Our Commitment to our People: Meet Nils Sigwarth and Germaine Huka

Following the launch of our Sustainability strategy, we are sharing a series of employee testimonials zooming-in on each of our four Sustainability pillars: Patients, our People, Planet and Trust & Transparency. In this story, we focus on ‘Our People’ with Nils and Germaine.

At Galapagos, we encourage our employees to daily embrace the principles behind our Sustainability pillars, and act as ambassadors for our company and values. Today, we are pleased to spotlight our vision for Galapagos and our Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) commitment specifically, in an interview with Nils Sigwarth, HR Country Lead and Germaine Huka, Senior Compliance Business Partner and Compliance Operations, based respectively in Basel, Switzerland and in London, United Kingdom.

Hear from Nils Sigwarth and Germaine Huka about their passions and their take on sustainability

What’s your typical day like?

Nils: I kick-start my day as an early bird, eager to seize every moment. Mornings are all about embracing a healthy lifestyle. I practice sport at least every other day to keep myself energized and after a refreshing workout, I indulge in a nutritious breakfast that fuels both my body and mind. As the day unfolds, my laptop becomes my trusted companion, immersing me in a dynamic world of HR responsibilities and a variety of projects. From attending calls and supporting colleagues, to driving the business agenda, my schedule is full of partnering on exciting topics with passionate colleagues.

When the sun starts to set, I make sure to have some quality time with my partner. Together, we enjoy good food and create unforgettable memories with our friends. Ah, and let’s not forget about my furry friend—a delightful dog that adds joy and motion to my days. Taking care of my loyal companion gives me a chance to disconnect from work and appreciate the beauty of nature.

Germaine: With diverse responsibilities ranging from being C&E Business Partner in multiple countries to spearheading operational projects, every day is different. I stay connected with our international counterparts while engaging myself in initiatives that impact our entire organization. Currently, my focus lies on the fascinating Speak Up/Listen Up project as well as working with Nils to build our DE&I framework. I also have a keen interest in behavioral science and spend as much time as I can learning more about the topic. This allows me to understand human decision-making and shape our compliance and ethics program (and in due course, our DE&I framework) effectively.

Outside the realm of work, my fiancé and I are occupied with the adventure of renovating our house. Every spare moment is dedicated to knocking down walls, plastering ceilings, and transforming the space into our new home. And when I need some peace, I seek sun in my garden, or listen to music or podcasts during a leisurely walk. Fresh air, sunshine, and continuous learning—what more could I ask for?

What does Sustainability mean to you?

G: To me, sustainability means thinking beyond ourselves and beyond the present moment. It means taking intentional and deliberate steps to understand the impact of what we do on others and on the planet. And then, most importantly it means taking action to ensure equity and fairness for everyone who is impacted by what we do. Sustainability is a commitment to shaping a brighter future that extends far beyond our own lifetimes by taking responsibility for our collective impact and holding ourselves accountable for what we do.

N: Sustainability is a series of meanings and values. It embodies a profound awareness of our environment and the impact we leave behind. It extends beyond ecological footprints and encompasses the way we build organizations and live our lives. Sustainability urges us to make a positive difference in our communities, to protect our environment, and to ensure a better future for generations to come. It’s about cherishing our planet, conserving its resources, and embracing renewable alternatives to shape a world that is magnificent and enduring.

But Sustainability isn’t just about the environment; it’s about – and even more important – the people. We all play a role in this ongoing journey, requiring us to embrace it in our daily lives. And it goes beyond that. It means opening our minds to diverse opinions, accepting people from different backgrounds, and embracing the challenges and opportunities they bring. To truly make the world more sustainable, we must appreciate the richness of different perspectives and the multiple ways in which sustainability can be applied. It’s a collective effort that demands an open heart and a willingness to learn from one another.

Why do you think our People Pillar is key to Galapagos’ Sustainability strategy?

G: People are the driving force behind making a difference. It’s crucial that our people feel inspired and connected to our mission because, deep down, most individuals care about the future of our health and planet and want to contribute positively. If we want to attract and retain the best talent, Galapagos must demonstrate its unwavering commitment to Sustainability and show that for us, this is about actions, and not just words. My hope is that the work that Nils and I are involved in for the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) framework, will play a key part in demonstrating Galapagos’ commitment to Sustainability. Embracing a wide range of opinions and ideas from diverse individuals, will lead us to innovations that could not be achieved by a homogeneous group. By giving more people opportunities and creating a more inclusive environment, we not only do what’s right, but we also open doors to more creative solutions for tomorrow’s challenges. Ultimately, inspiring and motivating our people is the only way we can truly drive change.

N: People are indeed at the heart of everything we do. They hold the key to unlocking the true potential of our Sustainability goals. It’s not just about having the concept of Sustainability embedded in our DNA; it’s about actively working with our leaders to ensure that everyone at Galapagos understands its significance. People are both the starting point and the ultimate destination on this journey. However, it’s important to note that this isn’t about imposing strict rules or being intolerant. It’s about empowering people to grasp the true meaning of sustainability and raising awareness about the small yet impactful actions we can take in our daily lives, both personally and professionally, to make our world a little better than it is today. And while diversity, equality, and inclusion may not be the first things that come to mind when discussing sustainability, they unquestionably support Galapagos’ overarching sustainability goals.

How are you driving change to support Sustainability and our 2028 Ambitions?

N: The power of treating people equally is immense. It’s not about erasing differences, but rather ensuring that everyone is treated with fairness and respect, regardless of their religion, race, or any other factor.  Inclusion, to me, is about raising awareness. Often, people unknowingly rely on unconscious biases when forming opinions about others. It’s not a deliberate act of racism or discrimination, but rather a result of our upbringing and the deep-rooted biases ingrained in our society. Our aim is to help people recognize these blind spots and biases, fostering a greater sensitivity and understanding. We are here to educate and create awareness, allowing individuals to overcome these barriers. There is so much we can do, and while we must comply with regulations, our focus goes beyond ticking boxes. Diversity encompasses a culture where there are no strange looks when a father takes parental leave, or hiring decisions aren’t influenced by concerns about pregnancy. In fact, what could be more beautiful than an employee embracing parenthood?

That’s why I’m passionate about diversity because diverse teams outperform homogenous ones. Equity and inclusion extend beyond waving a rainbow flag during Pride Month; they encompass a multitude of actions and initiatives that promote diversity, equality, and inclusion.

G: Understanding how our minds work and acknowledging and raising awareness of our own inherent biases, (because we all have them!) is crucial. No one has all the answers, but our focus will be on implementing tangible changes that make a real difference. It will be a journey of learning and growth, an ongoing project with no definitive end. In the months that follow, we will continue to educate ourselves so that we can better understand how to implement impactful changes in DE&I. Looking ahead to the coming years and towards 2028, our goal is to proudly highlight the key transformations we have made, resulting from dedicated efforts to enhance diversity and foster inclusion.

We all need to contribute!

We’re so proud of colleagues like Nils and Germaine and their work to promote a Sustainability mindset across the company. Stay tuned for more testimonials from our colleagues!

Work with us

Feeling inspired? Want to work with us to add years of life and quality of life for patients around the world? Have a look at our job opportunities on www.workatgalapagos.com, and find your purpose!