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Vai Haridas – Otsuka Pharmaceutical Companies Inc. (U.S.)

From apps to yoga, tech leader strives to give back

In her day job, Vai Haridas leads a commercial IT team that ensures technology solutions for employees and customers developed by Otsuka Pharmaceuticals Cos. (U.S.) reach the market compliantly.

That’s included ensuing that updates to Abilify MyCite—a “digital pill” which contains a sensor—pass muster with regulations, including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

Vai Haridas | Director, Commercial IT | Otsuka Pharmaceutical

Vai Haridas | Director, Commercial IT | Otsuka Pharmaceutical

But her day job is only a portion of the story. While Haridas helps Otsuka provide medications needed to treat depression, she’s also running a nonprofit and contributing to diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. She has a podcast on building careers in IT, too.

“I’ve enjoyed leadership roles at Fortune 500 and multinational companies,” Haridas says. “I gravitate to enterprise systems and digital transformations, but helping guide [diversity, equity and inclusion] efforts and a nonprofit allows me to touch even more lives positively.”

Getting the message

Developed by Otsuka in partnership with Proteus Digital Health, Abilify MyCite treats depression while providing crucial health care information to patients, families and health care providers.

Besides the sensor in the pill, the Abilify MyCite system includes a sensor patch worn by the patient that records and transmits information such as activity, rest and moods. With the patient’s consent, that information can be shared with the health care provider and the patient’s family through an app.

It was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2017. Five years later, Haridas helped steer its latest advance—text messages to alert patients when they need to take Abilify.

Vai Haridas | Director, Commercial IT | Otsuka Pharmaceutical

“If you’re a mental health patient, caregivers play an important role because a patient may forget to take meds,” Haridas says. “I’m super-excited about the digital therapeutics space because, while a lot of digital apps are about your inner calm, this one delivers help when people need it most.”

However, reminding a patient to take the medication isn’t as simple as sending a text alert, Haridas adds. Patient consent is required and HIPAA compliance is mandatory.

“We work in agility and compliance,” she says. “Agile isn’t about doing things fast now—we can achieve both by ensuring there’s plenty of knowledge and a framework to reach a happy medium.”

Stretching and running

Haridas is helping people improve physical and mental health outside the office, too.

In 2020, she founded Arva Yoga in memory of her grandmother. Yoga was a natural choice for Haridas, who, while growing up in India, competed in Rope Mallakham yoga, which involves performing poses while suspended on rope.

The nonprofit offers free online yoga classes and includes instruction for people who are blind or have limited vision, as well as older adults. Haridas also envisions added classes, perhaps for the LGBTQ community.

Vai Haridas | Director, Commercial IT | Otsuka Pharmaceutical

“Yoga and mindfulness are like water and the air we breathe, so the uber-vision is allowing people to access it without worrying about cost,” she says.

Establishing a nonprofit was challenging, and Haridas credits the nonprofit’s board of directors and volunteers for providing their expertise for marketing and operations and spreading the word about Arva Yoga.

Arva Yoga also joined the nonprofit, Desis of Doylestown, in March as an organizer of the 1K or 3K Saree Run in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. Many of the runners wore the colorful silk or cotton garments traditionally worn by women in India and South Asia and raised more than $12,000 for women’s education causes.

Sharing stories

Haridas launched her podcast, “From Backoffice to Boardroom,” in February.

“I’m very curious about how technology leaders get to the CIO role and understand digital transformation across various industries, especially after COVID-19,” she says.

In the third and most recent episode, Haridas interviewed Liam Durbin, CIO for T. Marzetti Co., about his journey from naval officer to CIO. Durbin also comments on topics including the future role of IT departments and the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on diversity, equity and inclusion.

Before joining Otsuka, Haridas co-founded a multicultural employee resource group at Toll Bros. She leads DEI efforts in her present role by organizing celebrations for the Chinese New Year and Diwali and hosting group chats sharing DEI experiences.  

“I came to U.S. in 2003, and I’ve lived the DEI experience,” Haridas says. “My DEI initiatives are an extension of me as a woman of color in technology.”

Haridas earned her bachelor’s degree in engineering from the University of Mumbai in 2000 and a master’s of technology in industrial engineering and operations research from the Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai in 2002.

She then came to the U.S. to study, earning her MBA from Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business in 2006. While at Drexel, Haridas joined Vantage Labs LLC as a strategic process coordinator and business analyst in 2005. She rose to become a product manager before joining Vantage Unified       Communications USA as a product marketing manager in September 2009.

In 2012, Haridas joined Computer Enterprises Inc. as a product manager, managing its new database and software web applications from development to launch. In March 2014, she joined Toll Bros., a luxury home builder based in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania. In her six-plus years there, Haridas rose from technical project manager to workstream leader for Salesforce implementation. In August 2020, she joined Otsuka.

“Patient first and patient experience is at the center of everything we do,” Haridas says. “But what I do at Otsuka marries well with trying to give back outside work, too. It’s a passion.”

View this feature in the Summer I 2022 Edition here.

Published on: June 7, 2022

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