Joseph Valeriani always loved science and medicine—and after his father passed away from cardiovascular disease when Valeriani was in his 20s, pursuing a career in healthcare became even more important.
“For roughly 20 years of my career, I have been on a journey to be a part of diverse teams and franchises where all employees can thrive together and collaborate to deliver innovation for patients and healthcare professionals,” says Valeriani.
His latest role—as the VP and Head of the new U.S. Biosimilar Business Unit for the biotech company Biogen—allows him to continue this path. Some of his main responsibilities as a member of a global management board include developing U.S. operations and organizational culture as well as building out a successful team.
As a relatively recent member of Biogen (he joined in June 2020), the candidate and new hire experiences are fresh in his mind. “The engagement and empathy my colleagues showed me as a new employee navigating a large organization was really special,” he says. “One of the qualities that stands out about Biogen is the inclusive nature people put forward from the moment of saying hello.”
Here, Valeriani shares the exciting nature of his work, what he’s looking for in candidates, and career advice for future leaders.
Tell us about your career journey, and what led you to your job at Biogen.
My career has offered me the opportunity to work with highly talented individuals and committed teams in the areas of oncology, immunology, HIV, neuroscience, and cardiovascular and metabolic diseases as well as market access—all of which were focused on making a difference for patients, caregivers, and families. What led me to Biogen was that, at its core, the company leads with patients as the priority and strives to improve outcomes in care around the globe. Being able to lead a new startup business unit with the U.S. biosimilar franchise provides me an opportunity to be a part of a special moment for patients, Biogen, and our industry. This was exciting to me as these options can potentially improve access to care and change how healthcare is delivered today and in the future.
What attracted you to work at Biogen?
There were two critical factors. First, Biogen is a science- and value-driven organization. The focus is on helping patients to lead better lives. For some companies, that can come in the form of just words. You may see those words in presentations or hear them from leadership or other employees, but at Biogen our science-driven actions always strive to benefit our patients.
Second are the senior leaders I had a chance to interact with during early discussions. These leaders made it clear that Biogen is committed to fairness, equality, inclusion, and collaboration. This was both empowering and energizing to hear so consistently with each discussion.
Tell us about your goals for the new U.S. Biosimilar team.
There are three priority areas the team will focus on. First, building and recruiting a high-performing team that is connected to our purpose and is inspired by the potential benefit we can have in delivering affordable healthcare. The second is continuing to contribute to the trust and reputation the Biogen biosimilar global team has built outside of the U.S. and transferring this success to the U.S. market. Our ability to connect and engage U.S. stakeholders will be an important step for the near and long term. Last is working towards our first potential product launch within a committed portfolio of investigational biosimilars for the U.S. market. The goal of having our first product launch as a new business unit brings great promise for patients and healthcare costs, as well as the Biogen organization.
What types of roles are you hiring for? And what are you looking for in candidates?
Throughout 2021 and beyond, we’ll be looking to attract, train, and develop diverse talent across the U.S. organization. There will be various commercial and medical leadership roles based in our Weston, MA location, as well as field and customer-based positions. We will engage with leaders who have a strong orientation for helping patients access medications and have experience in delivering innovation, business strategy, and execution.
Our priority for hiring is clear and consistent: to build a diverse team from the beginning that is connected to our patient-focused mission. This is an exciting opportunity for those who enjoy working in a team environment, have shown agility with their prior experiences, and are determined to deliver for patients and the sustainability of healthcare innovation. The opportunities are endless, both to lead large teams or grow your career as an individual contributor.
What about this work is exciting and inspiring?
The global and U.S. populations are aging, in good part thanks to medical advances, and we now have the challenge of not only lengthening lives, but also striving to make sure every one of those years is vital and healthy. Doing our part to enable access to care can be an important way to ensure that science continues to advance and new medical innovations are brought to market for patients. Part of the fun and responsibility of working in healthcare is that the next innovation, discovery, or healthcare challenge is literally around the corner. Our work is never done, and that keeps it exciting.
What is your leadership style like? How do you think it’s helped you succeed in your career?
Leadership is initially learning how to be the best version of oneself. Leadership is also a collaborative process that involves investing in others and fostering relationships that will establish an open and inclusive environment that collectively shares a common vision. Challenging myself to take the initiative to serve as a change agent, invite all voices to the conversation, and practice personally and socially responsible leadership is the basis of how I have engaged throughout my career.
What advice do you have for someone interested in pursuing a similar career path?
Be willing to take risks, seek mentors that you can rely on, and follow your passion. Your ability to learn and stay centered on improving patient care can guide you through decision making and your career. Learning a diverse set of skills throughout your career should be a priority, not the title or size of your organization. Lastly, hearing and listening are two very different behaviors—hearing is the priority that allows a leader to inspire purpose and people.
What’s the best career advice you’ve received?
Stay focused on the current position you have. Give it your best effort every day and search for solutions by engaging diverse teams and customer perspectives.
Also, simplicity is key. Create narratives, frameworks, and stories to help you make simple points. This can be applied to all leaders who are dealing with complex areas and challenges. If you do simplification well, and it trickles down to your team, it then becomes a part of the organizational culture.