Dennis, Business operations, UK
Here, he chats us through his career background, what it’s like to work for us, and tips to follow in his footsteps.
Dennis, do you want to start by telling us about your career so far?
After university in various European countries, I joined GSK as part of a graduate programme in the Belgian Vaccines business where I worked in procurement, supply chain, production, and eventually finance. I developed a passion for finance and moved to Germany to take on a role as finance business partner and subsequently the team lead position in financial controlling. Most recently I moved to the UK for my current role in corporate. GSK is full of opportunities!
And what do you do at GSK?
I’m currently setting up a central finance support team in Europe called the European Planning Hub. I’ve worked on the design and implementation of the team. I’m leading the project and report to the European Chief Financial Officer.
What’s new and special about the European Planning Hub?
There’s a lot of learning across markets facilitated by this new hub. There are more streamlined processes and more structure. There’s a separation of discussions between the technical side of things and the strategic side of things. We’re a busy team – I have 11 people reporting to me and I’ve visited 11 countries in the last two months!
Sounds challenging! What do you enjoy most about your role?
It’s a very exciting one – over the last six years, I’ve worked in Brussels, Dresden, Munich and London. When I’m aligning stakeholders, I’m exposed to different cultures and I am given the chance to learn new languages.
Over the last six years, I’ve worked in Brussels, Dresden, Munich and London. When I’m aligning stakeholders, I’m exposed to different cultures and am given the chance to learn new languages.
You’ve mentioned stakeholder management. How do you go about bringing people together successfully at an organisation as large as GSK?
Because you’re dealing with people from different cultures and backgrounds, you’ve got to be curious and open. The key is to build empathetic relationships, so you can communicate easily with stakeholders to update them on progress and listen to their opinions.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out? How can they succeed at GSK?
You need to be a self-starter, be reliable and willing to learn and face up to new challenges. If you’re motivated, willing and you really want to go the extra mile, then I don’t think there’s a limit to what you can achieve. I’m extremely grateful to have a team that’s demonstrating these traits.
If you’re motivated, willing and you really want to go the extra mile, then I don’t think there’s a limit to what you can achieve.
It sounds like you enjoy working with people. What made you choose finance as a career path?
With access to hard data, I’m one of the first people to know what we’re doing well, where we have issues, how profitable the business is overall, etc. I’ve got a clear view of how everything is coming together. For me, that ‘behind-the-scenes’ aspect is the beauty of a finance role. And because of this exposure, I’m given the ability to identify problems and advise on how to solve them.
Does your job require a lot of problem-solving then?
Yes, a lot of it is problem-solving. If there’s an issue, we need to figure out what can be done to resolve it. For example, in one scenario we may need to shift some of our sales force to a different part of the business, or in another we’d need to spend more on promotions. In this role, you’re the person that sees all the numbers and deals with the big picture – like the objective voice at a management team table.
In this role, you’re the person that sees all the numbers and deals with the big picture – like the objective voice at a management team table.
So how much do you get involved – on a strategic level – in finance?
In a finance role, you’re supporting upper management. You engage in top-line discussions and build a consensus with the organisation on where the company is going and the expected revenues for the future. Also on a global level, which areas of the business and world you have more or less investments. Then on a corporate level, you can see whether we’re able to deliver our expectations from the stock market and the analysts. It all depends on which part of the business you’re in, but yes, I think there’s a lot of strategy involved in finance.
Finance tends to work very similarly in different organisations. What would you say is different at GSK?
I think what’s different about this company is that you’re part of an integrated business. We’ve got the full value chain here at GSK, from R&D to manufacturing. Then there’s the focus on culture – it being an international company, but also the fact that it’s value-based, supportive and friendly. There’s a reason why some people come back after leaving! There’s a broad spectrum of opportunity here.
Thanks for giving us an insight into your life at GSK, Dennis. Can you leave us with one piece of advice you’d give someone who was interviewing for a role like yours?
Sure. Come prepared, have some examples ready of how you’d behave in specific situations and of course, make sure you’ve researched the company. Be friendly, open and curious. Ultimately, just be yourself.