The Evolution of Pharma Leadership
President & CEO
VP Human Resources
In the bonus episode of the NPC Podcast, guest host Tiana DiMichele talks with Ed Gudaitis, President & CEO of Acerus Pharma, and Janine Pajot, VP Human Resources of Bayer, about present challenges facing pharma leaders, leading with authenticity and creating a culture of leadership in the workplace.
SINJIN QUIMBY FORESTER (SQF):
From the Chronicle Podcast System, this is a bonus episode of the NPC Podcast of the National Pharmaceutical Congress. The NPC Podcast was created to discuss and consider the purpose, process and people of the pharma industry during the Covid era.
In today's episode for September 15 2021, Peter Brenders and Mitch Shannon are taking a well deserved day off. We'll continue the health care conversation with our guest host Tiana DiMichele.
This program is presented in cooperation with Impres, Canada's next generation commercial partner. The industry is rapidly evolving and Impres is designed to help you evolve with it. Learn more about Impres tailored best in class solutions at www.impres.com.
Today, Tiana will speak about the evolution of pharma leadership. Her guests are Ed Gudaitis of Acerus Pharma and Janine Pajot of Bayer. Here is Tiana.
TIANA DIMICHELE (TD):
Welcome to the NPC Podcast. I'm your host for this episode. Tiana DiMichele. I've always been fascinated with the topic of leadership, and in particular the concept of the evolution of leadership over time. I've asked two esteemed pharma leaders to join me today to discuss the changing landscape in our industry, and the importance of authenticity and agility for leadership excellence into the future.
For the first section of our discussion, I've invited Edward Gudaitis to speak with me. Ed is the President and CEO of Acerus Pharmaceuticals. He has spent over 20 years in the pharmaceutical industry with extensive experience in specialty markets such as oncology, hepatitis, HIV, CNS and transplantation. His functional expertise spans country leadership, business unit leadership, marketing and sales management, market access, pricing, health, economics and clinical research. Ed is best known for his role as General Manager for Gilead Sciences Canada, where he was responsible for leading Gilead Canadian affiliate from startup in 2005, to one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in Canada in 2015, with sales of over 1 billion, and just prior to Acerus, Ed served as Vice President and General Manager of Allergen Canada, where he led a significant portfolio optimization process and leadership transformation.
Ed, thanks for joining me, and let's get right into our discussion.
ED GUDAITIS (EG):
Great. Thanks, Tiana. And thanks for the opportunity to talk to you this morning and share some thoughts and ideas with everybody that's going to be listening in to the podcast.
Great. So to start off, what are some of the present challenges facing pharma leadership, from your view?
Great question. I mean, there's so many to go through, but I'll kind of focus on probably three areas today for discussion. I think the first and foremost one that's on everybody's mind are obviously Covid-19 related challenges. And in particular, I think the big issue is navigating this kind of return to work process.
Surprisingly, 18 months into it, I think it was relatively easy to hit the pause button and have everybody go work remotely, for the time being. I think the real challenge is going to be kind of figuring out what return to work looks like both in terms of timing, you know, I can tell you right now we're trying to pick the date to define whatever return to work is, and clearly the Delta variant and everything that's going on has put that into question. What's the process? For the most part, we're a service type industry as pharma, we haven't had the essential work, you know, like you would in Canada Post or other areas. So a lot of us haven't experienced the workplace outbreak yet. So how are we going to manage that type of issue in process?
And I think the other thing, too, is are our employees ready to return to work? I think the longer we've been remote, the more people are getting used to this and their lives have changed around this. And if you've got school aged kids, are you ready to come back to work if they're not vaccinated, and they're going back to school now. So I think it's not as easy as it was to go remote, it's going to be a bit of a challenge to get back and return to work.
I think as well, part of Covid related issues are going to be obviously employee morale, you know, are people ready to come back? You know, how are they going to feel that they're going to feel, are they going to feel secure to come back to work? And then, you know, you read a lot about it recently, are we going to see kind of this great resignation happening, where18 months of reflecting on work life balance and thinking about, you got time now to think about what to do in life? Are people going to come back and reconsider what they've been doing? I certainly know from our perspective as Acerus. It's competitive. There's lots of jobs out there, people are getting a lot of offers, flexibility is going to be important. And I think it's going to be interesting to see how we navigate that. So lots of challenges clearly related to Covid.
