Mike: Welcome to the Leaders in Life Sciences podcast powered by Enterey Life Sciences Consulting. In this podcast, you'll hear from leaders in the life sciences industry, how they grew to their current roles, the lessons they learned along the way, and advice for those aspiring to follow in their footsteps.
I am the host. My name is Mike Ferletic, and I'm the CEO of Enterey Life Sciences Consulting. At Enterey, we help leaders orchestrate the positive change they want to see in their organization. Are you ready to be recognized for your leadership success? Take a listen.
Welcome to the Leaders in Life Sciences podcast. My name is Mike Ferletic. I'm the President and CEO of Enterey Life Sciences Consulting. I'm excited to be here today. We're looking forward to speaking with our guest. First though, I want to introduce our co-host, Courtney Boudreau. Welcome, Courtney.
Courtney: Hi, Mike. How are you?
Mike: Good. How are you?
Courtney: I'm good. Glad to be here. I'm excited.
Mike: It looks like we have a second co-host today. Josie Wong, also from Enterey. Welcome, Josie. How are you?
Josie: Good. I'm excited to be here as well.
Mike: Cool. What's been going on with you guys lately? Anything exciting?
Courtney: Everything's been same old, same old with me. I'm managing the zoo. I've got two cats and a dog running around, so it's quite the menagerie. But yeah, everything's been going well. How about you, Mike?
Mike: Things have been pretty good. I've been trying to pick up on some reading lately. I've got this book right here. I know we're not on video, but this book is called Atomic Habits. Have you guys heard of this book?
Courtney: I've heard of it. I have not read it though.
Mike: I barely started reading it. I have heard of it as well. I understand the point that these habits really create your future. I'm really trying to focus on that, creating some good habits, and establishing just one little one that'll take me one step further. I'll be sure to tell you about it in a future episode.
Courtney: I'm looking forward to it. I know how to establish bad habits, but good ones are something new.
Mike: I know plenty of bad ones, I can go on really fast. How about you, Josie? What's going on in your end?
Josie: I actually just got three new foster kitties. They're all hiding in the bathroom. Speaking of habit, I've been sticking to a very strict routine, 8:00 AM feeding, 5:00 PM feeding, 12:00 PM cuddle time, and then 10:00 PM play and cuddle time. I'm trying to be very strict about that just so they know what to expect and form those good associations with people, but I'm really excited. It's our first foster in a couple of years.
Josie: They make a mess, but it's beautiful.
Mike: Between you and Courtney, we have a virtual zoo here. I think that's a good word for it.
Courtney: I've got one who crawled inside a box, and he's now dragging the box across the floor. He's about to need to be rescued from me and Josie. If you want to come rescue Willy.
Mike: For those of you on the line, Josie is a pro at rescuing cats. I think you'll find some words about her story on our LinkedIn page, I believe so.
All right, we have lots of time to catch up on the animal follies in the future, but right now, I want to shift to our guest. I'm really excited today to have Valerie Brown on our show. Valerie is the Senior Vice President of Quality Assurance in pharmaceutical development and manufacturing at Gilead Sciences. She leads a global team that is responsible for quality and compliance oversight of contract manufacturers producing active pharmaceutical ingredients, drug product intermediates, oral solid dosage forms, parenterals, biologics, and medical devices. Pretty much everything, right Valerie? For worldwide development and commercial markets.
She joined Gilead in 2010 as a director of commercial API quality. Valerie was promoted to Senior Director of Quality in 2013, responsible for all commercial products, including APIs, finished dosage forms, and devices. She was promoted to Vice President of Quality in 2018, and in 2020 Valerie was elevated to her current role as a Senior Vice President of Global Quality Assurance.
Prior to joining Gilead, Valerie was the Global Director of Quality and Regulatory for Zach Systems and PPG Industries. She is a member of the Parenteral Drug Association and the International Society of Pharmaceutical Engineering. Valerie holds an undergraduate degree in biology and chemistry and a graduate degree in healthcare management. Please join me in welcoming Valerie Brown to the show. Welcome, Valerie.
Valerie: Thank you so much, Mike. Thanks for that intro. It was really great to hear about the animal menagerie with Josie and Courtney. That's fantastic. I don't have any pets, so I can't relate to that, but that's great.
