Celgene President Extols Value of People-Focused, Purpose-Driven Career Path

By Dave Hendrick

Starting as a pharmaceutical rep in her native Australia, Terrie Curran quickly advanced to her current role as division president in a biopharmaceutical company of more than 7,000 employees. The Celgene president of global inflammation and immunology has followed a purpose-driven career path, focused on pursuing opportunities that offered her personal growth and the chance to learn.

During her global career journey, which has included roles in New Zealand, Switzerland and now New Jersey in senior-level positions with Schering-Plough, UpJohn Pharmacia, Merck and Celgene, Curran said the individuals on the teams she has worked with have been the critical ingredient in her professional growth.

“I fundamentally believe this has been the key to any success I’ve had so far,” Curran said at a Leadership Speaker Series event at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business. “So much is made about business strategy, but in my experience, success is all about people.”

A focus on people helped Curran navigate moving to New Zealand for her first general manager position at age 30, as well as her effort to lead a turnaround at a then-struggling Schering-Plough division in Switzerland despite not speaking the language.

The move also gave Curran the chance to lead teams at a relatively young stage of her career — an opportunity she encouraged Darden students to take advantage of, if possible.

“I worked hard to turn the business around and to build trust with that group,” Curran said. “It also gave me a whole new perspective on what it takes to develop a vision, build strong teams and get people on board to execute that vision.”

The Celgene president said managers need to spend time with their colleagues and employees to “really understand what people like about the organization and what they are individually trying to achieve.” Most people want to be part of something bigger than themselves in the workplace and want to understand the company’s mission and values, Curran said.

Above all, no matter the position within the organization, Curran said it’s important to be a curious and lifelong learner. “The truth is you never really leave business school,” Curran said. “You just end up being paid to be part of the school of business rather than the other way around.”

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About the University of Virginia Darden School of Business

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business delivers the world’s best business education experience to prepare entrepreneurial, global and responsible leaders through its MBA, Ph.D., MSBA and Executive Education programs. Darden’s top-ranked faculty is renowned for teaching excellence and advances practical business knowledge through research. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.


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