What it does: Produces pharmaceuticals
Staff stats: Around 100,000 globally, 1500 in Australia
The good bits: Excellent corporate culture
The not so good bits: Navigating big-organisation bureaucracy
Hiring grads with degrees in: Engineering, Maths, IT & Computer Sciences; Finance, Accounting, Economics & Business Administration; Health & Medical Sciences; Humanities, Arts & Social Sciences; Sciences
The GlaxoSmithKline story
As its name suggests, GlaxoSmithKline, often referred to as GSK, is the result of several companies coming together. The story is convoluted but begins with an Englishman called Joseph Nathan immigrating to New Zealand then producing a dried-milk baby food called Glaxo in 1873. Nathan’s company set up a subsidiary in London. This subsidiary bought out its parent company in 1947 then acquired a British pharmaceutical business called Allen & Hanburys in 1958. Glaxo then moved into the US market, ultimately merging with another big pharmaceutical company called Burroughs Wellcome & Company in 1995.
In December 2000, GlaxoWellcome merged with SmithKlineBeecham, itself a result of the British Beecham Group (famous for Beecham’s Pills, Macleans toothpaste and Lucozade) merging with the American-French company SmithKline Beckman in 1982.
GlaxoSmithKline is now the world’s sixth-largest pharmaceutical company. Its product range includes the likes of amoxicillin, Sensodyne toothpaste, Horlicks and Nicorette. It has a presence in more than 150 countries and had revenues of $47 billion in 2016. GSK now describes itself as a “science-led global healthcare company” primarily concerned with creating innovative products in the “three primary areas of Pharmaceuticals, Vaccines and Consumer Healthcare”.
One or more of the companies that now make up GSK has been operating in Australia since 1886, doing things such as growing poppies in Tasmania, engaging in R&D and manufacturing pharmaceuticals.
In 2017, GSK appointed its first female CEO, Emma Walmsley, a mother of four youngish children. The company aims to create an inclusive workplace so as to “attract and retain the most talented people from all backgrounds and cultures”. For GSK, inclusivity translates to “affording all employees equal treatment regardless of actual or perceived race; colour; ethnic or national origin; age; gender; sexual orientation; marriage and civil partnership; gender identity and/or expression; religion or belief; physical ability/ disability and/or chronic health conditions (such as HIV/AIDS status); genetic make-up; or other protected characteristics as relevant in a country”.
GSK’s core values are “patient focus, integrity, respect for people and transparency”. The company expects its staff to “share our values, to act transparently and with integrity at all times”. The company has strict codes of conduct or guidelines relating to activities such as bribery, corruption, customer privacy and the ethical standards it expects suppliers and business partners to adhere to.
In Australia, GSK focuses on two partnerships. In 2009, it collaborated with Monash University to create the Australian Pharmaceutical Centre of Innovation. This centre continues to “support the development of new formulations and medicine delivery technologies”. Since 2013, it has partnered with Save the Children, “sharing [GSK’s) expertise and resources to make a lasting change for the world’s most vulnerable children”.
The company also has an employee volunteering program. In Australia, staff have volunteered more than 1200 hours to support worthy causes such as Abbotsford Convent (an arts precinct) and the food charities Fareshare and OzHarvest.
The recruitment process
If you’re interested in a career at GSK, or anywhere in the pharmaceutical industry for that matter, you should consider doing the company’s 12-month-long Industry-Based-Learning program during your last or second-last year at uni.
If you’ve got a Bachelor or Masters degree in business, commerce, engineering or human resources, as well as “a strong interest in general management and the real potential to be a future leader of the business” you can apply for the GSK Future Leaders Program.
The recruitment process takes around two months (if you complete all of it). It involves an online application, completing 1-3 online tests, a video interview and attending an assessment centre. You’ll maximise your chances of receiving an offer by demonstrating “ambition, commercial awareness and a self-motivated, proactive approach”. Throughout the recruitment process, keep in mind that GSK is looking for “clear, effective communicators who can quickly build a rapport with a wide range of people” and “adapt to change and keep focused when the pressure is on”. You’ll need “the drive and confidence to trust your own judgment” while being “a real team player who actively collaborates with others”. You’ll also need “an analytical mind, a talent for multi-tasking and the ability to influence others”.
The program lasts for three years and involves 3-4 rotations. These rotations are usually within Australia but you could find yourself working almost anywhere in the world. It’s an accelerated development program. One that “equips graduates with the knowledge, skills and attributes to move quickly into senior positions at GSK”. You’ll experience a “rich variety of structured training, individual mentoring, and opportunities to experience different aspects of the business.”
GSK doesn’t make much information about the remuneration it offers available. However, grads report the salary for those doing the Future Leaders program as somewhere between average to generous. There are also the kind of perks one would expect working for Big Pharma. These include discounts on the company’s products, plenty of free food in the office, team dinners and drinks nights, and free on-site yoga, Pilates and exercise classes.
GSK believes its success is dependent on its employees and is “committed to developing this precious resource”. All staff take part in a ‘Performance & Development Planning’ process to support their “core capability, knowledge and development”. The company has a comprehensive range of talent management initiatives. These facilitate staff achieving their short and long-term career goals. The company also provides external and internal development courses, as well as supporting those who pursue further tertiary education.
The vibe of the place
Pharmaceutical companies aren’t short of a dollar and GSK staff are well-looked after. You can expect to work in a pleasant, well-located office. The dress code ranges from businesslike to formal and there’s some flexibility when it comes to working hours. The corporate culture is professional but supportive and friendly. There a flat organisational structure, little emphasis on hierarchy and managers are approachable. For those interested in it, there are plenty of opportunities for after-hours socialising,
"Globally we have an extensive footprint. Focusing our work on Pharmaceuticals, Vaccines and Consumer Healthcare, our business spans more than 150 countries with over 100,000 employees. Our major research and development centres are located in the UK, US, Spain, Belgium and China. In Australia we employ over 1,200 people across R&D, manufacturing, sales & marketing and core business services such as HR and finance.
Finding the next generation of leaders for our business is no smalltask, since there’s no one kind of person who succeeds at GSK. The international scope and inherent diversity of our business means that all types of people can flourish and grow within the company. At GSK we offer Early Talent Programs designed to develop talented, ambitious students and graduates who share our purpose to help people do more, feel better and live longer.
Our Industry Based Learning Program is aimed at penultimate and final year undergraduate students. The IBL program is a full-time,12 month internship that allows students to build on their university learning and gain invaluable industry experience.
Our Future Leaders Program is for dedicated, committed graduates who want to experience challenging work across multiple functions of our business. The program involves a mix of on-the-job and formal training with multiple rotations that enable you to gain a depth of expertise and a breadth of experience.
GSK is a place where outstanding people do amazing things. Are you excited to take on some of the world's biggest healthcare challenges?"