Mike: We've got a few that we could loan you if you need one.
Courtney: I was just saying. If someone comes, rescue my cat from me.
Josie: I have three in the bathroom ready for a home.
Valerie: I'm good.
Mike: I'm with you, Valerie. I'm with you. Valerie, let's get it started. Tell us a little bit of background. How did you get to the point in your career where you're heading quality for Gilead?
Valerie: I started my career in the laboratory. I've always been very interested in the sciences. I'm more (I guess) maybe a science geek, if you will. I started in the lab. I always wanted to be in the lab. I wanted to move into manufacturing because I always want to be able to make things. It's very interesting in synthesis and formulations.
My first job was in a laboratory. We were doing a lot of analysis for pharmaceuticals, as well as with the National Institutes of Health, with Walter Reed Hospital and George Washington Hospital. I was in the Washington, DC area at the time.
Since we were a laboratory doing some diagnostic testing for pharma companies, we were subjected to FDA inspections. As a person right out of undergrad, I don't know anything about the FDA. I heard of them. I had interactions with our quality unit, which wasn't very pleasant many times, but they asked me to be the scribe for the inspection. I said, oh, scribe, that means I just have to write things down. They said, oh, yeah, that's it.
The day of the inspection, when the investigators arrived, a young lady who was going to host the inspection became very ill. The department head said, okay, kids. You're up. I was like, what are you talking about? What do I need to do? That was my trial by fire. That was my first foray into hosting an inspection and understanding how to look under the hood in terms of some of the quality and compliance areas and deficiencies.
We did get a 483. We responded. Of course, that became my responsibility. And then I got a really good view in terms of what folly really does. You're not the police, you really have to partner with folks.
I continued my career in the laboratory, and then I was recruited to a small pharmaceutical company in Pennsylvania. After that, I was recruited to a contract manufacturing organization in Texas, which is like a planet of its own. It's like a whole nother country. It was nice. I got a lot of experience. They had a plan in France. I spent several years there working with that facility, as well as the one in Texas.
In France is when I met the Gilead team, because some of their key products that they had very early on were being manufactured by our facility. We did a lot of fine chemical manufacturing, which is APIs for large pharma companies. And then Gilead, after that, started calling me about every year a few times, asking me if I wanted to join their company.
At that time, I just moved from Pennsylvania, where it was cold, ice, and snow, and I moved to Houston, Texas. Even though I spent a lot of time in France, it was no snow, no winter. I was like, no, and the cost of living was certainly a lot less than in California.
I didn't do that. But then the organization went under some business turnovers in terms of moving with PPG than we were at Zach Systems. In Zach Systems, they decided that they didn't really want to do business in the States. They asked me to become a consultant. I traveled back and forth between France, Italy, and the US.
At that same time, Gilead called again and said, hey, what are you doing? Why don't you come and think about joining us? So I did in 2010. It's been a great, great journey. I knew a little bit about the company. At that time, I was very impressed with their passion, with the innovation that they do in terms of drugs.
It was really great. It's really good to be a part of all of that, and then they get to see it in action on a day to day basis. That's how I ended up here. My first role, as you said, was managing commercial APIs. I'm looking at all the outsourced APIs that went into our formulated products.
Mike: That's awesome. That's a great story. I didn't realize all the connections there, but that's quite the path, especially with the international experience and to think that you met the Gilead team in a whole other country.
Valerie: Exactly. Yeah, it's very interesting.
Mike: Pretty fun. What was it like? Because PPG is more chemicals-focused, is that right? What was it like going from the chemicals-focused to the pharma-focused?
Valerie: It's like you're really on the other side of the table. PPG is Pittsburgh Plate Glass. PPG decided that they really want it to be like a premier coating company, and really didn't want to be totally involved in [...] with pharmaceuticals, because it takes a while to get pharmaceuticals to market.
If you're building a plant to make [...], you turn the last screw on the vessel and you're making money. That's not the way it is in pharmaceuticals. You have clinical phases you go through, you're developing your product, and it can take years to come to market.
