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Naji Gehchan, EMBA ’22

Naji Gehchan, EMBA ’22, joins Christopher Reichert, MOT ’04, to talk about the life experiences that led him to study medicine, and eventually start Sohati, a comprehensive website in Arabic that provides information about the health medical field, and informs his oncology work at Eli Lilly. 

Naji talks about his chronic condition, which he calls “Impatientitus” and how he balances purpose with speed to build a team culture where he is striving to get things done fast while at the same way the team shares a thinking process, what they believe in, and remains open to one another.  

He also hosts a podcast called Spread Love io, started while at MIT Sloan, dedicated to highlighting the stories of leaders on how they spread love in organizations for people to feel safe to thrive, and imagine a better world. Naji shares his insights after interviewing over 80 leaders. 

Finally, Naji talks about the experience of finally arriving on campus, after the mostly remote experience due to COVID, and the strong community of classmates and faculty that they built in that unique educational environment. Naji explains how MIT pushed him to go even deeper in thinking about his leadership style, leadership signature, and leadership beliefs. 

Sloanies Talking with Sloanies is a conversational podcast with alumni and faculty about the MIT Sloan experience and how it influences what they're doing today. Subscribe and listen on Apple Podcasts, Google, and Spotify

Naji Gehchan: Love is a core piece of that should exist in the culture for us to be able to be ourselves, to feel this safety, to share what we think, to share what we, who we are, and for us to be able to work together to deliver, at our best.

Christopher Reichert: Welcome to Sloanies Talking with Sloanies, a candid conversation with alumni and faculty about the MIT Sloan experience and how it influences what they're doing today. So, what does it mean to be a Sloanie? Over the course of this podcast, you'll hear from guests who are making a difference in their community, including our own very important one here at Sloan.

I'm your host, Christopher Reichert. My guest today is Naji Gehchan. He's a graduate of MIT's Sloan EMBA program in 2022, which is a period that straddles the pandemic. I want to touch base on that experience in our conversation. Welcome, Naji.

Naji Gehchan: Thanks, Chris. It's really great to be here.

Christopher Reichert: Great to have you. So, before we begin our conversation, let me give our listeners some background, and as is the case with most interesting people, you can start to describe what Naji has done, but doesn't tell the full story. So, we’ll start with that and we'll dive in. Naji is currently the Head of Global Clinical Development for Oncology at Eli Lilly & Company. So, in case our listeners aren't aware, this is the branch of medicine that specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Naji has been with Eli Lilly for over 14 years now in various capacities, including with brand and sales responsibilities in Europe and Northwest Africa. He is a lecturer in management and a director and mentor for student thesis in healthcare and biopharmaceutical management at ESCP Business School, which is the oldest business school in the world, to my understanding, founded in the early 1800s.

He is a co-founder and board member of Sohati, which is a comprehensive website in Arabic that provides information about the health medical field to take care of you and your family's health. He also hosts a podcast called SpreadLove IO, dedicated to highlighting the stories of leaders on how they spread love in organizations for people to feel safe to thrive, and imagine a better world.

And lastly, I want to mention a volunteer role that Naji performed about 15 years ago as a team leader and rescuer, a first responder in the Lebanese Red Cross, which I understand this was a formative experience for many of your values, and set you on this path to helping others. So, so tell us about that.

Naji Gehchan: Well, thanks, so much for this very generous intro, Chris, about what I've done and what I'm actually doing. As you shared, this part is definitely one part that shaped my beliefs and my story. I always say that it's kind of, it was a school of life for me, this experience in the Red Cross. So, I was back then med student, so I was going to med school, and in parallel, I was volunteering in the Lebanese Red Cross, as a First Aid Responder in Lebanon, during a time of war, social unrest in the country, and unfortunately some, you know, lot of tensions in in Lebanon back then. And really, this I would say, shaped my beliefs. I, for a long time, did not share my story, or didn't want to even reflect on it, for several reasons, because I truly don't, I never thought, and until now… everyone has a story, right? That I was like, what's different in mine? Like, what? It's not worth sharing. But I was, you know, as I grew in my journey, I really started to think about really what shaped who I am. MIT obviously also pushed me to go even deeper, you know, in thinking about my leadership style, my leadership signature, my leadership beliefs, and this is where I started to share a little bit more about my story. And definitely the Red Cross was a big part of it, in how I lead my teams and why, actually, even today, I'm sometimes what I call “Impatientitus” with my teams. I'm sometimes impatient to get things done for the patients we serve, and definitely the Red Cross had played a big role in my life. And yeah, we can through the discussion, talk more and tell you a couple of stories that I love that really shaped who I am today.

