Bringing breakthroughs that change patients’ lives

Anne Dembah

Anne Dembah, East Africa Cluster and Kenya Country Manager at Pfizer.

Photo credit: Pool

What you need to know:

  • Anne Dembah is East Africa Cluster and Kenya Country Manager at Pfizer.
  • She says if she hadn't been in the pharma world, then she would be a farmer.

Anne Dembah, East Africa Cluster and Kenya Country Manager at Pfizer, speaks to the Sunday Nation about her career, what drives her and her future plans.

How has the journey been to where you are?

My career journey has been smooth and rewarding. From the word go, I knew I wanted to work in a pharmaceutical company and went for it. As a university student I worked in a biochemistry research lab and I quickly acknowledged that I would be bored if I followed that path.

In Pharma, I realised that I loved the impact my work had on patients’ well-being and that is what drives me every day. The opportunities for personal growth have come over time and I am enjoying the journey.

Having started off as a medical representative to presently a country manager and cluster lead, it can only mean that it has been a fulfilling journey.

What are your responsibilities as the country manager at Pfizer?

A country manager oversees Pfizer office operations and all its activities across all functions. I play a pivotal role in the development and execution of the country’s strategic plan for us to achieve our strategic and financial objectives while staying true to our purpose, which is to deliver breakthroughs that change patients' lives.

I am the external face and voice of Pfizer in Kenya and East Africa, leading engagements with our most senior stakeholders — government, trade associations, media and payers. As a leader, I bring our company culture to life by ensuring that our key values of courage, excellence, equity and joy are kept alive in the organisation.

Describe your daily routine

I am an early bird. My day starts at 5am, when I go for a morning jog for one and a half hours. I then get back home, take breakfast and go to work. Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, I have mostly worked from home. In the evening, I get to relax and have dinner with my family.

If you were not in the pharma world, what type of career would you pursue and why?

I would certainly be a farmer. I have always wanted to be a hands-on farmer, not a WhatsApp one. Seeing plants grow and nurturing crops to fruition really makes me happy. The whole process from preparation and cultivation to harvesting is not easy, but the outcomes make the world go round. Farmers feed the world and have the greatest impact on the cycle of life.

What’s your greatest strength and weakness?

I am a self-driven person thus very reliable. I strive to be dependable, consistent and true to myself. My weakness is that I am so emotional. I tend to lean towards how others feel therefore I put others first, which may not be a good thing for a leader in a challenging environment. People do take advantage of this easily.

Mention a time when you failed in this role and the lesson you learned.

I cannot say that I have failed because I consider every setback as a learning opportunity. When I first joined Pfizer, I did not carry everyone along in my team and therefore we struggled with team cohesion for a few months. This was quickly reversed when I intentionally looked into team effectiveness and training and now we are a high performing team.

I ensure everyone plays their part and is aligned to my vision as the leader of the organisation. I have allowed myself to be vulnerable to enable me understand and support each member of my team. The result has been a high performing team composed of amazing colleagues that I truly value. 

What vision do you have for the institution?

My vision is derived from a shared purpose across Pfizer — “Bringing breakthroughs that change patients’ lives”. My vision is to build an institution where every colleague is able to see and understand how their work contributes to this purpose. The belief in our purpose and agility to accomplish that is what drives me. 

How long have you been doing the work?

I have been at Pfizer for three years. 

Before joining Pfizer, what were you doing?

I worked at GlaxoSmithKline for 18 years. I started as a sales representative and grew to head the Marketing and Vaccines business in East Africa. 

What drives you? 

My accomplishments. I am a solution-oriented person. It is therefore fulfilling to see positive results. Supporting other people’s hopes and dreams in career growth gives me the satisfaction that I am on the right path. 

Who is your role model? 

I have many role models but the one I admire the most is my mother. She instilled in me the ‘I can do’ attitude and really encouraged her children to be the best they can. 

How do you stay motivated in this job?

I am always looking for new things to do because I love learning and expanding my knowledge every day. Therefore, I find myself participating in many team activities within the organisation and externally. I work in an agile organisation so change is a constant and that is very exciting for me.

In your capacity, how do you represent women?

I amplify their voice by ensuring they are heard. I share knowledge and create an environment where I can be easily approached, and I listen. I am constantly watching out for my own biases and standing up to gender bias. We celebrate even our smallest achievements.

How do you spend your free time?

I am a mother of teenagers, and we are a close-knit family. I make every effort to spend time with them when they are around since my son is a university student and my daughter is in high school. I also ensure that I spend enough time with my spouse and siblings.

I am a fitness fanatic so I go for runs, walks and hikes with my friends and colleagues. We also love to read so books are a big deal in my family.

What principles do you stand for?

Service to others. I want to leave the world a better place than I found it.

Be kind to everyone because everyone is on their own journey.

Show up fully and take a leap of faith in everything you do.

What would you want to be remembered for?

I would want to be remembered for being present in my family members’ lives, whether I was needed or not. 

Where does your greatest fulfilment come from? 

I am a Christian and a believer. My greatest fulfilment comes from living my purpose. To have a positive impact on others. 

What do you enjoy the most about your work?

I enjoy working in a high performing team where everybody is held accountable, and everyone brings their ‘A’ game every day. 

What’s your favourite meal?

Fish. 

Your dream holiday destination?

I would love to visit Thessaloniki. I have been told it is very beautiful. I have only been to Athens.

Future plans? 

Grow into a regional role with wider geographical responsibilities. I am also planning to start farming so that when I retire I can eat fish on the beaches of Lake Victoria. 

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