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Supporting our Youth in Helping to Shape Their Future

Publish Date

10 SEP 2021


Manuel Zafra


As we celebrate Labour Day and new school year across Canada, I took a moment to reflect on my EMD Serono career, and how the lessons I’ve learned can help young people plan for a successful future.

As the new school year approaches, I’m reminded of the importance of supporting our youth in helping shape both a positive future for them, and for the generations to come. In this post, I reflect on three career lessons I hope can help inspire tomorrow’s leaders.


Find your passion

I was lucky to discover my passion for the health industry early on. My father had a clinical and veterinary equipment factory, and it’s there where I got my first taste of the sector. Soon after, I got my career break, working at a Spanish radiopharmaceuticals company in Madrid. I never looked back!  

For me, the pharmaceutical sector is and will continue to be one of the key pillars of innovation and development in society – creating and innovating to advance science and the standard of care. Our industry’s commitment to innovation has always connected to me to the work and a very important component of finding your passion and doing something that you love. 

Contributing to this work, in my own small way, is exceedingly motivating and gratifying. That’s especially true at a company like EMD Serono, where we are laser-focused on developing innovative therapies that address unmet needs of patients.

Chase unique experiences

Throughout my career, I’ve sought out the unique experiences that weren’t on my doorstep. I found them in travel and meeting people, and by exploring new cultures and ways of working. Serving as Managing Director of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany in Hungary, for example, was an amazing experience. Hungary is an incredibly special country, with its own unique workplace culture and a beautiful (although
unique and difficult to learn) language!

Suffice to say, travel is incredibly enrichening, both on a personal and professional level. Working in an international market helps one to grow within a company and develop as a leader. It helps you develop a truly global vision and an opportunity to bring best practices from one market to another. You also quickly realize and respect that every country is different – and that you must adapt accordingly!

At EMD Serono Canada, we are very fortunate to be part of a global organization Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, that offers outstanding work opportunities in 66 countries around the world. Encouraging international movement within a company provides opportunities for one to grow and develop their skills in ways you could never imagine. I strongly suggest to young learners that they continue to push themselves outside of their comfort zone and be open to working in a new country. 

Never stop learning

Another piece of advice I always try to pass on to young people, including my own children, is the critical importance of staying curious. Formal education certainly sharpens your critical thinking and problem-solving skills, but throughout your professional career – and in your daily life – opportunities to keep learning will come in all different forms.

Whether it’s new knowledge, skills or even a language, keeping an appetite for life-long learning will set you up for continued personal and professional growth, and you must grab those chances with both hands! As a leader, I have and will continue to encourage my team to continue to develop their professional skills and never stop learning. I’m a big believer that fueling curiosity in our people pays huge dividends for us as individuals and as teams, and is key to fostering an environment that encourages innovation. And, innovation is the lifeblood of our success – especially for ourselves and for those that we impact…our patients.

I wish all of you and your families a successful, safe and healthy return to school.