It was a little bit different. You're still working with a lot of pharma companies as a contract manufacturer to help them with whatever phase that they're in, whether they're in the IND phase and phase one, phase two, going towards commercialization in an NDA or BLA filing. It's a little bit different. It's like being on the other side of the table.
People think of pharma, and pharma has deep pockets. Beyond the CMO side, you have razor thin margins. Every gram of product counts. It was a good experience. It was good to be able to see how you can have many, many customers.
Of course, like I said, a lot of big pharma customers, everybody wants something different, but you have to understand and make them understand that I have to follow regulations. Even if he wants something different for your product, you really aren't that different. You have to follow them all.
Mike: That's great. I love that analogy. As a CMO, you're serving multiple different companies. You got to accommodate all your different requests. Now you're on the other side. You're one large company working presumably with multiple CMOs out there. You're trying to navigate the opposite side of that. Did that prepare you for coming into your role now where you have to manage the requirements or the other direction?
Valerie: It did. I got a little bit of that when I worked for a small biotech biopharma in Pennsylvania. You really come to the realization that it has to be a partnership. It's not like, here's my process, bring me back a product. You really have to partner with the CMO in order to work together to bring that product to market.
It definitely has to be a partnership, one built on trust and certainly the support, and basically share decision-making. But in the end, of course, as a labeler or the person who's responsible, the sponsor company is responsible, but you definitely want to have that partnership. If not, it's not a very good working relationship.
Mike: It makes sense. I'll shift gears a little bit and maybe ask you about, as you progress through this, clearly it sounds like Gilead had an eye on the counter for a little while. But along the way, there are probably a lot of people that you interface with, that you saw as leaders, that you maybe either were mentored by or you sought to emulate in your career. Does anybody stand out that you would say, hey, this is somebody that helped me in my journey?
Valerie: Oh, absolutely. There were a few people. On the personal side, I would say my grandmother. My grandmother was definitely someone who had some very keen, very strong leadership qualities. She had 12 kids, a lot of grandkids, a husband, and lots of siblings. She's really just the powerhouse or the force of the family.
In high school, I had a high school science teacher who just was very instrumental in helping me see. He made everything really inspiring. Science can be boring to some people, but he was one of those individuals who was really encouraging and giving you the freedom to think outside the box in terms of some of the experiments that we were doing.
In the business world, like I said, I come right out of undergrad working in a laboratory. They usually pair you with someone to help train you and onboard you. They paired me up with what they considered was the grouchiest, meanest person that they had in the lab. He was an older gentleman. I'm just a bright-eyed person who's ready to work and ready to do whatever.
The first few encounters were like, whoa, but he taught me a lot of things, like not to trust but verify, because he always says this saying that I saw in a book years later that says in God we trust. For all others bring data. That was his mantra.
But he was also someone who motivated the team. He motivated people to get in line with what the vision was, what the goals are, and making sure that we were all aligned with that. I saw that as something really powerful.
These weren't people that reported him. This was just the way that he projected his persona. It was like, here's what our goals are. He would inspire and motivate us to say, okay, yes, this is what we need to do.
I learned that leadership is not so much about trying to tell people what to do, but it is being able to communicate thoroughly what needs to be done, how we can do it, why we're doing it, and then that of itself inspires and motivates people to get in line with it. I'm sure wherever he is now, he's probably still really grouchy.
Mike: Yeah, probably so.
Courtney: I've noticed you had a rather rapid ascension through Gilead from the time you started there. I was wondering, from somebody who's a bit earlier in their career, what characteristics would you attribute to that, and how did you do it?
Valerie: It's funny you say that because it didn't seem rapid to me, but okay. One of the things I would say is just learn as much as you can. Not just to stay in your own little area, but to learn about what all the other functions are doing. How does what you do impact on that?
When I say that, I worked within pharmaceutical development and manufacturing, and that's a huge organization in and of itself. It's 20% of Gilead today, but there are also other functions. You've got regulatory, you have legal, you have medical affairs, even development ops, and plan ops. All of that human resources and project management. Just a myriad of things in the pharma world, and just being able to talk to people and learn about what they're doing, understanding how I can be more impactful in terms of what they're doing, and then understanding that whatever I do may impact what happens as an outcome.
