Graduate success story: John Tarplee

Name: John Tarplee
Course: BSc (Hons) Biological Sciences
Year of Graduation: 1986

John Tarplee may not have achieved the grades he had hoped for at A-level, but gaining a degree in Biological Sciences from the University of Wolverhampton has helped him go from exam re-sits to sitting at the top of the table as Vice President of a global pharmaceutical company.

John is responsible for the commercial operations of ALK Abello, a research-driven pharmaceutical company focusing on allergy treatment, prevention and diagnosis.

John is Vice President for Northern Europe, covering the UK and Ireland, the Nordic countries, the Netherlands and parts of Eastern Europe.

He explains: “I enjoy a very varied role and there is no such thing as a typical day for me. My main focus is business strategy, considering how we can improve our offering to all our stakeholders, whether it is customers, employees or shareholders.”

And having responsibility for such a large region means that a big part of John’s time is dedicated to travelling, with as much as 40% to 50% spent visiting businesses in Northern Europe or having meetings in the company’s headquarters in Copenhagen.

Before joining ALK Abello John began his career as a medical sales representative, visiting healthcare professionals and promoting prescription medicines.

A solid foundation

He believes his time at University provided a solid foundation for his career path.

“My degree has definitely helped me in my career. To work in the pharmaceutical industry you need to have a solid life sciences education and my studies gave me the knowledge I needed to get started and build on as I progressed upwards,” he explains.

As well as knowledge of his subject area, John also developed key personal skills.

“My time at University taught me a lot about how to present myself and my ideas and how to negotiate for a win-win solution. Most interaction essentially boils down to some kind of a transaction and if you can get what you want whilst enabling the other party to get what they want, you’re in for some success!”

Like many first generation university-goers John remembers his time fondly and recognises how his experience has changed him.

“I probably didn’t realise it at the time but my three years at Wolverhampton were very much a transition for me,” he says.

“It was the most formative period of my life, where I learned to become independent and self reliant. For me the balance was just right between the structure and control provided by my lecturers and the freedom of the undergraduate living away from home and fending for myself.”

And for new students thinking about going to university in the future John has some advice.

“I think it is important to enjoy yourself and make the most of what student life has to offer – the curricular and extra-curricular activities alike. Take the opportunity to broaden your horizons and actively look for clubs, societies and groups to join that can broaden your perspective. The same is true of your studies, be a critical and lateral thinker, these skills will stand you in good stead in later life.”