Executive Profile: Heather Bresch, Mylan

Heather Bresch is chief executive officer of Mylan, a generics and specialty pharmaceutical company. During her 20-year career with Mylan, Bresch previously served as the company’s president, chief operating officer and chief integration officer. In addition to her current role, Bresch also sits on the company’s board of directors. She has served two consecutive terms as chairman of the Generic Pharmaceutical Association and provides expert testimony to national institutions, such as the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. As a career-long advocate for initiatives and policies that improve access to high-quality medicine for those in need, Bresch holds a keen insight on how game-changing individuals and ideas can transform industry and government and make a dramatic influence on healthcare and patient well-being. 

Foundation: Who or what is the biggest game changer in business today? 

Bresch: Technology. 

Foundation:  What are the qualities of a game changer?  

Bresch: To me, a game changer is someone who is willing to be disruptive and able to manage effectively through this disruption. You have to be aware of the impact of disruption on the organization and ensure that your day-to-day business can move forward, even as you are seeking to transform it.  

Foundation: In an industry as dynamic and competitive as yours, what do you have to do stay in the game and keep advancing forward?  

Bresch: You need to be constantly rethinking everything.  We are always challenging the status quo and asking the question, “If we weren’t already doing things this way, is this how we would we do them?” Being a game changer requires a mindset of continuous transformation, not just incremental change, and a willingness and desire to become something that is truly new. At Mylan, we don’t just want to become a bigger generics company or become “Big Pharma,” we want to change our industry and become something that doesn’t exist today. However, in transforming and becoming something new, it is important to stay true to the values and culture of the organization, assuming those are worth preserving, and at Mylan they certainly are.  

Foundation: Who is the game changer that has had the biggest impact upon your career as a business leader?  

Bresch: I have had the privilege of working with a number of game changers at Mylan and in our industry. Milan Puskar, one of Mylan’s founders and someone who helped establish the modern generics industry, showed me the value in taking an active leadership role in the industry in order shape how the industry operates. Robert J. Coury, our executive chairman and former CEO, had the vision to take Mylan global and the courage to acquire a company two and a half times our size. He has taught me that transformation can come with both great challenges and great rewards, and the importance
of being willing to take calculated risk in order to change the game. Finally, one of my mentors from outside of Mylan, Agnes Varis, taught me the importance of getting out of your comfort zone. She taught me that sometimes you can see more from the edge than from the middle, and that sometimes it takes looking at something from the extreme to get to the right place in the center.  

Foundation: What are the game changing qualities you look for in employees and business partners that help you move Mylan into the future?  

Bresch: I value people who realize that we are better together than we are as individuals and who understand the importance of building a strong team around them.  I want people to recognize that valuable information and insights can lie outside of their specific functions/areas of expertise, and that changing the game requires looking at things from all angles. Most of all, I look for people who are passionate about their work, because that passion and willingness to go the extra mile is what makes all the difference. I am lucky that I am surrounded by a team of talented people who are passionate about achieving our mission of providing access to high quality medicine to the world’s seven billion people. 

Foundation: What are some of the strongest lessons you’ve learned from your competition in the game of business?  

Bresch: Mediocrity breeds mediocrity.  And standing still will kill you. 

Foundation: There are always scientific breakthroughs in your industry but what is the one game changing innovation that will totally revolutionize your industry?  

Bresch: I believe mobile technology will transform how health care is delivered. By 2018, five billion people will have access to the Internet via their phones. The possibilities that this and other technologies create in terms of access to medical information and treatment are boundless.