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If there’s one word to describe our experience…

Category: International Operations Business | (0) comments

One of the most amazing things that can happen during the graduate programme is that you get to grow your network exponentially. You get to meet colleagues from all over the world, especially on your 2nd rotation.

In the International Operations Business Programme 2015 batch, there’s a Mexican (Guillermo), Brazilian (Joao), Colombian (Julianna), Bangladeshi (Saifur), Iranian (Navid), Vietnamese (Anh), Kenyan (Christine), Egyptian (Yasminah), Indonesian (Yudha), Russian (Nikita) and Philippines (me!). For our 2nd rotation in Denmark, we lived close to each other and we would have gatherings where we would share our national dishes, conutry’s tourist spots, cultural norms, and traditional dances. (In my case however, I’m embarassed to say that I don’t know any Philippine dances so I taught them “the Nae Nae” – and yes, I learned that while doing my masters in the United States and I can dance that very well too). We surely had a lot of fun in Copenhagen and those memories will last us a lifetime.

As we start our final rotations, I emailed each one of them to share their new office views and I asked them to describe their graduate experience in one word. For part 1, I will be featuring Anh (Vietnamese), Julianna(Colombian), Nikita (Russian), Yasminah (Egyptian), and also myself;





“I am Andy/Anh from Vietnam. I am currently in Tehran, Iran.

If there’s one word to describe my experience with the graduate program, it would be ‘unforgettable‘ (memories with friends and prestigious knowledge acquired).”







“Hello! I am Juliana from Colombia. I am currently in Bagsværd, Denmark.

If there’s one word to describe my experience, it would be rEVOLUTIONary”









“Hello, I am Nikita from Russia. I am currently in Santiago, Chile.

If there’s one word to describe my experience, it would be ‘amazing‘”








“Hello, I am Yasminah from Egypt. I am currently in Manila, Philippines.

If there is one word to describe my experience, it would be ‘enriching‘.







And this is my current view, I am currently in Bogota, Colombia.

If there is one word to describe my experience, it would be “fantastic





Stay tuned, I’ll be posting part 2 in a few days from my colleagues in Kenya, Thailand, Dubai, Mexico, and South Africa.

Also, here’s a tip from my personal experience and from what I have learned in business school. When I wanted to learn more about the International Operations Business Programme 2 years ago, I invited the Malaysian graduate, who was in the Philippines for his 3rd rotation, for a dinner meeting and coffee. Talking to him in person was much better than exchanging emails. Plus, he was more open to answering my questions.

Good luck!

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The Ups and Downs of the Rotation Abroad

Category: R&D Global Development R&D Regulatory Affairs | (10) comments

At the beginning of the month I took the chance to sit down with the two RA graduates Mark and Sascha that have just returned from their rotation abroad. Throughout our one hour ‘coffee’ meeting that involved a lot of cake (my favorite type of meeting) I questioned them about their high and low moments of the past eight months and any useful tips or experiences I could use in the time leading up to my move abroad and during the eight months at the affiliate.

When I was applying to the program the rotation system and in particular the eight months spent at an affiliate were among the main reasons I really wanted to be successful in obtaining one of the positions. Therefore I thought it might be useful to share some of the stories and insights Mark and Sascha told me; also because I know for some people being sent to a random country (and it is really any country as you have no influence over where you will be sent in the RA program) can be daunting.

Let me start by providing you with the basics about Sascha’s and Mark’s rotation. Sascha went to NNi, the affiliate in Princeton in the US also coined small headquarter in Novo Nordisk, and Mark to the production facility in Brazil. Mark had never been to Brazil before whereas Sascha had visited the US twice and even lived there for a short period of time. Thus they had very different rotations with diverging tasks, impressions and cultural experiences.

For Sascha his rotation at NNi was hist first exposure to RA work as he had spent the first rotation outside RA in the medical writing department. He focused on the future insulins and got to work on many different projects in numerous departments. The flexibility and wide exposure to different products were the features Sascha enjoyed the most and he ended up working with most of the diabetes portfolio in just one rotation. This is an experience many graduates make when spending time at an affiliate. The smaller workforce and the less rigid structures means your role will be far less defined and constrained.

In Mark’s case it was the opposite, after having spent 8 months in an RA department in Headquarters he joined the Quality Management Systems team in Brazil working with the implementation of such systems at the local site as well as with customer complaints and RA site approvals among other tasks.

Now let me get down to the nitty-gritty questions I posed them:

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First Reaction?

