Kosuke, Pharmaceuticals, Japan

photo of kosuke


60 minute mentors: Be brave, wherever your career path takes you

Our 60-minute mentor series gives colleagues the chance to interview one of their senior leaders, over the course of an hour, and discover more about their career journey. Vasantha, a Business Analyst, spent some time with Kosuke, VP and Vice Head of Japan Development in Pharmaceuticals, Japan, to find out what inspires him most about working at GSK.

They discussed changing pathways, supporting others and doing things that have never been done before.

Vasantha: Thanks for your time today, Kosuke. I’d like to start by finding out how you came to work at GSK Japan?

Kosuke: Well, it’s been quite a journey. I graduated from medical school in 1985 – over 30 years ago! I was hoping to become a kind of super physician who could do everything. I rotated through paediatrics, internal medicine, obstetrics, emergency room and more. But I recalled the words of a university professor who once told me, “someone who can do everything can’t really do anything”. These words really struck me.

Kosuke and Vasantha
Kosuke and Vasantha

Vasantha: When you were young, what career path did you want to follow?

Kosuke: Back when I was a junior high school student I wanted to study more about life – not necessarily studying medicine, but maybe philosophy or literature. But gradually I veered towards medicine. This was perhaps partly due to having an older sister who was born prematurely with cerebral palsy.

My father named me Kosuke because ‘suke’ means ‘support’ and ‘ko’ means ‘widely’. So, I supported my sister when I was young, and now I’ve lived up to my name as I support many people through the work I do.

Vasantha: That’s really interesting how you’ve you ‘grown’ into your name. So, what brought you from a hospital environment to the pharmaceutical industry?

Kosuke: After my rotation residency, I started to work at a big university hospital. I liked the process of making a correct diagnosis. However, many of the children I diagnosed didn’t have the right treatment options available to them. I wanted to be able to make a difference – to help develop good medicines. So, I moved to a pharmaceutical company and spent 12 years there before joining GSK in 2014.

It’s all very well being an expert, but don’t just base your ideas on what’s been done before.

Vasantha: So, you wanted to change the industry?

Kosuke: Yes, you could say that. I like to say, ‘let’s do this, let’s challenge that’. I think that mindset is more important than knowledge. It’s all very well being an expert, but don’t always base your ideas on what’s been done before.

Vasantha: That’s a really good way of looking at things. Is that what led you to join GSK?

Kosuke: Yes, that was part of it. But I was also really impressed at the high level of ethics when I talked with the General Manager and Head of Commercial. That had a big influence on my decision to develop my career further with GSK.

Vasantha: What about the people who’ve influenced you? Who has had the biggest impact on your career?

Kosuke: There are many people who have influenced me along the way. Back when I was considering moving into pharmaceuticals, I met the Head of Global Development and Medical. He was a great mentor and I’ve learned a lot from him. My former boss at the university, a paediatrician, also really encouraged me to be brave and make that career move.

Vasantha: What excites you most about the work you’re doing now at GSK?

Kosuke: I’m always excited to be doing things that challenge me. When there’s a difficult problem, it’s really rewarding to work on a solution, especially as part of a team. That gives me a real buzz. When I see my colleagues growing and achieving great things, that excites me.

You may sometimes question a person’s advice or guidance, but when you look back, you realize they’ve helped to develop you and make you stronger.

Vasantha: Finally, what advice would you give someone who wants to develop their career in the pharmaceutical industry, particularly at GSK?

Kosuke: There are two things I would say – and this could apply to any career. Firstly, you won’t always follow the exact career you originally planned. Your life may take another course, and you need to be open to different things and new challenges. The other thing is that you may sometimes question a person’s advice or guidance because you might not agree with it, or it’s a difficult thing to do, but when you look back, you may realize they’ve helped to develop you and make you stronger.