Matt Renninger, site head for our early development (ED) business in China and global head of pathology and statistics for ED, recently shared his journey of moving from Indiana to Shanghai and the experience of becoming integrated with a new culture and team.
Matt joined the Shanghai team in September 2019, just as they opened the new R&D Center, our largest facility in the Asia Pacific region. The building hosts clinical development and commercialization solutions, bioanalytical services and central laboratory services, and is close to the Shanghai International Medical Zone, where the other Shanghai facility houses the safety assessment, metabolism and lead optimization teams.
Moving across the world with a global company
After working as an anatomic pathologist and toxicology project leader at a large pharmaceutical company, Matt joined our Greenfield, Indiana location as a discovery pathologist in 2010. Over the next 10 years, he advanced his career to become the head of global pathology and statistics.
A self-proclaimed lifelong learner, Matt said he was excited when the opportunity arose to take on a new role as the Shanghai site lead for Covance, the drug development company of Labcorp. Even though his former home of Indianapolis is the largest city in Indiana with nearly 900,000 people, Matt felt living in Shanghai with population of 24 million was his first true big city experience.
“I visited Shanghai three times before I moved here, but stayed close to work those times. Now that I’m living here, I’m amazed by its size,” he said. “The city is extremely dynamic and there are so many different local activities to explore.”
The Covance team in Shanghai also helped him get to know more about the city.
“My colleagues sent me a lot of online resources, and Covance provided orientation counselors who helped me explore different neighborhoods to decide where to live. They even supported me with small details, like how to use emojis on China’s dominant social media platform and how to buy groceries with a popular app,” he laughed.
Building strong connections with new local colleagues
Beyond getting to know his new city, Matt has also been getting up to speed on the language and cultural differences.
“I’m having weekly conversations with my direct reports and have had many skip-level meetings to get to know individuals better,” said Matt. “I like to build rapport and create connections with my co-workers and also try to improve my conversational Mandarin. I’m taking advantage of a great internal tool to learn about each of my team member’s career aspirations and strengths so I can help direct them to learning and development opportunities.”
Learning and development are important to Matt, and he believes that keeping employees connected within a global company makes all the difference.
“Living and working in Shanghai has given me a great opportunity to better know and understand our people and operation here,” said Matt. “My goal is to make sure our local team is well connected with our global team, and that our global team understands our unique experience and demands here in China. To encourage career growth and cover dynamic workforce needs, we assign our top talent to work on projects at other global sites through bubble assignments, and have individuals from other sites do the same in Shanghai. These assignments give people the opportunity to learn about process and culture at other early development sites and gain exposure within our business.”
Staying motivated during rapidly changing times
“The COVID-19 pandemic caused unique challenges we had not experienced in my lifetime,” he said. “Our local China team responded well and had great support from our global team and our parent company, Labcorp. The global team sent us supplies to help ensure the safety of our people, and as the virus affected more people and countries, our local team in China continues working to provide the same support back to our global colleagues.”
Living in a new country during a global pandemic was definitely not what Matt envisioned for his first year abroad, but he said the support he received cemented the feeling that Shanghai is now home.
“I’ve been touched by the number of supportive messages we have received from our colleagues around the world. I know we will not only make it through the current time, but also that our work will help provide detection, prevention and treatment of this disease to save lives in the future.”
Learn more about our global career opportunities at careers.covance.com