Uncommon Person: Santosh Nair

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Santhosh Nair is Vice President and General Manager of qPCR business at Thermo Fisher Scientific. In this role, he leads all aspects of strategy, technology and product development for molecular and genetic sciences. Santhosh lives in Encinitas, CA with his wife and loves travel, yoga and staying fit.

KICKOFF QUESTION

Bulldog Drummond: What value, phrase or uncommon truth do you live by?
Santhosh Nair: I try to be a better version of myself every day. This is a hard truth to live by, since the first step is to be radically honest with yourself. However, once you get used to this approach, you learn to prioritize your time and energy for things that really matter and spend time with people that you really care about.

UNCOMMON IDEAS

BD: What gets you out of bed in the morning? What’s your purpose?
SN: At Thermo Fisher, we make the products that are used for COVID-19 testing. Making sure our factories are running smoothly and being able to deliver our products on time to our customers is what gets me out of bed. These are unusual circumstances with a pandemic ravaging the world. We are going through an experience that most haven’t seen in the last hundred years and hopefully will not see in the next one hundred years after we are past this. This whole year, I haven’t been able to think about much else.

BD: What’s the most useful question you ask often? Why?
SN: I have always tried to understand who people are before I get into the “what” and “why”. This curiosity makes me ask questions that are considered personal in Western culture. I have this way of asking something personal about the people that I meet. It helps me create a connection with people right away and makes the environment less transactional. It does come from my genuine curiosity to know someone and learn about their world.

BD: What makes you uncommon?
SN: We are a product of our environments and our decisions. I grew up in Trivandrum, a small city in southern India, and wanted to see the world. In the last 25 years, I have lived in Bangalore, Tokyo, Milwaukee and San Diego. In addition, the nature of my job has allowed me to spend time in diverse parts of the world. This journey that I have had and the incredible people that I have met on the way have greatly influenced my worldview.

UNCOMMON ACTIONS

BD: What is the most important decision you made in the last 12 months?
SN: The decision to go spend two weeks with my parents in India last Christmas. With COVID-19 and international travel restrictions, I am not sure when we can head out there next.

BD: What are you working on that you are excited about?
SN: At the Genetic Sciences Division of Thermo Fisher, we are working on all aspects related to COVID-19 testing — the instruments that are used to test for the disease, the master mixes that are used in the tests, and the tests themselves. There cannot be a more meaningful set of projects to work on as we are serving our purpose to make the world healthier, cleaner and safer.

BD: When you look back, what impact will you have made in the world? SN: I have been fortuitous in life to be part of some epic product organizations at GE, Intel and now Thermo Fisher — CT Scanners, Embedded Computing Systems and now Genomics. Hopefully, I created an environment that enabled creative and productive teams to come together and build meaningful products that can tackle the world’s problems.

UNCOMMON WORLD

BD: Considering the state of the world, what is your biggest observation about humanity/society?
SN: This pandemic has shown us that we are never prepared enough to handle seismic disruptions to our way of life. Doesn’t matter what guardrails you put in, the next one will still knock you down. It is very easy to latch on to all the negatives and get weighed down and lose hope. People are frustrated because of the uncertainty around their economic prospects, health, freedom and quality of life. These times call for strong leadership, direction and clarity. It is very important not to lose hope and stay resilient.

BD: Have you learned anything new about yourself during this time?
SN: I am an optimist. The last six months has tested my optimism in many ways. We are still ways away from putting the pandemic behind us, but what I have realized is that having the resolve to show up every day, being your very best in these challenging circumstances, and building an environment of trust and safety for those around you can do magic and can change the trajectory of outcomes.

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