Kevin, Consumer Healthcare, UK
60-minute mentors: How a focus on delivery can help you succeed
Our new 60-minute mentors series gives colleagues the opportunity to interview one of their senior leaders, over the course of an hour, and discover more about their career journey. Maria, a Future Leaders Associate working as a Digital Transformation Manager in Consumer Healthcare’s Global eCommerce team, was keen to learn more about the experiences of Kevin, VP, Global Digital Commerce.
60 minute mentors, Kevin O’Leary, episode 1: Meet Kevin
Meet Kevin O’Leary, VP, Global Digital Commerce, as he explains what attracted him to GSK and the Consumer Healthcare business specifically, the variety of roles and exciting projects he has been involved in and the growing role e-Commerce will play for the company moving forward.
Maria: How did your career at GSK start?
Kevin: I joined the company around seven years ago. At that time there was a lot of change in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry with Emma Walmsley having just taken over as CEO of Consumer Healthcare. I was excited by the opportunity to work on meaningful large-scale projects and to be part of a real revolution in consumer healthcare.
Maria: How has your career at GSK evolved?
Kevin: I like to think I thrive in times of change, and that my career path has been quite non-traditional. I’ve moved between business areas and functions within the organisation, and I now lead the eCommerce agenda for Consumer Healthcare which is certainly ever-changing. We get the opportunity to drive and deliver new to market solutions in this space on a daily basis.
60 minute mentors, Kevin O’Leary, episode 3: Career development
Kevin O’Leary, VP, Global Digital Commerce, tells us about the variety of exciting opportunities he has had at GSK; from being part of the Future Strategy Group to his current role in Global Digital Commerce.
Maria: Could you say a little more about what your team does?
Kevin: The team is responsible for ensuring that anywhere GSK products are sold online, they are shown to their best. That includes retailer or pharmacy websites, as well as sites like Amazon and Alibaba. We need to make sure our content – so things like the photos of our products – are best in class. What we do is supported by capability programmes that help our teams in the markets leverage eCommerce to grow the business. eCommerce spans all functions, so we are required to work across Sales, Marketing, Supply Chain and many others.
Maria: How does your team work together?
Kevin: We’re working in a very exciting space within the business, and it’s an area that requires continual external focus. We’ve created a great collaborative office space within GSK House for members of the team based there, and we operate as a team in a flexible way. I manage my own hours, which means I can still go home and hang out with my daughter before catching up on a few emails. We have a collaborative, informal way of working, while maintaining a focus on performance and output, and we’re lucky enough to enjoy what we do!
Maria: What makes a project successful?
Kevin: We use data to make sure we trial – and measure – the right things. Then if the pilot is successful, we scale it up – and if not, we’re not afraid to end it. We’re trying to build a ‘test and learn’ culture throughout the wider business and this is a big part of it. But I think there’s a huge human element. It’s about people as much, if not more, than it is about the technology.
Maria: When you say it’s about the people, what do you mean?
Kevin: We’ve built a team of people who are excited and energised by the projects we’re working on. For me, emotional intelligence is as important as IQ. It’s about having the soft skills to succeed – being able to observe, to see what’s happening and really dig beneath the surface to get to the root of an issue. To have patience where it’s needed but remain appropriately impatient. And to work well together. We need people who get things done.
Maria: What does the future look like for eCommerce?
Kevin: I think the pace of change is accelerating. There are a lot of emerging technologies that will likely transform how we do things in the future. Whether that’s how we leverage the blockchain (an open digital ledger that provides a secure way of making and recording transactions, agreements and contracts) or unlock value and efficiency from machine learning and artificial intelligence, it’s important to stay aware of the trends while still delivering on shorter-term goals. For example, we’re diving deeper into voice assistance. We successfully trialled a pilot with Amazon’s Alexa last year, and we’re now looking at how we might be able to scale it to other parts of the business.
If you’re doing a great job to deliver the wider strategy, you’re clearly succeeding in your role.
Maria: What’s the most valuable piece of advice you’ve been given?
Kevin: During an early career review I once asked how to progress to the next level. They suggested I focus my work from my leader’s perspective, ensuring my success was their success. It is such a subtle thing, but shifting my attention to the delivery happening around me, made me focus less on me, and more on the success of the team and whole organisation. If you’re doing a great job to deliver the wider strategy, with your objectives clearly linked to it, you’re clearly succeeding in your role.
Maria: What advice would you give to others?
Kevin: Work for someone you respect. I’ve been lucky to work with some brilliant people who have consistently pushed me outside my comfort zone, while giving me the support I need. And find the work that’s right for you. Cultivate your network – including mentors and coaches. And never stop learning. You can always find a way in large organisations to pivot into something that makes use of your core skill set.
60 minute mentors, Kevin O’Leary, episode 4: Career advice
Kevin O’Leary, VP, Global Digital Commerce, tells us why an early piece of career advice he received changed his perspective on his own career and has stayed with him throughout the years.
Maria: Do you have any role models?
Kevin: This might sound a bit unusual, and it’s more about admiration for translating work ethic into results, but I would say Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. He started out as a wrestler and is now one of the highest-grossing Hollywood actors. He demonstrates an unparalleled work ethic, shows his human side and always shows up – with a smile on his face. He’s taken what is a gift and a natural affiliation for people and pivoted into a successful, sustainable business model (leveraging every technology and social media platform available to him!). I think we can all learn a lot from that.
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