Architect of Growth: Chad Kellner Pioneering Tomorrow’s Leaders Today

Chad Kellner | Head of Gaithersburg Site Operations
Chad Kellner | Head of Gaithersburg Site Operations

In the heart of AstraZeneca‘s cutting-edge pharmaceutical research and development, Chad Kellner stands as the driving force behind

transforming the future of healthcare by unlocking the power of what science can do, for people, society and the planet. As the Head of Gaithersburg Site Operations, he manages and guides a diverse team of engineers, scientists, finance experts, and compliance professionals. Together, they craft state-of-the-art facilities that pave the way for groundbreaking biological research and development.

Chad’s story is filled with remarkable achievements. In his previous roles, he steered teams through a period of remarkable growth, managing operational expenses and capital budgets amid an 80% surge in employee numbers. His strategic prowess extended to overseeing a vast real estate portfolio and ensuring seamless integration with the expanding workforce. Additionally, his legacy includes pioneering the implementation of enterprise-wide resource maintenance planning and cutting-edge metrology & automation systems reshaping the industry’s technological landscape.

Amidst the pulsating energy of pharmaceutical innovation, his commitment to driving progress echoes in every facility delivered under his guidance. In the realm of healthcare excellence, Chad stands as an ideal example of transformative leadership, illuminating the path towards a future where science drives unprecedented healthcare advancements.

Let’s explore the innovative solutions, groundbreaking research and state-of-the-art facilities led by Chad and his dedicated team!

Innovation Through Collaboration

One of the cornerstones of Chad’s management philosophy is ensuring coordinated actions between his teams and the individuals on the teams. To lead a large, highly effective and high-functioning team, it is essential that everyone understands what each member is responsible for, what each other is doing and most importantly, being comfortable asking for help.

Chad shares, “I believe that an effective organization is one in which each member is comfortable enough to admit when assistance is needed, or when clarification is required so that as a group, we can deliver the commitments that we make to our customers, colleagues and patients.”

Chad has noticed a common trend among professionals—a reluctance to acknowledge their lack of knowledge and an aversion to seeking help when needed. He points out, “This tendency often leads to confusion, missed deadlines, overspending, or falling short of expectations.”

Chad believes that for businesses to stay ahead and remain innovative, it’s crucial to let go of the outdated notion of ‘job security.’ In today’s business world, he emphasizes that success relies on close collaboration and coordination between different functions and departments. “The world has changed significantly and we need to adapt accordingly,” he says.

Shared Belief, Grand Achievements

Chad, reflecting on his early days as a project manager, shares a valuable lesson he learned while overseeing the implementation of an Enterprise Resource Management (ERM) system. He recalls, “I aimed to unify global locations on a single platform, creating a standardized workflow for all sites. The idea was grand but I missed a crucial elementbuilding a team of early adopters.”

In Chad’s experience, the absence of a supportive team led to the failure of his ambitious plan. He admits, “I didn’t focus on cultivating a group that believed in my vision and the need for change. As a result, the grand vision was scaled down significantly after the system went live.”

Having worked on diverse projects throughout his career, including mergers, acquisitions and ERM installations, Chad emphasizes the importance of having a team that shares your ambition and vision. He asserts, “Regardless of the project’s complexity, having a team aligned with your goals significantly increases the odds of success. Collaboration and shared belief can turn any challenging idea into a reality.”

Lessons from Leadership

Chad, with his pragmatic outlook, views challenges as invaluable learning opportunities. He shares, “When mistakes occur, my focus is on extracting lessons from the incident rather than placing blame. It’s all about continuous improvement.”

In his approach to handling errors, Chad avoids creating a punitive atmosphere. He states, “Considering mistakes as process breakdowns allows us to foster a culture of innovation instead of finger-pointing. It’s essential for maintaining a positive work environment.”

Reflecting on his team’s growth, Chad believes in empowering his direct reports to expand their skills. He explains, “Encouraging my team to explore various roles within the business makes them more versatile.” While it may pose short-term staffing challenges, it creates well-rounded employees who bring diverse value to our team.

Chad’s approach not only nurtures a culture of continuous improvement but also fosters a dynamic and adaptable workforce ensuring long-term success for the organization.

Knowledge as Catalyst

Chad is a dedicated lifelong learner and he believes in fostering a culture of continuous learning within his team. He shares, “I instill an insatiable desire for learning in every member of my team by sharing insights from my own experiences. I encourage them to explore various content sources.”

Quarterly, Chad reaches out to his entire division, updating them on accomplishments, concerns and the company’s future direction. He adds, “I use this opportunity to reflect on impactful books or videos, setting an example for my team. Leading by doing, not just saying, resonates well with my direct reports.”

For Chad, every conversation, whether casual or professional, is a learning opportunity. He emphasizes, “There’s something to learn and share in every interaction, be it with family, friends, or colleagues. Sharing these learnings within the organization creates a fertile ground for growth.”

Chad encourages his team to dedicate time each day to learning something new or expanding on their interests. He believes that this proactive approach not only unlocks individual creativity but also enriches the entire team and organization. “Creating this environment,” Chad states, “unleashes the potential of individuals and fosters innovation within the team and, ultimately, the organization as a whole.”

Future-Proofing Finances

Chad is an expert in budget management, and he emphasizes the significance of aligning business justifications with site and company growth. He states, “Understanding how a project benefits the business in the long run helps me prioritize funding requests effectively.”

In Chad’s experience, the constant influx of new needs and ideas necessitates careful consideration. He adds, “My team and colleagues have learned to provide justifications and answer questions without my input.

