Insights
November / December 2019

Multiple ISPE Roles: Lead to Unlocking Potential

Paul J. Cumbo
Tracy Clemmer

Tracy L. Clemmer’s experience has spanned the globe, and she has an impressive list of ISPE roles on her résumé. In addition to being a past President and Chair of the Training and Education Committee of the ISPE Singapore Affiliate, she was a Board Member and Chair of the Training and Education Committee of the ISPE China Affiliate and now serves on the ISPE Australasia Affiliate’s Board of Directors. She was also the recipient of the 2010 ISPE’s Max Seales Yonker Member of the Year Award.

Member Profile

Currently an independent consultant, Clemmer works with a worldwide range of clients in the pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical industries, where she has more than 25 years of experience. She specializes invalidation, manufacturing, project management, training, auditing, organizational development, and pharmaceutical sales. Across these many contexts, she said that “the people I’ve met are what I cherish most about my professional journey.”

Unlocking human potential is her strongest motivation. “What drives me is helping people realize the best of their capabilities and making systems work better.” With a BS in industrial engineering and an MBA, Clemmer couples her knowledge and experience with a genuine desire to improve organizations and their systems. “I found that implementing sustainable solutions is difficult in organizations with a rigid, ‘we know how to do it’ culture. The first step is to bring awareness and acceptance that change is needed.” She credits ISPE with bolstering her skills in support of these goals. “ISPE has provided me opportunities to develop and strengthen my leadership capabilities.”

Pharma Roots

One might say Clemmer’s career trajectory was oriented toward the pharmaceutical industry by default. “I grew up in ’Pharmaceutical Row’ near Philadelphia. It was a neighborhood thing—everybody worked for ‘Big Pharma.’ It wasn’t initially a passion; rather, it was just something I grew into.” Eventually, though, Clemmer developed a very personal interest in the industry. “My brother was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at 4 months. We were told his life expectancy was to be 9 years. He lived to be 27, which I credit in no small part to the pharmaceutical products that enabled him to live the best quality of life he could. I know that pharmaceuticals are providing better quality of life for people around the world.”

Clemmer’s disposition toward service and helping others has been strengthened by the travels she has undertaken. Travel “creates an experience of cultural immersion.” Last year she traveled to Nepal with a nonprofit organization that supports a school for underprivileged girls in Upper Mustang, an isolated district in northern Nepal. She noted, “I had the opportunity during my visit to meet the child I sponsor. It was a very humbling experience.”

Clemmer has worked in the United States, the United Kingdom, Singapore, Sweden, Korea, Thailand, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Japan, and Australia. She described the move from Singapore to China as “sensory overload.” “I couldn’t speak the language. I was in the ethnic minority. Everything was so different. All five senses were heightened. The intensity was refreshing, especially after Singapore, where everything is very organized.” This range of experience has broadened Clemmer’s appreciation for the diversity of the world—a perspective that informs her work as an independent consultant.

This independence is important because Clemmer sees herself operating generally outside the competitive aspect of the market; her aim is to focus on improving any organization with which she works. “I spent two years away from manufacturing and worked in sales. It was the first and only time in my career where I felt competitive with the other pharma companies. It wasn’t very appealing to me because I’m all about the betterment of people. That’s why I got into consulting—I wanted to bring best practices to everyone.” She credits the experience in sales for adding to her understanding of the industry.

Don’t ever stop learning. Be open-minded and positive, and remember the power of your network.

Helping through Consulting

Clemmer understands that her work as an independent consultant is as much about the “soft” elements of workplace culture and organizational systems as it is about the “hard” aspects, such as specific deliverables and results. “For many companies, the use of technology is a challenge and an opportunity. Many are trying to implement technical solutions before understanding their own work practices. This results in overcomplicated business processes, which they then try to bypass.”

Clemmer is particularly satisfied with her work to help companies look beyond their own usual assumptions and ways of working. “Sometimes, within a company culture, it’s hard to think outside the box.” Clemmer knows this firsthand: “When I left Merck in 2002 to join a consulting firm, I recognized that there was a broader world out there.” That’s when she got involved with ISPE. “ISPE helped me attain a view across the industry and see how different companies did things. ISPE brings together industry players to share collective knowledge and wisdom and improve the industry across the board.”

Asked for her advice to young professionals in the industry, Clemmer replied, “Don’t ever stop learning. Be open-minded and positive, and remember the power of your network.” Clemmer demonstrates how a person with an experienced, open mind and an adventurous, willing spirit can bridge wide gaps—even between the disparate worlds of Big Pharma and a remote village in the Nepalese Himalayas.