The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) has named the 100 recipients of its Influential Leaders Awards, and among them are two IE alumni. One of them is Maya Helbaoui, responsible for communications at the pharmaceutical company Roche in Lebanon.

Maya Helbaoui, from Lebanon, works in the marketing and communications field. Maya had studied pharmacy and earned a doctorate degree. Her work had always been centered on health and communications, so her MBA immersed her in the business side.

Her job at Roche is designing prevention campaigns against conditions like hepatitis C, arthritis and cancer in women. Maya is young and restless, which can be seen when she speaks: about her excitement over the successful results last year in her campaign against breast cancer.

The campaign has been carried out in Lebanon since 2002, but it was not reaching the lower socioeconomic levels of society as much as it might have. And that was the challenge. Maya decided to change the rules of the game: instead of directing the message to women, she aimed it at men. She recalled a course in disruptive innovation that she had taken at IE while earning her MBA. “We often repeat the same strategies for long periods of time, but that course taught me to defy the status quo,” she says. And that’s what she did.

“When you send the message indirectly to the men, you’re reaching both sexes,” explains Maya. “In the first place, the subject is related to women, but when you speak to the men you are empowering them, telling them they play an important role through the support that they give.” After the campaign was over, some 40% of the men had reminded their wives to get a mammogram, whereas before that the figure was only 21%. Likewise, 67% of them introduced breast cancer as a subject of family conversation, while before the figure was 45%.

To achieve these results, cooperation with the public sector has been essential, allowing the campaign to reach all the hospitals as well as largely inaccessible rural areas. Maya says that in her day-to-day activities she applies knowledge obtained in the MBA. “Even in the corporate world, if you have an entrepreneurial way of thinking you’ll do a great job. It helps you a great deal because you always bring new ideas to the table.”

Interview by Pablo G. Bejerano