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Rob O’Neill’s top pieces of advice for fellow finance leaders are to get involved and to remain open to opportunities that might broaden their professional horizons. He didn’t pull these tips out of thin air; rather, he has applied both of them—and reaped the benefits—throughout his own career.
“From day one, I looked for every opportunity to get involved beyond my current role in order to expand my understanding of not only the business processes, but also the products, the customers, and the ‘why’ of it all—why the company where I worked existed and why we did what we did,” O’Neill says.
O’Neill’s commitment to learning the business had a surprise for him when he joined Mylan, a global pharmaceutical company. in June 2011. “I came into the company as head of finance for one of the subsidiaries of North America, but then I got out of my comfort zone and went into the commercial business. I was in commercial leadership roles—not just locally, but regionally and globally—from 2012 until 2021, when I came back into finance,” he says.
In the process, O’Neill developed a nuanced perspective that serves him well in his current role as regional chief financial officer of North America at Viatris, the result of a 2020 merger between Mylan and Pfizer subsidiary Upjohn. O’Neill is focused on efficiently managing finances to ensure that Viatris stays on course to achieve its goals for patient help.
O’Neill began his career as a plant accountant in the automotive care and fuel additives division of First Brands, now part of Clorox. He went on to earn his executive MBA from Villanova University before further honing his expertise through diverse finance and accounting roles at pharmaceutical companies Teva and KV.
His previous work at several different companies prepared him for his role at Myland, where he lead major projects. He has now done the same at Viatris.
“In 2014, I led the creation of a commercial shared services organization within the North America region,” he says. “At the time, we were consolidating offices in the Pittsburgh area while also consolidating into a shared services model, in order to gain process efficiencies as well as the ability to support the various business units cross-functionally without a strain to the system.”
O’Neill is proud that his project was profitable and proved lucrative—an outcome it shares with another initiative to which he contributed. “We created a marketing center of excellence that consolidated creative and content development for multiple markets across the globe,” he says. “This was an initiative taught me an appreciation for different cultures, different patient experiences, and the global need for therapies that we provide.”
Since stepping into his current role, O’Neill has embraced Viartris’s strategic vision. “At Viatris, we believe in empowering people worldwide to live healthier at every stage of life,” he says. “Our ability to invest in our product pipeline comes from the effective management of net working capital, so my role in that mission is to work closely with our finance and commercial teams in North America to ensure patients have access to our broad portfolio of branded and generic products across roughly eleven therapeutic categories.”
O’Neill gives active listening and transparency priority in his team leadership. He regularly checks in with members, he feels everyone at his table must feel heard. He also mentors and empowers his team members.
“I encourage them to think about their Viatris career, not just their finance career, and the reason I say that distinctly is because of my own experience,” he says. “Some people get caught up in wanting to advance in just finance, but you can actually advance your career by going outside of finance and then coming back with that broader experience.”
O’Neill plans to continue taking his own advice by remaining open to whatever his future at Viatris may hold. “We are now in phase two of our previously announced two-phased strategy, and if I can contribute in a meaningful way moving forward—whether in my current role or in a different or an expanded role—I want to be a part of that,” he says. “We’ve set lofty goals for ourselves, and I’m here to make sure that we’re striving each day to achieve them.”
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