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Maria Fernandez Ramos, Team Leader of Healthcare Communications here at Meet, caught up with Kath to hear more about life at GCI Health…
Kath tells me she has always been fascinated by human behaviour, that’s what led her into the healthcare communications industry almost 20 years ago. Fast forward to 2016 and she joined GCI Health, a forward-thinking, award-winning healthcare communications agency known for their expert knowledge, unrelenting client service, and most importantly unrivalled talent.
Tell us about the company culture at GCI Health?
Our culture is inspired by our people. We promise our team ‘an entrepreneurial environment, where they can create bold, powerful campaigns, with smart, sassy, like-minded people, who are specialists in the industry’. What that actually means is that we’ve got clear values and we focus on putting our people first.
We are a genuinely diverse team, with a huge mix of personalities and backgrounds. That’s incredibly important in nurturing a collaborative environment; where people are encouraged to be inquisitive and curious, to ask questions openly and to have the confidence to challenge the standard. Just because you're junior doesn't mean you can't walk into my office and tell me you've got an idea. That’s brilliant. That’s exactly what I’m looking for!
In this highly regulated space, our client’s business problems require a unique approach - we need to tackle each project with new energy & creativity. So, we seek out work that fascinates us; work with innovative clients in the most interesting therapeutic areas; on work that motivates the team and feeds their passions.
That’s why our culture is so important to us, because if people are not feeling valued and energised, then we’re not able to deliver the best for our clients.
What makes GCI Health unique as an agency?
It is our culture that truly makes us different and unique. Hand on heart, I don't believe there are any other healthcare agencies like GCI Health right now. But, we are only as good as our people, which is why we nurture this caring, collaborative, open environment.
Healthcare communications is a tough industry to recruit in because the talent pool is so small, so it's important to invest in the people you have. It’s not just about money, it’s about making sure people feel supported and part of something bigger, all working towards the same goal.
Everyone here wants to be part of growing something, but we don't want to be the biggest, just the best. It’s often hard to balance growth and culture; we’re very lucky having the backing of WPP, as we are set-up for growth, but not to the detriment of the team and our culture.
When I joined 3 years ago we were a team of 14. I remember sitting in my first company meeting, turning to one of my new colleagues and saying ‘where is everybody?’ She replied, ‘this is everybody’. We’re now a team of over 30, it’s brilliant to see how far we’ve come!
And our growth hasn’t just been in London, we’re an international agency with a team of close to 200 in the U.S., we set up a hub in Asia at the beginning of the year and we opened our doors in Germany in September, increasing our headcount to 275 employees.
Our CEO, Wendy Lund, comes to London three to four times a year to spend time with the team. She’s an incredible role model! Not only does she still take the time to build a personal relationship with every single client we have (given the size of GCI Health globally that's quite phenomenal), she genuinely cares and puts her people first. That approach echoes throughout the whole agency - it’s part of our DNA.
So, what kind of person would flourish at GCI Health?
We are looking for people who are driven by growing something great. That’s top of my list! As I said, we’re still in a phase of growth and I’m looking for people as excited by that as I am. As a Leadership Team, it’s our job to make sure you feel fulfilled and engaged with your work as well as supported and pushed from a career development point of view. But we also need a level of commitment from everyone, it’s a partnership.
I’m also looking for people with a sense of humour, as we don't take ourselves too seriously! Anyone who works in the industry knows it can be a stressful job; its deadline driven, and understandably we have high expectations. But you must be able to put that into perspective.
That's a refreshing approach for me, having experienced the level of pressure in other agencies. I think having a sense of humour makes a real difference to the quality of work we deliver to clients and sets us apart from our competition.
And what do you think it takes to be successful within the industry?
You’ve got to be able to actively listen, that is critical to success. Each client will have a unique problem and be looking for a unique business solution; they want creative ideas and to do something different, but they don’t always want to be the first to do it.
The real skill is building a strong partnership with your clients, so that you fully understand their pressure points and can be confident in challenging them. I think that comes down to communication which is obviously at the heart of what we do but sometimes the first thing that gets forgotten when the pressure is on. The importance of communication was instilled in me very early on in my career and it’s still so fundamental. Technology has developed and changed the way we work but having a conversation over the phone or face-to-face is irreplaceable.
But I think the most important thing is hard-work and determination. Some of our star performers come from totally different backgrounds and have had to learn everything about the industry. But, they know what they want and that’s what’s made them a success.
If you’re willing to ask questions and try new things you can have a long, fruitful career in this job. There’s no need to burn out before you're 30, you’ve just got to get your balance right.
Is that why life:work balance is so important at GCI Health?
Totally. You should work to live, not live to work. Flexibility is more than just the hours you’re in the office, it’s about being trusted to get your work done in a way that suits you. Some of our team work part-time, many work from home when they need; whether its family commitments (a lot of our senior team are working parents) or wanting to make that gym or art class, flexibility is extended to every single member of the team.
Obviously, we encourage people to spend time in the office, because that plays an important role in building a collaborative and supportive culture. At the moment we have an environment where everyone knows each other; people chat and catch-up over a coffee, bring in homemade cakes (that will completely destroy your waistline) and genuinely care about how people are doing - I don't want to lose that as we continue to grow.
What are you most proud of?
How much we've grown but still managed to keep our sanity!
Last year we grew again and that’s down to everybody's passion, dedication and hard work. We all have our own things going on, but everyone still comes in and gives their all. So, I’m proud of what we've achieved collectively, and each person individually.
Finally, what does the future look like for GCI Health?
The future at GCI Health is really exciting! We're fortunate to have an amazing client base, working in some of the most exciting therapeutic areas on innovative, cutting-edge products and a hugely talented and growing team.
What's really important to me, and the rest of our leadership team, is not to lose sight of what makes us great – our people! They inspire us every day and remain at the heart of what we do. We won’t be seduced by success; simply driven by it. We don't want to be the biggest, we just want to be the best.
Our future is really exciting, so if you want to join us get in touch!