Christopher Reichert: So “Impatientitus” I'm going to see, is Eli Lilly researching that?

Naji Gehchan: You know, I always say it's a chronic disease that have some acute symptoms sometimes. So I don't think there's, there's any solution to it yet. Like my teams across the different geographies have been trying to treat me from time to time, my wife too. But I don't think there would be a cure. And it's honestly sometimes a good disease. Sometimes it's painful for people who are dealing with, deal with it, but I think overall it's always good to have some impatience in what we're doing.

Christopher Reichert: Well, I suspect it's a driver for you, for what you're accomplishing and generally successful people. I guess one of the elements that brought to mind was the counter side of that, which is when you're being impatient with people, it's perhaps, it difficult for people to be vulnerable and open with you about some of the challenges they may be facing in terms of why things haven't gone as fast as they might have gone to your expectations. So, tell me how you kind of balance that with another core element, I think, of what you are doing with your podcast, but just probably generally in all of your work, which is empathy and letting people be vulnerable to be real and authentic.

Naji Gehchan: Yeah, and this is a great, great question and a really a very strong segue because I've seen, you know, as you said, impatience when it's like, just get things done and move on and move fast is good. Like the need, the urgency is important, right? In what we do, and especially I would say in any industry. I'm in healthcare for now several years. Really, this urgency is important because patients cannot wait, right? Like, all of us know people who are patients, we will, and are patients ourselves. If we don't have this sense of urgency to get things done, and for the patients that we're serving, it's bad it's wrong, right? Like, it's just the right thing to do, actually, to be able to really kind of see all the different ways for us to be able to deliver on things with high responsibility, high quality, high ethics, and get it to patients as soon as we can.

I think that the pandemic gave a good examples with vaccines, but beyond that, right? Like every disease, rare or more frequent, is a disease touching people. And our responsibility as leaders in healthcare is making sure that people are taken care of to the best care we can. This is the impatience side. But as you said, I think if we just strive for this and focus on this, there's a big downside, which is not ensuring inclusivity, maybe just focusing on getting things done. And then you have all the slippery slope of many other downsides that we can. So, this is for me, why I always, you know, when I'm asked about leadership and I, what I'm doing in the podcast, “SpreadLove in Organizations.” as you shared, for me, leadership, has always been two words. Love and discipline. Discipline is somehow easier to understand.

Every time I talk, you know, about leadership or business and discipline, like, yeah, discipline, its execution, making sure things are getting done, which is super important. I can tell you how many times I'm frustrated or I watch things, people have great ideas, but then that's it remains an idea. We are not disciplined enough to take things and move them forward. We are not disciplined enough to execute on them. And even when I talk about discipline, it's self-discipline. It's discipline within a group for us to be even more innovative. Because I've, many times I've heard like, oh, if it's too disciplined, then you're inflexible. It's actually the opposite there. The more you are disciplined on the things that need to be done, and you're focused on them, the more actually you have more air time for you to innovate and do different things in an organization.

This is kind of like how I see discipline, and it's usually the easy part. So, the tougher part is when I start talking about love in organization, where people like, oh, love. Where, what does love have to do in leadership management, you know, in leading organization? And for me, actually, it's really this end, right? Like, for us to be able to deliver, with speed, with high responsibility, as teams and as cross-functional teams. Love is a core piece of that in a culture. We can call it care, genuine care empathy, as you said. But it's really this feeling of, I know that my team cares about me, me as a leader, I care about my team, and I'm ensuring that everyone in this team care for one another, for us to be able to be ourselves, to feel this, safety, to share what we think, to share what we, who we are, and for us to be able to work together to deliver, at our best.

