & quick fire round. Let's go!

  • Your superpower: Pattern recognition.

  • Favourite restaurant: Elliot’s in Borough Market (London)

  • Favourite fashion brand: Sézane

  • Favourite beauty product: Nuxuriance Gold products

  • Favourite perfume: Prodigieux (Nuxe)

  • Book recommendation: Very niche, but would love all women wanting to have a child, expecting one, or looking after a baby to have Cribsheet from Emily Oster at hand. It destroys a lot of the myths forced onto women that are not evidence-based.

  • Next holiday destination: France

  • Your hobby: None but I don’t miss having one, my life feels pretty full

  • Favourite mantra: "What if it all works out?"

  • Who inspires you? Women helping other women

  • Tea or Coffee: Coffee

  • Red wine or White wine: Red wine

  • Morning bird or Night owl: Night owl

  • Cat person or Dog person: Cat

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