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Marisa Sanvito is executive director of integrated site services in Latin America for Quintiles, a bio and pharmaceutical services provider. In this role she is responsible for ensuring that all clinical trials conducted by the company start on time and in accordance with all regulations. She leads a predominately female team and about 80 per cent of the people in her global business unit are women.
Prior to joining the pharmaceutical industry in 1994, Ms Sanvito spent the first seven years of her working life caring for patients as a practising physician. She then worked as a medical advisor and in clinical operations until joining Quintiles in 2003. She has an MBA from Fundação Dom Cabral in Brazil and has attended a series of workshops on leadership development.
Q1. Who are your business influences / heroes?
Influences change over time, and many heroes have crossed my path throughout the years. However, there were two people who I cherish the most. The first is my uncle’s wife. Back in the early 1970s, in Brazil she was mother of three and held a very successful career in banking. She has the uncanny ability of being bold and sweet at the same time. She taught me to be flexible.
The second person is a US physician who was my supervisor in early 1990. His intelligence and creativity is an inspiration for me and I try to bring a piece of what I learned to my day-to-day life.
Q2. What is your biggest lesson learnt?
Love what you do and do not only try to do what you love; especially during times of crisis such as this one. Careers may take a different turn, which you may have not even thought about. If you can keep your mind open, you may be able to discover a hidden talent and a different career path.
Q3. What advice would you give to women in business?
Be an optimist! Look for the positive side of every single problem and take action quickly. Having conviction in your decisions is important in a competitive business environment. Seize any challenges you encounter and move on as soon as possible when facing a setback.
Q4. How do you deal with male-dominated environments?
Men and women do have different working styles. I have always been focused and had a positive attitude when facing problems. I believe these two qualities have helped me throughout the years, as we are not totally impervious to what others say about us.
Q5. If you could do it all again, what would you do differently?
I would take my MBA earlier on in my career. It helped me see business from a different perspective and I think this would have been useful to me earlier. In Latin America, people’s careers progress more quickly than they do in primary markets, so I believe it is beneficial for the younger generation to pursue their educational objectives early on.
Q6. What is the strangest thing you have ever done when studying?
I studied at the zoo as part of an elective subject during my medical degree. I was looking for something completely different to extend my knowledge. Working there helped me to learn skills and techniques in a different environment. I did it more than once.
Q7. What is your favourite business book?
My favourite is Culture’s Consequences: Comparing Values, Behaviors, Institutions and Organizations Across Nations by Dr Geert Hofstede. He studied how different cultures affect our work-related values.
Q8. Where would be your favourite place to study?
University of Chicago; studying economics. It is well respected academically and the publications from academics there really make me think about economics in a different way. I find it very interesting.
Q9. How do you deal with pressure?
I try to stay focused, and closer to people I trust the most (family and friends) because they will tell me what I need to hear, not necessarily what I would like to hear.
Q10. What are your future plans?
To work with Generation Y; to facilitate their adaptation to the working environment in times of crises. I admire their passion and academic achievements and I like being surrounded by them as well as coaching them, if necessary.