So, for me, this is kind of the balance in patience. If we build a culture where we are striving to get things done fast while at the same way we as a team share our thought thinking processes, we share what we believe in, we are open to one another, and we really generally care for one another to deliver on this purpose with speed, then it's the right mix to move forward. But this is kind of the tricky piece where you need to have the three of them somehow in the same place. And it's not easy. I'm still learning, right? Like, I'm not saying I figured it out. I'm actually a constant learner about this. But this is somehow how I do it.

Christopher Reichert: So, just a thought while you were talking, I had, was you've kind of captured the essence of jazz music, which is, to my mind, there's constant variation, but there's a super discipline that underpins it all for the musicians, for them to have the space to innovate on a song, a standard song, they really need to know what they're doing, with discipline before they even get to that point. So anyway, just that just came to mind.

Naji Gehchan: Totally, it is so true. You know, you have examples on music. I love music too, I play music, definitely, right? Like you can, I had also interviewed great thinkers, as you know, on my podcast. And leaders. You can also think about, anything that has to do with any performance, actually, you know, speaking speaker, being an actor, right? Like everything that touches improvisation, is actually practically this. Like, we train a lot and we're disciplined on how we do it. For us to be detached the moment you're actually performing and go beyond that and do great things. I love your example.

Christopher Reichert: So how do you think your approach influences your daily work?

Naji Gehchan: I would go within what I've been doing and beyond that, and let me share and tell you a little bit of the story, how I got to this. So, I still remember really specifically five, six years ago, I was leading a large organization in France. It was really beginning of the year, I just launched a new asset for the organization in France that really has a huge benefit with good safety for the patients we serve. We, and we did this in a huge accelerated way for patients. And as we were going through it, because of the acceleration, because of this one purpose, right? Like, we always hear about how important it is for a team to share the values and purpose and havea shared purpose mission, and we drive towards it.

So, for me, there was all the perfect mix for us to succeed and build what we always hear about, trust, right? So, we worked together, we changed the way we work for us to be able to deliver with speed. And for me, this team was really a great example of a team that trust one another, even though we are in different functions and in different parts of the organization. But then as we launched, things did not go exactly as we expected, as usual. And what really struck me before going to this end of year break, is when I started to sit with the team and for us to work out how to make things even better. Actually, the team started to, finger point, “no, it's not my team, it's the other team.” We always experienced this in the corporate word, but it really, it had a different flavor for me at that time because I was so convinced we built this trust where we can sit actually together and not try to find out who was wrong, but actually what went wrong for us to make it better, right?

I really don't care practically who did what—we did it together and now how can we make it better? And so, as this happened, I went through the year-end break, I started to think what have I done wrong as a leader, going through this building this team, what could I have done better? And I went at that time to Lebanon, and really while I was there, I met also with other friends in the Lebanese Red Cross. At that time, this literally took me to a very specific moment in the Red Cross, that I experienced the last year I was there. So, I was a team leader. We had a call in the Red Cross for an emergency. So we were the first team in the sector.

And when we get the call, they call us, like, go immediately to this very busy street in Beirut. It was around 4:30-5:00 p.m. and they specifically asked us to have our helmets and bulletproof vests on. So, I knew like something bad was going on. We jumped into the ambulance, there were four of us, and we got to the scene. We were the first on the scene. You know, I won't go on describing the horrors we saw that day. But literally, I had fractions of seconds to decide what to do for myself and for my team, you know, for my people. We looked at one another, and within fractions of seconds, we decided to go full in. Then we started to save and rescue as many people as we can. And we stayed there for several hours.

But why I'm telling you the story, because that was really this pivotal moment for me where I saw the impact of leadership back to my, you know, reflection, as I was going through this in the corporate world, I started to think why did I go in? I literally risked my life and my team risked their lives, you know? But still, we went in. Why did I go in? Why did my team follow me? Why did I follow them?

So, reflecting on this really took me to this idea that there's something beyond trust. There's something beyond that we only shared, and it's not only… it's already big, right? If we share the same purpose, but there was something beyond the shared purpose. There's something beyond the trust that I managed to build in the team that I personally call love. I knew that my people cared about me. So if I was in this bombing, anything would happen to me, I knew they would be here for me, they would be here for my family, for my community.

