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In the world of business—and scientific research—war metaphors abound. “Hitting our targets.” “Fighting cancer.” What we don’t see are many comparisons to peacekeeping.
That’s why we were so interested to learn that one of our own, Ivo Struik, Director, Government Affairs, Access & Patient Advocacy for Viiv Healthcare, was honoured with Alfred Nobel Peace Prize earlier this year.
In 1980, when Ivo graduated from high school in the Netherlands, the first significant United Nations operations since World War II were taking place, and the UN was actively recruiting volunteer soldiers for its peacekeeping missions. Ivo joined the UNIFIL (UN Interim Force in Lebanon) at just 18 years old, a boy, really, and six months later he was walking along mountain patrols with a gun on his shoulder and two litres of water in the hot, desolated, but beautiful landscape of southern Lebanon.
“First I was stationed with only 10 men in a field post near a farming village. We were there to control and prevent military movements of fighting factions,” Ivo recalled. “But I also saw the other side of the community while walking patrols in the village. I was invited by families to share meals with them.” They also built hospitals, field posts, schools, drinking water facilities.
After his service with the UN peacekeeping forces, Ivo studied medicine, and earned his Medical Doctor degree from Free University Amsterdam in 1992. He joined GSK that year, in respiratory field sales, and has held a number of marketing, sales roles, policy, corporate affairs, and government affairs roles throughout our company ever since.
In 1988, the Nobel Committee gave all UN peacekeeping forces (1948-1988) the Nobel Peace Prize, but the awards for Dutch soldiers were only issued this year. Ivo, along with other members of the Dutch forces, attended ceremonies across the Netherlands throughout the year to honour their service.
“I bring a lot from my time with UNIFIL into my work for GSK, and now ViiV Healthcare,” said Ivo. “Being aware of politics, moving diplomatically among all parties, knowing no one will win without a mutual agenda. And also, you will never make it alone.”
It’s a myth that in the army you only need tough guys. Just as with war—and peace—success in our business requires a team with diverse backgrounds and expertise, working together, building on different skills and qualities to get maximum output.