06 – LIFE STORIES – JOHN KEDDIE
John Keddie – Flexibility
Flexibility in business is absolutely core to success. Life, and the world of work, is changing so rapidly, the need to be flexible in terms of ideas, thinking and action is critical or opportunities will be missed. For me, agility includes identifying new ideas, challenging the status quo, focusing on the customer, and doing it right first time. Standing still is not an option, as if you do, the world will pass you by.
My story is fairly simple. I’m a scientist by background, with a PhD in biology. I got my first job aged 25 (!) working for the government as a scientific specialist, before moving on to Unilever Research in Liverpool. A few years later, I joined SmithKline Beecham, a global pharmaceuticals company, based in Epsom, Surrey. That company morphed into GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), and I moved to work in Harlow in 2000. Working for GSK, I had a variety of jobs and started to work internationally around 2001. I’ve worked in about 40 countries over the years, including China, Japan and India as well as visiting the US over 200 times. My last role with GSK was as Vice President, Global Operations, managing over 40 operations around the world. One constant theme has run though my career – the need to be flexible and to anticipate and adapt to change. What works for the Chinese may not work in India, and Australia is not the UK with sun! It is a different market and business needs to be flexible to succeed.
Since leaving GSK, I have taken on a variety of non-executive roles, including joining the Board of Anglia Ruskin University, and most importantly, Chairing the Board of the Harlow Enterprise Zone. The EZ presents Harlow with a fabulous opportunity to develop the next phase of the town’s success – to attract high quality, high value jobs and to grasp the challenges of the next 20 years. We are agile in our thinking and flexible in our approach to attract the best opportunities for Harlow, but we all need to continue to seek the best ideas and innovative people to drive our success for the future.