And they knew exactly the same. I would be here for them, for their families and communities. And even if it's naively, we thought even the Red Cross would be here for us. The country would be here for us. Because again, like there is this love that we share and this genuine care. So this is actually what got me to this idea. And I still remember going back, beginning of the year, everyone in the executive committee was sharing their priorities of the year. And I started by saying my only priority this year is to spread love in the organization. You know, I never imagined it would take me to such a journey within the company.

Back to your question, it's a very long answer to your question, but this is literally how it started, where that was my only priority for the year.

And it took the teams into a huge transformation where we delivered on several launches that year on transformations, digital and other transformation, but most importantly on the culture that we build for us to be able to deliver on the purpose we have. So, I specified it, obviously in the work that I do along the journey, but yeah, it boils down to what I do every day. I really work hard to make sure that I build a strong performing team that care for one another, for us to deliver with excellence for the patients we serve.

Christopher Reichert: That's interesting. What was the reaction when you presented that? Because you made yourself very vulnerable by bringing in an element that probably wasn't part of a punch list on producing a drug or a solution for patients. How did you bring them on board and not feel like you would be, I don’t know, laughed out of the room for…?

Naji Gehchan: That's a great question actually, because it's never easy, right? And I've interviewed now more than 80 leaders, and every time we talk about love, there is this awkward for some, and many would say it's not easy. Like, we know it, we do it. But I, and even offline chatting with them, they would not say it in their teams. I've been like this also, right? So I think when I did it in France, I was so convinced I went and I did it, to be very honest I think also the fact that I was potentially at a stage where I felt, yeah, I can say it and I can live to it, made it easier. But definitely the reaction in the beginning, even my peers, “Okay, another crazy idea from Naji. Well, can you now tell us really what's your priority?”

But you know, like I took it and I really stick to it because that was my belief. So now along the way, as I'm changing roles, taking different teams, I would certainly adapt and how I'm doing it and why I'm doing it. And until now, I really, sometimes I'm surprised that I have a podcast and some people are listening to me. So I think now it's kind of hard for me to hide it, so I don't share a lot about it, obviously. but people know that there's this philosophy behind it, but it's not always easy. And it's definitely something I've been consistently hearing from leaders that I'm interviewing. There's this strong belief, but they call it differently sometimes. Some call it love, some call it care, empathy, humanity. It's a key component of how we lead for us to deliver.

Christopher Reichert: I mean, if I look at the kind of the work that you're doing, whether it's at Eli Lilly or, Sohati with the expansion of access to healthcare information, all across topics which might be awkward in that environment. And also with your podcast is there… I see a thread of helping others throughout, and has that always been a part of your being and you've now learned how to manifest it in larger ways?

Naji Gehchan: I would say the short answer is yes. And it goes back to, I think what I lived, again, it took me a long time before I share my story for different reasons. And one of them was, I never wanted anyone to feel like, oh my God, you had, a terrible childhood, because actually I had an amazing childhood, but in a country torn by war. So I was born, raised during wartime, we moved places constantly. My parents had to rebuild everything several times. Like all my childhood was moving from place to another, how all our home was bombed. I was like seven or eight. I lived through those moments. And really, as I was growing up, actually one of the institution or one of the organizations that I really looked up to was the Lebanese Red Cross as I was growing up. My grandfather was burnt at some point. And I still remember, even like under bomb warnings, those volunteers will come take him to hospital, try to treat him. This what I want to do. I want to try to help others in critical moments where others need most help. Back to my childhood, that was always been a thread. This is why I ended up… even though I've done everything in math, I applied and I got in engineering, but then literally three weeks before getting into engineering school, I applied for med school, and I got in med school too, and I'm like well, med school, I will be able to impact patients even more. And this is where I went into, I wanted to continue in emergency medicine again, with this idea of helping patients at those moments.

I've done humanitarian Red Cross for several years, and it’s this bombing I told you about that made me realize the impact of leadership. And where I realized that if we lead people in the right way, then this is where you can amplify the impact that you can have in the world, whether within your company—in healthcare is instead of me treating in a clinic, hundreds of patients with the teams, I've been fortunate enough to lead and help patients with specific drugs, millions of patients whether in diabetes, oncology, immunology. You take any disease state that the pharma industry works on and all diseases practically. Now, this is the amplification of impact, but then you take it also at a smaller level as leaders, like the immediate impact you have on your people, right?