You know, I think the other big thing for pharma leadership is going to be asking this question and addressing the question of, you know, put it in quotes, “Does Canada Matter”? The changing regulations that are out there, the on-off nature, the PMPRB changes, are corporate prioritization decisions going to happen, do you launch in Canada? Do you invest in Canada? Navigating that, you know, I think you see for public companies like Acerus you see companies Zymeworks, others, delisting and dropping TSX listings to go to NASDAQ because clearly healthcare investment dollar is much more available and much more focused in the US and TSX listing doesn't get you really anything today.
And I think for business development perspective, it's a much smaller pie, a lot more competition, a lot of companies competing for the same assets. It's a seller's market, and certainly that level of competition is going to continue. So I think, you know, we're gonna have to navigate the question whether we're based in Canada, whether we operate in Canada, whether we're standalone, affiliate, whether we're a public or private company, does Canada matter in the long term? And what does that look like?
And then I think, finally, from a leadership perspective of being ready for the future. When COVID does become endemic, what's the business model that we're going to implement and learn to live with this endemic disease? And what's the business model going to look like going forward? Are we going to address the diversity question once and for all, as pharma, are we going to continue to focus on that and make our workforces, our leadership teams or boards more diverse?
And then, you know, I have a 25 year old daughter, and you know, when I was starting out in pharma, pharma was an attractive business is pharma still going to be an attractive industry, for younger people coming in. And I think that's going to be important to understand in terms of where we're going to get future talent, where we're going to get people coming into the business and how we're going to keep and retain and motivate and grow and develop those people as well. So I think it's, you know, the three things: Covid, clearly, does this country that we live in work in matter from a pharma perspective? And then what does the future state look like? And are we going to be ready for it? I think those are some of the clear challenges facing us right now, as leaders in this industry.
I think you summarized that very, very well, Ed. And I’m sort of observing the theme here around ambiguity of these challenges, right? It's one thing to face the challenge and sort of navigate a solution. But it's another to do it within an environment where there's so many unknowns, I think, with all the challenges you just mentioned, and it's really hard to predict the future, particularly in the environment we're in.
So that naturally begs my next question, which is, in the face of these challenges, and the ambiguity around those challenges? What's needed to excel as a pharma leader today? And are there any differences today, in sort of that skill set and capability, than what we might have looked at as a great pharma leader in years past?
I think some of the core of leadership is going to stay the same. I think whether it was in the past, whether it's the present or the future, I think the core of great leaders and good leaders will continue to be there. I think, this idea of authentic leadership, I think that is going to certainly be something that helps separate the good leaders from the rest of the pack. Because I think that if you look at the definition of authentic leadership, it's really sort of can you apply and approach situations with a level of empathy. Our employees are going to be facing uncertainty, our employees are going to have concerns. Can we as leaders be empathetic to that? Doesn't mean necessarily, we're soft to it, but can we be empathetic, can we be balanced? Can we be fair and understand it and make decisions within that, because I think that's also going to be really important in terms of this ability to attract and retain talent, I think people coming out of this situation for the last 18 months are going to be facing options. And I think, again, the great leaders out there will be able to attract and retain talent. And those leaders that aren't so great are going to be the ones that are going to be facing the challenge of the great resignation.
I think even more so now. And I think you touched on it with your prior comments. I think this ability to deal with uncertainty and ambiguity is going to be absolutely critical. You know, can you articulate a mission and vision for the company, for yourself for why you're there that people can actually buy into and get behind and rally around? Can you make informed decisions to the extent you have information, where you have it that are going to be relevant, timely? And can you also be adaptable in your implementation? The idea of being able to say, I know the answer, clearly, with this environment, I think is going to be a challenge. I think that the great leaders are going to be ones that say, quite frankly, I don't know, let's try to figure it out together, let's start to move forward. Let's see what happens. Let's pivot and learn from that and see how we can adapt and see how we grow. And I think that's sort of the process we're going to have to take, You know, Nostradamus claimed that he could figure out the future, and I think the rest of us are going to have to be I'm going to take my best shot at it. And then let's see where we get to and take steps along the way and kind of continue to adapt and to learn.
