Growing up in Puerto Rico, Carlos Santiago was familiar with the pharmaceutical industry. The island of pristine beaches and majestic mountains was also one of the world’s top manufacturing locations for pharmaceutical products. So it’s no surprise that seemed a great option when he graduated from the University of Puerto Rico with an engineering degree.
A friend with a connection got him an interview and he’s been on a fast trajectory ever since. Along the way, he’s taken a pretty unusual route to reach his current position as vice president of Worldwide Real Estate and Facilities for the Americas region. Santiago climbed the ranks through different business units where it may not seem he had deep experience. But he had a skill that applied directly to his success, he’s always been able to see the big picture.
Over the years, Santiago has worked in more than 30 countries with varying lengths of tenure. Some were relocations, others were a short visit to troubleshoot challenges. He’s shifted from engineering to production and supply chain to real estate and facilities.
“When I came to WREF, I had a ton of transferable skills without any actual experience in this field,” said Santiago. “But those skills are in high demand because it’s something everyone needs and includes project management, budget oversight and relationship building. I may not always have the answer but I know how to get the answer and I’ve seen situations all across the company.”
The father of three also credits mentors as a key component.
I’ve had mentors my entire career and I usually have more than one. The key is to have a connection with the person before you ask them to be your mentor and to know exactly what each mentor offers. That’s why you may need more than one.
Santiago would need every advantage as his team tackled two massive projects in the middle of the pandemic – relocating the US headquarters in Philadelphia’s Navy Yard and Research Triangle Park in North Carolina. Moving at warp speed, they accomplished this herculean effort from start to finish in less than two years. This included identifying a new space, keeping senior leaders in the loop, the logistics of moving out of one space and moving into another space, setting up the new location.
At the same time, WREF looks after all the research and development facilities along with the commercial facilities that are not part of supply chain. Ensuring these locations are operating safely and compliant keeps them busy.
“We support everything in research & development and marketing of a product but not the actual manufacturing itself. That includes everything from the labs to security to housekeeping,” said Santiago. “We even have lab concierges to ensure our scientists have everything they need for the job.”
As we mark Hispanic Heritage Month, it’s the perfect time to show appreciation for colleagues of this caliber. Make no mistake there are so many outstanding people at GSK. That’s the reason for our recent recognition from the Hispanic Association for Corporate Responsibility. GSK earned the 5-Star Award for Excellence in the area of employment for 2022. Read more about HACR’s Inclusion Index here.