Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Tampa office becoming model of culture, innovation for company

April 12, 2016

    Thad Moore | Tampa Bay Times   Bristol-Myers Squibb's office here is just a sliver of the global pharmaceutical behemoth, but it's not so different from the company as a whole. The staff of about 450 in Tampa — expected to approach 600 by the end of the year — work in research and development, IT, human resources and finance, among other fields. It's like a slice of the corporation in its entirety, which employs 25,000 worldwide. In a sense, that's the point of the North American Capability Center, as the Tampa office is known. It's supposed to get different departments talking to each other in the hope that they come up with new ideas.  
So while the office off Eisenhower Boulevard bears some similarity to the operations centers that dot Westshore, it's becoming a model for how the pharmaceutical giant approaches its business, said Wayne Lewis, the office's associate director for communications and community relations.   There are no offices, not even for executives; everyone gets a desk instead. The different divisions aren't cordoned off, but they blend together. Staff meetings are followed by social gatherings.   "It's been so effective," Lewis said. The goal: "To be able to take those super smart and engaged people and have them enjoy the work that they're doing."   The idea is that if everyone is approachable and people in different departments talk to each other, they might come up with new ideas, says Lee Evans, executive director of the center. Even a trip to a ball game could add business value.   It's working, Lewis said: When Bristol-Myers Squibb updates its much larger facility in Princeton, N.J., soon, it's going to take notes from Tampa. Executives have asked how the office has been so productive, what's in the water in Florida.   Employees seem to like it, too: The 2-year-old facility was named one of Tampa Bay's top workplaces this year for the first time, notching the No. 11 spot among midsized businesses.   Bristol-Myers Squibb's arrival in Tampa in 2014 was heralded as an economic development win for Hillsborough County, a big-name company and almost 600 jobs. The company committed to spending $21.2 million on capital investments here and more than $37 million a year on payroll. Local and state governments agreed to kick in up to $7 million.   So far, Evans said, most of those jobs — roughly 90 percent — are being filled by Floridians instead of internal transfers.   Alison Reed lived in Tampa Bay for a year before taking a job at Bristol-Myers Squibb, and while she hadn't worked in health care before, she was ready to move to a bigger company — one with newer technology and more resources.   Coming from a smaller business, she expected a more competitive, impersonal environment. Instead, she said, she found a big company's resources with the feel of a smaller company. People got to know each other, and with a less hierarchical structure, she feels that collaboration, not competition, is rewarded.   But when Reed, who works in finance, has had a chance to recruit newcomers to the Tampa office, that's not her main pitch. Instead, she homes in on the work the company does.   Many employees, she said, are driven by Bristol-Myers Squibb's research into developing new drugs and finding cures to as-yet-uncured diseases. That's true even in Tampa, which doesn't have the laboratories that other facilities have. Most people have office jobs, but the company has tried to draw connections between that work and lifesaving efforts.   "You may be doing accounts payable. You may be doing finance-type work. But you're all playing a part in the mission," Reed said.   Still, it doesn't hurt that this office has a particularly good vibe.   Freddy Morales has worked for Bristol-Myers Squibb for 13 years in a career that's spanned two continents. The Tampa office is special, he said.   Morales, director of U.S. business operations, likes that the people here are ambitious and smart, and that they're energetic and creative. But he especially likes that they say hello and that everyone smiles at each other.   "It's collaborative. It's innovative — a lot of those buzzwords," Morales said. "They seem like buzzwords. They're real things that keep us coming back here."   Company bio
Company: Bristol-Myers Squibb Ranking on list: No. 11 in midsize employers Founded: 1858 Sector: Pharmaceuticals Locations: 1 in Tampa Employees: 450 locally, 25,000 company wide Revenue: $16.6 billion in 2015