I was able to emphasize greatly with Mark in this case as he had never even considered the possibility of going to Brazil. I had the same sensation when I was told that my rotation was in Vietnam. Sascha on the other hand stated that he was neutral about it and grew more and more excited as working in headquarters showed him the importance of NNi.

Biggest Fear?

Whereas Sascha worried mainly about his previously mentioned lack of RA experience and was not sure if he would be able to contribute anything of value; Mark’s main concern was focused on the ability to communicate. At least he believes it should have been his main fear but he might have been a bit naive about such issues before actually experiencing it first-hand.

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Other Graduates at the same Affiliate?

Very surprisingly Sascha was the only graduate going to NNi at the time, very unusual as NNi is one of the prime destinations for graduates, and was joined later by finance graduates. Mark was accompanied by two Product Supply graduates for whom Brazil is one of few possible locations.

Social Life?

From a graduate perspective Mark was lucky as graduates have a special bond among them so going somewhere with other graduates immediately means you have a set of friends that have the same fears and ‘dreams’  as you. That does not mean that Mark only interacted with two people or that Sascha spent his rotation being lonely. Both found it easy to join in the social life with Mark participating in numerous sport teams and Sascha being surrounded by a group of very kind colleagues who took him in immediately.

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Biggest Learning?

Both state the ‘affiliate view‘ as one of the main learnings that they are taking back to headquarters. It is very valuable to obtain an understanding of the differences between the local and the global needs. For Sascha his 8 months at NNi also provided him with an immense knowledge about the FDA which will be extremely useful in his further work in headquarter.

Moment of Struggle?

For Mark the lack of Portuguese skills did pose a problem at times and it can be frustrating when you feel unable to contribute as you are not able to grasp the whole problem due to communication issues. Nonetheless the graduate program is a lot about adaptation and pushing you outside your comfort zones; so be aware of such issues but do not let them demotivate you. On the other hand, Sascha did not even have one negative word to say about his 8 months in the US.

Now that I have completely exceeded our character limit and still feel I have so much more to say, I will leave you with a map of past destinations of RA graduates to give you a feeling of where one might end up. Please feel free to ask me questions in the comments.

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The other PS graduates and their advice ! Part 2

Category: Product Supply | (0) comments

To follow-up on Gustaf´s post about our current Product Supply graduates group. Below are the information, Aleksandra, Kasper and Laura were very kind to share about themselves. We hope it will give you useful details about the Product Supply graduate program and to help you prepare your application.

Aleksandra Heleniak
Nationality: Polish
Age: 27
Background: MSc Engineering Management, BSC Biotechnology, Project management certification. 9 month work experience prior to graduate programme (Product Manager).
1st Rotation:

  • Global Quality, Supplier Audits, Bagsværd, DenmarkAleksandra, Project management for risk based audit selection, Business review process start up 
  • Main Learnings: Change management for the experienced auditors, developing credibility and trust among specialists 

2nd rotation:

  • Business Support, Diabetes Finished Products, Clayton, USA, Strategy development and process governance, Coaching in cLEAN management – PS@Shopfloor
  • Main Learnings: Flexibility and change readiness in the way I handle communication (being direct, highly respecting hierarchy), facilitate workshops (top down approach) and challenge concepts 

 3rd rotation::

  • Biopharm Tablets and Finished Pack, Måløv, Denmark, Project Portfolio Management Process Start up, Part of management team – TBD
  • Learnings so far: Reflection on strategic priorities, status quo and management styles between 3 different rotations

Best thing about the program: Focus placed on self-development and self-reflection, ability to drive improvements and make a difference
My tip for the application: Be yourself, and focus on your dreams and passions

Kasper Veje
Nationality: Danish
Age: 27
Background: MSc. International Marketing and Management  
1st Rotation:


  • Corporate Innovation Project, Bagsværd, Denmark. Project analyst on supply chain and business development project in Kenya, Africa.
  • Main learnings: Advanced my business understanding and analytical skills as I developed business cases for projects at the highest level of the organization. In addition, I advanced my project management skills, namely my stakeholder management skills while navigating a large number of external and internal stakeholders  

2nd rotation: 

  • Aseptic Production Site Clayton, North Carolina, US. Project Portfolio Manager and LEAN coach.
  • Main Learnings: Developed coaching abilities and change management skills by leading LEAN improvement efforts and through shop floor coaching at multiple levels. Gained thorough understanding of project management  and project portfolio management including evaluation of business cases and their strategic fit.

3rd rotation:

  • Bulk insulin production, Kalundborg, Denmark. Support team and plant closedown coordination.

