Paul Hudson shares AZ’s philosophy for success with students


Meredith Hemler

19 February 2015

Paul Hudson, President, AstraZeneca U.S. and Executive Vice President, North America, recently spoke at the first Hope University leadership retreat, urging students to pursue their dreams by being passionate about what they do, engaging with mentors and not being afraid to fail.

Hope University – organized by Bringing Hope Home – is designed to link students in grades seven through 12 interested in community service with nonprofit organizations in the greater Philadelphia area.

Hudson, who serves on the board of Bringing Hope Home, told the students that employers like AstraZeneca are looking for employees who are “more than a resume” and are committed to being leaders in their professional and personal lives. That, he said, makes the company a great place to work for those dedicated to improving people’s lives.

Hudson shared his passion for improving the lives of people in their communities and encouraged the students to identify what motivates them and, by tapping into their strengths, to bring that passion to life. As the students begin to think about career paths, he said, they should keep three things in mind:

  • Build life experiences, which are just as important as the majors they pick in school.
  • Find a good mentor, who can help them kick around ideas and share life experiences.
  • Learn to “fail fast.”

On this last point, Hudson told them that failure is an inevitable – and vital – part of the learning experience. Failing is acceptable, so long as they learn from their mistakes and identify how they can bring about meaningful change.

Paul Hudson speaks with attendees of the first Hope University leadership retreat.

As the leader of AstraZeneca in the U.S., Hudson strives to promote a culture of entrepreneurs, made up of driven individuals who are bold enough to challenge the status quo, take smart risks, and adjust quickly based on results. In this way, the company stays agile and can continuously evolve to better serve patients and communities. AstraZeneca is implementing this philosophy with our Open Innovation approach, through which we rapidly develop and test ideas, quickly eliminating those that do not work, while learning from each of those experiences that can ultimately lead to greater progress.

Hudson concluded with the students by stressing the importance of leadership – a concept that is difficult to define and explain. Instead, he illustrated it by encouraging the students to “be the bee.”

With that, he shared the story of how bees fly – and the fact that scientists long believed that the laws of aerodynamics suggest that the bumblebee should not be able to fly because it does not have the required wing area or flapping speed to support the weight of its body. Yet it manages to get off the ground.

While there are many theories to explain how this happens – just like there are many theories on leadership – the important point is that we can’t always neatly explain concepts. Sometimes what seems improbable or impossible is actually possible. The lesson, Hudson said, is that anything is possible, even if it is difficult to explain or define – and that is the belief that must guide the students as they continue their education and begin thinking about their careers.

Bringing Hope Home, “a non-profit organization that provides unexpected amazingness to local families with cancer through financial and emotional support. Through our Light of Hope Family Grant Program, we offer a one-time grant to pay essential household bills for families with cancer in the Greater Philadelphia Area.”