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Irina Zaporozhets: Pioneering Transformation in the Realm of Pharmaceutical

Irina Zaporozhets
Irina Zaporozhet | Vice President and General Manager Middle East

As the Vice President and General Manager for the Middle East at Eli Lilly and Company, Irina Zaporozhets is a trailblazer. Her journey, however, commenced through a serendipitous turn—an internship during her initial business school year. Guided by a visiting General Manager’s enlightening discourse on effecting change, Irina’s initial step led to an enduring 21-year association with Lilly.

Over the course of her career, Irina has assumed a diverse range of leadership positions within the company. Each role she undertook came with increased scope and responsibility, resulting in a dynamic and engaging journey at Lilly. Her expertise spans Marketing, Sales, HR, Six Sigma, Ethics and Compliance, General Management, and multiple geographic locations, including Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), Russia, and the US. Interestingly, the spark that ignited her passion on the first day she applied for the internship at Lilly continues to inspire her today—helping people live longer and healthier.

Irina Zaporozhets finds profound motivation in witnessing people’s growth and development. Her dedication extends to promoting and fostering female leadership—a subject close to her heart. Her commitment and accomplishments in this realm were recognized through her inclusion in the esteemed “2021 Business Women of Russia” organized by Ernst and Young. This accolade celebrated her support for female entrepreneurship, career advancement, and professional development.

Irina’s career journey reflects a remarkable trajectory marked by dedication, commitment to positive impact, and the fostering of growth among individuals and communities alike.

Let’s dive into the details to understand her remarkable growth story:

Inception Story

Established in 1876 by the visionary Colonel Eli Lilly, a dedicated individual who aimed to develop reliable medications in an era when dubious elixirs were being peddled. His guiding principle, resonating through generations of employees, was simple yet profound: “Take what you find here and make it better and better.” Over the past 147 years, Lilly has remained committed to unite caring with discovery to create medicines that make life better for people around the world. Presently, the company’s medications touch the lives of over 47 million individuals worldwide.

Throughout its rich history, Lilly has been at the forefront of groundbreaking medical advancements. Its contributions include pioneering the introduction of the world’s first commercial insulin in 1923, spearheading the development of the polio vaccine, and producing a multitude of therapies. Its ever-evolving portfolio encompasses treatments for various areas, including bone health, cancer, cardiovascular, diabetes and metabolic diseases, immunology, neurodegeneration, and pain.

In the Middle East region, Lilly has cultivated a team of over 200 individuals hailing from 13 different countries. Through collective effort, the company ardently pursues Lilly’s purpose, ensuring its manifestation in the Middle East Area. The company’s commitment to uniting compassion with innovation stands resolute as it strives to create a world where health and well-being are elevated through its tireless dedication.

Foundations of Purpose-Driven Excellence

“At the Heart of Our Impact Is Our Purpose. In the nearly 147 years we’ve been in business, we’ve developed and delivered trusted medicines that help people get better, feel better and live better,” says Irina.

Lilly’s foundation is built upon three core values—integrity, excellence, and respect for people. These principles continue to serve as the guiding force behind all its endeavors.

Integrity forms the cornerstone of Lilly’s business conduct. It involves conducting its operations in full accordance with applicable laws while upholding honesty in its interactions with customers, employees, shareholders, partners, suppliers, competitors, and the community.

Excellence is Lilly’s commitment to pushing the boundaries of pharmaceutical innovation. The team is dedicated to delivering products of the highest quality and ceaselessly striving to achieve superior business outcomes.

Respect for people is a fundamental tenet, exemplified by the fostering of an environment grounded in mutual respect, transparency, and individual integrity. This encompasses Lilly’s consideration for every individual connected to or influenced by the company.

These values are not just words; they are embedded in Lilly’s business practices and deeply ingrained in the culture it cultivates. At Lilly, the team aspires to create an environment of diversity and inclusion—a place where everyone feels welcomed, respected, valued, and genuinely heard. Through these principles, Lilly endeavors to shape a world where its actions reflect the essence of its values.

Driving Purposeful Progress

Irina highlights that the unwavering dedication to harmonizing its operations with its overarching purpose propels and steers Lilly in its day-to-day endeavours. The company’s ethos orbits around positioning people at the core of its initiatives through pioneering novel medications, broadening healthcare accessibility, or making meaningful community contributions. As a leader, Irina finds her duty resides in leading a team of highly talented individuals within Lilly, all dedicated to the same purpose.

Irina and the management’s focus is oriented towards nurturing the development of Lilly’s professionals, providing them with avenues for continuous learning, advancement, collaborative engagement with external partners, and perhaps most crucially, advancing access to its innovative solutions.

Certified as a Great Place to Work

Lilly MEA has successfuly achieved certification as a Great Place to Work! This reaffirmed certification is a testament to the continuous efforts of the organization in nurturing a workplace environment that is both positive and inclusive.

It highlights the unwavering commitment to offering an excellent employee experience, empowering them to make a difference in the lives of millions of patients.

This certification adds an external validation to Lilly’s ongoing endeavors. It aids in evaluating its workplace from an external standpoint, pinpointing areas of strength and areas that can be further enhanced to elevate the overall employee experience. This achievement is anticipated to fortify the company’s brand and augment it appeals to toptier talent actively seeking out companies with a healthy and thriving work settings.

“We take immense pride in this certification and are excited to continue our efforts in creating a workplace that upholds our commitment to transforming the future of healthcare for people, society, and the planet,” says Irina.