Best thing about the program: The level of responsibility that managers trust graduates with.
My tip for the application: Provide vivid examples of how you have displayed your strengths.

Laura Sørensen
Nationality: Danish
Age: 28
Background: MSc. in Biomedical Engineering. 11 month work experience (in research) prior to graduate programme.
1st Rotation:

  • IM2 Business Support, Kalundborg, Denmark. LEAN coordinator working with LEAN projects and leadership coaching.
  • Main Learnings: Advanced my LEAN skills and general business understanding. Learned how to run a workshop and develop business cases and most importantly shopfloor and leadership coaching.

2nd rotation:

  • Aseptic Production, Chartres, France. Project manager on planning project
  • Main Learnings: Strengthened project management skills and change management and stakeholder management skills.

3rd rotation:

  • Device Manufacturing and Sourcing Logistics, Hillerød, Denmark
  • Teamleader for internal planning

Best thing about the program: The program has a huge focus on personal development, learning from feedback and reflections
My tip for the application: An application should make us want to get to know you better, but still be short and precise

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Second rotation in China: being ready for change

Category: Product Supply | (0) comments

When planning for the second rotation, I was very clear towards my programme manager on my objectives: China and challenging tasks where I can be stretched. And she did find something fitting my expectations: executive assistant to the Site Corporate Vice President where tasks range from strategy preparation to ad-hoc projects. Little did I anticipate that things would change before and along the way. I did not expect to…

change project at the last moment

Two weeks before I was supposed to start my second rotation, I received a call from my future manager telling me a change in plans. A project manager was leaving the company and the organization was looking for a replacement as soon as possible. So a week later I was in China and had to receive a week-intensive handover. The first month was hard. I did not really realize the extent of the work package owner role. In Novo Nordisk, big projects are segmented into manageable sizes called work packages. The big project in question is about setting up the high-volume manufacturing of a new durable device in China. 

travel between China and Denmark for the first 4 months

I joined the project in the “execution” phase: from commissioning of machines in Denmark followed by validation activities in China to ensure the machines to consistently produce quality products. So in the beginning of the rotation, I would travel to Denmark with my team to follow-up closely on the activities. I had limited experience in the tasks and the position involved being able to decide on key activities. But the sparring with experienced colleagues and the additional training in headquarters helped me get on-board quickly. 

stay after January

January is usually the time when most of the graduates (the ones doing 3 times 8 months) are returning to Denmark. However, once in a while change can happen if there is a business need to extend your rotation abroad and it is the case for our year for Sara, another fellow blogger in Product Supply, and myself. The project covers the validation of two pre-assembly lines and the second one is planned to be finalized only after the normal “graduate end of second rotation date”. So I have postponed my stay until the end of February when key milestones are delivered.

With these changes… I did learn:

enormously on project and team management

I learned to coordinate efforts between different stakeholders across countries and departments, navigating between different working cultures and priorities. I learned to manage team dynamics with a team composed of 7 engineers allocated 100% to the project. We have experienced difficult times with exhaustion, emotional breakdown and lack of motivation but also bright times when we delivered great work ahead of time. And I do realize how big a challenge it is to maintain a team´s motivation high for the members to deliver their best.

what environments and tasks drive me

I like to optimize and execute. I get energy when I interact with others to solve complex problems and when I evolve in an international environment (being able to practice both Danish and Chinese in a professional context was another stretch). I find handling low or unaligned performance from either suppliers or from a team the hardest. Being able to coach and to give good feedback is truly an art. Some graduates had more direct experience with coaching and feedback during their rotation, and I feel I can improve from exchanging with them on the topic.

how to adapt on the personal side

One of the great things of living abroad is that you learn to adapt in a new environment and in this process you realize what matters most back home. The social side may lack a bit during the week in the economic development area but we were three then four graduates in “TEDA”. Instead during the week we enjoyed playing sports and language training after work. Tianjin or Beijing are also well located to travel around the region with connections to Korea, Japan and South East Asia.

Be ready for change

In the end, my biggest surprise is the level of trust managers give graduates. I was stretched and I was evolving outside of my comfort zone. But through the process, I have learned to adapt to changes and new contexts both professionally and personally. I believe it is in the spirit of the graduate program, where variety is planned with the rotations and where plans can change along the way due to new opportunities. So how did change affect you so far? Are you ready for more?

 PS: I have added a short clip I made when the second line arrived yesterday. Unfortunately, the camera is a bit old and I had to be far but hopefully it will give you a glimpse of the production area in device assembly.


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