And I think part of that as well, you know, thinking about is you're going to need to have a focus on the long term results in the mission. Yes, you know, quarterly results will be important, but I think even more important will be where's the longer term plan and the mission and you know, that clearly is going to articulate to what's right for patients, what's right for the business, and in some ways as leaders what's right for everybody else, and not necessarily for me at this point in time. I think the days of aspiring to leadership to have the perks that come with that, it's going to be a world where it's more, the leaders that stand out are going to be the ones that are thinking about everybody else. And, yes, there'll be successful as part of it, but it's going to be what's right for everybody else. And my job will be to make that happen. And that's going to have to be there.
So I think, like I said, the core is there, I think it's clearly we're going to be dealing with a higher level of uncertainty than in the past. And can we rally people? Can we help motivate people? Can we be empathetic to people, those I think are things that are going to really stand out and separate the good from the average leaders as we move along.
Absolutely. And I think also you touched on it there, sort of that sense of agility that's going to be needed in the face of these challenges. And I think from a leadership perspective, being the role model or modeling that agile behavior, and demonstrating that across an organization will be so key to bring people along, as you mentioned.
So clearly, there's no doubt that a lot is being required of pharma leaders, given our present circumstances. And obviously, there are many great examples of those who are rising to meet the challenges. Yet, on the flip side, we're hearing more and more on the topic of burnout, especially recently. Now we know stress and burnout can have a significant impact at all levels of employees within an organization, but specifically for pharma leadership, what are your thoughts on the risk of burnout and how to either prevent it or handle it?
I think certainly the risk of burnout is there. I'm not sure it's necessarily burnout per se, it's maybe the risk of just being overwhelmed and sort of swamped or quite honestly, even as leaders the risk of even us as leaders, starting to think about those questions over the last 18 months about how much more, what else can I do in my life? So I think that's certainly there.
And you know, being a bit provocative, I would certainly say, clearly, the level of burnout we in pharma would face is nowhere near what we're seeing happening with essential workers, with our health care workers, frontline providers, I think that's actually conceptually going to be even a bigger concern for us in the environment is, we're going to interface with a group of professionals that, quite frankly, has been through the wringer for the last 18 months, and what's their world going to look like as we go forward?
I think clearly within our teams. And I think even as leaders, I think we need to think about what's the level of burnout, not necessarily with us as leaders, but with everyone else around us, you know, our teams had been through a lot in the last 18 months. And I think we have to step back and think about, you know, as a leader, did I contribute to some of that pressure and stress? Was I putting in too many zoom meetings because I had a need for information? Not necessarily because my teams needed me to be asking them what's going on. But because I felt a bit disconnected. Have I been listening enough? It's easy to walk the walk the halls in the old days, when that's really like a year ago, when people were back at work, but have we been listening enough to people.
Are we being empathetic? I've been thinking about that a lot lately, to my situation, I'm privileged, I have a home office, I can do things it really, in some senses. For me personally, the last 18 months, it's not been that difficult to transition. But that's not the same world that my employees operate from, you know, I don't have to work from my kitchen with everybody home from school learning in the same day. But it's important for me to keep that in context, because my world clearly is not everybody else's world. And I think we've got to be empathetic around that. You know, I think as leaders, we got to practice a little bit of self care, we got to make sure that we don't get tired, because when we get tired, it certainly trickles down to everybody else. So you know, if you're not commuting an hour each day, use that for a little bit of self care, in a sense.
And I think we need to be prepared for change as well, both ourselves as leaders, but also be prepared for the change that we're going to have to lead through. And I think it is, again, around that sort of issue. It's we're going to have to manage ourselves clearly. But I think more importantly, right now, it's going to be thinking about burnout with our staff, but also the environment that we operate in and the people in that environment. Those are the two more priority areas, I think we need to literally focus on. Not to say it hasn't been stressful, but it's I think it's we'll get one of those, think about the external environment and others first. And that's where really the pressure and the issues are going to lie.
For sure. Now, pulling from that when you're talking about listening and being empathetic as well, it's sort of a great segue to the last point I wanted to discuss with you, which we already sort of touched on, which is authenticity and leadership.