I would encourage people to always just be curious. Be intellectually curious in terms of what you're doing in your role, and then just to venture out. Raise your hand for those special projects. Even if it’s not something within your wheelhouse, do something different. Just be able to [...]. Just gain more skill sets in, put more tools in your toolkit.
It may not manifest itself into you moving up the ladder, but it definitely gives you more breadth, depth of experience, knowledge, and definitely gives you a little bit more insight in terms of, what do I want to do?
When I joined Gilead as the director for commercial APIs, that in and of itself is a huge job. We have several contractors globally that are manufacturing active pharmaceutical ingredients for us. You've got to provide quality oversight for them. They have inspections. You're helping them prep for inspections. You're helping them with the responses. And then I was really curious, how does this all start?
It starts with discovery, that the molecule coming from discovery to development is it develops through our process, but then it goes into a final dosage form, whether it's a pill or tablet. That becomes much more fascinating. And then you understand the other clinical aspects. These are drugs that are being tried in clinical trials with people, getting those readouts and things like that, and then there are lots of conferences that are held for different therapeutic areas like neurology, information, oncology. Just having that intellectual curiosity I think is key.
Courtney: That makes a lot of sense, because I was also going to ask you about the educational opportunities that you found along the way. It seems like volunteering for the extra project and as you mentioned, being able to step out of the box or step out of your comfort zone, I should say, has been really pivotal in your success.
Valerie: I always like to say, Courtney, get comfortable with being uncomfortable. In fact, that was something my first mentor had said to me, because like I said, he was a legend. I just told him one day, you're really making me uncomfortable. He said, get used to it.
Courtney: That's awesome.
Mike: That's great. Just to carry that theme a little bit further, I know at Gilead, obviously, your organization is probably quite large. You have to rely on a lot of people to succeed overall. What's your thought in terms of from the most junior employee to the most senior? How do you get the best out of them in terms of letting them know what their contribution is?
Valerie: A few years ago, we got a new CEO, Dan O'Day. One of the things that Dan said in his first communication to the organization was, "Every employee deserves a great leader." He's a great manager, he's a great supervisor, and he's a great leader. And I take that to heart.
The other thing too in terms of being able to get [...] throughout the organization, we're all leaders. We all lead from where we are. It doesn't matter what your level is, whether you're a very junior person or very senior person, we're all leaders.
We have an obligation to do things like listen actively, explaining the why. It's not so much giving people direction, but always telling them why they're doing that. And certainly making time for people to voice their opinion and provide them a psychologically safe space to do so.
That's one of the things that I always want to impart within my organization, and the leaders in my organization certainly do. Like I said, everyone's a leader. We're all leaders, but we all have that obligation. I think that's what gives people some of the will. Especially the more junior staff who may be a little bit more intimidated in terms of speaking up or speaking out loud. But if you give them that space, and believe me, I get challenged all the time by folks.
The title doesn't matter. None of that matters. We're all people, and I think we all learn that way. Giving people that freedom to certainly, first of all, bring your authentic self to work, but also be able to challenge the status quo. Why are we doing it this way? Or I've seen it done another way or I have another idea, and we always want to encourage that.
Mike: That's great. I'm getting so many great nuggets from you, Valerie. I really appreciate all your insights here. I think some of the things that you learned along the way, and just hearing it from others, and even your thoughts from the comments from Daniel, which are just great insights into how Gilead as an organization is run, how you run your organization. I think it's great to see.
Did you take any of those cues from people along the way, perhaps elsewhere, early in your career that you saw a way that you didn't want to run your organization? For example, like, hey, somebody did this, I'm not doing that.
Valerie: When we talk about leaders and leadership, there are a lot of things that come to mind. Like I said, for me it is to be more inspiring, communicative, and certainly motivating. I've seen more leaders are more authoritarians. When I say that, I've seen leaders that are really like dictators. They just tell people what they need to do, and people follow them out of fear. Not because they are good leaders, it's because they feel like they have to.
That's something that I always say that I didn't want to do. I don't want my name weaponized. I don't want me to be weaponized. If I don't do this, she's going to get rid of me or whatever. I just want people to feel (like I say) the freedom that they can speak up, that they can share their opinions, can share their ideas, and then be motivated and inspired by the goals.
