At Pfizer, Dan Buriak directs global supply innovation
"We are a values-based company, and the value
of integrity and respect for people matches
my personal values," says this gay manager
Since he started working at Pfizer (New York, NY) in 1996, Dan Buriak, who is gay, has been open about his sexual orientation. That's not a coincidence, he says.
"Pfizer gave me the opportunity to express who I am and bring my full self to work. I very much enjoy the culture and the value system. We are a values-based company, and the value of integrity and respect for people aligns with my personal values and my personal mission. I look at whatever I'm doing and ask, 'Am I out there making a difference?'"
Fifteen years at Pfizer
Buriak has worked for Pfizer for fifteen years in various technical and managerial positions, with responsibilities for plant operations support, regulatory strategies and change management in technical services, quality, supply chain and HR.
Since last year he has been senior director of Pfizer Global Supply (PGS) innovation and is a member of the Pfizer innovation steering committee. In collaboration with Pfizer's corporate innovation team, Buriak leads the PGS innovation council, a strategic group working to establish the framework for an innovative PGS culture.
Buriak is pleased to be tying his own diversity into the lives of tens of thousands of Pfizer employees worldwide. "We wanted to look at Pfizer's innovation strategy as a cultural change dynamic more than a technology focus," he explains.
Currently he's been on a listening tour. "The first thing I like to do is understand the global dynamic around innovation. How do employees in other countries approach it in their culture? What do the local environment or political or business influences mean to them?
"In driving global strategy, you have to look at how it's interpreted in the business locally before looking at the main drivers. I've literally been doing nothing but that for the past six months," he says.
Before this post Buriak was a member of the PGS HR leadership team, in charge of diversity, inclusion and colleague engagement. He moved there from a more technical role as a member of the supply-chain management leadership team, where he led the development of a multifaceted project management system for product changes. He has also led the quality operations site compliance network.
Diversity plus innovation
The reason for the changes from his original technical role to diversity, then on to "diversity plus innovation," can be attributed to an important mentor in Buriak's life: Richard Illingworth, now-retired HRVP. Illingworth was watching Buriak's career develop. "They created a position for me to take over, leading a diversity initiative in Pfizer's manufacturing supply organization," Buriak says. "It was before the company established a chief diversity officer role. I think it was rather forward-looking of them to recognize the necessity of the position and bring me in."
Illingworth, he says, was the most recent influential person in his career. His other important mentor was Sue Preston, a senior regulator at the FDA who offered Buriak an internship while he was still in college. "I worked at the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research in Washington full time after college, working with her directly," Buriak says.
Buriak grew up in western Pennsylvania and played football throughout high school. His dad was a school teacher and sports coach, his mom a homemaker. "My objective was to go to medical school," he says, "but the internship at the FDA made me more interested in what science looks like in the business arena. I found I was fascinated by the health industry."
He got his 1988 BA in biology from Lycoming College (Williamsport, PA) and started at the FDA as a laboratory scientist checking out pharmaceutical manufacturers' products. From there he went into biotech, moving to Centocor (Horsham, PA) in 1989 to work in quality ops. "My job was to help set up their businesses, steeped in the regulations of the FDA. My background and the jobs going forward were technically based, with a high level of regulation and compliance attached to them," Buriak says.
A series of pharmas
He went on to Organon Pharmaceuticals (West Orange, NJ) in 1991, where he had a global manufacturing practices training job centering on production equipment and policies. From there he went to the former Sterling Winthrop (New York, NY) to work on compliance in moving products from R&D to production. When Sterling was sold in 1996, Buriak moved to Pfizer.
A lot going on
Buriak has a lot going on outside work. When he's not traveling the world for Pfizer's innovation effort, he lives in New Jersey, where he's restoring a historic Victorian home. He has also been involved in revitalizing his community, where he has been politically active as a local New Jersey councilman, planning board member and governmental liaison to public and private schools and historic preservation commissions.
And he's using his Pfizer-groomed leadership capabilities to oversee a multimillion-dollar streetscape infrastructure project in his hometown, consistent with Pfizer's community value initiative.
At Pfizer, Buriak looks forward to doing more to promote diversity of thought worldwide. "It's great to work for a company with the noble purpose of making the world healthier. This seems like home to me," he says.
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