“I always try to lead by example”

Meet Romana Santar, a Site General Manager based in Zagreb, Croatia. Romana tells us how she leads by example, why women and men should fight for equality, and how she escapes to her vegetable garden to solve her problems. 

We make the active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) that make up a drug. Through the sites that I lead, we workacross the whole process, from research and development (R&D) to production to commercial distribution. It means we are in control of everything so it’s a lot of responsibility, but also really rewarding too.

I always have a sense of the patient in my head. I frequently remind my teams to consider how the chemical we work on will ultimately be used. A colleague recently told me that his young daughter was going to have surgery. It really makes you think about what we do here. It’s critical that we produce all our drugs to the highest possible standard and why we make sure everything is tightly controlled. At the end of the day, even a small issue could have a big impact on that little girl.

I always try to lead by example. I work to build trust by doing the right things on a daily basis. I hide nothing from my team and I am very open. I’ve found that if you do this then people will follow you. But it is easy to destroy this trust. I’m very aware that even one bad decision can undermine years of careful building.

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If I have challenges then I like to head to my vegetable garden. I close myself off for several hours and I know that I’ll leave with a clear decision. I think it’s the combination of physical effort and connecting with nature, it always works for me. It is not a huge garden but it means a lot to me. Eating our own food is a nice feeling and most of the vegetables that my family eats comes from our garden.

We spend most of our lives at work so we should enjoy the experience. I really try to create a good environment at work. I aim to combine fun with the feeling that we are all working together. It is important that we all feel satisfied and productive.

I have no tolerance for finger pointing and blaming. If I see something like that then I stop it immediately. I don’t even want to talk about it or engage in such discussions. We can only succeed if we’re working as one team so I have no time for that kind of behaviour.

I’ve seen what can happen if something goes wrong. Years ago, when I first worked in pharma, I witnessed an accident that had a devastating impact. People were hurt and facilities were damaged. Safety has always been at the front of my mind since then. I will not tolerate any risk to people’s safety.

At Teva I’ve never felt at a disadvantage as a woman. For me, my family and my children have always been a motivating factor in my career. They are not something that has acted as a block in any way. They drive me to engage more, to work more and to have fun. They make me feel good and when you feel good you are more creative in everything you do.

There are still places in the world where women are not equal. It is important that we all, women and men, fight to make sure people are treated the same in all aspects. If things have improved in terms of equality it’s because, in my opinion, women are doing it for themselves.

I never planned to live in Zagreb. I wanted to live somewhere warm by the sea. When I first started at Pliva, before it was taken over by Teva, I used to say that my situation was only temporary and that I’d only be here for a few years. That was 25 years ago and I am still here. Obviously, I must like it and I see it as a good family to be part of!

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Sara Zavaleta

Sara Zavaleta

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Date of preparation: September 2021
Reference: COB-IE-NP-00039