Sandra Forero: A Tech Enthusiast at the Crossroad of Disruption, Passion and Innovation

Sandra Forero

Founded in 1983, ZS is a professional services and technology firm that works side by side with companies around the world to help develop and deliver products and services that drive customer value and company results. The firm leverages deep industry expertise, leading-edge analytics, technology, and strategy across the marketplace to create solutions that work in a real-world scenario. Helping clients with everything from discovery through commercialization, ZS’s impact can be seen in industries ranging from healthcare to high-tech to financial services and beyond.

ZS’s top-ranked specialization in data, analytics, and technology continue to drive growth and business impact through fully integrated analytics solutions. The team’s exceptional multi-industry analytics and technology domain experience allow the firm to deliver meaningful and measurable outcomes. It has partnered with clients to develop everything from an integrated analytics strategy to cutting-edge analytics capabilities while providing cross-disciplinary skills in AI, advanced analytics, big data, and technology platforms.

The firm’s technology portfolio includes ZAIDYN™ by ZS, an intelligent, cloud-native platform that allows life sciences organizations of all sizes to digitally transform and scale customer engagement, field performance, analytics, and clinical capabilities. The platform delivers the power of a self-learning network and ready-to-use library of algorithms to more effectively power better patient outcomes. With ZAIDYN™, leaders in business, analytics, and technology have more paths to improve processes that deliver business and patient value. They will be able to drive faster, better decision-making with more insightful, dynamic reporting analytics, create personalized experiences to deepen customer relationships, deploy and guide field teams for more effective support of healthcare markets, spark digital learning for greater speed to value in business model transformation efforts, and deliver company-ready infrastructure for the future of digital clinical trial design and monitoring.

A Resilient Leader Using Data at its Best 

Sandra Forero is the Chief Operating Officer at ZS. Her focus is on enabling ZS to drive client impact and innovation to help clients and their customers thrive. Her priorities include propelling client success and enabling innovation, as well as talent strategy, people and culture initiatives, leadership development, and risk management. She is also the chair of ZS’s diversity, equity, and inclusion council and the executive sponsor of ZS’s platform initiative, ZAIDYN™.

Sandra’s expertise is in strategic commercial issues and leveraging data, analytics, and technology to advance more intelligent decision-making. She has partnered with top biopharmaceutical organizations to transform their global analytic, digital, and technology capabilities. Over the last 20 years, she has served life sciences clients and focused on supporting the decision-making of commercial leaders, as well as leaders in analytics, operations, and technology. Sandra was named one of the Top 25 Consultants by Consulting Magazine in 2012. Prior to joining ZS, she worked as a management consultant in a broad range of industries and specialized in strategic and organizational issues internationally.

Sandra holds an MBA from the University of Virginia Darden School of Business Administration. She received a B.S. in Business Administration from La Universidad de Los Andes in Bogotá, Colombia.

Soaring High with Innovation and Team Improvement 

“Becoming a successful leader has stemmed from my passion and focus on innovating to drive client impact, and earning the right to long-term client relationships,” says Sandra.

At ZS, Sandra reveals that they have clients for life. For example, she adds that she has partnered with a particular client for more than 12 years. Throughout this partnership, she found the best way to truly drive impact for the client is to consistently innovate and to constantly improve and transform the solutions. Even though this often results in cannibalizing the team’s own work, the firm promotes it because it ultimately brings better value to clients. This mindset of wanting to innovate and generate positive change is engrained in how she operates.

Sandra states that she feels fortunate to work with many different, skilled ZS teams over the years who have enabled her success. Through this experience, she learned that she cannot be successful without a strong team. Sandra recalls an incident that happened several years ago when she was promoted to the managerial level. At that time, a mentor told her, “From now on, you will find that your success will depend in great part on your team and not just your individual efforts.” She mentions that she took it to heart and made it a priority to invest in her team, understand their needs, coach them, give them the feedback they need to hear, and give them opportunities to learn and grow.

Transforming Pain into Purpose 

Sandra remembers that early in her career, she learned to make her voice heard. As a junior analyst, she tended to be reserved in meetings. She often found herself with several points to share but was waiting for the right time for someone to give her space. More often than not, by the time she waited for her chance, it was too late; someone had already shared the same point. Sandra quickly learned that if she wanted her voice to be heard, she had to speak up, instead of waiting for others to create space or ask about her perceptions. “I err on the side of speaking up early and often in all settings of work and life,” she says.