Just imagine an interaction you have with your team. You can literally have a positive impact for them to have even better impact within their communities, or it can be disastrous. And this is actually where I started to combine also this love of healthcare and leadership to this idea of leadership and impacts you can have on your teams. And I think every one of us, even not in healthcare, if you're managing people and leading people, the impact you can have on them is massive. And this is, I think many times, unfortunately, totally underestimated, this thread of helping others. Sometimes we think very big, while actually we can have a huge impact in a very small, but impactful way, which is just the people surrounding you, the team you're managing, the people you're interacting with at work, your family, your community around you. This is what now I'm more and more focused on, is always obviously the scale that we can bring with my team, but more and more what are those small steps that can have a huge ripple effect on the communities that we're in?

Christopher Reichert: And everyone talks about culture in organizations. First of all, of course, you have to have a mission in the business, whether it's medical research or pharmaceuticals or building better computers or whatever it might be. But if you don't have a good culture, then it's just not going to go anywhere, and it can be a miserable experience. So, I think it's under expressed and represented in business plans.

Naji Gehchan: There’s actually, MIT Sloan [Management] Review just published something about toxic cultures, which is super interesting. And it’s so true. Like retention is bad, business results can be bad. And it's, well, the interesting piece we're starting to see the negative, like when it is really a toxic culture that is now widely spread, right? You can take some examples that happen and you're seeing leaders actually fading because of this toxic culture they built. But as you said, it's still undervalued, and many times it's thought like it's soft, like it's this other thing that, yeah, we need to build it just to get the top line and improving the bottom line. Where for me, it's actually an end. Like, we definitely need metrics. We definitely need to deliver on what we are doing. Like this is the core of what we do, but there's a how, which makes it either you get there with a positive impact on the people who are getting there, or you get there with a disastrous impact on your people.

Christopher Reichert: So having worked in a large organization for a number of years, it sounds like you're probably as best equipped as anybody to have a Sloan experience that was remote for a large part of it. So tell me about that?

Naji Gehchan: I honestly don't know if I was equipped or all our class was equipped. I like that you said you're going to talk about this, so a huge shout out to my EMBA ‘22 classmates. We call ourself the “Pand-EMBAs” because we're the pandemic EMBA class. It's funny, I was thinking about this a couple of days ago, and I really don't know the answer, but there's something special about this experience and this class, this community we buil. I think it's already kind of weird that we were a class that practically all of us decided to go through this experience knowing that we are going through it in a pandemic. So, it was not a surprise. I applied to a Sloan virtually. I've gone through all the process virtually during the pandemic.

I was a little bit late in the process, like in March. So, everything was already kind of pandemic-based. We went through it, the 120 of us, knowing that it's going to be different, and we actually really don't know how it's going to be, like practically, we just went through it. But what was really, for me, amazing, I think is two things. Because we knew that it was hard, it was uncertain. We didn't have the important interaction, right? Especially in Executive MBA. The big piece is the community. You build interactions we can have with one another. We were so intentional. I'm not sure actually if I was in person, if I would have met as many people as I did virtually, because it was intentional. We built, I feel like a different interaction because we met with, I met personally, with so many different people.

And then our class was very intentional about making sure that we have it. And then the second, for me, magical moment was really this moment where we could get together back in person as a class. So, the first gathering, I still remember, like the excitement, we all had to just get together and have real drinks and meet one another in person. It was just magical. And I think MIT, and outside MIT, I also think in work, it's kind of the same, the pandemic forced us to value again those human interactions, right? Of being with one another. That took things to a different level, at least for my class, as I think of it because in a normal word before pandemic we're like, yeah, we have drinks. Some people would go, some people would prefer doing something else, but since it was like we are doing it again in person together, we all showed up. So, I think the intentionality of those moments, of human warmth and interaction, were so powerful.

Christopher Reichert: Yeah, I think hardship has a way, and adversity, has a way of focusing us, right?

Naji Gehchan: So true.

Christopher Reichert: That's great. So, when I think back on my time at Sloan, and if someone asked me what's a memory that I have or whatnot, it's rooted in place, right? It's walking around the MIT campus or, at certain gathering spots or whatnot. How about you? What sort of a memory do you go back to that you keep with you or something that you learned or a class that really kind of changed you or that you reflect back on?

