Sanobar Syed is a highly accomplished professional with an extensive educational background and over 14 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry. Holding a Masters in organic chemistry and an MBA, Sanobar has established herself as an expert in pharmaceutical business strategy and forecasting. Throughout her career, she has successfully led global teams in strategizing and driving multi-million-dollar product launches for renowned companies such as Beigene, AbbVie, McKesson, and Novartis. Sanobar’s expertise spans across various therapeutic areas, and she has excelled in roles involving business strategy and forecasting, analytics, competitive intelligence, and strategy development. Recognized for her exceptional contributions, Sanobar is a sought-after speaker at industry conferences, guest lecturer, and has even developed academic modules in her field of expertise. Her remarkable achievements have earned her numerous awards, and she proudly serves on the jury of reputable institutions specializing in business strategy and forecasting.
From Passion to Purpose
She embarked on her professional journey fueled by a deep fascination for science, particularly organic chemistry, and the profound impact it could have on industries and people’s lives. With a Master’s degree in organic chemistry, she sought to bridge the gap between scientific knowledge and solving business problems in healthcare organizations. Completing her MBA, she joined a prestigious biotech company, where she soon found herself drawn to the realm of business strategy and forecasting. In a time when few women ventured into this field, she embraced the opportunity, immersing herself in critical roles across organizations and geographies. Throughout her career spanning over 14 years, she has worked with pioneering firms in the healthcare spectrum, encompassing generics, innovators, and distributors, all with the shared goal of bringing essential medicines to patients. Today, she stands humbled, honored to be a guiding light for new graduates aspiring to make their mark in this field.
Pioneering Women’s Impact in Pharma Industry
Sanobar represents women in business strategy and forecasting within the pharmaceutical industry.
“Women still make up under 30 percent of executive directors at top firms, even less in functions like forecasting and analytics. When people think of pharmaceutical roles, they think of doctors, pharmacists or sales and marketing roles. Not a lot of people know and are aware of the roles which are at a cusp of Business and technical STEM.” says Sanobar.
Forecasting is a role that she can utilize her masters in organic chemistry and post-graduation in marketing and strategy. Her work at Beigene, AbbVie and McKesson directly impacts the lives of Canadian patients who are diagnosed with rare diseases and cancer. Her work in forecasting and strategy efforts to cater to unmet patient needs from coast to coast.
”In my volunteering role at women leaders in pharma, I have helped the organization by creating analytical tools to devise technical dashboard to strategize the growing membership. I have led various strategic and diversity roles at WLP to ensure that we can support and help women grow their career in Canada.” says Sanobar.
Balancing Work and Family Life
Balancing work and family is an issue for almost every family and finding the right balance can feel completely overwhelming. There are some strategies, however, that can help families cope. Set priorities. With so many demands on our time, it’s hard to be everything to everyone.
Sanobar states, “Stress is an inevitable part of this job. I manage stress by looking at the brighter side of our work. We are affecting the lives of millions of people with our products and medicines. When I feel under pressure, I just go to check out what our customers are saying. That almost always lifts my spirits. I also take a short 15-minute walk to take my mind off work during the office break. That helps me unplug and refresh my energy.”
From Multicultural Backgrounds to Empowered Leadership
Sanobar embodies a multitude of identities that check all the proverbial boxes. As an immigrant and a first-generation Canadian, she carries the experiences and perspectives of someone who has navigated the complexities of belonging to different cultures. Being a person of color, a woman, and a visible minority further enriches her story, amplifying the importance of representation and diversity. Sanobar recognizes the weight of her actions and words, understanding that young minds and aspiring females who share similar backgrounds are looking up to her. Despite facing challenges both personally and professionally, Sanobar’s unwavering resilience and trust in her own abilities have allowed her to overcome obstacles and emerge stronger.
While asked about how you would describe your personality, she remarks, “I would characterize my personality with three words: Analytical, creative, and organized. I thrive when working with data and numbers. It is the main reason why I chose my field of work. I am also Team-oriented, open minded, transparent. And I believe the people I led in my current and former jobs would agree with the description. I try to be a manager people aren’t afraid to talk to, and share their feedback with, a manager people know what to expect from, and an open-minded leader who isn’t afraid of implementing new ideas at work, trying to achieve better results.”
Objectives and Future Plans
Throughout her career Sanobar have had several opportunities wherein she has challenged the norm, Whether it was leading a 9-member global team in different geographies or being the only women team lead in the management committee, she has always managed to shine in face of challenges.
“One very noteworthy incident was to be able to challenge the way historical strategy and forecasting platforms were used in my organization and help break the senior management comfort zone to upgrade our platforms to the industry best practice. What made me look up and lead was the idea that we can’t rely on others to notice us or tap us on the shoulder. Learning to be brave and speak up can be empowering and is the only way to go.”
Her future plans are to remain a strong advocate of this field and represent it in national and international forums globally. By actively part of key pharmaceutical conferences and advisory boards her plan is to encourage the new younger generation to take this field as part of their career choice.
She states, “I wish to show youth my own journey that is possible to thrive sans geographies. This field is one of the few functions in the pharmaceutical industry which marries the science and technical and becomes a central pivot in any data driven decision making organisations. I plan to continue publishing my thought leadership articles in reputed journals which can give access and opportunities to the community to engage in meaningful dialogues and discussions.”
Leading with an Open Heart
Sanobar believes, “Vulnerability is one of the most courageous acts a leader can undertake—particularly in a crisis when the future is so uncertain. It tasks us with tearing down our own walls, confronting what is ahead of us, and sharing more about ourselves and what we see ahead of us with an open heart. It requires us to be human and willing to experience the ups and downs in a very visible manner. Intimidating as it may be, this kind of openness gives us a real opportunity to inspire the very authenticity we want to encourage in our people by building connections and increasing trust in a meaningful and profound way.”
She gave an example by sharing one of her experiences, “In the past year, I have communicated with our people about our business outlook, plans for virtual work environments, and other traditional topics—but I pivoted to also spend time talking about what and how I am feeling. I have been able to demonstrate a true awareness of my team’s emotions, I become relatable, and can more easily and quickly build trust, all of which are critical when faced with times of uncertainty.”
Insights for Aspiring Youth
Education and awareness that this field is a perfect career option to grow in the pharmaceutical industry. This is important as many times, graduates or professionals trying to find a cusp of business and science fail to find the path. Many times there are professionals who have to undergo various licensing exams to achieve their career path. I have faced similar struggles, but I was adamant on not only carving my own niche but making organisations especially generic pharmaceutical companies to drive data driven decision making instead of just going by the sales” gut feel”. In today’s intense competition, market access challenges and complex payor systems it becomes even more imperative to invest in this field.