Reshema Kemps-Polanco

Brand Manager ? Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp. ? East Hanover, N.J. ? Age: 35

When Reshema Kemps-Polanco was first offered a job at Novartis Pharmaceuti-cal Corp. in New Jersey, she turned it down. The Shreveport, La., native had never considered leaving her Louisiana, especially to move to the Northeast after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Two days later, she faced her fear head-on and accepted the position. ?It was an experience that taught me about taking risks and decision-making. It pushed me to move away from my comfort zone and accept change,? Kemps-Polanco says. ?Now I am a better person for going through it than I was at the beginning. I have fears and insecurities just like everyone else, but I don?t let them control or dictate my behavior.?

Kemps-Polanco has a bachelor?s degree in social work from the University of Louisiana at Monroe and a master?s in organizational behavior from Louisiana Tech University. Always driven to learn new skills, she obtained a MBA in marketing from Rutgers University in May 2008, one month after giving birth to her first child. ?My husband, Reynaldo, has been a great supporter of my career and always encouraged me when I wanted to give up,? she says. ?When it was the two of us, work and life was a balancing act. But now that we have Caleb, he is our number-one priority.?

Kemps-Polanco counts former Novartis CEO Alex Gorsky an influential mentor. Working directly with Gorsky, she observed the qualities that made him a successful and respected leader and cultivated the same qualities in herself. Currently, as brand manager, she is responsible for a newly launched hypertension product within the company?s Cardiovascular Metabolic Franchise. ?I?m a visionary and I feel that my gift is helping people,? says Kemps-Polanco. ?While my interaction with the patients is now different, I?m very proud of the work we do in helping people take care of their health and their families.?