IT PROfile— Heather Ems,
Senior Director, Americas Infrastructure Operations
(Teva Pharmaceuticals)

Heather EmsHow Did You Get Started in IT?

I graduated from Penn State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Labor and Industrial Relations and began my career as a Change Management Analyst at Anderson Consulting (which later became Accenture). While at Accenture, I gained significant experience in developing and implementing change management strategic solutions for clients such as AstraMerck, Pepsi and Conrail.

After spending many years focusing on the human capital design process, I realized that I enjoyed the technical side more and began moving towards application development. I spent the next few years doing Salesforce automation, CRM, application development, and training.

Eventually, I moved from consulting to pharma and spent the next decade managing all aspects of sales force automation systems life cycle, solutions consulting, project planning, and application development before moving into Infrastructure.

I spent the first 10 years of my career on the applications development side. Then I worked more in infrastructure, moved into large-scale global program management, and returned back to infrastructure at AstraZeneca and now Teva.

When Did You Decide to Pursue IT Leadership?

I always enjoyed leading teams and never really wanted to stay on the technical side. I’m more of an IT generalist than an IT specialist.

After moving into the Pharma industry I continued to take on more responsibility for team management and people management. By the time I was 10 years into my career I was leading 40-50 people.

What is Your Leadership Philosophy?

I’m all about harnessing the power of the team by recognizing that different people play a different role in delivery.

You need a compliment of skills, so for me as a leader, I have to realize what skills are needed, who has those skills, and how I can bring those right people into the mix.

What Skills Do You Value in Your Team Members?

How Can IT Professionals Take on More Responsibility?

Two things are critical.

  1. You have to step up and make your aspirations known. If you’re on a technical track, you have to express your interest in becoming management. Have that conversation with your manager as soon as possible. Make it clear you have that spark and drive.
  2. You have to look for people in the organization who can help you grow. You need someone above you who will think creatively about how to give you the opportunities you desire.People can get very complacent and expect their manager is going to make it happen for them. But it’s a partnership. Sometimes that partnership is with your direct manager, and sometimes it’s with someone in another part of the organization. As an individual you have to own your own development, your own career path, and you have to find and forge those relationships.

And remember—advancement into leadership isn’t always an upward trajectory. You have to also look for opportunities to move laterally and learn different things, because that enriches what you bring to the table as an IT leader. Having multiple disciplines, or exposure to multiple facets of the IT landscape, makes you better wherever you end up.

If You Were Starting Your Career Over Tomorrow,
What Would You Do Different?

I’ve been extremely fortunate. I’ve had great opportunities to do a lot of different things and have had a lot of different roles. However, I stayed at my last company for almost 20 years, and I wish I took the risk to think about other opportunities a little earlier.

You can get a bit comfortable when you’ve been someplace a long time and you have great existing relationships there. But you can take some of your friends with you, and having lived and worked somewhere different over the last year has really invigorated me! It’s challenged me in a lot of different ways—I’ve had to form new relationships and to use my experience to approach problems in a new culture.

So if I changed anything, I might have gotten out of my comfort zone a little earlier!

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