That's my job to be able to communicate it thoroughly, to communicate what are we going to do, why are we going to do it, and then how are we going to do it and do that together? I can't just make the decisions. If you give people the option to certainly weigh in, you get more buy-in, and they're going to be more apt to follow that lead. I think that's one of the things I've seen over the years with leaders is that they strike a fear in folks. That's not that's not leadership
Josie: There was a thing about being a boss versus being a leader. Being a leader, you're part of the team. Whereas the boss, you are separating yourself from your actual team.
Valerie: You're absolutely right, Josie. That's a very good way to put it. Anybody can be a boss. I have a 15-year-old. She's the boss of me. But to be a leader, it takes some humbling. You always want to try to be in the service of others. I'm here to help you, I'm here to serve. I'm not here to just dictate what to do.
Mike: I got a 15-year-old as well.
Valerie: They're fun, aren't they?
Mike: They are a lot of fun. But yeah, they are a lot of work.
Valerie: Oh, no. I might come and get the cat and trade you, Courtney.
Courtney: No. I have to respectfully decline, because I was a 15-year-old.
Valerie: I know.
Courtney: I admire you guys as parents, because it takes good parents to raise good people.
Mike: Hey, Courtney. A lot of our clients we work with have great ideas on how to improve their business, but they just run into challenges that seem to get in the way of accomplishing their goals. Have you ever seen that?
Courtney: Yeah, of course. It happens all the time. I've seen clients struggle with a lack of visibility into all the work that's happening within their organization. I've seen clients that are focused on manual tasks, which takes away from focusing on the actual project work. And I've seen leadership struggle to make decisions due to lack of timely information.
Mike: That's so true. It seems like just knowing the problems to fix is only half the battle. How do you help your clients address those challenges?
Courtney: We of course, first work with our client to design a structured management process that fits their culture and team. In a lot of situations, we bring in tools like Smartsheet to help the entire project team be more efficient.
With the help of Smartsheet, we were able to create dashboards, automate routine tasks, and have the information ready in real time to help support leadership's decision making.
Mike: Wow, it sounds like you not only execute on the project, but your work helps everyone get more done with less work.
Courtney: I hope so. Smartsheet is a powerful tool, and my clients seem to be really happy with it.
Mike: That's great. Now, if somebody needs help on their project, what should they do?
Courtney: They should check out enterey.com and schedule a call with us to see how we can help.
Mike: Sounds like a great idea.
Courtney: Thank you.
You touched on something, Valerie, a little bit earlier about psychological safety in meetings and being able to speak up. What advice would you give to somebody who may have made a mistake at work? Because mistakes are critical in the pharmaceutical industry, but also responding to them is equally as important. What advice would you give to somebody who may not have done something perfectly?
Valerie: I think that's the one thing a lot of us in the industry get tripped up on. I always call it perfection over excellence. I would rather you be excellent at what you do instead of trying to strive for perfectionism. If you make a mistake, you own up to the mistake and let's learn from it. What did we learn from this? How do we move forward?
You focus on the issue—whatever that was—not on the person. I think that you really want to try to separate that from the individual. You're right. In the pharma industry, yeah, mistakes are going to be made. That's how we learn. If you don't make a mistake, I don't think you're trying. You're not trying very hard, but you want people to know that the world is not going to end because you made a mistake.
Let's just pick ourselves up, dissect it, and understand, where do we go from here? What do we do to move forward? But then also learn from it so that we don't repeat it. Like I said, that's the whole nature of how everything's done. Many of the great innovations and inventions came from mistakes that people made, eventually, thousands and thousands until they got to where they needed to be.
Courtney: Thank you. I think it's good to keep in mind the continuous improvement spirit and that's where mistakes play their role. You can't continuously improve if there's nothing that you notice needs to be improved. That's great advice.
Valerie: Absolutely. One thing I always say, because we do a lot of outsourcing, and we visit a lot of contract manufacturers, if I visit a site and they say, oh, we have 0% deviation, that's a huge red flag for me. There's no way, because that means that you're looking at something in a very perfectionist way. Even though the regulators look at that, too. It's like if they come in and you say, well, no, we didn't have any deviations, or no, we didn't make any changes, you're right. That's a huge red flag for anyone.