Sandra says she has also worked towards finding balance since the start of her journey. She married young and had her first child when she was an entry-level analyst and the only woman in her MBA class with children. She adds that it was these responsibilities that helped her become stronger and better. Sandra’s 25 years of learning, failing, and adapting were all about setting boundaries, managing expectations of all stakeholders, truly being present, and most of all, not being so hard on herself.

Leading towards a Dynamic Center of Data-driven Decision Making 

ZS envisions innovation as a constant responsibility of every ZSer and incorporates it as one of the competencies evaluated within performance evaluation, directly asking: “How did you help drive innovation in this project?”

Sandra claims that recognizing that transformational innovation needs focus and a particular mindset. The ZS team implements an innovation enablement process to identify big ideas and create venture teams to focus on them. These teams operate more like start-ups, with the agility and flexibility to drive innovation, and are incentivized to take risks.

ZS’s deep industry expertise permeates every facet of its ability to innovate, states Sandra. It allows the team to identify space for innovation and offer solutions. The clients’ needs are changing in real-time. Many seek scale, self-reliance, speed, and cost savings. She highlights that ZAIDYN™ is a direct response to those needs in an integrated platform solution. Decades of ZS domain expertise inform the platform’s insights and modern user interface, which continues to evolve to meet the clients’ changing needs. With ZAIDYN™ analytics, algorithms, and workflows, teams are making data-driven decisions to improve life science across the full spectrum of activity, from R&D and supply chain to commercial and patient outcomes.

Bequeathing Excellence with Disruptive Technologies 

Sandra avows that disruptive technologies like AI, machine learning, automation, and big data have been at the core of ZS solutions for many years. ZAIDYN™ is cloud-based and intelligence is a part of the fabric of the platform. In analytics and digital areas, which is Sandra’s focus of work, the firm’s expertise in these disruptive technologies has been key to enabling clients to drive their desired digital transformations. Sandra mentions an incident in her previous role that led to the integrated analytics practice area, through which the firm focuses on developing products to inform intelligent decision-making. Each one of the solutions and products brings in elements of automation technology, data, and AI, and is transforming the world of analytics to be more technology and AI-enabled.

She adds that these disruptive technologies are now advancing more rapidly, and leaders in the space need to stay ahead to anticipate what may be the next disruptive technology and work to reduce the data and analytics literacy gap. They should also recognize that it is not enough to have processes in place to enable experimentation and innovation. Mechanisms should be in place to take those innovations to scale, productize, and develop solutions that drive transformation.

According to Sandra, ZS has the opportunity to explore new and impactful technologies like edge analytics, blockchain, and quantum computing. Forrester’s prediction suggests 15 firms in the Global 500 will appoint a new chief trust officer, and at least five large companies will introduce bias bounties to eliminate discriminatory outcomes from AI systems in 2022. Therefore, she says that leaders should remember that trust is critical. They need to be spending more time ensuring the AI is trustworthy in the future.

Transformational Leadership at the Helm

Sandra thinks that every transformational leader’s approach should have, believe in, and communicate a vision that inspires and motivates others. Personal and organizational transformation also requires the willingness to let go of fear – fear of change, of failure, of losing the business. To be a transformational leader, one must accept that never failing would mean never innovating. She highlights that learnings that are derived from overcoming fear and failures are essential to the transformation process. It “takes a village” to drive transformation. This is not something that one person alone can achieve. As a leader, one needs to bring others along every step of the way. They have to work side by side with the team towards shared goals.

A Paradigm Shift with the ‘Power of Data’ 

Sandra envisions that data, platforms, and personalization will mark the future of the industry. She adds that ways of working will need to be flexible, and adapt as business and technology intersect at deeper levels. At ZS, the team will continue to focus on leveraging the power of data, science, analytics, and technology to drive advanced intelligent solutions. In the healthcare space, which is ZS’s primary focus area, Sandra states that the firm demonstrates its role as critical in helping to transform global healthcare by connecting the different players in the ecosystem and creating innovative solutions to improve health outcomes for all.

Words of Wisdom to Empower Women Leaders 

First and foremost, Sandra advises emerging leaders to believe in themselves and know that they already have what it takes. It’s critical to build and leverage a network of other strong women. She has been lucky to have many circles of amazing women, on whom she can rely for advice, conversation, collaboration, and idea exchange. Finally, she concludes by saying, “Model the way. Be an ally. Champion opportunities to help other women in your organization grow.”

Quote: “AI, big data, analytics, cloud computing – these technologies will continue to advance more rapidly and create opportunities and challenges for all. We will move from ‘narrow’ applications that focus on solving specific problems to AI embedded in all we do.”

– Sandra Forero, Chief Operating Officer, ZS

Management: Sandra Forero, Chief Operating Officer, ZS


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