- 2 years ago
25 February 2022
When Amgen Australia Medical Affairs Director Matt Britland found out he and his partner were pregnant last year, he was somewhat surprised when the company’s human resources team encouraged him to take advantage of its parental leave policy.
Britland had joined Amgen’s senior leadership team in January 2020 and admits he never considered taking parental leave, but with two other Amgen ‘dads’ taking time out, Britland also took advantage of the policy.
“I didn’t know when I joined Amgen they had this amazing policy where it didn’t matter if you’re a dad or a mum, in the first year your child is born you can take 12 weeks to be a primary carer,” he told MedNews while caring for his daughter, Margot.
“Normally I don’t even take a day’s leave – I pretty much work seven days a week with much of the extra-curricular activities I take on. When my son was born 15 years ago, I probably took less than five days but taking this time to care for my daughter allowed me to recalibrate and really understand what it means to be in charge of an eight-month-old 24/7.”
Britland moved to Sydney from his Brisbane home shortly after taking on the role at Amgen. At the time, he felt the need to be closer to the company’s Sydney headquarters but when Covid hit a month later, he found himself working from home and unable to regularly see his teenage son who had remained in Queensland.
“I’d not seen him for six months but the week my leave started, the borders relaxed and he flew down,” Britland says. “I spent six weeks with the two of them over December-January with absolutely no distractions.
“It was just wonderful. It’s difficult to explain how much you bond when you spend that amount of time with your child. I didn’t get that as much with my son and the value I now feel for Amgen is exponentially higher than before, and it was already extremely high.”
Britland says while more companies need to offer parental leave, more dads also need to take it. He is still somewhat surprised that Amgen not just encouraged him to take the leave but actually celebrated parents who did.
“I’m 45 years old with a 15-year-old son and was planning on taking up golf and fishing because I thought that’s what I wanted,” he says. “Once Margot came into my life, I realised that’s not what I wanted. I just love being a dad to Alex and Margot.”
Britland and his partner, a senior medical advisor working on NSW Health’s Covid strategy, now share the parenting of Margot. Britland juggles a hectic workload, particularly given he recently stepped into the role of Australian Pharmaceutical medical and science Professionals Association (APPA) President and in October became Global Platform Medical Director (haematology) for Amgen.
He says the flexibility brought about by the pandemic has enabled him to eliminate time-wasting activities such as commuting and allowed him to devote more time to his passions – his family, medical affairs, and cancer.
“I joke that haematology is in my blood,” he says. “Apart from family, the biggest thing I’m passionate about is oncology and haematology. It drives me crazy that cancer is still killing people. It consumes me every day and has done for 20 years. Finding a cure is like a hobby.”
Never let a good crisis go to waste
Britland quotes former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in saying you should never let a good crisis go to waste, the local medical affairs leader keen to hang onto many of the positives the pandemic has brought about.
“Before Covid, I was averaging 100 nights a year in a hotel – that’s ridiculous,” he says. “Covid has allowed us to rethink how we work and now we just need to make sure people are connected and feel valued.
“The sweet spot will be keeping a work-life balance while regaining that connectivity, as that’s what people will insist on. Now you can leave work at five and be home at five.”
Britland says “it’s awesome that companies are focusing not on employees but on people”, recognising that output comes down to trust and productivity.
“We get things done differently,” he says. “I have a global role so if I work late in the evening, I take it out of other parts of my day. We’ve got to learn to work smart and clever. Working a million miles an hour every hour is not a productive use of anyone’s time.”
Britland says another positive to emerge from the pandemic is how fabulous the pharmaceutical industry is, saying everyone working in the industry has reason to be proud.
“HCPs change patients’ lives on an individual level every day but the industry can change hundreds of thousands of patients lives with a single decision or program,” he says. “That’s why I fell in love with it and why I sing from the rooftops that I work in pharma.
“More people are now cured of cancer than die of cancer, not because of turmeric, or cannabis, or prayers, or hopes and dreams, but because of innovative medicines studied by scientists generally working in pharmaceutical companies. I think we should all be super proud of that.
“The pharmaceutical industry has stopped a global pandemic. This industry has fantastic companies that created vaccines, and in my opinion [AstraZeneca CEO] Pascal Soriot should be given a knighthood.”
It’s 15 years since Britland first stepped out of the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) and into a product specialist role at Roche, and while his career has taken him through Sanofi, Merck Healthcare, AstraZeneca and now Amgen, Britland says he has “loved every company” he worked for.
“People need to understand how fantastic these roles are – in the pharmaceutical industry there is really something for everyone with a scientific bent and a passion for patients. I’ve met some of the cleverest scientists and I love what I do so much, it’s not work but a labour of love. If you find a job you absolutely want to do, you’ll never work another day in your life.”