Pharmaceutical Executives are Quietly Mentoring You on LinkedIn

Pharmaceutical executives are all over LinkedIn. Getting to know your boss can help you focus on the right priorities for your growth and development. But what if you could go right to the top and get mentorship from the C-Suite?

All you have to do is pick a leader, pretend you’re their crazy ex, and spend some time reading about them on the internet. It’s fun, and, unlike stalking an actual former flame, it won’t result in a restraining order.

Don’t worry- we’re not sending you down a Bing or Google rabbit hole or into their current partner’s Instagram stories. Read on to learn how and why LinkedIn could be the best site for the actionable insights you’d want from a Life Science mentor.

4,570,000 pharmaceutical professionals are on linkedin


Why LinkedIn? Pharma Execs are on Twitter.

Many of the more prominent influencers in pharma are more active on Twitter than other platforms, so you could start there to get a sense of what values and actions have shaped their careers. However, it’s likely a social media team member curates their tweets and responses. You want to learn directly from them.

On LinkedIn, this may also be true of content they post from personal accounts. We’ll never really know, but, you know, we kind of know.

So what does LinkedIn have that other social media sites, blogs, podcast interviews, and press releases don’t?


Pharmaceutical Executives Recommend Employees

As with all recommendations, it’s possible the recipient provided talking points or even wrote the whole thing. However, it’s more likely that LinkedIn recommendations, which are far rarer than posts or comments, were, at the very least, personally approved by the pharmaceutical executive.

Here’s an example of a recommendation written in 2019 by Albert Bourla, Chairman and CEO of Pfizer:

Albert Bourla Pfizer Linkedin recommendation of Stefan Jahnecke

It’s cool to read what Stefan Jahnecke accomplished, isn’t it? But that’s not all. If you’re looking for what matters to your new pharmaceutical CEO mentor Albert Bourla, there are a few unique insights you can pull. Here’s one, and what to do about it:

What your mentor values:

Obtaining difficult buy-in from pharmaceutical industry peers

What you can do:

Find a change in your organization that you can support and start talking about it with your peers. If people have objections to the change, you’ll learn what they are.

PRO TIP: Wear your empathy hat!

During times of transformation, you’re sure to find naysayers. But what’s behind the “nay?”

  • Respect that everyone most likely has the company’s best interests at heart.
  • They may also be concerned about the change’s potential impact on their own career growth or stability.


Pharmaceutical Executives Have Experience

Najat Khan, Ph.D., Chief Data Science Officer at Janssen R&D, Johnson and Johnson, has not posted any recommendations on the platform. However, like any good data scientist, you can mine her profile’s Experience section for the most valuable insights.

PRO TIP: Look for continuous context!

While roles, companies, or entire industries may change, there are always patterns to be found in what has stayed consistent for one pharmaceutical executive.

Here’s a trail of breadcrumbs you’ll find in Dr. Khan’s LinkedIn profile experience section:

  • “… substantial value to Janssen’s portfolio….”
  • “Voting member of both Development Committee and Investment Committee.”
  • “… resulted in a multimillion-dollar acquisition….”
  • “Supported a commercial viability assessment….”
  • “…risk assessment strategy to mitigate potential product stock-outs for the highest value and highest risk products (~$8B in annual revenues) due to demand and supply risks….”

Do you see a pattern yet?

What your mentor values:

Making a bottom-line difference

What you can do:

If you’re not already, get clear on the organization’s strategic objectives ASAP. Then do an audit of your current projects. Make sure you can articulate the bottom-line impact they will have. If you can’t, ask for feedback from peers or your boss.

You can also lead new initiatives that even better support your pharmaceutical company’s goals. Don’t have any ideas of your own? Show leadership by gathering a team of colleagues to initiate a brainstorming session!

BONUS POINTS: Check out her profile and see if you can find data points to support these additional two primary values we identified:

  • Global impact
  • Diversity and Inclusion


Pharmaceutical Executives’ Have Interests

Matt Sause- Roche

Matt Sause follows a LOT of other top pharma companies, found under the “Interests” section of his LinkedIn profile. Not just a few. The only non-pharma company page he follows is TEDx Conferences.

