BSB Executive Series: How to Become a CEO

BSB students and faculty were delighted to welcome Tom Monroe, CEO of Vaxxilon and former head of strategy for Actelion to The Basel School as part of our Executive Guest Lecture series. Tom started by giving an insight on his path to becoming a CEO. How he made choices based on what he enjoyed doing (making a real change) and his dream of having an international career, which meant not always taking the best paying or most prestigious job.

Two tips he shared were the importance of showing early on in your career that you can create real value for the company, and build a successful team. Most important in setting up a company though is your belief in the project, you need to be the company’s first cheerleader and Tom was clearly passionate about the hope Vaxxilon brings to saving millions of lives.

After an introduction into vaccines and how the new technologies Vaxxilon is developing could facilitate production, distribution and administration, Tom shared his experience of setting up a startup. The role of a startup CEO is essentially that of juggling and decision making, in a very broad range of areas including finance, strategic scientific choice, hiring and defining the company culture.

Most interesting for our students is the importance Tom gave to the broad education his MBA gave him, giving him the tools to understand all the different parts of the company. Moreover, he highlighted the role of the MBA foundation courses in economics and statistics. This supports our belief in offering the economics and research courses early on in the MBA program, as the fundamentals of decision making.

Tom is an accomplished, cross-functional leader with more than 20 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry. He has worked in several start-up environments and prior to joining Vaxxilon had spent the last 15+ years at Actelion as the company grew from fewer than 50 employees to more than 2’500.

Vaxxilon AG is focused on the discovery and development of innovative synthetic carbohydrate vaccines. Headquartered near Basel, Switzerland with research labs in Berlin, the Vaxxilon team is advancing several vaccine candidates for the prevention of major infectious diseases.

© 2017 The Basel School of Business