If you’re comfortable, you’re not growing. A mentor gave that advice to Brittany Long early in her career. She’s since thought back to those words many times while navigating the complex world of pharmaceuticals and emerged as a respected HR leader and trusted business partner.
Elanco is a global leader in animal health dedicated to innovating and delivering products and services to prevent and treat diseases in farm animal and pets. As executive director of human resources operations and workforce services, Long additionally leads all HR systems and global payroll and manages an annual budget of $10 million. That puts nearly one hundred global employees under her charge, who together support about ten thousand employees in forty-six countries.
That’s enough to make anyone uncomfortable, but Long has grown accustomed to taking on big tasks and accomplishing new things. She attended Purdue University to study chemical engineering and later joined Eli Lilly & Company to help develop its innovative products.
But after just two years in an engineering role, leaders gave her an unexpected assignment—they asked Long to lead campus recruitment, so Lilly could hire hundreds of college graduates for its research and development and manufacturing teams.
At first, Long felt a bit daunted, but she soon realized she could leverage her chemical engineering training to find success. “I was given an HR task as an engineer, so I decided to tackle it with an engineering mindset,” she says. Long saw a problem, developed a process for moving forward, and implemented her solution.
One assignment led to another, and before she knew it, Long became firmly entrenched in the world of human resources at Lilly. The career pivot may have been unexpected, but for Long, it was a welcome change. “My academic background gave me credibility with our scientists and engineers,” she explains. “I understood the business, and being in human resources gave me that ability to learn something new and intersect with the business in a new and changing way.”
Over her nineteen years with the organization, Long held a variety of roles in HR operations and employee relations, but always gravitated to assignments offering the opportunity to collaborate with other functions, like IT and finance.
The strategy helped her learn data, analytics, security, and other emerging disciplines. By 2014, Long served as an HR leader responsible for a global program supporting thirty thousand employees.
In 2017, Long comprised part of the HR team that helped Elanco, then a business unit of Lilly, acquire Novartis Animal Health. As she created a plan to onboard employees, she traveled the world visiting various Elanco facilities. In doing so, she fell in love with the smaller structure and entrepreneurial nature of the company.
Brittany Long started working more directly for Elanco, and in 2019 she began helping leaders evaluate their future. Ultimately, they decided to split from Lilly and become an independent company.
The newly formed Elanco needed Long to create all HR processes, structures, and systems from scratch. She also helped the organization make a key acquisition in a pandemic environment. Suddenly, Elanco was a sixty-five-year-old start-up. Long made employees her anchor and led the transition with a commitment to communication, speed, and transparency. Today, Elanco is thriving as a publicly traded company and boasts over $4 billion in annual revenue.
As Brittany Long reflects on her career journey, she often recalls that advice she received back at the start. “There have been many challenges that have made me uncomfortable, but every one I’ve encountered has created a lot of opportunities for myself and others,” she says.
Now, the veteran leader focuses on taking Elanco into the next chapter of its history. The company has established a shared service center, and HR teams are working to find, hire, and support new and diverse talent from all parts of the world.
As a former engineer, Brittany Long created an operational excellence framework for the policies, programs, processes, and systems she manages. This helps her prioritize projects, find improvements, and maximize her impact. She will help the new and independent Elanco streamline its HR services, deliver on its commitments to employees, and continue to lead in the animal health space.
The last few years have taken Long and her team on a fast-paced adventure. And while they now have a strong foundation in place, she’s taking time to remind her coworkers that now is not the time to sit back and relax. There’s a lot they can accomplish together if they maintain a willingness to try new things—so they better get used to being uncomfortable.