Like many great IT leaders in healthcare, Pawan Parihar realized how powerful his technical expertise could be when combined with his business savvy to solve problems across organizations. “I strongly believe that a person can grow in our industry,” he says. “But that cross-functional knowledge, where you should know what your business does, and then if you marry with your tech experience, that shapes your path for [your] future and then you grow exponentially on it.”
Since Parihar weaves together the best of his quantitative and qualitative skills, he’s thrived in his thirty-five-year career journey across Asia, Africa, and North America. He fine-tuned his IT leadership abilities at software companies like Infovity and Phoenix Technologies. He spent five years as the director of commercial systems, enterprise applications, and analytics at Pharmacyclics/Abbvie Pharmaceuticals. Now, he serves as the vice president of IT at Reata Pharmaceuticals.
On the surface, Parihar is supposed to spearhead the digital transformation of the drugmaker. However, there’s so much more that goes into making this happen. He juggles the competing interests of executives and scientists. Whether his coworkers in suits make business decisions or his colleagues in lab coats want to offer the best products, he lays down the framework for them to collaborate and get the job done. Even if he has to advise them whenever the company transitions from the R&D stage to commercializing a drug, he rises to the occasion.
“Today I am taking the initiative, which is basically to build this whole commercial ecosystem to support the commercial sales. So we are building a commercial CRM, data aggregation, master data management, and analytical eco-systems with cloud-first, mobile-first strategy, which is scalable globally to support commercialization in US and then in EU,” Parihar says.
While Pawan Parihar wears the hat of a diplomat, he knows where to draw the line. He doubles down on IT principles that guide how his team operates, and he establishes parameters that unleash innovation across Reata Pharmaceuticals.
Not only does he call for every program his team builds to be secure and compliant, but he ensures they keep up with the company as it scales. Plus, they need to fit into its data infrastructure. If one of those requirements is not met in a new proposal, he moves on from it, especially in the wake of supply chain woes caused by COVID-19.
“We also know that today’s market is very challenging when it comes to resources [and] availability,” Parihar says. “Most of the people, they’re demanding so many things nowadays because of the remote working and also the challenges the pandemic presented.
“I have to grow in that time,” he continues. “I’ve been lucky to have the network and the connection of people who like to work for you. I think that’s one thing I’ve learned in life: you can have an idea. You can have a strategy. But it’s as good as nothing unless you execute successfully on it.”
So if Pawan Parihar sets high expectations for his team, how does he ensure they are met? In a nutshell, he hires dynamic talent and empowers his employees to reach their goals. Because he recognizes the value that a jack-of-all-trades can bring to his department, he hedges his bets on generalists who show promise as problem solvers and look at the bigger picture before offering solutions.
If you throw in the fact that Pawan Parihar encourages his employees to operate with a start-up mentality, then it becomes clear he and his staff perform their roles with a great sense of urgency and autonomy.
“You’re as good as your team, period,” Parihar says. “So I take big pride—in terms of bringing or building my next level leadership, I strongly believe that their success is my success. If every issue is coming to me, then I’m not a good leader.”
When push comes to shove, Parihar is proof that healthcare executives don’t have to take a one-size-fits-all approach to leadership. They can manage their teams in a way that aligns more with who they are as professionals and human beings. But Parihar confirms this should not come at the expense of diverse job candidates.
“One thing I’ve learned is when you build your next level, the diversity helps,” Parihar says. “Because diversity brings different thinking to the same goal. I strongly believe in that. So build a next-level team which is diverse. Of course, we go with gender equality and then basically bring people who listen to others as well. Because sometimes you don’t want to just have a person who’s just running by themselves.”
Pawan Parihar explains that if leaders rally around an organizational culture, mentor their staff, and invest in their talent, they can tap into the potential of their teams.
“Eventually, the whole organization gets built with a principle, with a common goal and the common understanding of people, because I believe that’s what keeps you engaged, motivated, and it basically becomes a fun place to work.”
Saama develops life science solutions that accelerate clinical and commercial development. Today, more than 50 biotech companies—including many of the top 20 pharmaceutical companies—use Saama’s award-winning platform to accelerate more than 1,500 studies, including the clinical trial that led to the world’s first COVID-19 vaccine.