What your mentor values:

Comprehensive industry awareness

What you can do:

Follow those companies, too. Make your feed match Matt Sause’s, and you’ll be well-informed.

Stay current on the latest webinars, podcasts, case studies, white papers, and other pharmaceutical resources on SOURCE EXPLORER, and you’ll be a rockstar.

How can you show it? Write posts, articles, an email newsletter, or contribute guest blog content to an industry support website like SOURCE EXPLORER! Have a topic? Email: [email protected]


Pharmaceutical Executives Laugh

Some posts or articles shared by pharmaceutical executives on LinkedIn simply reiterate company messaging. But sometimes, I learn extraordinary things from the personal experiences pharmaceutical executives share in long-form content, posts, or even live videos on LinkedIn.

In March, David Fredrickson, Executive Vice President of Oncology Business at AstraZeneca, wrote an article about his friendship and partnership with Dr. José Baselga. This article allowed me to learn from two pharmaceutical executives at once- the author and his subject.

Dr. Baselga was a husband of 30 years, father to four, and, most recently, the Executive Vice President of Research and Development for Oncology at AstraZeneca.

What I didn’t learn about this iconic oncology hero from newspaper obituaries was perhaps the most important lesson of all, and David Fredrickson’s memories delivered it beautifully, sensitively, and with honor.

Here’s an excerpt:

tribute from David Fredrickson AstraZeneca to death of Dr. Baselga on LinkedIn


Laugh alone, with others, and often. It may not cure cancer, but dedicating your career to doing so will take a toll on anyone. For those who bravely face daily disappointments in the hopes of progress, laughter is the best medicine. Laughter keeps heroes hopeful.


Pharmaceutical Executives Follow Influencers


linkedin influencers followed by pharmaceutical executivesThough the limit for “first degree” (direct) connections on LinkedIn is 30k, we are allowed an unlimited number of “follows,” including the platform’s official “Influencers.” Frank Clyburn, Executive Vice President and President of Human Health at Merck, follows only eight of that group. Of that group of eight, three are tech CEOs, and three are the stars of Shark Tank.

What could a pharmaceutical executive hope to learn from someone like Mark Cuban?

Fortunately, we’ve already written another whole blog about it.

In summary, here’s what it looks like:

What your mentor values: Billionaire Boldness

What you can do: You don’t achieve billionaire success without billionaire boldness! So take a chance. Raise your hand and say, “I think there’s a problem here, and I have an idea for how to solve it.”


You’re not worried about hurting anyone’s feelings when you know the potential benefit of solving the problem helps them and the company more long-term than protecting their ego short-term.


Craig Thomason is Associate Director of Merck’s Corporate Strategy Office. He’s also Co-Founder and Head of Engagement for [email protected], a “storytelling meets strategy” program he and two coworkers initiated with a simple question: “What if…?”

The goal: “To create a safe and unapologetic space for ideas and equipping individuals with the tools to turn them to action.”

Learn more.

As an intrapreneur, Craig is bold in his ideas, and collaborative in his approach to bringing them to life. This is how he has successfully harnessed the boldness of an entrepreneur in a corporate environment.


Lead Conversations with Pharmaceutical Executives

As it happens, I met Craig Thomason on LinkedIn. I met SOURCE EXPLORER CEO Kellan Barfield there, too.

How? We’ve all published content on the platform and commented on similar posts. We found each other!

Look at your feed and feel out what calls to you and what you think is missing. Identify a gap in the content feed? Fill it! Write something. Post a video with captions. Share a photo. Talk about your workday. Ask a question. Create a poll. Engage your network.


Connect with Pharmaceutical Executives

Care to grow your network of pharmaceutical executives? LinkedIn is the place for that.

I am directly connected with hundreds of Life Science Professionals on LinkedIn and enjoy meaningful direct messaging conversations with pharmaceutical executives at most of the Top 20 pharmaceutical companies in the US.

If you have shared connections or know each other directly from work, it’s not usually necessary to personalize your connection request with a note.

But to make a new connection or deepen an existing one, use the [in]sights above to make it meaningful. Here’s a sample template:

Hi _____, from the _____ I read on your profile, it looks like you value _____. I’m currently working on _____, so I believe we have that interest in common.