Mike: That's great. I love to hear the thought that you don't necessarily try to make mistakes, but mistakes happen. We try to learn from them and don't repeat them. I love that context and applying that to a situation.
I want to make one side note. My 15-year-old daughter, she's amazing. I want to make sure I put that plug in if one day she does listen to this.
Valerie: I have a 15-year-old daughter, too. I doubt if she will ever listen to this, but she's amazing as well.
Mike: She's done way more in her life than I think I accomplished anywhere near that age in my life.
Valerie: It's amazing, isn't it, Mike? They have so much more at their fingertips than we do.
Mike: Yeah. Just the drive and motivation that I see from her is just truly unbelievable. Sorry for the little detour. Getting back to it. One question I've always wondered is, Gilead is a very big company, a very big organization, global, products around the world, products that help people in all corners of the globe. How do you keep that all in context? There's a lot going on. How do you manage all that?
Valerie: There is a lot going on. There's always a lot going on. You're absolutely right. It's very humbling, too, to know. When you're in the throes of it, where you're manufacturing products, you're in an inspection, or you're conferring with someone in another part of the organization about an issue, it doesn't dawn on you how huge this is.
We have many testimonials from patients that write in to say how our products have made a difference to them, their life saving, and that thing. It just makes you understand that this is why I'm here. This is why I come to work every day. You want to make sure that you're providing key therapies to patients in need and in areas with a lot going on.
One of the things that we look at in Gilead—this is at the direction of the leadership team led by the CEO—is looking at everything from an enterprise perspective. Not just in your own little box and your own little world, but look at it all across the enterprise. People think, oh, the United States or North America, South America, there's Asia. We provide access to products to patients in much needed countries. It's incredibly rewarding to hear that.
Like I said, we're [...]. In fact, I got to leave and go to after this. That's probably going to fill my day. It's worth it in the end when you see the difference that you're making in the lives of patients. Like I said, it's very humbling.
As leaders, you just feel like, like I said, you just want to serve. You want to be able to provide that to the individuals. Quality, that's really important to make sure that it is of the highest quality. We saw the standards and certainly at least the regulations that are imposed upon it.
Mike: That's great. I imagine it just gives you great motivation each day to know what the products Gilead produces, are doing in terms of the good that they produce out there. That's great to hear.
Josie: Valerie, I know that you mentioned your grandma previously being a strong example for leadership for you. My question is in lieu of Women's History Month, is there another woman you want to highlight as a great leader?
Valerie: There are so many, to be honest with you. I think I'll just keep it close to home and talk about the leader of PDM who is Taiyin Yang. She's a very, very humble individual, but just a very accomplished individual. She's been in Gilead for almost 30 years.
She was very instrumental in a lot of these therapies coming into market, like the fixed dose combinations, combining two, three, four actives together to be much more effective, especially in HIV therapies. She was just honored with an award in the National Academy of Engineering.
She's very, very demure, very quiet, very silent, strong, tight, and least, like I said, by inspiring, motivating, and giving the freedom to explore, to try new things, and to be innovative. I think that's one another leader that I definitely admire quite a bit. There are a lot of them that I've met.
Josie: Oh, I'm sure.
Mike: That's great. I really appreciate the insights there. We're getting close to our time here. I want to get moving to our next segment. One last question, Valerie, and maybe it's more of a fill in the blank. It's like a thought around leaders that you admired and maybe just to fill in the blank. The leaders that I admired most did what? What were some of the key characteristics that you were left with?
Valerie: The leaders I admire most listen to understand. We see some leaders that seem like they're listening to you, but they're just waiting for their turn to talk. There are other leaders that I've encountered that really listen actively, ask some very point questions, and then you can certainly have that discussion and get out of that conversation what you need.
I really admire leaders who communicate up, down, and across the organizations, and make it clear to everyone what the goals are and where we're going. I guess those are the two things. If I had to fill in the blank, I would say, listen and communicate effectively.
Mike: That's great. I love that. All right. We are going to move on to our next segment here. As has become a tradition, we'll have a little game, and then we're going to do some of our key takeaways. As I mentioned earlier, I've got a whole sheet full of things, so I am not going to be lacking anything to talk about here.