Naji Gehchan: That's such a difficult question actually. I really loved learning. I loved the classes. I really loved every piece of the academic piece. The space is amazing, right? Like, when we could be back and feeling the energy of Sloan, feeling the energy of MIT, we literally saw the difference right, between the virtual word that we had. And when we were able to go back in person and enjoy and benefit from this ecosystem, whether you're in corporate or you're building your entrepreneurship, your startup… definitely that my podcast wouldn't be the same without my journey through MIT, through MIT Sandbox that I got in through the podcast, and all the different ecosystem. The more I reflect on this question, because you obviously, after the facts, you always think like, yeah,what did I take out of it?

I don't know if it's the place, but it's really somehow this practically, I want to say this new home that you built. And for me, I don't take the word home for granted or like simply, with my Lebanese kind of French culture. It's a big word home, right? Like, you don't call home anything. And I'm still kind of figuring it out, obviously moving around the word. But you know, this place where you can go, you can learn, you are surrounded by people who actually generally care about you. I know that I can call anyone in my class and cohort, and they will be here with not looking for any benefit actually, but just here to help. I know that I can grow. So, this is why I call it home, right? Like, you have this feeling of being, of belonging, of being part of it, of being yourself, of growing. And it's a great feeling. So, I don't know if it's the building of Sloan itself, it's for me more this community that we manage to build with the help of MIT, where I practically can tap into whatever I need, while not always being in, but knowing that it's here, right? So, this is, I feel where it's really a powerful, powerful feeling after all.

Christopher Reichert: Is there anything you would do over, in the course choices you had or even in how you approached your time as Sloan?

Naji Gehchan: There are two pieces. The main piece that is hard in the beginning, well, in the middle actually to figure out, is in the beginning you go with the flow, and then at some point you start to realize how massive the ecosystem is, right? And, and this is tough because especially as I told you, like you add Impatientitus, Type A, we all are overachievers. I think in this community, in the middle it was hard because you just see like so many people who exactly know what they're doing, like the 200 additional courses they are taking, and others who they decided they do not want to do this. And I was kind of like, in this mix of, I want to do more. I really don't know. It's so overwhelming. So, I think this piece, it took me a little bit of time.

So if there's one thing I would change is really be more relaxed and just trusting that at some point it'll work out. I was intentional on some specific pieces. I really wanted to learn. I just didn't trust enough, at this middle part where I'm like, oh my God, it's overwhelming how many things are, and I want to take advantage of everything, but I don't know how. Like entrepreneurship, oh my God, it's so disparate, where should I go? Where should I tap in? And it's hard to figure out.

And the other piece is after the fact. I actually talked with the EMBA staff about this. We've put a lot in, right? Especially Executive MBAs, I should say, right? We have, work which usually we’re execs in our companies. You have schooling, we have families, friends, like all those ecosystems to manage, during the time at Sloan. And it's really very hard demanding program. So, we always have this idea, once we graduate, we'll get so much time back. Like, we're going to get 10, 15 hours back, and I was so efficient during my time at Sloan where I was waiting. I didn't want to graduate because I knew I would miss it, but at the same time, I'm going to get back 10 to 15 hours a week. But discussing with several of my friends, actually after it's done, I needed a break. And I didn't realize it.

Leaders, we don't like to talk about self-care and say we needed some time for us to just stop, reflect, take time. And then actually when it ends, you don't have all your homework, you don't have all your exams, you don't have all this pressure to deliver on those things, but at the same time, you're not able to fill them up with something that is efficient. And it was hard for me the first month to say, oh, well, my efficiency is decreasing. But then my brain and body, I think was calling out to take a break, you've got to be able to do more afterwards. So I would say this is the other piece, thinking back that I would have prepared more to really take a break.

Christopher Reichert: So you've been out now for, I guess you graduated six months ago, and you've been doing your podcast. It looks to me like you started your podcast during your time at Sloan, am I right about that?

Naji Gehchan: Yes. I started it in April 2021.

Christopher Reichert: So there you go. So you're working at Eli Lilly, you're studying, MBA at Sloan. And why not start a podcast?

