Anne Showalter Shares the Power of Stretch Roles

It took time for Anne Showalter to realize that law was where she was meant to be. In college, the Virginia native studied English and biology and was even accepted into medical school.

However, she wasn’t ready to take that leap.

“I felt like I needed to take some time to think about whether I really wanted to be a doctor,” Showalter recalls. “That’s why I decided to take a year off to figure things out.”

During that year, she realized what she truly wanted out of her career.  She wanted a dynamic, global career where she could help people. The legal profession not only checked all those boxes but would allow her to live out her medical aspirations in a different way.

“After attending law school and beginning my career in the life sciences industry, I was fortunate to be able to merge my interest in biology with a career that has provided me with the flexibility to explore various roles with global reach and impact,” Showalter says. “The legal profession is unique in that way—there is not one defined path.”

Showalter spent the first six years of her career at Hill & Barlow, where associates like her would function as general counsel for mid-sized companies that didn’t have their own in-house teams. That experience taught her what it takes to understand a business, to give strong legal advice and to make timely decisions. It also positioned her well to take on several in-house positions after the firm folded in 2002. She went on to serve as legal counsel at Medtronic, senior legal counsel at Organon, Akzo Nobel, general counsel at Diosynth, and senior vice president of legal affairs at TransTech Pharma.

Showalter says her journey showed her the importance of taking on stretch roles.

“Without seeking stretch opportunities, it is difficult to meaningfully grow your career,” she says. “Each challenge we face better equips us for the next one—taking that first step can be intimidating, but it is essential to understand your own capabilities.”

Anne Showalter GSK
Photo by Amy Stern

That’s what drew her to GSK, which initially had a job opening focused on manufacturing legal support based in Belgium. While the prospect of living in a different country was exciting, it was also  daunting.  Even so, she was drawn to the company’s culture. In addition to the company’s patient focus, GSK had a proven track record of developing its legal and compliance professionals, giving them opportunities to work in different parts of the organization. Since joining the company in 2010, that has continued to ring true for Showalter, who currently serves as senior vice president and general counsel supply chain and legal contracting network.

“I have held a number of varied legal roles throughout my tenure at GSK. I currently sit on the legal and compliance leadership team; however, before being appointed as a member myself, I reported to six different members of that team, which allowed me to learn different management styles and areas of the business, and to support a diverse array of legal matters,” Showalter says. “Each of these challenges helped me to better understand the needs of the business and develop confidence in my own decision-making, which is critical for my current role.”

She continues: “There is no place for an ivory tower in the dynamic world of supply chain.  In order to give effective legal advice, you need to roll up your sleeves and help the business find solutions to get our product to patients.”

One way Showalter and her team have helped the business reach that goal is by transforming the way legal approaches contracting, efforts that have been recognized by the Financial Times. GSK formed a dedicated team in Bangalore, India, that has standardized ways of supporting contracts across all business areas. Showalter’s team has also used technology to harmonize and streamline several contract templates, which reduced variance in contract clauses by 86 percent and contract length by as much as 69 percent.

Moving forward, Showalter is looking forward to leveraging generative AI to continue to improve the legal contracting process.

“We are trying to better leverage technology so my team can focus on the most meaningful work,” she says. “I am excited to see how the implementation of generative AI will allow our jobs to evolve and better support the business and the patients who rely on our vaccines and medicines.”

For Showalter, leadership is about the people on her team. She prides herself in developing them, motivating them, and helping them understand their strengths and how they can grow.

“People come to work with different goals,” Showalter says. “As a leader, you need to understand what motivates each individual and what brings out the best in your team. In my career, I have been fortunate to have great mentors and to work with strong leaders, who have provided stretch opportunities that allowed me to continue to develop. It is quite rewarding to give that same opportunity to others.”

EY law professionals globally bring extensive, industry-focused experience to support legal departments in Life Sciences companies with multi-disciplinary guidance and insight. Noteworthy access to data, technology and market-leading thinking allow EY law teams to help legal departments reimagine their service delivery model and ways of working to improve efficiency allowing the legal department’s strategic talent to focus on the company’s most pressing legal issues and enable the business. Contact Kristi Gedid, EY Global Life Sciences Law Leader, at [email protected] to learn more.

The post Anne Showalter Shares the Power of Stretch Roles appeared first on American Healthcare Leader.

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