Leadership Journey at Lilly Middle East

Irina views her position as a privilege as she leads Lilly Middle East in her role as Vice President and General Manager. Her primary responsibility involves charting the comprehensive strategic course for the company throughout the Middle East, meticulously aligning it with the overarching goals and objectives of the organization.

Working alongside her team, Irina is dedicated to infusing the region with heightened innovation, so that more and more patients in the Middle East can live longer and\ healthier lives. The present juncture is marked by pivotal product launches and unprecedented growth, imbuing their work with excitement and keeping them engaged.

Another vital aspect of Irina’s role is nurturing the development of talents within Lilly. She takes immense pride and humility in the ambitious and highly professional team at Lilly Middle East. This team exemplifies a fervent dedication to healthcare, ceaselessly striving to expedite the delivery of innovation to patients in this region.

Elevating Leadership Excellence

In her leadership capacity, Irina employs a range of strategies that are influenced by numerous variables. Here are a few strategies that she frequently utilizes, which are widely applicable to various leadership roles:

  • Clear Vision Spell Out: One key strategy Irina employs is the communication of her vision with precision. She recognizes the importance of elucidating the direction in which the organization should progress. By instilling a sense of purpose and excitement among the team members regarding their daily contributions, she harnesses the potent force of shared aspiration. She draws inspiration from her current operational base, the UAE, which exhibits remarkable development and advancement propelled by a distinct and ambitious vision.
  • Top-Tier Talent Acquisition: Irina prioritizes recruiting the finest individuals within the industry who not only excel in their professional capacities but also thrive as collaborative team players. This approach underscores her commitment to achieving substantial impacts. She establishes an environment that nurtures personal growth and makes the professional journey fulfilling.
  • Leading Through Example: A principle that Irina wholeheartedly embraces is the notion of leading by example. She comprehends that she continuously serves as a role model, exemplifying what constitutes both commendable and undesirable behavior. By embodying integrity—matching actions with words—she cultivates a culture of trust. She demonstrates professionalism by taking responsibility for understanding her role and its nuances, consistently seeking improvement. Additionally, her strong work ethic and leadership courage underscores the concept of showing up fully and taking ownership of decisions made.

Insights and Recommendations

According to Irina, the field of healthcare maintains an enduring prominence due to the immeasurable value of human health. This sentiment underlines her belief that healthcare will always occupy a pivotal position, given the priceless nature of well-being. The global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has unmistakably underscored the significance of investing in health and has prompted a heightened global emphasis on placing healthcare at the forefront of priorities.

For those seeking guidance in the industry, Irina offers a set of insightful recommendations. If one is new to the healthcare sector, she advises familiarizing oneself with the industry’s dynamics and identifying its unmet needs. Collaboration and partnerships should be actively pursued, alongside an eagerness to integrate technological innovations. A comprehensive understanding of regulatory, compliance, and ethical considerations is essential. Additionally, prospective individuals should adopt a long-term approach, recognizing that cultivating success in healthcare ventures necessitates persistence, patience, and sustained commitment.

The core principle of prioritizing patients remains central inIrina’s advice, as a patient could be someone’s family member. Moreover, aligning personal efforts with the overarching goal of creating a positive impact and making life better for people across the globe remains a consistent directive.

These insights encapsulate Irina’s perspectives on healthcare, drawing from her extensive experience and dedication to advancing the well-being of individuals worldwide.

Unyielding Commitment to Healthcare Excellence

According to Irina, Lilly today is the most valuable pharmaceutical and healthcare company globally. The company is currently experiencing an unprecedented trajectory of growth, propelled by groundbreaking innovations that consistently outperform expectations. With an unwavering focus on the horizon, the company envisions a remarkably promising future characterized by its unyielding ambition.

To expand its reach and impact, Lilly is resolute in its commitment to continue introducing latest innovations, investing in the core capabilities, and strategically prioritizing its bets, and focusing on execution with only one goal- bringing Lilly products faster to the patients who are waiting.

Simultaneously, the company places paramount importance on nurturing its internal leadership talent while actively scouting for the best professionals within the industry. Recognizing the importance of collaboration, Lilly acknowledges that its aspirations cannot be realized in isolation. The company seeks partnerships and collaborations with likeminded entities, recognizing the collective strength in such alliances to improve patient health and longevity across the Middle East.

The recent strategic collaboration with the Department of Health (DOH) in Abu Dhabi exemplifies this cooperative approach. Through this collaboration, Lilly and DOH strive to drive clinical research and life science activities in the Emirate with a focus on oncology, metabolic and neurological diseases, while leveraging Abu Dhabi’s evolving healthcare and life science infrastructure and capabilities. This collaboration reflects Lilly’s deep commitment to expanding access to its medicines and promoting innovation to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of healthcare delivery.

Innovating for a Healthier Tomorrow

At Lilly, the objective is to sustain ongoing investments in the future of healthcare. This is supported by a team that is dedicated to exploring innovative therapeutic approaches and seeking strategic partnerships that enable the organization to persist in fulfilling its mission. This commitment leads to a meaningful societal influence, enhancing the lives of individuals worldwide. The company is actively rising to the challenge through long-term investment in innovation, allocating a greater portion of its revenues in research and development. Urgent advancement is being made in groundbreaking discoveries with the potential to radically transform diabetes care and treatment of metabolic diseases, advance immunology, and turn hard-to-treat cancers from fatal to manageable. The dedication to finding solutions for hard-to-treat diseases like Alzheimer’s remains unwavering, even in the face of obstacles. Throughout the journey, the focus remains on investing in novel technologies to expedite the delivery of new breakthroughs to patients.



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