For as long as she can remember, Dorthe Mikkelsen has loved a challenge. “I’ve always been a problem-solver. I was especially good at math and science. When I went to university, the classroom dynamic was very different than it is now - I was often one of the only females in science classes.”
The gender gap in science fields has improved over the years, but one thing has stayed the same – Dorthe never shies away from a challenge. Case in point: In 2017, she became the first female president of our Asia Pacific region, one of our fastest growing and most diverse markets. She leads more than 20 countries with more than 7,000 employees across all company divisions.
“I still get excited about the science behind our products, but the current task is figuring out how to get those products into the hands of health care professionals and, ultimately, to the patients who need them.”
It’s a challenge she embraces wholeheartedly in this multidimensional region. “We’re operating across countries with different cultures, languages, incomes, religions and educational status,” says Dorthe. “At the same time, people are living longer. We’re seeing an increase in cancer, diabetes and other diseases. The burden of disease is high, and so is the need for our products.”
Dorthe joined our Denmark operation 21 years ago after obtaining degrees in pharmacy science and business economics/marketing. The trail of her career winds through multiple areas of business, with a total of 12 different positions internally, while serving as chairman of the board of the Danish Pharmaceutical Industry Association from 2010 to 2016.
For our company, she has served as:
Marketing and sales director
Business unit director
External affairs director
Managing director of our Denmark and Iceland organizations
Regional director, Scandinavia
Vice president, mid-Europe
Senior vice president, mid-Europe
Senior vice president, emerging markets
President of diversified brands
Dorthe says her sights were never set on being the president of a region.
“I’ll do my best, focus on performing and make the most of it. I always thought I had the best job, and then a new opportunity would come along.”
When she describes the secret to her success, she quotes Leonardo da Vinci: “It had long come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.”
In other words, “It’s about taking responsibility for your career and making choices that work for you,” says Dorthe.
Best places to vacation:
Australia, Vietnam, Cambodia, France, Italy, Japan, China, U.S. and many, many more places!
Best cities to hold a business meeting:
New York, Singapore and Copenhagen.
Best ways to unwind after a stressful day:
Be with family and friends, run 10 kilometers, listen to music, read a book.
Best book for leaders:
“Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World—and Why Things Are Better Than You Think” by Hans Rosling Place. She gave the book to every member of her team.
Best inspirational quote:
“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember: You have within you the strength, the patience and the passion to reach for the stars and change the world.” – antislavery activist Harriet Tubman
Dorthe has been married to a Danish permanent secretary of state for 25 years, so dinners with royal families, heads of states and government ministers are on the agenda. Here are three lessons she’s learned from dining with royals that have helped her be a better leader: