Interview with Sandra Leoni, AVR site representative for Diabetes Care (DC)

Born and bred in Liestal, she did her commercial apprenticeship at Coop in her home town. She remembers her time there fondly, since it provided first-class training that gave her an insight into the roles played by many different departments. Before embarking on her apprenticeship, she spent a year in Lausanne improving her French, and later spent time in Australia and Ecuador, where she learnt English and Spanish, as well as in Ticino, where she perfected her Italian. Prior to joining Roche, she worked for a small pharmaceuticals company in Birsfelden, but even then she was keen to move to a major pharma player, and found Roche significantly more appealing than Novartis — partly because of its corporate culture and partly because it was family-owned. Sandra has now been working at Roche since 2015, initially as an assistant in the Pharma Region Europe Medical team, where she organised events and international meetings in the days before they were virtual and were held in various different countries. In 2018, she transferred to Pharma International as a result of a transformation project and from there to Pharma Communications. From 2019 to early 2020, she worked on projects and helped organise European events in her role as assistant. On 1 March 2020, she joined Diabetes Care as an assistant in the International region. Unfortunately, the start of lockdown on 10 March last year and the associated switch to working from home meant she had very little opportunity to get to know her new colleagues in person rather than just virtually. Since this is something she very much regrets, we are taking this opportunity to introduce her to even more people at Roche, since the AVR Newsletter is distributed to employees at Basel, Kaiseraugst and Schlieren.

In addition to her regular role, Sandra has also been an AVR site representative since November 2020. Although she had been an AVR member ever since joining Roche, she had never had the time or support needed to take an active role in the Association. However, Kate Hoile, Global Head of People & Culture at Diabetes Care, thinks it is a good thing for Diabetes Care to be represented in the AVR. Since Basel has only eight seats on the AVR Committee, an extra seat had to be created to ensure that Diabetes Care was represented. I pulled out all the stops to get a representative for Diabetes Care, just as I did for Roche Glycart in Schlieren and Roche Pharma Switzerland (RPS) back in the day. Now we are particularly pleased that all divisions are represented in the AVR. Bruno Weissen, Head of People & Culture at Basel / Kaiseraugst, was instrumental in assisting us, and we are particularly grateful to him for his support.

But what made Sandra decide to devote time and energy to the AVR's work? When asked this question, she replied that colleagues had told her that the AVR does an outstanding job on employees' behalf and that getting involved was both positive and interesting. This made a great impression on her. What's more, she also enjoys working with people. She hopes that her empathy and the fact that she's a good listener will be an asset to the team, since she can often sense when there are problems and then tries to pinpoint the cause.

Now she is looking forward to meeting and getting to know everybody face to face. Although she also learns a lot at the virtual meetings, she hopes to be able to contribute more effectively in person.

Asked what she thinks about the transformations in People & Culture (P&C), she gives a guarded reply. Change is basically a good thing, she says, and it is important to try out new things sometimes and rethink old habits. The difficulty at the moment, however, is that what emerges from the process is not always implemented in the way it was originally intended. Jobs are created only to become surplus to requirements a short while later as the old structures start to creep back in. Although flat hierarchies are a good thing, a cultural transformation on this scale cannot be achieved that quickly ― it needs more time.

Since there's more to life than just work, what does Sandra like doing in her spare time? Well, she enjoys sport in general and hiking in the mountains in particular. Her biggest hobby, though, is travelling, discovering new cultures and stepping out of her comfort zone. This enables her to learn a lot about herself and occasionally forces her to stretch her limits.

Finally, she feels it is important to be an active member of the team and to support the AVR in all its activities. Moreover, it goes without saying that she particularly wants to serve as a contact person for her colleagues in Diabetes Care. Although that's difficult in the current lockdown, she would still like to be someone that people in Diabetes Care can turn to for help with their problems and challenges. I would like to wish her every success in doing so and hope that she enjoys working as an AVR site representative. I am confident that Sandra Leoni will be an enrichment for the Association.

The interview was conducted by Adnan Tanglay, AVR President