And, you know, I heard an interesting quote the other day that said, leaders always choose the harder right, rather than the easier wrong, which to me means that sometimes there are just difficult decisions that need to be made, especially in times of challenge. But when done with authenticity, it can create that culture of transparency, respect, listening, being empathetic, as you mentioned. So I guess let's just expand a little bit more on that and why authenticity is so important for pharma leadership into the future.
I think clearly, there's going to be a lot of those situations where that you're going to have to make tough decisions. And so I think, you know, being prepared as a leader to make that tough right call as opposed to the easy wrong call is going to be incredibly important. Because the reality is you're going to have everybody in the organization watching and seeing what choices you make and how you lead through that.
And I think sort of getting this concept of authentic leadership. I mean, you know, if you look at the literature and you think about it, the two things that stand out for me are, there's a lot of discussion about authentic leadership is about focusing on the long term, on the mission, about the results, and making sure that that's there. And I think that's going to be critical going forward is where you've got a level of uncertainty where you've got people sort of wondering, how much am I going to put into this? I think it's going to be incredibly important for leaders to sort of articulate a very clear, not necessarily internal, but externally focused mission. Why do I need you, why are we as a collective doing this, for the patients we're helping, for the communities that we're helping, the ability to focus on that it's going to be there.
And again, mid and long term results, having that level of patience for this last quarter wasn't great, let's hang in there, the next quarter will be better. We're doing all the right fundamental things. Let me as the leader take the flack for it, keep focusing on doing the right thing, keep focusing on the right things that are there, because if we do the right things, the results will come as we go. And, you know, I touched on it earlier, too. I think the other aspect of kind of authentic leadership that stands out for me is that level of empathy, it's not necessarily being soft, but it's being empathetic to our your people doing what are your people need?
It's one thing to be JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs and saying, I demand everyone to come back to the office on this date. It's another thing to think about, if you say that, what are people thinking? Can people practically do what it. What if somebody says, got to give me a couple of weeks to arrange childcare, you got to give me a couple of weeks to arrange elder care, because I've been looking after my parents at the same time. So you've got to be I think empathetic to that. Because at the end of the day, you want people to rally around not only you as the leader, but obviously the mission you want them to get to.
So I think it does clearly come into play these aspects of authentic leadership as we go forward, because the environments can be so uncertain, so turbulent, that that's going to be I think that linchpin, people need to be able to get people to rally behind them behind the mission, and get the things done that we need to get done.
Ed, I really appreciate you sharing your perspective and thoughts here today on the topic of leadership. Thank you so much. We've had a great discussion. Thanks again.
Thank you. My pleasure to be here today. Thanks.
Switching gears to my second guest on today's podcast on the evolution of pharma leadership. I wanted to dive deeper into the area of identifying future pharma leaders within our industry, and how to create a culture of leadership more specifically within a pharma company.
I'm pleased to welcome Janine Pajot. For this section of our discussion. Janine is the Vice President Human Resources for Bayer in Canada, focusing on all aspects of human resource management, including talent and recruitment, compensation, pensions and benefits learning and development and inclusion and diversity. Janine is a member of Bayer’s Country Leadership Team responsible for setting the strategic direction for the Canadian organization.
Prior to working in human resources, Janine held progressive commercial roles in the pharmaceutical industry. Most recently serving as Vice President for the General Medicine Division of Bayer in Canada. Janine is passionate about people and dedicated to fostering a high performing organization with a lens towards ensuring a culture of inclusion and belonging. Janine strongly believes that now more than ever, organizations need to foster an environment where all employees can come to work as their authentic selves and feel valued.
Janine, thank you for joining me on this podcast discussion about leading with authenticity and agility. It's right up your alley.
JANINE PAJOT (JP):
Thanks, Tiana. It's a pleasure to be here today. I'm very excited to be joining you.
Excellent. So I'll start off with a broad question. And we'll sort of filter down from there in terms of more practical advice and thought provoking discussion here.
So starting off, in your view, how do you see pharma leadership evolving? So, for instance, what's different today for pharma leaders versus past years?
