How Covid enabled Catherine’s dream career

By Megan Brodie 2 years ago | In Companies, People
  • 2 years ago
Wellbeing coach Catherine Robertson

22 April 2022

Catherine Robertson had a strong history working as a sales rep specialising in oncology before Covid opened up an opportunity for her to follow her heart and make her dream job a full-time reality.

Catherine traces her current path back to an astute Novartis sales manager who initially showed her the path to her dream career some 10 years ago. The death of her father-in-law following a battle with a rare cancer impacted her more than she wanted to admit, prompting her then boss to intervene.

“He suggested I needed some counselling and insisted that I take personal leave to look after myself,” she says. “It was a very brave thing for him to do as he was quite a young manager, but it set me off on a path of healing, meditation and gratitude – it was a game-changer.”

When Catherine returned to Novartis, she no longer worked full-time, taking a day each week to practice as a Reiki healer. A move to Astellas saw her continue this split and made her realise healing was not just a hobby.

“I started thinking, I have two hats now and I’m not going to be shy about the fact I have Reiki clients,” she says. “But Astellas loved it. They really encouraged me to pursue my practice.”

A move to Alexion in 2016 to work in rare diseases saw Catherine continue to split her week between healing and sales until a company restructure meant this was no longer an option, prompting her to take a sabbatical in order to try and make a living from healing. While she had some incredible successes, financially she found it challenging.

“I thought I was done with pharma and the corporate world but when I couldn’t make a reasonable salary, I picked up a three-month contract with Roche in respiratory disease sales,” she says.

“I was soon approached and asked to join the oncology sales team and had the privilege of launching Tecentriq in first-line small cell lung cancer, which was a wonderful experience. At the same time, I involved myself in activities such as RUOK day and other mental wellbeing sessions.”

When the pandemic hit in 2020 and reps were pulled off the road, an email from (Roche commercial leader) Renée Brown encouraging people to stay connected made Catherine consider how she could use her skills to help others.

“I offered to run weekly 30-minute wellbeing sessions as I really thought I could serve and support others,” she said. “I knew from my own experience that when everything is stripped away, some dark stuff can come to the surface and many people don’t have the tools to cope.”

The Roche Wednesday Wellbeing Community started in April 2020 with around 70 people attending virtually each week as Catherine introduced mindfulness principles to help manage the stress and uncertainty that the pandemic had brought about.

This led to her being asked to design a program for a Livewell Week towards the end of 2020 while the company began monitoring employee wellbeing through regular ‘pulse’ surveys. Catherine even enlisted all eight company leaders to share their personal wellbeing journeys in a live interview series shown during her Wednesday Wellbeing sessions.

“This humanised the leadership role and was a beautiful experience,” she says. “It showed that everyone struggles, regardless of their position.”

While Covid had given her the seemingly perfect hybrid career, a restructure brought about by Roche’s agile transformation meant sales reps needed to reapply for new roles. While her application was unsuccessful, when a colleague noted she lit up when talking about wellbeing, Catherine realised she was being directed to a different career path.

“I left my sales job, and Roche almost immediately hired me as an external wellbeing consultant,” she says. “They even offered each employee up to four one-on-one coaching sessions focused on their wellbeing while I worked with teams and chapters facilitating mindfulness and wellbeing workshops. I’ve also worked with other companies like Novo Nordisk.

“Essentially, Covid has enabled me to transcend into this new life of doing what I love while encouraging others to do what they love. My role is to help people understand their blocks and to upskill in this hybrid world.”

Catherine believes the past five years have seen companies move more into “the touchy-feely space that five years ago would not have been possible” for large corporate entities.

“I am so excited and feel so affectionate towards Roche for enabling me to play my part in supporting the team on this journey,” she said. “This is now my career, and it just keeps expanding.

“After 20 years in the pharma industry, people know me. It’s great to use those connections to fulfil my purpose and do what I love.”

©MedNews 2022

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