Hope we can connect.


Discover Like a Pharmaceutical Executive

Besides the people you work with, there are hundreds of thousands of Life Science Professionals on LinkedIn. Find them, read between the lines on their profile, learn, apply, and grow from (and with) all your new mentors.

Here are seven ways to start discovering:

  1. Follow pharmaceutical company pages
  2. Comment or react to their posts
  3. Respond to others’ insightful comments
  4. Search hashtags like #pharmaceuticalindustry
  5. Follow leaders you’d like to learn from
  6. Follow Life Science suppliers

And a bonus:

  1. Ask! Your connections have a lot to teach you.
  • Ask them specific questions, like “How have you managed to stand out to senior leadership at your company?”
  • Ask for introductions to their connections.
  • Ask which pharmaceutical executives they follow on LinkedIn.
    • You can be as specific as you want, and more is better!
      • Example: “I’m writing a blog for SOURCE EXPLORER about pharmaceutical executives on LinkedIn. I’m running into a wall looking for female leaders who share personal video content on the platform. Who do you know?
      • PS- that ^ is a personal request from me! Know anyone? Email SOURCE EXPLORER with their LinkedIn profile.


Mentor Like a Pharmaceutical Executive

Update your own LinkedIn profile to make sure your connections understand what they can learn from you.

Scan your profile from top to bottom, left to right, with one question in mind:

“Is this the best use of this space?”

Here are five examples:

  1. What does your cover image say about you? You can use this 1128 x 191 px space for award announcements, a graphic of your workday, or a picture. You can easily make one in Canva.
  2. Your headline isn’t limited to your job title. Use this space to start conversations. Include the title of a keynote speech you give at conferences, membership organization affiliation, personal info like “Golfer” or “Proud Dad of 4,” or values like “DEI Advocate.”
  3. Write your About section in the first person. Address your profile readers as if they were in front of you, asking, “Tell me your story.”
  4. Add media and details to your Experience section. If your team launched a product, link to that product’s website within your Experience entry for that role.
  5. Write recommendations for peers, direct reports, interns, coaches, or your boss. You can even use LinkedIn recommendations to get back in touch with former colleagues, reviving a sleepy network.


You can also write original content. LinkedIn articles allow space for a deeper dive and usually appear on the first few pages of Google results for your name. 1300-character text posts are more casual and get more engagement.

Here are ten LinkedIn post prompts to get you started:

  1. I’m currently reading _____
  2. #Kudos to [COWORKER] for _____
  3. A direct report once taught me _____
  4. I recently got this useful feedback _____
  5. To me, #diversityandinclusion is about _____
  6. I enjoy working at [COMPANY] because _____
  7. I volunteer with [ORGANIZATION] because _____
  8. The most significant professional risk I’ve ever taken was _____
  9. Though I currently work in the pharmaceutical industry, my first job was _____
  10. Here’s a SOURCE EXPLORER article by @Lila Smith about how to learn from pharmaceutical executives on LinkedIn. My #1 takeaway was _____


That’s all for now; happy learning, connecting, and growing with a bit of help from the pharmaceutical executives mentoring you on LinkedIn!


SOURCE EXPLORER is where Life Science Professionals come to discover the latest case studies or white papers, find relevant webinars or podcasts for professional growth, and uncover rock star suppliers they can hire for their next project. We are Where Life Science Lives.


About the author

Leave a Reply

Recent Blogs

Practical Ways to Improve Work Productivity
October 7, 2021
13 life science movies and series you can stream now Hulu Netflix Amazon Prime
13 Life Science Movies and Series to Stream Now
August 26, 2021
bridging the gap between generations in the workplace man black hat and shirt
Bridging the Gap Between Generations in the Workplace
August 19, 2021

    Stay in the Loop

    Every week, we’ll be sending you curated materials handpicked to help you stay up to date with the latest in Life Sciences.


    When you find trending news, don’t you want to share it? Now you can!

    Check out SOURCE EXPLORER’s Newsletter Feature and Create Your Own Custom Newsletter Now FOR FREE.

    Recent eBook

      7 Reasons Life Science Suppliers Don’t Get Hired

      Life Science Professionals Deserve to be Impressed During Supplier Pitches