‘Technology is the way forward but without people behind it, we have nothing’

1 Jun 2023

Jane Lyons. Image: Maxwell Photography

Jane Lyons, country manager at PharmaLex Ireland, discusses her role and the biggest challenges facing the pharmaceutical sector.

Jane Lyons is the country manager at PharmaLex Ireland Ltd, a company that provides specialised services to the pharmaceutical, biotech and medical device industries. As country manager, Lyons has overall responsibility for the Irish office including team development/retention, client satisfaction and project delivery, business development, and profit and loss.

She is also the European coordinator for the quality management and compliance division and she works closely with a global team of subject matter experts to enable them to deliver a seamless service to clients across the company’s service lines.

‘It is important to me that the team feels empowered to be part of the growth of the company and this can only happen if we all contribute’

What are the biggest challenges facing your sector and how are you tackling them?

A shortage of suitably qualified personnel. Ireland is globally accepted as a centre of excellence for our educated workforce, and employees in the pharmaceutical/biopharma and medical device sector are highly skilled. However, supply and demand is an issue at the moment with the extensive growth of the sector. Thankfully, we can offer our clients additional support while they recruit internal resources whether it be interim support or advising on their technical queries offering independent advice and review.

We also find that clients who are looking to either manufacture or distribute their products in different jurisdictions such as America, Asia or the European Union can find it difficult to navigate the legislative requirements. The EU, in particular, is a case in point. Each country within the EU has its own local regulations in addition to the EU central legislation. For example, companies incorporate their legal entities in countries on the European landmass that are not part of the European Union and therefore there is additional work to be conducted to enable them to distribute their products within the EU.

Another challenge is that it is still incredibly difficult to access some medicines for rare diseases and, if therapies are available, the price can be prohibitive.

What are the key sector opportunities you’re capitalising on?

Over the last few years, we have had a strong focus on the development of new technologies to assist our clients in bringing their products to market in a more timely manner. Technology is the way forward but without people behind it, we have nothing, so we continually invest in our team as we absolutely believe they are our most precious asset.

Our technical team has a breadth of expertise across the product lifecycle that enables us to offer our clients a holistic approach to their technical requirements. We can size up and down throughout our project delivery and draw on the expertise of our development consulting, market access, pharmacovigilance, regulatory affairs and quality management and compliance technical team across the world.

What set you on the road to where you are now?

I have always been interested in business – I left school and started working immediately in a business communications centre and loved it. I thoroughly enjoy working and have been extremely fortunate to have worked in environments throughout my career that have allowed me to grow professionally. I have quite a diverse résumé in terms of business types I have worked with, from publishing to business coaching – each experience bringing unique opportunities for me to learn and grow. I held roles in operations, marketing, business development, HR and coaching. I draw on the combination of the skills from each of these roles in my current position in PharmaLex.

What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?

Getting married – committing myself to someone for the rest of my life! Thankfully the risk has paid off and I am married 29 years and have three fantastic children.

What one work skill do you wish you had?

I tend to procrastinate naturally so I work very hard on my decision-making skills to eliminate the time wasted on procrastination.

How do you get the best out of your team?

I work with an amazing team. I believe it is extremely important to see each person as an individual and to understand their unique goals and aspirations. We have a very flat structure and although people have different titles, we are all equally important – we are as strong as our weakest link and if one person is struggling or unhappy, the team as a whole is not working at its best. It is important to me that the team feels empowered to be part of the growth of the company and this can only happen if we all contribute.

I’m a big fan of the management style of Wayne Smith and Graham Henry and how they inspired the New Zealand All Blacks. My favourite take-aways are:

‘Sweep the sheds’ – never be too big to do the small things that need to be done.

‘Go for the gap’ – when you are at the top of your game, change your game.

Have you noticed a diversity problem in your sector?

I think most sectors have legacy diversity problems but I really see this being addressed in this sector. Luckily, the industry we are in depends on particular skillsets which tends to limit bias that may be prevalent in other sectors.

What’s the best piece of career advice you have ever received?

It was from my sister, Naomi. Earlier in my career I was stuck in a rut and her advice was simple – invest in yourself whether it be academically or holistically – so I started to invest in my education and never looked back.

What are the essential tools and resources that get you through the working week?

My team first and foremost! At PharmaLex, our employees are our business, so it is extremely important to me to work closely with the team.

Our weekly planning meetings and daily updates are key to allow me to keep my finger on the pulse of what is happening in the business and to pick up on any issues being encountered early.

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