First, let's jump into our game. As a little surprise, I'm going to lead this one this time. Valerie, if you're able to stick around for this one so I'm going to get you involved here, too. Let's talk about what we're going to do here. We're going to do a little Gilead trivia. If the internet is correct, I will have all the correct answers, but we'll see if you guys do.
Valerie: Do I get to play, too?
Mike: Yeah, you get to play too. I'm going to make you go last on these, Valerie, because you might have a lot of these answers.
Valerie: I may not, though.
Mike: Yeah, and no fair using the Internet. No googling right now.
Courtney: I was just going to ask if [...].
Josie: Yeah, I was about to pull up our window.
Mike: It's a multiple choice, so we'll go with that. I tried to make them hard, Valerie. We'll see how it goes.
All right, first question. When was Gilead founded? I've got four options for you. A is 2001, B is 1987, C is 1945, or D is none of the above.
Josie: Oh, you have to throw the D.
Mike: Yeah, we have our curveball there. What do you guys think? Courtney, I'll let you go first.
Courtney: I'm going to say 1987.
Josie: That's my guess as well.
Mike: All right. How about you, Valerie?
Valerie: It's 1987.
Mike: We'll see. We'll reveal the answers here in just a moment. We have the expert there. All right. Okay, next question. Michael Riordan is the founder of Gilead. How old was he when he started the company? Answer A, 19. He was really a prodigy. Answer B, 24. Answer C, 29. Answer D, 59.
Courtney: I really hope it's 59, because if it's any of the other ones, I'm just going to pack it up and go home. Just kidding. I choose 59.
Mike: How about you, Josie?
Josie: Try to be different and say C, whatever that was.
Mike: Okay. How about you, Valerie?
Valerie: I never met Michael Riordan. I want to say 29, too, because I heard he was a prodigy, but I didn't think he was that young. I know he's young, but not that young.
Mike: All right. We'll go Josie and Valerie at 29 and Courtney at 59. Okay, question three. This one is a little bit more involved here. Where did the name Gilead come from? A, it was the name of a Star Wars character favored by the founder. B, it was the name of the region in the Middle East where the first genuine pharmaceutical product was thought to have come from. C, it was a combination of initials from the founder's childhood friends, or D, it was the name suggested by the primary venture capitalists funding the company.
Josie: I'm going to say B, because Gilead, that's a lot of friends. It's an acronym. That's not too many, but that's more than what I have. I only have a very close circle.
Courtney: I agree with Josie. I think that sounds like the most plausible answer. I would really hope it's not D.
Valerie: What was B again, Michael?
Mike: B, it was the name of the region in the Middle East where the first genuine pharmaceutical product was thought to have come from.
Valerie: And the first one was?
Mike: It was the name of a Star Wars character favored by the founder.
Valerie: Okay, I'm going to go with B, too.
Mike: Okay, all of you are going with B. Okay, the last question, question four. What was Gilead's first product to hit the market? Again, I hope the Internet was right here. Is it A, Vistide, B, Viread, C, Remdesivir, or D, Gilsimovir?
Courtney: Valerie looks like she knows.
Valerie: I better.
Courtney: I'm going to say D. I think it's an antiviral, but not Remdesivir.
Mike: How about you, Josie?
Josie: Yeah, I feel like if not C as well, because I feel like that's a little bit more current. I don't know. I'll just go with B just to be different.
Mike: Okay. How about for the final answer from Valerie?
Valerie: I want to go with A, Vistide. Yeah.
Mike: All right. She can pronounce it correctly, too. I didn't think I pronounced it correctly. All right, that was awesome. Okay, let's go through these real quick.
When was Gilead founded? The answer is B, 1987. Everybody got that one correct, so five points for everybody. Second question. Michael Riordan, the founder of Gilead, founded the company at the age of 29.
Valerie: Oh, good. Yey.
Mike: Josie and Valerie. Courtney, I agree with you, but 29 is pretty young. I was 30 when I founded Enterey. How about that?
Valerie: You're right up there with him. You're right there.
Courtney: I've got two years to catch up. That's enough time. I'll come up with something.
