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Debby Biddles is currently National Sales Manager for Drug Dependency at Schering-Plough. She spoke to Pf about her extraordinary career progression with the company, and her commitment to ensuring that those in her team are also able to reach their full potential.


1. What have you done to maximise your career at Schering- Plough?

I joined Schering-Plough in August 1994 as a Primary and Secondary Care Representative after graduating from Aberdeen University in Psychology. I promoted antibiotics, anti-allergics, steroids, emollients and a bone cement across primary care and the associated specialist secondary care customers. From this position, I was interested in developing into training. I was appointed as part-time field trainer, where I had responsibility for selling three days a week and training colleagues in my region two days per week. I decided at this time that I was keen to continue developing in training, and was appointed as full-time field trainer.

Two years into this position, I was interested in exploring opportunities in Professional Relations. I was successful in securing the role of Professional Relations Manager, where my primary responsibility was to manage the opinion leader development programmes in Allergy and Respiratory Medicine ahead of product launches. I was conscious in this role that I longed to be closer to selling the products, and applied for a Regional Sales Manager’s position – where I was successful, and managed a team of nine in West London and North-West London.

Late last year I had a development session with my line manager and the director of my business unit, and took the decision to apply for a National Sales Manager vacancy to provide me with the opportunity of working in a role with a national remit and the chance to develop strategy and tactics.

2. Why have you chosen to remain at Schering-Plough instead of managing your career by moving from company to company?

Schering-Plough has always been focused around its people. What is fantastic is that there is now a formal structure to development, and it is a real priority for our business. I have been fortunate in that when I have been seeking a new challenge, one has become available at Schering-Plough. I have never had to look externally, as opportunities have always arisen. I have never been attracted to moving position for the sake of moving. Schering-Plough is all about walking the talk. My expectations have consistently been managed. By delivering strong performances with a structured development plan, Schering-Plough has enabled management to give support when opportunities have arisen.

3. What advice would you give to ambitious representatives wanting to progress their careers?

I have four core pieces of advice:

  • You should always be aiming to deliver an exceptional performance across all elements of your current role. You will never be considered for promotion or development unless you are doing a great job in your current role.
  • Think very carefully about the organisation that you are thinking of moving to. Ensure that you are very clear about the position you are considering and that there is a structured programme of development in place, as in Schering-Plough.
  • Ensure that you develop a structured plan with your line manager to support your development, and that you take responsibility for delivering against your objectives.
  • Manage your profile through choosing your attitude. Colleagues and managers alike do not enjoy working with people who seek to focus on the negative. Ultimately you have control with regard to what you achieve. It is much better fun and more enjoyable if you can focus on the positives and potential solutions to issues. It also has a tremendous impact on how others regard you.

4. How do you look at managing talent within your own team?

Managing talent is one of the business-critical elements to my role and possibly the most challenging. In my current role as National Sales Manager for the Drug Dependency team, I’m working with some really accomplished, experienced and talented representatives, who I would argue are some of the best in the industry. I feel that I have a responsibility to ensure that I am developing my people to their full potential.

At Schering-Plough we are committed to ensuring that we develop our talent pool, and look to ensure through our succession planning process that our people are as ready as they can be for roles as they come up. As line managers, we are fortunate to have a clear performance management process that allows for two discussions throughout the year to review what has been delivered, how it has been delivered and delivery against objectives.

We also have the Schering-Plough Selling Quality Programme, which provides a framework to analyse in-call excellence and monitor development against each of our 10 competencies or business behaviours. In 2004, we introduced a representative pathway to allow us to better define the criteria for advancement and provide development of our sales representatives, and we are beginning to really reap the rewards of that. I would never hold any of my representatives’ development back, and work in partnership with them to ensure that their careers move in the direction that they are keen to go, at the same time as being realistic and challenging along the way.

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