Member Spotlight: Tom Wagner, AstraZeneca

By Lilly Milman |  April 8, 2021

Tom Wagner is the Director of Digital Research, Knowledge Management, and Market Intelligence at AstraZeneca — one company that successfully developed a vaccine for COVID-19. AstraZeneca is a British-Swedish multinational pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical company based in the UK. We spoke with Wagner as part of our IL Member Spotlight series, which profiles our members. 

What’s a book, podcast, or other resource you would recommend to peers?

“Measure What Matters: OKRs: The Simple Idea that Drives 10x Growth” by John Doerr, and I love the book “Soul of a New Machine” by Tracy Kidder. There are so many lessons for innovators and leaders in that book.

What’s a piece of advice or learning you want to share with other corporate innovators?

Like everyone else, our company is rapidly adopting new ways of working and tools to enable remote collaboration. My advice is to make sure that you’re focused on the human factor part of transformation and that you are keeping things as simple as possible. Especially in times of ambiguity and turmoil, it is really important to understand the state of mind of the end-user.  When we’ve added new tools, it has been essential to tune into what is in it for our end-users, as well as the OKRs [objectives and key results] for the company. Keeping this balanced has been essential. 

Is there someone you especially admire as a role model creator, inventor, innovator? 

Like many others, I have been inspired by Clayton Christensen. His intuitive and accessible approach to understanding the problems of customers has been so influential.

Is there a success or recent achievement you’d want to spotlight?

In collaboration with a startup, we launched a global database in May to establish and foster the community of AstraZeneca colleagues who are involved in scouting and evaluating technology for digital health, diagnostics, devices, and drug discovery. This has been a critical platform, given the importance and ecosystem of emerging companies (startups, scale-ups) focused on delivering tools to support the needs of patients and healthcare professionals.

Do you use outside consultants regularly? If so, for what sorts of projects? What are some of the factors that come into play when you’re choosing a consultant or outside advisory firm to help you?

We work with Forrester Research and some scouting agencies. Outside of that, we do not use consultants regularly.  When we work with a consultant we look at their experience (in our industry and across healthcare), their case studies and their ability to access insights beyond our reach.