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Meet our president leading the Asia Pacific region: Dorthe Mikkelsen

February 16, 2021

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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.”

Dorthe Mikkelsen with business leaders in Thailand

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 12 major markets with more than 7,000 employees across all company divisions.

In November 2019, Dorthe was named one of the 100 Most Influential Women in Denmark by Berlingske. In 2020, she was named to the Business Insider list of 100 people Transforming Business in Asia. Dorthe is also on the board of the US ASEAN Business Council (USABC).

“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 markets 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.”

Leaving ‘the best’ jobs for new opportunities

Dorthe joined our Denmark operation in 1997 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:
  • Product manager 
  • 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 global 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.

Dorthe’s ‘best’ picks

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

A royal experience

Dorthe Mikkelsen at royal gala

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:

  • The world is wonderfully diverse.
  • In all countries, history and symbols matter.
  • Most people from different walks of life care about making a positive impact.