Keeping Things Grounded
Posted by Jim H on May 22, 2008
Hitting the skyway
For Lonza, travel abroad broadens employees’ minds
Originally published May 21, 2008
By Ed Waters Jr.
A global company can only be successful with a global strategy.
That’s the view of Shawn Cavanagh, president and head of Lonza Bio Science in Walkersville.
As part of that strategy, Lonza is moving some workers into Walkersville and some out to other parts of the world.
“When you have a global strategy, you first need policies and procedures that support it, and secondly, have people who see different cultures, move around the company and see the world,” he said. “You have to act globally.”
It was just over a year ago that the Swiss firm Lonza acquired for $460 million what had been Cambrex bioscience division on Biggs Ford Road. About 500 people work at the site.
“Lonza put a lot of investment in Walkersville, unlike anything in the past 10 years,” Cavanagh said of the facility.
“It is a totally new dynamic for us in Walkersville,” said Cavanagh, who has headed operations since 2005.
It isn’t cheap to send people around the world. Only top performers and those with potential are chosen.
Cavanagh hopes employees will bring their experience to their leadership roles. He spends about 35 to 40 percent of his time out of the country. Next week, he will travel to Switzerland, then India.
One of the destinations for many is Visp, Switzerland, a site Cavanagh and others call “the mother ship.” It is Lonza’s largest facility, based in Basel, Switzerland, and supplies products to the pharmaceutical, health care and life sciences industries.
Lisa Middlebrook began in Walkersville with what was BioWhittaker, before to the acquisition by Cambrex. She was part of the integration team that helped bring the culture of Lonza to the Walkersville site through her human resources expertise.
She’s done some traveling, but always lived in Frederick County. Soon, she and her husband and two sons will head for Basel, Switzerland, where she will become global head of training and development.
Her sons will attend the Swiss International School, where their lesson will be three days in German and two days in English.
“I expect them to be fluent at the end of the first year,” she said.
Middlebrook will provide leadership training and establish core courses for existing employees, as well training on corporate sales and marketing.
Alberto Aguilar and his family will head for Brazil. Onetime manager of international sales in Walkersville, Aguilar will become business director for Latin America, which covers everything from Mexico to Argentina.
“I’m basically in charge of the rest of the world,” Aguilar said, referring to what the company views as everything but the U.S. and Europe.
Aguilar has traveled to Latin America in the past, but remained based in Walkersville. His two children are excited about it, he said, but it will be quite a move for his wife. Originally from San Juan, Puerto Rico, Aguilar speaks Spanish and Portuguese.
Latin America has been a good market area, he said. Brazil has a strong economy and he is optimistic for growth in that region.
Margot Connor is one of several Lonza employees who have moved to Walkersville from overseas. Formerly head of global communications, she will now head business development for Lonza LBS.
“I was living in New Jersey, working for another company when the opportunity came to join Lonza,” said Connor, who has spent the past two years in Basel in Germany.
Her new role will put her in charge of mergers and acquisitions — though it means as much looking at merging operations inside the firm as well as outside changes.
“This is a company where you have the opportunity to make any kind of career you want,” she said.
One thing she is investigating expansion in Walkersville. Although nothing is set, Connor said there needs to be more room to meet the growing demand for its products. That growth, she said, would be within the Walkersville campus.
“We are looking at the site plan for the long term, both in people and operations,” Connor said.
Stefan Schnydrig’s family has worked for Lonza in Switzerland for three generations. He grew up a mile from Visp, where Lonza is the biggest company.
As manager of human resources, he has been part of an integration team to change the way things are done in Walkersville to meet the policies and procedures of Lonza.
“It is always a challenge to balance how much you can align people with the corporate culture and what is not natural for them as Americans,” he said. “What works in one country won’t in another.”
Edwin Davies came to Walkersville as head of the integration team, but has since been appointed head of the Media Business Unit — “media,” as in the bioscience word for cell cultures used in research.
Originally from Wales, Davies joined Lonza in 2000 in Slough, outside London, coming to Walkersville with a wife and baby, and another one on the way.
He expects a lot of international travel, including to Asia, where the company is hoping to find new business.
“It is an exciting time to grow this business,” he said. “We have a challenging and aggressive growth target.”
Lonza not only uses the cell culture media, but sells it to industrial users.
“Sometimes we sell in small bottles, but for the industrial users, we sell in 1,000 liter drums,” Davies said.
For Marin Parenty, moving meant leaving Leon, in France, where he was Lonza’s head of European sales and marketing heading the cell discovery/molecular biology business unit in the U.S. His customers include the National Institutes of Health, Johns Hopkins University and the pharmaceutical industry, among many others.
“I’m concentrating on people doing research, not development,” he said of his clients. “We help them discover how cells talk to each other. We are at the forefront of research application,” Parenty said. “We sell re-agents, no fixtures or equipment for research.”
It is his first time working in America — he has worked in Italy, the United Kingdom and France — but he had visited the U.S. before.
“It is difficult to find someone today who has done all of his or her work in one place, even one country,” he said.
I know people have been checking my Rumor Mill page and I swore I would not start the first rumor, but this article makes you think. I know quite a few people up at Walkersville and the shoe hasn’t dropped since the Lonza takeover. I know the Swiss are not tolerant of excess in terms a scrap, people or real estate (for that matter). Makes me wonder what plans are being devised for Lonza-Walkersville in the smoky board rooms in Switzerland?