Unlocking innovation through lifelong learning

Being determined to make the right choices to win plays out in our culture of lifelong learning. Where our people are empowered to develop their knowledge and skills to grow their potential and deliver life-changing medicines to patients.

Delivering life-changing medicines to patients now and in the future requires continuous innovation. We’re dedicated to a culture of lifelong learning across our company so that we can make that happen.

What does that look like for the people who work at AstraZeneca? It’s every employee having access to a wealth of learning opportunities in their career so we can strengthen and evolve our capabilities every day. We’ve invested in a wealth of development offerings and world-class technology and tools to make learning easy, accessible and tailored for our needs, with a digital Learning Experience Platform that we call Degreed.

Having the right tools is only half of the journey to developing ourselves as individuals. It takes curious minds and a thirst for knowledge to drive growth and our Values and behaviours guide us along the way. One of our behaviours under our Value of ‘We play to win’ is that we are determined to make the right choices to win. We spoke to two colleagues about how they’ve lived this behaviour to see a huge impact for their professional growth. Here’s what they had to say.

Susan Farkas
Senior Director - Regional Payers

Susan Farkas’s 21-year career at AstraZeneca has been what she describes as a ‘typical growing up story’ with ‘lots of learning on the job.

Now a Senior Director for Regional Payers in the US, Susan has had a range of roles in the company since joining straight from college. From Sales Rep, to Analyst, to Regional Sales Director leading around 100 reps and later progressing to Executive Business Director and National Account Director.

Nicola Smith
Culture & Capability Director - Global Procurement

Nicola is based in Macclesfield and has been with AstraZeneca for 15 years. Currently supporting the Culture and Capability Director in Global Procurement, Nicola began her career as a Biochemist before moving into HR. Nicola says having exposure to roles in science, HR and procurement makes the job always feel new and different, with many learning opportunities.

How does our culture support learning?

Susan: We are encouraged to take smart risks and make the right choices to win which is how we learn and it’s what leads to innovation. We’re also encouraged to have a voice, speak up, share thinking, and challenge the status quo. I love how we have the space to fail fast and learn from taking calculated risks. That’s the culture AstraZeneca breathes, and it’s led from the top.

Nicola: There’s real a commitment from everyone at this organisation to embed learning into daily activities. Learning isn’t just about going to a training course; learning comes from experiences too.  We’ve had a big culture and mindset shift where we see learning in everything we do. It’s integral to the way we go about our day to day.

We value learning from failure as well – carving out time to acknowledge and learn from things that haven’t worked. And this helps us to feel more comfortable about taking smart risks.

How are you empowered to take ownership of your development?

Susan: We have an online learning platform called Degreed which gives us the power and flexibility to learn in our own way. It provides access to world-class external resources and even pushes recommended content that is directly relevant to our skills and learning history. It helps us connect with other learners, follow colleagues, and thought leaders, as well as sharing our own learning journeys.

We enjoy a culture of organic development – things that are discussed between us and our managers, which feed into our development plans, and we’re empowered to make the right choices to drive that ourselves.

Nicola: We don’t need to wait for permission. Curiosity is instilled in people at AstraZeneca, which I love! I’ve found opportunities for development, asked for them and have been supported. To give an example, I received funding to get my Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD) qualification when I joined HR. I began as a Biochemist but now I have a completely different career, so making the right choices to be proactive about my development has been a game-changer for me. I see every experience as a learning opportunity.

How can we apply being determined to make the right choices to win when it comes to learning?

Susan: I still remember something that a colleague once said to me, ‘there are two things that change your life - the people you meet and the books you read.’ The way I see it, our learning platform, Degreed is the modern-day version of those books. It’s offering digital learning opportunities – we just need to make the right choices to seize those opportunities. Degreed complements our culture of innovation and reinforces that we don’t have all the answers - we are all learning every day. It provides us with a platform to help us find those answers through shared perspectives and experiences.

Nicola: Unless we’re determined to make the right choices to learn and continuously evolve, adapt and innovate, we won’t fulfil our purpose - to push the boundaries of science to deliver life-changing medicines. Learning is something we need to do continually - that’s how we constantly stay ahead of the game and find new opportunities. And that’s how we innovate.