Ömür Öztaş is the Digital Innovation Lead in ViiV Tech GSK-GlaxoSmithKline. He helps the company to become one of the world’s most innovative, best performing, and trusted healthcare companies. Ömür believes that people like him working together, can deliver extraordinary things for our patients and consumers and make ViiV and GSK a brilliant place to work. Ömür has worked for over 22 years in multinational companies where he has shown a proven record of accomplishment for defining, owning, and delivering high value, high quality, and cost-effective solutions.
As a truly international person with high cultural sensitivity based on extensive work experience in many different countries and multi-cultural environments, he is adding value to businesses by partnering on a business leadership level and delivering state-of-the-art and cost-effective solutions and services that drive results. Ömür has a passion for people development and has published a guiding book around this topic in both Turkish and English.
Where did you go to school, and what degrees do you have?
Since I was born and grew up in Germany, I went to school in Horkheim and once we moved to Turkey with my family I finished high school and my bachelor’s degree in mathematics at Ege University in Izmir.
What was your first job? How did your career progress from there?
I started to work at Siemens Business Services as a Helpdesk analyst after finishing my military service. The next year in 1999 I found myself working in Pfizer Pharmaceuticals responsible for Network and Servers which was the beginning of a 12 years career there. I took several lead roles of operations and services during these years where I have established the right processes to go fast but not break things.
After Pfizer, I moved to an FMCG company Kimberly-Clark where I was involved in mainly digital and e-commerce activities to move the company forward. I really liked the ability to provide great services to our customers by sharing knowledge and experience that contributed to our success.
After 4 years in FMCG I decided to go back to Pharma and my GSK journey started.
What are some of the challenges you’ve had to overcome in your career and how did you tackle them?
To succeed and stay successful in a company, you need to constantly change and adapt. To change, you not only need to understand where you want to go but also where you are. Only then will you know what to do. I think the challenge of change management was and still is the hardest for me, long before any technical or other challenges I have faced.
What usually helps me is to go back to the learning. For example, learning from books on the domain itself, and listening to people on the current situation and what’s preventing them to change. Combining all that yields new insights into what step to do, how to communicate it, and helping others to do it.
In general, if a challenge feels big, learning helps to make it look much smaller.
Where do you see your career headed? What’s next for you?
To be honest, I like problems and challenges. They allow me to learn. I am an extremely curious person by nature, which is probably what got me into the place I am today. I am confident that there are enough problems ahead of us and that there will be always some left for me. 😀
How has empathy resonated with you over the past years since the pandemic? Any lessons learned or words of advice?
Totally independent of the pandemic, I think empathy is an important value. It doesn’t matter if, in personal or professional life, empathy creates mutual trust and is foundational to every healthy relationship.
Luckily, I have experienced empathy from all my managers throughout my career journey and am now trying to be empathic myself. I admit, it is not always easy and needs practice. As a tech person, it sometimes feels far away from my core competency, but I’ve yet to see a single high-performing team that doesn’t practice empathy. Therefore, as a leader in technology, it is important to give equal attention to people, processes, and technology. It is people who create the culture they work in and that creates value for their customers.
How have the views of people from other cultures enhanced your educational, professional, and personal experiences?
During my work-life, I had the pleasure of sharing an office with people of different cultural backgrounds and also leading virtual teams across the world– totally different conversations.
For me personally, the biggest learning out of all this was the different ways of communication among cultures. Some tend to be very direct in their communication, myself included but it took me some time to understand the cultural differences in communicating and I am still learning every day.
What’s one leadership lesson you’ve learned and really taken to heart?
If you want to lead, you need to be followed. As a leader, you need to make sure that you communicate your thoughts with the people you lead in mind. That may be difficult if most of your thoughts are around your vision, but those you are leading are tied to reality. It’s even more important to be emphatic with those you want to lead and understand them to guide the way.