You know, it's a great question, the evolution of leadership never really ends. However, I think the past 18 to 19 months or the pandemic have really taught us some vital lessons with respect to leadership and serving our teams accordingly. So this applies to pharma. It applies to all levels of leadership. But if we think about pharma in particular, and let's focus on the salesforce, for example, in the past, prior to Covid, it was a virtual world to begin with.
However, through Covid, our teams had to evolve themselves, they went from going to face to face calls with their customers to having to go to a more digital platform as we're doing today with those virtual type of connections. So that requires the leader to tap into different tool sets in order to help their team members manage through that shift in mindset.
You know, if you have a high performing representative who have all of a sudden gone from having that relationship with face to face of their customers, how does the leader how the employee helped the representative to make that shift to that virtual world, so they maintain that connectivity with customers, without really missing that beat? What that requires is for the leader to truly be their authentic selves. The days have gone, long gone of commanding control, though I will admit my mind is always blown when I still hear this type of behavior and leaders. You know, you have to challenge yourself as a leader, are you really tapping into the individual, this is not a one size fits all type of moment in terms of leadership, and you really need to identify what is it that makes your employee tick so that you can help them manage through whatever challenges are coming their way, and more so help them to really embrace the opportunities ahead.
For sure, and I think even, you know, as a leader today, not always knowing what tomorrow brings, either. So it's having that sense of flexibility for yourself, but also to be able to impart that to your team be able to adjust and be agile for what the future will bring.
There's a quote that I'm sure many of us have heard before, that states that true leaders don't create followers, they create more leaders. And so I guess from your perspective, Janine, what do you see as the process or the suggested approach for guiding and shaping future leaders within our pharma industry?
That's an excellent question. And I really do love that quote, because it's so true, I think probably one of the best and first things a leader can do is just model the behavior that a true leader would possess. Show that authenticity, show that vulnerability, create space within your team within even your, doesn't have to be your immediate direct reports, but just in general, within the organization that you welcome, challenging conversations, you welcome dialogue. And as well create a space where failure is not failure, it's an opportunity to grow.
And when shaping future leaders, if you have folks who are earlier in their career, create opportunities for mentorship, guide them to create those networks and to tap into diverse networks so that they can understand different perspectives and what have you. But I would say, first and foremost is model what you want to see in the future, you know, that's just imperative. And the true sense of leader is creating and showing your authentic self, show that you're vulnerable, it will be not easier, but it will pave the way to create a safe space for people to come forward and have really fruitful dialogue, which helps everyone grow.
I think that concept of failure, for sure is something when I think of leaders that I've had a lot of respect for and still do today, within the industry. It's that idea of setting opportunities and you fail or stumble, it's what have we learned and how can we create that path forward? So I agree, seeing that modeled from a leader certainly is encouraging for other future leaders coming up the path.
Yeah, if I could just build on that, Tiana, with the fact of failure. It's the concept that we, on one hand, we believe it's the right thing to do to actually, realize it can be more of a challenge, because there's that innate human instinct that I did something wrong. It's terrible.
It's not terrible. It's a gift. Because you have fallen down. Think of our childhood. How many lessons have we learned by falling down, skinning our knees, you know, learning to ride that bike the first time, it's really imperative that we create that environment where it's okay to fail, and embrace it as that growth opportunity for the organization for the employee. And it also really emphasizes and embraces the psychological safety component for employees that's so valuable. When they know that their leader will be open to understanding what led to said failure and how we might grow together, then there's that space of feeling like you actually belong, it's a safe environment and you grow together as a team.
And I think it's also important to keep in mind and communicate within a team or a company, that leadership is not always necessarily tied to a particular job title or role. Leadership can mean many different things. There's ways to demonstrate leadership without having a certain title, if you will, right?
So for instance, it might mean leading a cross functional team on a specific project, or it can mean leading the rollout of a brand initiative or something within that person's function. And maybe those are smaller ways to step into leadership roles. And, you know, seeking out opportunities or potential learnings, failures or whatnot, without having that leadership perceived title or role there.
So I guess on that note, how do you create a culture of leadership either within your team in HR or within their, from your company perspective?