Teaching them the importance of long-term benefits has been crucial.”

Chad believes that fostering a team’s understanding of the ‘big picture’ and long-term advantages is essential. He notes, “With time and intentionality, the team becomes capable of evaluating requests independently. This autonomy streamlines the process and ensures resources are allocated where they truly matter.”

Listening, Learning, Leading

Chad is a strategic thinker in facilities management. He shares his journey of transforming their business into a fully integrated digital solution in 2017. It was a comprehensive project, building everything from scratch. He recalls, “To navigate the challenges, I assembled a team of early adopters, drawing from my past experiences.”

During the project, Chad faced budget constraints but remained focused on showcasing its significant benefits. He explains, “I highlighted key project aspects that brought about substantial, albeit intangible, advantages.” These improvements instilled confidence and convenience among the leaders.

Chad’s keen listening skills played a pivotal role. He notes, “I paid close attention to discussions, identifying common themes. This insight allowed us to adjust our transformation priorities, aligning them with the company directors’ concerns.”

Recently, Chad conducted a case study, presenting his findings at the Annual International Society of Pharmaceutical Engineers. He proudly states, “The study showcased the success of our approach, highlighting not just the project’s impact but also its role in triggering a broader cultural transformation within the organization.”

Automation at its Apex

Chad, overseeing a sprawling 1.4 million square feet biopharmaceutical facility, emphasizes   the importance of automated systems. He explains, “These systems act like having 25,000 extra eyes and ears, allowing us to respond swiftly to critical issues that impact our mission of bringing life-changing medicines to patients.”

Beyond their evident benefits, Chad reveals the hidden advantages of these systems. He states, “We’ve utilized them to gather utilization and power consumption data.

This information has been instrumental in enhancing our operational efficiencies and reducing our carbon footprint. Additionally, it has played a crucial role in our space planning efforts, aligning with our growth projections.”

The Power of Foresight

Chad is a forward-thinking strategist who always adopts a big-picture perspective and focuses on long- term outcomes. He explains, “Considering the future is crucial, especially amid significant growth in our research sector. I proposed relocating to a consolidated facility, a move met with resistance due to past investments.”

Though challenging, Chad’s proposal eventually gained traction. He recalls, “Once we demonstrated the long-term financial gains and enhanced operational efficiencies, the project, once deemed unrealistic, became a reality.” Strategic, long-term thinking can transform businesses, provided the justification is solid.

Chad’s story highlights the importance of foresight and strategic planning, showcasing how embracing change with a clear vision can lead to transformative outcomes for any business.

The Key to Success

We live in the most dynamic and fast-paced world in history. Chad emphasizes the importance of his team staying updated with regulations and technologies. He believes that staying current is vital for delivering life- changing medicines and remaining ahead in the industry.

To achieve this, Chad’s team actively engages with the industry. He explains, “We attend conferences, serve on industry boards, participate in discussions and even publish peer-reviewed articles.” It’s not just about internal expertise—external engagement is key. Supporting the same, he says, “Without fostering an environment where the team is engaged outside of the business, in the industry and with regulators, it is nearly impossible to stay compliant considering the pace of change throughout the biopharmaceutical industry.”

Chad believes that fostering this active involvement ensures compliance amidst the rapid changes in the biopharmaceutical sector. His approach highlights the necessity of industry engagement for businesses to thrive in the current dynamic landscape.

The Curious Mind

Chad has always been a naturally curious person and that has translated this curiosity throughout his entire life both personally and professionally. He reminisces, “I remember my dad buying me a book when I was six or seven years old called ‘The Way Things Work’. He told me to read and then ask questions. The lesson he taught me then was—if you are curious about a topic, then go learn more about it.” This early wisdom stayed with Chad. As he progresses in his career, Chad is cognizant of emerging technologies, how they are being deployed and what their primary and marginal purposes are.

Additionally, Chad also remains aware of what is happening inside the business and what his network outside of the business thinking about. He shares, “If something in those discussion piques my curiosity, I’ll go learn more about it and if possible relate it back to my professional journey, if not, that is fine too.”

Chad’s approach underscores the value of curiosity, emphasizing its role in continuous learning and professional growth. He is a living reminder for everyone to embrace their inquisitive nature, driving them to explore new horizons in both their personal and business lives.

Daily Growth, Lasting Impact

Chad’s advice to emerging leaders is—always seek to be a better version of yourself every day. Often upon completion of a project or task, lessons-learned exercises are conducted. People who are looking to continually improve don’t wait for the lessons learned activities, they debrief themselves every day and look for ways to improve.

According to Chad, “You must be willing to challenge your own ways of working, seek difficult feedback and make meaningful changes. This not only boosts your career but also keeps your personal growth on track.” But it isn’t about solely focusing on one’s career.

An individual’s personal journey must improve daily as well otherwise it gets out of sync and one can begin to falter. Chad underscores the significance of a supportive network, stating, “Surround yourself with trusted advisors who offer honest insights. Meeting regularly provides critical insights to make adjustments to your approach, strategy and tactics that are required to compete in today’s market. The guidance I have received from my network has been invaluable throughout my journey.”

Chad also shares, “I have a group of trusted advisors, from very diverse industries, that I meet with weekly. We have a round robin format with an intentionally designed agenda, that fosters advice and counsel on personal and professional matters. Our overarching purpose is to solicit unbiased and constructive feedback, holding each other accountable to our individual goals and objectives.”

Chad’s wisdom highlights the power of continuous self- reflection, openness to feedback and building a supportive network can serve as a guiding light for individuals aiming to enhance both their personal and professional lives.