Andrew Gilmore of BMS discusses the challenges in commuting across countries, from making time for family to learning new languages.
Is it possible to regularly commute internationally for your job and still maintain a work-life balance?
We spoke about that with Andrew Gilmore, director of biologics external manufacturing at Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS). He makes the weekly journey from Dublin to the company’s global capabilities hub (GCH) in Switzerland, which means he must pay particular attention to getting organised and finding downtime.
Where are you from and what’s it like there?
I am from Dublin, Ireland. Dublin is a great place to live. You can have a very high quality of life in Ireland. In my opinion, Dublin can compete with any city for career, family and fun. However, this is my ‘home’, so I am certainly biased!
How long ago did you relocate and what prompted your decision?
I have worked for BMS since 2013 and since then I have led different parts of the company’s external manufacturing organisation, which is headquartered in Dublin. I have relocated a number of times in my career. Two years ago, I took up a three-year secondment role in our Swiss office in a place called Cham, just outside Zurich.
This relocation has given me an opportunity to step into the biologics side of the company. Before this role, my experience was exclusively in the pharma or ‘small molecule’ space. So, the new role and relocation provided me with an excellent opportunity to grow my career and learn all about the biologics world – which makes sense as we have a state-of-the-art biologics campus located in Dublin also.
Describe your role in BMS.
The role involves leading the global external manufacturing business unit for all biologics products.
I lead up a global business unit that is accountable for the supply of all drug substance and drug product coming from our external network. Our business unit manages all aspects of the supply and relationships with a network of third-party associates around the world.
What do you like most about your job?
My team and I play a key role in the supply chain of very important drugs to help patients prevail over serious diseases, such as cancer. The work we do has a direct impact on patients.
I also really enjoy the global nature of my role. I have the opportunity to travel and work with people from around the world and I find this hugely enjoyable.
What were the biggest challenges of relocating and how did you overcome them?
I am currently commuting each week from Dublin to Switzerland. I live during the week in a town called Zug and travel back to Dublin for the weekends. So, some of my biggest challenges are logistics and finding downtime!
The nature of this role means I also spend a lot of time travelling to other places or BMS sites for my role. Having my travel plans organised a number of months in advance really helps.
Often, there are what I would call ‘life-admin challenges’, such as tax, with relocations, which may or may not present challenges. Fortunately, the company has provided me with excellent third-party support, which can be vital.
What were the major differences between your previous location and your new one?
The language, food and cultures are all very different. I am living in a German-speaking part of Switzerland. All work-related communications are in English, however, I am enjoying brushing up on my German any chance I can get!
Swiss culture is very interesting and has various nuances compared to Irish culture. The office I am working in has approximately 100 people from 33 different countries. So, working with so many different cultures is a great learning experience and opens you up to so many ways of life and traditions.
How does your working life and other supports help to make you feel at home there?
I try to focus on work and exercise during the week. I have joined a local gym and have found plenty of outdoor running routes. Exercise is a great way for me to relax and de-stress. When I get home, I try to focus and spend my time with my family.
What do you like most about your adopted home?
Switzerland is a beautiful country and living there means you can enjoy all the things Switzerland has to offer, especially the gorgeous surrounding environment and outdoors.
For example, hiking in the mountains, skiing, lake swimming and trail running, among others, are never too far and are a part of Swiss everyday life. The train system is world class and you can get around the country very easily at weekends.
What advice would you give to others who are planning to relocate for work?
My first bit of advice: do it! Take the opportunity to relocate. I have done it three times in my career and have not regretted any of it. Best case, the relocation will lead to other exciting opportunities. Worst case, you get to enjoy a new experience, a new country and learn a lot about yourself, your profession and a new way of life in the meantime.
Also, try to speak or consult as many people as you can that have had the same relocation experience. You can save yourself a lot of pain by learning from other people’s mistakes or key pieces of advice!