That's a really great opening for this conversation, because there are leaders and their managers. So a manager has their direct reports, follows the book, etc. But are they really tapping into the strength of their team members to bring out the best that they can, and utilizing those skill sets to drive the business further, to drive the organization further, to drive the culture? That's what leaders do, leaders are there to draw in the respective skills and competencies that each individual member can contribute. So you don't need to be their manager, you don't need to be their boss, so to say. But you are there to as a, an orchestra leader, think of it that way. And you're there to bring in the wonderful skills that each one offers, and to draw it out as well, too, because not everybody is an extrovert or what have you.
So as a leader, you want to ensure that you're listening to everyone that everyone has a seat at the table, and, as well, a voice at the table. So like an orchestra leader, you are there to ebb and flow with ensuring that those skills and those voices are heard.
So absolutely, you don't need to be the actual manager in a cross functional environment. It's probably the truest testament of challenging your leadership skills and in bringing people together for a common purpose, and a common goal. And you can do that by tapping into the individuals, the key component, or any leader is to establish trust within the team. And that is really the foundation of everything.
I personally love the work from Patrick Lencioni. And he draws the model of trust and think of it as a pyramid and you have trust as the foundation just like a foundation of a house. Without that you can even begin to have those really open dialogues about failure, like we just spoke about earlier, or having the healthy conflict with business concerns that are on the table, you need to have that together. And that's what a leaders job is, is to build that environment.
And I think that ties nicely back to your earlier comment around the sense of vulnerability that a true leader embodies because that sense of vulnerability and demonstrating that amongst an organization or amongst a team, I think, therefore leads to that high sense of trust that the team members will have for that particular person as well. So I see how that's all linked.
So I guess on a more practical level, and knowing that there's probably a lot of listeners here of this podcast, who are maybe a bit earlier stage in their career, or looking to foster their leadership ability and moving into more leadership roles in their career. What practical advice might you share for someone who's wanting to pursue, you know, a leadership role?
I love this question. Because I think if I had the chance to talk to my younger self, what would I say? I think first and foremost is establish a diverse network, network within your organization. But tap into a diverse network outside of your organization. And by diverse, think of it as diversity of thought. And why is that? Because if you surround yourself with the same people, you're going to get the same answers. And in order to really challenge yourself and grow, it's important to meet up with folks who don't think exactly the same way you do and listen, listen and really reflect on what their point of view is. How does that align to how you're thinking and how might you both grow through the conversation.
So networking, if I could tell my younger self, key, really key. Other areas, there's formal mentorship, which is always terrific, but there's informal mentorship as well, which brings me back to the networking component. Try and find yourself someone that you can have those vulnerable dialogues with and feel comfortable to be able to challenge your own thinking to learn from their own experiences. So it could be a formal mentorship, it could be informal, but nonetheless really having that confidant is really integral.
And I would say the last piece is just be open, do self-reflection, not to the point of beating yourself up. But you know, when things don't exactly go, how you planned, do a little think back? How could I have done that a little bit differently? How could I have done that better? And when leading teams, whether it's a formal, direct report type of situation, or if it's in a cross functional, really do that reflection when you're having those interactions with your team members? How might you draw out the best in those people? And what could you be doing differently? Or what could you continue to be doing that has been very successful?
Great advice. Janine. Well, maybe last question I have for you. And this is more of a philosophical question, perhaps. But we often hear the question around are leaders born? Or are they created, or somewhere in between? And so I'm curious, from your perspective, and from your career, those you've observed that have moved into leadership roles, was it something they were always destined to do from your view? Or is it something that based on some of the practical advice you just gave that people can really step into sort of tapping into a leadership ability?
Yeah, it's a great question, because in my own opinion, I feel that leaders come in different shapes, sizes, personalities, extrovert introvert, what really defines them is their ability to bring people together for a common goal and a common purpose. And to really tap in, I know I've been saying this all along, but tap into the diverse skill set that's around that table. It's through that diversity that we can align to greater things, but the leader having that common goal, that vision, that purpose for their team members, that's integral, and that's really the secret sauce.
Love that answer. Great. Well, Janine, we've had an excellent discussion here, our podcast listeners, and I very much appreciate you sharing your perspective and thoughts on the topic of leadership today. So with that, we'll close off our interview. And thank you very much again, Janine.
Thank you. Tiana, it was a real pleasure.
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