Naji Gehchan: Oh, exactly. No, and for the full story, actually, I started the podcast while I was changing roles. So, I moved from sales to R&D and launched the podcast while I was doing data, DMD classes and financial accounting back, it's the worst semester to do the spring of the first year.

Christopher Reichert: Sounds like a classic overachiever, which is what Sloan attracts, right? What is your definition of success, given all the work, given all that you're doing now and looking back on your journey prior to Sloan and after Sloan?

Naji Gehchan: That's a big, big question to be very candid. I'm still trying to figure it out because several times I just say, I don't know if I'm doing enough, I want to do more. And at some time, when you shared in the beginning, I was thinking about, oh my God, maybe I'm doing too much. I'm still trying to find what success is. For me, I'm not searching for success. It's hard to say it right, because I think all of us want to do good things. We want to be good in what we do. We want to be successful; we want to achieve things. For me, I really measure it in the impact that I'm having, not only through scale. I was a lot focused on the scale. Am I helping a million people? Am I helping two million people through the medicines that we're bringing to market through Sohati, as you shared, how many people we’re touching through our websites, medical information with online consultations, et cetera.

It's definitely important because this is what we do. This is how we build the amplifying effect. But through the podcast, I took another lens, and maybe it's also through my age as a generation too, I'm starting to look also at this other lens of if it's helping one, if it's making life better for one person, then it's impact and its probably success. So, when we started the podcast, I'm used to unfortunately, or fortunately, to kind of scale again, right? Like how many visitors we will have, how many listeners? And I forced myself, and I'm saying we, because we started it with my partner, with my wife. I forced myself to say, if 10 people listened and they ended up managing their people differently, well, it's 10 teams living better and delivering better.

And then look at the ripple effect, right? So, it forced me to start thinking about those small impacts that we have as leaders or as individuals for us to have a ripple effect and make at least the surrounding world around us a better place. Now, this is practically how I think about my success. Like, would you say, am I successful? I think it would shock people if I would say, I don't know. And I had those discussions. Some people are you crazy? Like, look where you are. I don't know. I always feel like I've not done enough yet. I feel like there's so many things that we should and can do in this word that are not done yet, and we need to do them. Like, it's our accountability as leaders to try and fix them. And some days I have a lot of hope. Some days I look around, I'm like, oh my God. It's just a crazy world. I’m not done trying to figure out what success means. I'm not sure I'll ever get there. I don't know if I want to get there, actually.

Christopher Reichert: I think that's great. I'm thinking if maybe I should rephrase that question. Your answer is probably one of the most genuine in the sense that,” I don't know, I'm still figuring it out,” is refreshing in its honesty and vulnerability. It speaks to who you are. Any parting advice for potential prospective Sloanies?

Naji Gehchan: I think it's really just live the moment as you go through it, it goes super fast, but force yourself to be yourself and enjoy the moments you go through it. There will be ups and downs. Sometimes it's tough. Sometime it's easier. And I remember one professor said, “you only know that it's worth it the moment it ends.” If you feel like, oh my God, it ended, I didn't want it to end. And it's definitely worth it. I can tell you, I'm eager every, every time I got an invitation to go to MIT again, to speak, be in electives, or just meet with the MIT ecosystem. I just run to it because there's definitely this feeling of missing it, which means it's definitely worth it. Sloanies who are joining— just enjoy it. I wish I could join it again and do my EMBA again.

Christopher Reichert: Well, thank you very much, Naji Gehchan, Sloan Class of 2022, head of global clinical development for oncology, Eli Lilly and a podcaster for SpreadLove io. It's available wherever you stream your podcast, some very interesting guests there, and I encourage you to listen to it. And I think this conversation has shown that, as you've said in on your podcast in the new area, that everyone has a story, and it's been great to learn more about your story. So thank you for joining us on this episode of Sloanies Talking with Sloanies.

Naji Gehchan: Thank you so much for having me. It’s really a pleasure and honor.

Christopher Reichert: Thank you very much.

 Sloanies Talking with Sloanies is produced by the Office of External Relations at MIT Sloan School of Management. You can subscribe to this podcast by visiting our website,, or wherever you find your favorite podcasts. Support for this podcast comes in part from the MIT Sloan Annual Fund, which provides essential flexible funding to ensure that our community can pursue excellence. Make your gift today by visiting giving,