Bruce Goodwin finds his groove

By Megan Brodie 2 years ago | In Industry, People
  • 2 years ago
MA & RCA Director Bruce Goodwin at his Canadian home.

27 June 2022

More than a year after he left a career spanning almost four decades at Janssen, former ANZ managing director Bruce Goodwin has found a renewed sense of purpose, and of belonging.

Goodwin is the first to admit that when he left the company at the end of 2020, he found it difficult to adjust.

After spending almost his entire career with the same global business – most of it in senior management – Goodwin had become accustomed to working with large teams of people stretched across the country, the region, and even the world, and working with a strong sense of motivation and purpose.

“Honestly speaking, it took a bit of getting used to,” Goodwin says of the transition. “I really missed my colleagues and Covid isolation wasn’t what I was expecting.”

Married to a Canadian, frequent travel was part of the post-Janssen plan and, fortunately for Goodwin, when he spoke with MedNews the couple had finally managed to return to his wife’s home country and were enjoying the Canadian summer.

While his post-work career did not unfold as initially expected, Goodwin is also enjoying a fulfilling portfolio career and, for a man dedicated to bringing medicines to patients, it is somewhat fitting that it was patient organisations that played such a strong role in helping this pharma statesman adjust.

“Richard and Kate Vines from Rare Cancers Australia knocked on the door very early on and asked me to work on their Board, and that’s such a great privilege,” he says. “The same with Crohns and Colitis Australia.

“These organisations are run by people with incredible vision and there’s a lot to learn from them, and I have been learning. It’s been really exciting – I’m constantly surprised by how much I’m learning.”

Would-be banker finds a home in pharma

Were it not for the travel requirements, Bruce Goodwin may well have been a banker rather than a pharmaceutical executive.

One of six children, he worked for a bank while going to university but when the job required him to move around the city his mother, prompted by an ad in the paper, suggested he apply to Johnson and Johnson as it was conveniently located just two blocks from his university.

“So that’s what I did,” says Goodwin. “I got the job, and I did well there.”

Armed with a degree in economics, Goodwin initially worked in finance, later moving to the commercial side of the business. He got married, had two children, got an MBA, moved to Belgium, then the UK, and returned to Australia in 2009 as Janssen Australia and New Zealand managing director.

An offer to be Country President of Japan in 2012 took him overseas again before he returned to Australia in 2016 for a second stint as MD, determined that his last role would be serving his home country.

“I was with Janssen for 37 years but it never felt like that because every three years or so there was a new opportunity, and I was able to switch between different functions and do different things,” he says. “But in the end, I really wanted to contribute to my home country, so I wanted to come home.”

When asked what he considered the secret to his career success, Goodwin replied, “always having good people around me”.

He says while having a pipeline of innovative products helps, having people motivated by the company’s purpose was the key to success.

“It’s about innovation, about motivation, and about people – nothing happens without people,” he says. “Only through people can you get stuff done, so that’s what I prioritise.

“It’s not about the profits – it’s about putting your customers and your patients first, looking after your employees, contributing to society. If that all goes well, you should make a fair profit.”

A four-pronged portfolio career

When Goodwin did finally leave Janssen, the plan was to build a ‘portfolio career’ that focused on four areas.

“First and foremost, I wanted to give something back, which is where the patient organisations come in. I could offer my time and if it was useful to them, then it’s a win-win.

“Second was the privilege of Medicines Australia (MA) asking me to continue as a selected director. We were in the middle of the Strategic Agreement negotiation when I resigned, so I was delighted to be able to keep going.”

Third, Goodwin wanted to “capture more value out of Australia’s research capability”, so he both continued as a director at the Australian Genomic Cancer Medicines Centre (Omico) and took on a director role for emerging therapeutics company Delica.

Fourth, he wanted to share his knowledge and experience, now mentoring a number of people (including some at RCA) while also doing consulting and advisory work.

“I certainly feel like I have landed on my feet because I managed to fill up all four categories – and I’m pretty busy,” he says.

Bruce with RCA’s Kate Vines at the Kosi Challenge.

The importance of being independent

As the only selected director of Medicines Australia (he cannot be called independent until he has been out of Janssen for three years), Goodwin is a strong advocate for non-company voices on the industry association Board.

“I’ve been on the Board since 2010 so I’m carrying a lot of corporate memory for MA, and I think that is important to have,” he says.

“The role [chair] Anna Lavelle plays for MA is exceptional and MA is in good shape because Anna and [CEO] Liz de Somer have done a great job. It’s not an easy task and MA is in the best shape that we’ve seen in a long time.

“The five-year Strategic Agreement MA has signed with the Government should help minimise uncertainty for the industry, as much as possible during a time that will certainly be a challenging fiscal period.

“The agreement provides a platform to accelerate access to new medicines and technologies and that was secured at a cost to industry, so we need to work hard going forward to make sure the outcomes delivered are indeed positive for Australian patients.”

Motivated by purpose

For a man who finished a remarkable career as one of the most respected and admired people in Australian pharma, Goodwin remains extraordinarily humble and understated about his many achievements.

When asked what he was most proud of, again he talks about the people; both the people he worked with and helped enjoy their own measure of success, and the patients.

“Any letter I received from patients saying the company changed their life or the life of their loved ones made me proud,” he says. “I’ve always been motivated by the purpose.”

Goodwin’s post-Janssen life didn’t turn out as he initially imagined, but there is no doubt he has now found his groove, working across a wide range of interests that utilise his deep wisdom and experience while also providing opportunities for him to give back.

“It’s always been about aligning my personal values with what I’m doing and being part of a community that shares those values,” he says.

“RCA in particular has really made me feel like part of the family, which is amazing because for a while I was struggling with feeling like I didn’t belong to something – I really missed that belonging feeling.

“It takes a while to make that transition after working within the security of large teams for a long period of time. The world now is quite different, but given what I wanted to do is more or less happening, then I see myself as being extremely fortunate.”

©MedNews 2022

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