Lucia Villamil Mariatti – Roche
Growing up in Uruguay, Lucia Villamil Mariatti wasn’t sure which education path would lead to her true passion.
It wasn’t until matriculating as a law student and discovering administrative law that she realized what she was passionate about: fostering ethics and humanity within the business world.
The subject “motivated me because it goes towards the just, the ethical.”
Now serving as healthcare compliance regions support manager for Roche, the pioneer in biotechnology, Villamil Mariatti combines a unique appreciation for the just and the ethical. Her aim? Leveraging the corporate culture for 90,000 employees at one of the most ethical and sustainable companies in the world.
“When you work with passion and vision, you sometimes may not realize the risks of the activity you are pursuing,” she says. “There’s a baseline of the ‘ethical’ and ‘unethical’ that is pretty clear, but then the interesting area, and the one I really like, is working around the ‘unknown ground’—the gray and unregulated, where we need to realize: what may be the consequences, risks or impact of the activity we pursue, putting the patient in the center?”
‘I made it … human’
Her first role at Roche around half a decade ago was as head of compliance for the Uruguay, Paraguay and Bolivia affiliate, where she took the compliance program to another level. From there, she moved to the Central America & Caribbean affiliate, where she was asked to promote sustainability, ethical standards and responsibility through innovative leadership in more than 20 countries.
Responsible for driving legal strategy, enabling the business as a trusted partner, monitoring, personnel training and guidance, among other activities, Villamil Mariatti, who speaks five languages, thrived in the role.
“I love the fact that I made meaningful relationships at Roche. I still get a lot of love from the teams of both affiliates, I think because we did something that maybe wasn’t what everyone was expecting. I made it the only way I could: human, and I really helped people develop their work strategy with an ethical view.”
Her most compelling achievement? Villamil Mariatti feels she achieved a change of mindset regarding what legal and compliance means, and was able to launch a culture of openness, trust and accountability.
Those results—and that desire to foster humanity alongside good business practices—would prompt Roche to promote Villamil Mariatti to its global headquarters in Basel, Switzerland, in 2020.
How to improve
In her role in the Healthcare Compliance Office in Basel, Villamil Mariatti is tasked with generating a global engagement strategy to foster new ways of working toward compliance.
Getting her arms around that very big task is helped along by her experience in several business areas, presenting her and her compliance team as a partner, not a deal killer.
Driving her was the knowledge that legal and compliance is not just dealing with the law, “but also with ethical principles. It’s all about how you get there, because how you get there matters. If you have such a beautiful vision of making people’s lives better, it’s very important how you do that.”
Influencing a network of 300 compliance colleagues from Roche’s Basel headquarters, Villamil Mariatti talks a lot about “principle-based compliance” as the key to changing compliance culture. That means no daylight between compliance with the law and internal company guidelines.
Because identical roles, activities and challenges may not be the same across the world, there’s no “one size fits all” approach to her work. That’s true not just in terms of rules and regulations, but also in terms of culture.
“If you think about rules, they are needed and very useful,” Villamil Mariatti says. “But we prefer to be partners in the whole process and not just rule makers or appliers. We can be partners for walking the road that leads somewhere: a vision, a goal. And when that ‘somewhere’ is strengthening our health care systems, patients getting what they need faster … now what we’re doing makes a lot more sense.”
But how do you measure culture and whether it’s changing?
For Villamil Mariatti, the journey started with customer-facing roles.
“They are closest to the patient. They’re out there in the field, they’re feeling the struggle and delivering our message. So I try to relate to them, learning from them as well. You can’t be good in compliance if you can’t see what’s going on in the field and how to approach stakeholders.”
Measuring culture is difficult, she says, but not impossible.
“Whatever method,” she says, “you need to be close to the people; we ask questions and also build reliable KPIs. You need to measure and see how you moved the needle on mindset culture.”
In doing so, Villamil Mariatti knew she needed to be cognizant of how each department at Roche functions in the real world (the hours and locations) and also culturally (lexicon and lingo).
She cautions about being conscious of who your internal clients and stakeholders are.
“We try to reach different audiences in different ways. That mindset of being really thoughtful, coaching people and allowing them to have some ‘in’ in legal and compliance, is to add a different type of thinking; it’s not about control.”
“At Roche, we are all very aware of the impact of everything we do on patients. In procurement, in legal, in a squad. It doesn’t matter where you’re sitting. You really know, ‘What’s the piece you’re going to really move the needle in terms of changing patients’ lives?’ That, I think, is unique to Roche. We all feel it.”
“We’ve successfully implemented compliance as a mindset, as a culture,” she says. “That’s something that changes our status, from monitors to partners and from partners to enablers. I am proud to be part of such a sustainable company, where the standards are high for the right reason: keeping the patient in the center.”
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