From Nanjing to London: Meet Jiaqi, one of GSK's 'future leaders'

A few years ago, Jiaqi Dou was at China Pharmaceutical University in Nanjing , about to complete his degree in marketing with a focus on medicine. Now, he is on his way to GSK headquarters in London. What happened in between?

Jiaqi's career path at GSK shows just how far dedication and perseverance can take you. He joined GSK as an intern in 2012, and then successfully applied for GSK China's very first Future Leaders Programme (FLP).

FLP is GSK's graduate programme, giving participants experience of several different roles over a three to four year period. The programme runs across GSK's global organisation in various countries like China, the US and the UK, as well as in business units such as Pharmaceuticals, Consumer Healthcare, Global Manufacturing & Supply and departments like HR, IT and Communications, to name a few.

FLP has a rigorous assessment process for its graduate applicants and, through this, brings out a commitment to excel and a fearless approach to challenges. Nearly 4,000 people applied for the GSK China programme in 2015, with offers made to less than two percent of applicants. Even GSK's global CEO, Andrew Witty, joined the company on a graduate scheme nearly 30 years ago.

Here Jiaqi talks about his experiences and how he has grown personally as well as professionally as a FLP Associate at GSK.

  • What made you decide to apply for GSK's Future Leaders Programme?

During my last year in university, I interned at GSK as a pharma representative in Nanjing. My application to join the FLP was a result of encouragement from my line manager, not only because he believed it to be a good opportunity for me to land a permanent role at GSK, but he also believed in my capabilities and potential.

  • What was it like applying for GSK's Future Leaders Programme? How intense was the competition?

I had to go through rounds of selections and tests before I was selected for the programme. I was the only one accepted from my group being assessed. There were a total of 35 people accepted for FLP in 2012, the first year GSK launched the FLP in China and the year I applied.

I remember we had to go through a one-day assessment; it was like a 'boot camp' and we weren't given a lot of time to prepare for it. It was different from preparing for an academic exam or a regular job interview. It was at this moment that I realised how far I could stretch myself when put in a challenging situation.

3rd cohort FLP associates have GM lunch with Hervé Gisserot, GSK SVP & GM, Pharmaceuticals and Vaccines, China & Hong Kong
  • A key component of GSK's FLP is job rotation, how do you feel you benefited from the process?

I personally experienced GSK's transformation during my first rotation as a front-line pharma representative. This was an invaluable learning experience for me. Being in my first rotation for two years benefitted me in my second rotation in the Project Management Office (PMO). Working in the PMO gave me the opportunity to frequently collaborate with other departments and exchange ideas. I have learnt a lot from working in different functions.

Jiaqi Dou and his colleagues
  • Is the FLP challenging? Why?

I was primarily speaking Mandarin in my first rotation as a pharma sales rep. I found it challenging in my second rotation in the PMO where my line manager and many colleagues only spoke English. My English level was basic at that time, and I had to learn how to work in a cross-functional environment and provide project management support to senior leaders, which was the biggest challenge for me. With the encouragement from my line manager and practice over the past two years, I am now confident in using English in my daily professional life, and have built good working relationships which are  the biggest advantages I have gained from the programme.

Now we have a FLP community of graduates from the programme where we can exchange experiences and support each other. Overall, I feel very positive and I am pleased to have the opportunity to work in a multi-cultural environment.

  • GSK employees are interested in making a difference in healthcare. In what way do you hope to make a difference as a FLP?

In a few months, I will be starting a new global role in London, where I can put to use my experience to date. I want to find ways to improve our business and help change peoples' mindsets about our new operating model.

 

  • What's the best piece of advice you've been given?

My first line manager said to me, "Falling down is not something to be scared of, because your colleagues will help you out. But it's important that you share with others the lesson you learn from your experience. This will not only help you remember it, but it will also help others avoid making the same mistake. Failure is a must before you become the one you want to be."