Erika Taurel, 39, started her career as an engineer working on offshore oil rigs in both the North Sea and the Gulf of Mexico for Shell International, before switching to finance. "I got really specialized," says Taurel, adding that at the age of 29, she realized she was one of 10 people in the world who did a particular kind of work.
"I'd boxed myself in," she says. "So I went back to business school. Coming from an engineering background, operational finance was a very natural progression because it combines two skills: a facility with numbers and a curiosity at how things work."
Taurel joined Pfizer in 2002 and her tasks at the $50 billion drug company have included restructuring the worldwide biopharmaceutical unit; financial reporting and oversight of the Wyeth integration for the $23 billion primary care business; and risk management, budgeting and forecasting for Europe, Canada, Latin American and Middle East regions.