Luckily for Sheares, Roy Vagelos, the pharmaceutical company’s chief scientist at the time, talked with him about his future.
“If you really want to have an immediate impact on human health,” Vagelos said, “come to Merck.”
At first, Sheares stuck with his original plan. He earned a doctorate in biochemistry at Purdue University and pursued postdoctoral cancer research at MIT. Then, he returned to Merck. In the 18 years since, he has risen to president of the drugmaker’s human health division.
Sheares “thinks deep and feels hard,” a colleague says.
Today, Sheares is seen as a leading candidate to run the company. The 49-year-old didn’t get that job on the last go-around but may have another shot at it in 2011. His only perceived weakness: He may be too nice. (Guess they don’t know about the rats.)
Lesson: Sheares never would’ve extended his career aspirations beyond academic research if it hadn’t been for Vagelos, a leader with the foresight to lobby on behalf of his company.
—Adapted from “Star Power,” John Simons, Fortune.