Autumn Conferrings 2006
Devere Hall, Áras na Mac Léinn, UCC, 13 MFómh 2006
Dr. John Mitchell, former President/Team Leader, Pfizer Global Manufacturing
President, Head of the College, Graduates, Academics, Ladies and Gentlemen
I am deeply honoured to have been invited to address you today.
As you can tell from my accent, I am from West Cork and am a great road bowler. Seriously, I?m from New York, location of the largest St. Patrick?s Day parade and plenty of Irish pubs. But the Beamish and Murphy?s is not as good as it is here in Cork. On my first trip to Ireland in 1988, I kissed the Blarney Stone, endured the snow at Cork Airport and found my name on the monument at the end of the Grand Parade. Perhaps I am somewhat of a rebel!
Congratulations to you, the new graduates.Today is a significant milestone in your life. Take time to enjoy it and feel proud about your accomplishments. And, recognize and thank your parents, families and significant others for their support during your academic years.
I?m especially pleased to be speaking to science graduates. I was very impressed to see the wide variety of courses of study for which you have received your BSc degree ? many more than when I graduated from Yale University in Connecticut in 1960. This is certainly an example of the breadth of educational opportunities here at UCC.
Science and Technology
Science and technology have always been catalysts for change. Today, the pace of change continues to accelerate.
Back in 1966, I was asked to fly to the UK to try to resolve a problem with a product being supplied to the US market. While in the UK, I needed to contact my office. I didn?t take out my mobile phone. I didn?t access a wireless network to send an email from my laptop. I went to my hotel room, picked up the phone and asked for the international operator, who told me that a line would be available 4 hours later. So, I could take a nap! Today, there is little time for naps!
And, today, the internet is a major revolutionary force, shrinking and integrating the world and creating discontinuous change. For example, will we at some point no longer read paper newspapers, but rather get the news on line? That would be less expensive, reduce waste and be good for the trees and the environment. This morning I read the full edition of today?s New York Times on my laptop at my hotel. And, when in NY, I can read the full edition of the Irish Sunday Business Post on my computer.
Science-driven change is not only in telecommunications or computers. Think about the rapidly advancing knowledge in chemistry, biology and medicine. During my lifetime, polio and small pox have been virtually eliminated around the world. There has been significant progress in the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease. And, in the last 40 years, the life expectancy in Ireland has increased from 69 to 78 years, about the same as in the U.S.
I take the Pfizer product Lipitor, produced here in Ireland, for my high cholesterol, preventing the development of coronary artery disease. We see the exciting work in stem cell research and the recent news about early progress in treating melanoma with gene therapy. But, there is much remaining to be accomplished ? for example, tuberculosis, malaria, HIV/AIDS ? largely diseases of the developing part of the world.
Some may wish for what they believe to be the good old days and resist change driven by science and technology. The Luddites destroyed new machinery being introduced into the textile industry in Britain in the early 1800?s. The British government reacted by passing a law making destruction of machinery a capital offense. That certainly was a myopic reaction. Today, it is incumbent on governments and society to find ways to lessen the impact of discontinuous change, but not try to prevent it from occurring, for they would be unsuccessful if they tried.
I often say that things 10 years from now will be much more different from today than today is from 10 years ago and just think about the differences between 2006 and 1996 - certainly here in Ireland! And you will be the new catalysts of change. Perhaps, someday your conferring speaker will be here as a hologram.
Science and technology advancement is significantly impacting global economics. Some nations continue to have comparative advantage due to natural resources (for example, petroleum) or low wages, but these are becoming fewer. The new comparative advantage goes to an educated society with intellectual power in science and technology research, development and application, enabled by supportive government policies and public/private co-operation. That is what you are developing here in Ireland. The second generation Celtic Tiger will result from your intellectual capability in science and technology.
Personal Experiences and Learnings
During the last 10 years of my Pfizer career, I was responsible for global manufacturing and logistics operations at 120 sites in 40 countries with 35,000 colleagues ? including 5 sites and 1700 colleagues here in Ireland. I was a frequent traveler ? in fact, some joked that my real office was seat 3B on some airplane.
A large part of the success of the Pfizer manufacturing organization resulted from the development, with global input, of a short statement of Purpose, Vision, Mission and Values. The values are Quality, Integrity, Customer Focus, Respect for People, Innovation, Community, Teamwork, Leadership and Performance. This statement was translated into the many languages of the organization and was a major focus of each operational review meeting held at sites around the world and enabled the integration of the global team.
My experience and travels also taught me the power of diversity ? diversity of culture, ethnicity, religion, age, gender, nationality, race, sexual orientation, education ? in shaping an effective organization. The unique perspectives and experiences of colleagues in a diverse organization create that positive tension from which great ideas, strategies and accomplishments flow. Just think how boring it would be if every person was just like me!
Travel is in the Irish blood ? I think I?m right about that.Perhaps that comes from being an island nation ? from the wild geese and those seeking a better life in times of famine and economic distress to those seeking the sun in Spain and the Canary Islands or a summer job on Cape Cod, Massachusetts or opportunities in distant lands.
When Pfizer decided to build a new plant in Singapore, we posted the project jobs globally. By far, the most applicants were from Ireland. Many were accepted and went to the other side of the globe and contributed their expertise to a very successful project and plant startup. And, they also learned about Singapore, its people and culture, won some golf matches and even played Irish football!
In line with my interest in science, technology and education, I am currently the Chair of the Strategic Advisory Board of the Pharma/Biopharma Training Partnership, based in the new School of Pharmacy here at UCC. The partnership consists of UCC, CIT, FAS and the pharmaceutical and biotech companies located in the Cork area. It will develop programs in support of the development and training of personnel in the industry and could serve as a model for other joint academic, industry, government initiatives.
Personal Recipe for Success
I?ve tried to think about some of the key elements that led to success in my business career which I might share with you, in case the shoe might fit. Obviously, each person and situation is different.
Here they are:
Work hard at whatever you choose to do
Have fun doing it
Take well conceived risks
Be curious and ask lots of questions
Be an independent thinker
Create a vision statement
Develop and adhere to key values
Create and embrace change
Value and cultivate diversity
Travel and learn about other countries, cultures, history, etc.
Do the best you can on your current job or activity - the next job or opportunity will take care of itself.
Graduates, citizens of Ireland, citizens of the world -- you have graduated at a time of great opportunity for Ireland, for the world and for yourselves.
Your opportunities include further education, teaching at the primary or secondary school or university level, work in research, industry or government and, importantly, being an informed and engaged citizen. Whatever route you choose, be an ambassador for science ? for example, support your university and appropriate government policies and encourage children at the primary and secondary schools to explore science.
As Mahatma Gandhi said: ?Be the change you want to see in the world.?
Go n-éirí an bóthar libh!
Go Raibh Maith Agaibh.