Deb Mangone

Country Manager, Pfizer Finland

Choosing to relocate from New York City to Helsinki may seem like an odd choice for some native Finns, but it was an easy decision for Deb Mangone, new Country Manager of Pfizer Finland. The American executive with a background in industrial engineering was excited to live in the “happiest country in the world,” a country also known for its excellent business environment for life science companies. Her global pharma company has recently been thrust into the limelight since announcing promising results of its Covid-19 vaccine candidate trials. Pfizer Finland employs over 100 people with an annual turnover of about 120€ million.

We recently talked with Deb because we’re always driven to understand why people and companies move to Finland, why they invest in Finland, and why they choose to stay (or go) as part of our mission at Amcham. Deb has only been here for a few months, so we caught up with her to learn why she left the most famous city in the world for the most sparsely populated country in Europe.

Mangone’s history with Pfizer spans almost 20 years, and she’s held multiple positions at the managerial and executive levels. Most recently, she held the role of Chief of Staff for global CEO Albert Bourla, while simultaneously functioning as site lead for the New York headquarters.

One trip to the Nordics sparked a flurry of inspiration to become a country manager.

“When I traveled to Norway and Sweden in 2016, I met four fabulous females: the country managers of Norway, Sissel Andersen; Sweden, Malin Parkler; Finland, Päivi Kerkola; and Denmark, Henriette Rosenquist. They were so impressive and inspiring, and I couldn’t help but want to be like them.”

Finland, and the Nordics generally, take pride in a stellar reputation for gender equality, both in the professional context and within greater society. Emphasis on a healthy balance between work and personal time, as well as the highly functioning public healthcare systems are more reasons that Deb appreciates Nordic culture.

“I was drawn to Finland because of the culture here. Finland has one of the best work-life balances in Europe, and the education system is regarded as one of the best in the world.  Being the Pfizer Country Manager, I am also excited because of the well-functioning, high-quality healthcare system and the innovation that is happening here. I think there are a lot of great opportunities to bring the best of Finland to Pfizer.“

Deb approaches challenges in the pharmaceutical industry with optimism and a constructive attitude, in line with a reputation that Americans have for being ambitious problem-solvers.

“I think the biggest challenge of the pharmaceutical industry is showing the value of medicines and ensuring adequate funding for healthcare, including adequate funding and access for innovative medicines and vaccines. The opportunity for companies like Pfizer is to show the value of our medicines and vaccines to Finnish patients and society, including how they improved the patients’ ability to work and reduce the overall cost in the long-term.  This will be especially important as more medicines for areas like Rare Diseases come to market, given that they are expected to be curative, and traditional pricing methods will no longer work.”

Yet even with a positive attitude, Deb identified multiple ways to make Finland more attractive to international talent and companies. Ultimately, changes that may improve one’s personal life and the lives of family members will also aid with attracting more experts like her.

For example, a world-class education system is touted as a unique selling point for Finland, yet it may be unavailable for most international families.

“We felt like we really only had one solid option for English-speaking schools, and my son was on a waiting list when we first arrived.  This was obviously stressful for me while starting in my new role.”

Learning Finnish is an option for those with plans to stay in Finland permanently, but country managers and other executives are often invited to hold leadership positions without knowing how long they’ll stay. For example, it’s possible that a country manager spends one or two years in a given country before their assignment is changed again, making the fluent language learning process near impossible for a busy family.

Deb also believes that further cooperation with the private sector, specifically with global pharmaceutical companies, would make Finland more attractive for investment. She told us, “The pharmaceutical industry can be part of the solution to further improve the research and innovation ecosystem.”

Early on, Deb recognized that Finland is a wonderful place to contribute to global and Finnish society through her work, while also providing options that will benefit her family at home. Deb is optimistic about what Finland has to offer, which highlights why the business community and public sector must approach FDI and talent attraction holistically. Paying attention to multiple aspects of peoples’ and companies’ situation will help move everyone towards becoming the ideal business location.

“On the personal front, my family has settled in quite nicely and my children are enjoying their new school and friends. On the work front, it’s a bit of a steep learning curve so I’ve been very busy listening and learning. Of course, coming here and starting this new role in the middle of the Covid pandemic has made things a bit more complicated, so I’m looking forward to when science wins and we can all be together.“

We’re excited to follow Deb’s journey in Finland, and we’re fortunate that companies like Pfizer are committed to flourishing through their operations here.

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