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Women in leadership: Raquel Tapia

How getting out of her comfort zone helped Raquel develop a successful career

March 1, 2019

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“Bring your true self to work.”

This is the advice Raquel Tapia often shares with the individuals she mentors – and there have been plenty.

Raquel, associate vice president, hospital and specialty marketing for Merck, has spent 20 years building a career to help patients and co-workers live happy and healthy lives. But it wasn’t always supposed to be that way.

“I never imagined I’d work in pharma”

Born in Spain, Raquel earned her MBA from the Instituto de Empresa in Madrid. “My family owned a security technology company, and I was the person everybody thought would run the business in the future,” says Raquel. “I never imagined I’d work in pharma.”

Raquel Tapia standing with family on vacation

But during her master’s program, she heard a pharmaceutical executive speak about health care, and she was impressed. “He talked about all the good things that pharmaceutical companies do for patients – things I never knew as a consumer, such as all the research and work that goes into inventing for life,” says Raquel. “I was very attracted to the diversity of thought and experiences with different divisions and countries – experiences I would not get in a family business. I knew in that moment that health care was the right place for me.”

A journey across the health care landscape

Raquel joined the company in Spain in 2010, taking on various leadership roles within the hospital and specialty business unit. In 2016, she was appointed to her current U.S.-based role leading the marketing teams for hospital and specialty in the U.S. market.

During her career, she’s worked in four different companies, launched seven new products and lived in the U.K., France, Spain and now, the U.S. “Diverse experiences helped me understand the uniqueness of the health care landscape in different parts of the world,” she says. “These insights have been very helpful in my current role, where we are working on some tough questions: How do we use technology in new ways to create a better customer experience? How do we ensure patient insights are built into every decision? What must we do as a company to continue delivering value to patients and society?”

Raquel’s words of wisdom

Whenever she faces a challenge, Raquel reflects on a valuable lesson she learned early in her career. She recalls when another female colleague made her think on these words:

“‘Why not, Raquel? Why not go for that?’ Her words stuck. I realized that if I wanted something, I had to raise my hand, to speak up and go for it.”

She continues to look for opportunities to step outside her comfort zone because “that’s how we grow and how we learn.” She encourages other women to do the same.

“When women come to me for advice, I tell them to engage with other female leaders. Don’t be afraid to ask them about their experiences. Ask them the hard questions:

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What are the trade-offs you had to make in your personal life to advance your career?

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What’s it like working in a different culture or traveling four days a week?

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What’s it like to be the only female at the decision-making table?

Engaging with women leaders can help women discover the career path that’s right for them, because there are many different ones.”

Raquel Tapia family rafting

New perspectives

Raquel lives with her husband and three daughters in Pennsylvania. When she’s not working, she’s a “full-time mom and a good friend.” She also loves to entertain.

Her family enjoys exploring national parks in the U.S., traveling and experiencing different cultures. “When I go home to Spain, there’s nothing better than enjoying a glass of wine by the sea with friends from childhood and family,” she says. “I enjoy life, and I want to help others do the same.”