Ten questions to Alessandra Sinibaldi - Market Access Director at Janssen D&I Champion Johnson & Johnson Italy
By the Editorial staff
What type of child were you? What kind of an education did you receive? When and how did you decide to study Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Technologies?
I was what you could call a serious girl, the daughter of two teachers and with three older sisters, raised in a traditional family (which brought with it a distribution of gender roles that was not entirely egalitarian) that instilled in me an enormous sense of duty, respect for (public) educational institutions, and left little room for ‘silliness’. My passion for chemistry didn’t become apparent early on, as my commitment was distributed equally among all the subjects I studied; then, at the end of high school my attraction to the world of healthcare became more apparent and concrete in the choice to study a specific discipline, which at the time was considered ‘not for girls’. Maybe there was also a little bit of a desire to disprove this belief.
Did you study or work abroad at any point? If so, in what way did those experiences influence you?
After I graduated with a degree in Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Technology (obtained with a certain amount of performance anxiety and a significant focus on results), I didn’t gain any experiences of living or working abroad (and this is the subject of a certain amount of regret) because Janssen immediately crossed my path. I had sent my CV to the company through the Il Sole 24 Ore newspaper and was immediately invited for an interview. That was in 1996, and in 1997 I began to work at Janssen.
When did you join Janssen? In what position and, above all, with what expectations and hopes?
My initial role at Janssen was immediately at the production site in Latina (which over the years has continued to expand and now employs 650 people) and required technical, managerial pharmaceutical-chemical and quality assurance skills. I was therefore in relatively unknown territory. At the end of 1998 I received a proposal to change (both jobs and location) and I began to focus on regulatory affairs and market access. This meant developing new and different skills that combined technical and scientific skills with managerial skills. This involved leaving my comfort zone, but curiosity has always been a good friend to me, so I felt stimulated by the move to Milan and the opportunity to expand my skills in regulatory affairs and later market access, until I reached the position I currently hold as Regulatory Affairs & HEMAR Director (Health Economics, Market Access and Reimbursement, eds. note).
How have you seen the company change over the last five years?
The Janssen pharmaceutical company has grown very much, with a growing focus on ever more specialised products and it is currently responsible for 54% of the Johnson & Johnson group’s revenue. This is also thanks to the production sector, which was never transferred abroad, and which currently, with over 90% of exports, represents a flagship in the sector. I will also add that the number of people working at the production site in Latina has doubled compared to five years ago, just to dispel the myth that technological innovation takes people away from productive work.
How and when was coordinating the J&J Diversity & Inclusion group added to your responsibilities?
About a year ago the Director of HR for all of Johnson & Johnson in Italy offered me this role and I accepted enthusiastically, because the company’s emphasis on D&I was not only symbolic. We have created a Council that gathers individuals with the most varied and diverse functions, therefore representing everyone, also from a generational point of view. It is a fundamental place of exchange.
Why, in 2020, has inclusion finally become a driver for business and innovation?
Our company has known this for a long time, which is also demonstrated by the fact that we are among the founding partners of Valore D, and the Johnson & Johnson group was among the three founding companies of Parks. At this point there are many studies and experiences that have demonstrated how much diversity management is a fundamental driver for business, and how the companies that invest in these issues are also the best-performing on the market. On the other hand, it is – also – a matter of customer focus: appreciating the uniqueness of each individual allows you to get closer to them.
What topics has the team concentrated on mostly so far, and with what aims?
First, on finding the right way to bring the global mandate into Italian reality. For this reason, we have realised that the diversity issues that are most prominent at this historical time are the following five: gender, sexual orientation, generational differences, disability and diversity in terms of cultural background. We are fortunate enough to work for a company that has chosen to use welfare like a flexible tool, to outline individually tailored approaches for employees that include and support all types of diversity, valuing them (such as in the Parental Project). In our activities with the D&I group we are working on numerous projects and initiatives, constantly collaborating with the Employee Resource Group (ERG). These projects were born spontaneously from initiatives that J&J employees came up with, such WLI (Women Leadership Initiative) and Open&Out.
Which D&I project are you proudest of so far?
If I had to choose one, it would the decision, made by the Leadership team of every business sector this year, to insert an evaluation objective that is specific to D&I for every individual. This means that Diversity & Inclusion is part of our standard evaluation process (which involves evaluating one’s own manager, evaluating peers, and self-evaluation). Furthermore, there is a new addition to the Janssen world – the Fattore J project, which is an educational project for high schools that aims to help develop emotional intelligence in kids and to help them develop inclusive attitudes towards illness (and people with illnesses). It’s very important that young people grow up without the stigma that accompanies depression and immunological illnesses, which is unfortunately still very strong. We have already trained 1000 kids through webinars and remote learning, in collaboration with eight patient associations, and the topic that emerged most clearly from these meetings (which are virtual for now) was the issue of trust. Because one positive factor that has emerged from the Covid-19 emergency is the re-evaluation of scientific skills to protect public health. It was important that those who govern us asked for and followed advice from scientists.
Janssen’s work is concentrated on six therapeutic areas: neuroscience, infectious disease, onco-haematology, immunology, pulmonary hypertension, cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. In recent months, many of these were the focus of our attention, in our everyday lives, both privately and collectively. What was J&J’s role and commitment during the Covid-19 emergency?
We never stopped, not even production was subject to closures, but we immediately reorganised to guarantee everyone’s safety. Smart working was a tool that was already being used by our company, to the point that we extended it to all those who could avail themselves of it even before it was required by the various decrees that were issued. It wasn’t easy, we’re talking about 1260 employees, of whom 650 work in production (54% are women). Moreover, we launched a Home Delivery project to guarantee the distribution of certain drugs to patients’ homes for the most vulnerable who need it, to limit their hospital visits during this emergency period and to protect their health. And, naturally, we also supported the work of the Italian Red Cross financially, and donated PPE where there were shortages. Finally, and this is extremely important, we are working to find a vaccine for Covid-19.
What do you imagine Janssen will look like in five years’ time? What objectives would you like to achieve?
Above all, our objective is to employ a Disability Manager at each of our sites, and I think we are making good progress towards that. Then I imagine there will be an exponential growth in our research work, which remains indispensable. And finally, from the transformations that Covid-19 has imposed on our lives, I also see change emerging – which has already started at Janssen – that will lead our company to be less and less a company that offers products and increasingly one that offers services and solutions for our patients, with an important emphasis on their uniqueness.