Valerie: My time has passed.
Mike: All right. This was my favorite question to research. It's about the name of where Gilead came from. You are all correct. It was named after this region in the Middle East where the first genuine pharmaceutical product was (I guess) deemed to have come from. I think it was called The Balm of Gilead. It was the Gilead region.
Mike: That was really fun. I had to come up with some really good secondary answers, because I just had to come up with something that maybe sounded real.
Valerie: When you talked about the Middle East, that threw me off, because I know about The Balm of Gilead and everything. I'm like, hmm.
Mike: That was pretty cool. I was going to say his college roommates initials, but then they would have thrown off my previous question if you guys thought maybe he was 19. All right, these are all coordinated, you see.
All right, the last question. Which was Gilead's first product? I want to first congratulate myself for coming up with a fake product that somebody picked.
Courtney: It was me.
Mike: Gilsimovir. I thought for sure, if I just put Gil at the beginning of one of these names, maybe somebody would pick it.
Courtney: I think it was the last part which it's just standard. I said, oh, yeah, antiviral.
Valerie: Exactly. And it sounds legit, doesn't it?
Mike: I should go into the pharmaceutical product naming business, I think. The actual answer was, how do you pronounce it, Valerie?
Mike: That was in mid (I think) 1995–1996, somewhere in there. The other one that I didn't get to work into this was Tamiflu was discovered by Gilead as well, even though now, I think Roche markets it. I always thought that was fascinating, how the world works.
Valerie: I'm glad I got that right, because we used to manufacture that active.
Mike: That's great. You have four, Valerie. You've passed with flying colors.
Valerie: I wouldn't be able to go back to work if I didn't.
Mike: That's right. We would have to dub the recording. All right. Hey, let's move on. We got a few more minutes left. Let's move on to talk about some of our key takeaways. Who wants to go first? Josie, Courtney?
Josie: I can go first. The key takeaway that I really got from Valerie is to keep learning, to keep growing, and to be able to see the bigger picture. Those qualities are what makes a good leader.
Mike: Awesome. How about you, Courtney?
Courtney: I think what Valerie mentioned about leaders listen to understand and not listen to respond is absolutely critical. I think it's excellent advice. Then also, what Valerie was mentioning about stepping out of your comfort zone, I think it's excellent feedback, because that's how you develop, grow, and make yourself a well-rounded candidate, a career person, and part of the industry. I appreciate learning about all of that and taking that with me throughout the rest of my day, week, and beyond.
Mike: Awesome. As I mentioned, I have a whole sheet full of items I could bring up. I want to thank you, Valerie, for sharing your thoughts here. I think one that jumped out in the very beginning was when you mentioned, quality is not the police, quality is a partner. In the work that we do with Life Sciences, it's so important. Quality is there to serve as a very important job.
We're not the police. They're there to make sure that the product is healthy, safe, and work with you to make everybody successful. I highlighted that one. I think the one that really jumped out to me was when you mentioned the guidance that Daniel O'Day provided, which was that every employee deserves a great leader.
I love that one. I just thought that was really insightful. I see it in the work you do at Gilead. Hopefully we can apply that across the board for everybody here at Enterey as well.
All right, any parting thoughts before we wrap up?
Valerie: I want to thank you all. This was so enjoyable. It's so nice to have the conversation and listen to the questions. I've learned from you and some of the questions and thinking about things to think about as I go forward in my leadership journey. Thank you for having me. I really appreciate it.
Mike: You're welcome, Valerie. Thanks so much for joining us. It was a pleasure to chat with you and hear more about your journey. It's just so appreciative of you joining us here today. Thanks so much.
Valerie: Thank you.
Mike: Thank you, Courtney. Thank you, Josie.
Courtney: Thank you.
Josie: Thank you.
Valerie: Thanks, Courtney. Thanks, Josie.
Mike: All right, let's wrap this up. If you liked this podcast, please don't forget to subscribe. That really helps us out. Also, leave us a five-star rating, and that's a big help too. If you'd like, please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments as well.
Thank you for listening and hope to see you next time on the Leaders in Life Sciences podcast powered by Enterey Life Sciences Consulting, where people drive results. Take care.