Mark Proctor (Executive MBA, 2014) is one of eight AstraZeneca employees who have been recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2021 for their outstanding achievements in UK life sciences, manufacturing and supporting the UK and Global response to the current pandemic. We spoke to Mark about his time at Bayes Business School (formerly Cass), his career, his work with AstraZeneca during the pandemic and what this honour meant to him.
Could you share any of your standout memories from your time at Bayes Business School?
There really were so many over the two-year EMBA that was such a great experience academically, professionally, and personally. To pick just a few I would look back to the beginning of the course and the weekend of team building, leaderless teams, and fire drills at Moreton-on-Marsh which was a great way to meet the cohort and understand how the group dynamics could work moving forward.
I also really valued understanding so much more about the culture and doing business in China and Vietnam through the international electives. Prior to the EMBA my roles were very much UK, Europe and US focused. Subsequently I have led teams based across Asia, and setup supply chains and launched new products across the region.
I would also call out the option to really focus on several aspects of corporate finance through the different electives. The finance track along with the business record in this area was one of my main drivers for joining the program.
Finally, a lasting impact of my course was making some outstanding personal and professional relationships. Many of us are still in contact today and we provide each other with a great sounding board of diverse opinions and experiences across different industries.
What made you decide to complete an EMBA?
Completing an MBA was always a core part of my professional development and life-long learning. The range of core modules, electives, international options, and professional development as well as the Business School’s reputation and weekend residential format attracted me to the EMBA.
Before coming to Bayes you did an MEng in Biochemical engineering. How has your career progressed since then and how did you come to work for AstraZeneca?
I started my career working for a small biotech consultancy specialising in development, manufacturing, technology, and simulation. It was varied role with an opportunity to work with many different companies on a variety of different issues.
I joined MedImmune in 2009 (at that point a wholly owned and collaboratively independent subsidiary of AstraZeneca) to setup a Manufacturing Science & Technology unit, deliver an extensive (and what turned out to be a multi-award winning) automation program as well as consolidate all of the influenza vaccine research and development at the site in Liverpool.
I moved into a Global Technical Leadership role in 2015 after completing the EMBA (managing teams across UK, US, Latam, Japan, India, China and Europe) and have spent the past few years in Global Supply & Strategy leading the establishment of new supply chains and launching new products. This is a pivotal role dubbed the “COO” of a product, that fits within our Global Product Teams that are accountable for all aspects of product development through to commercialisation and provides for a unique insight into the intersection between science, medicine, and business management.
How has the last year been for you and for your company – working in the eye of the storm and now being faced with a huge amount of publicity?
The past year has been an incredible experience. In no more than 8 months from the first clinical trial, the first doses of vaccine were supplied to the UK government and as of the end of July – a little over 15 months – AZ have released ~1bn doses globally through our supply chains and our partners. I still recall when I joined the program back in May 2020 thinking that it will be a challenge, but I have never witnessed so many people work so hard, over such long hours, and for so long to make this happen. It has been important to me to avoid getting caught up in the publicity – be it positive or negative – in order to keep pushing forward and overcoming the many challenges associated with setting up such an extensive network in such a short period of time.
How did you feel when you found out you had been awarded a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours?
I was overwhelmed when I first received notice of the CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours and incredibly pleased that the UK Government recognised all of the efforts by so many in AstraZeneca across different areas for our COVID response.
Could you explain a bit about the work you have done which led to this recognition?
My role in the program was to setup and lead the supply chains for the UK and Internationally (ex-Americas), and to launch the product as quickly as possible. In the UK I was heavily involved with the UK Vaccine Taskforce taking the lead on the AZ vaccine launch, and interfacing with Oxford University, contact manufacturing organisations, material suppliers, BEIS, DHSC, Public Health England (PHE), the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
Do you have any advice for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
I really do hope that we do not see another pandemic like this in our lifetimes. It is hard to believe just how much of an impact this has had on everyone across the world – from those directly impacted by the disease to the loved ones who cannot see each other and those forced out of their jobs and into poverty due to the global economic turndown.
If we are faced with this again then my advice would be to take your skills, step-up, and keep pushing to make a difference. You need to use all of your existing network and build on it rapidly to mobilise all that needs to be done. We talk a little in management schools around “leaning in” but at moments like this you just have to a full-on leap – be prepared to move outside of the normal rules of engagement, find comfort in ambiguity, tackle problems decisively, and simply never give up.