Nikolaj Tomma, European Society for Medical Oncology

Community changer

Not all of us want to make as much of a difference to the world as Nikolaj Tomma.  He has an ambition and a passion which he feels can change whole communities. He shares some with Rob Spalding

RS  You are 36 years old and already managing an events department at the European Society for Medical Oncology. What is your ultimate ambition and what’s the next step?

NT  My ultimate ambition would be to progress to a more senior position at ESMO or in another PCO/events management company.

RS  What does your job entail at the moment?

NT  I manage the events sponsorship portfolio for all the ESMO congresses and conferences.

RS  What sort of products/services does your department sell to the healthcare industry?

NT  Depending on the event, I can sell anything from exhibition stand space, advertising space, general sponsorship, all the way to satellite symposia sessions.

RS You have dual citizenship: South African and Italian. You live in France and work in Switzerland. Who do you really think you are?

NT  I feel like a citizen of the world and I was very fortunate in my life to be given the opportunity to live in different realities and meet a lot of interesting people.

RS  You were largely educated in Johannesburg. Was work in Europe always the main goal?

NT  Yes, after my experience in South Africa I wanted to work abroad, expand my knowledge and experience a different reality

RS  As events sponsorship is very much your environment, would you say you are instrumental in creating and reinforcing the ESMO brand?

NT  Yes I would, because through my efforts, I make it my main goal to promote the ESMO conferences and indirectly this also reinforces the ESMO brand with the different industry partners I work with.

RS  Where do your allegiances lie – with a successful event or heightened kudos for ESMO?

NT  In both, because in my line of work a successful event is when I meet the expectations of ESMO and the industry partners that invest in the event.

RS  You seem to be constantly on the move, visiting family, spending time in head office, travelling with your events. Don’t you tire of it?

 NT  I have a passion for travelling, an understanding family and the rest lies in having a good sense of ‘meticulous organisation’ which I think is an intrinsic attribute in our industry!

RS  Along with bodyboarding, kayaking, cycling and swimming, you list seeing new places as one of your interests.  How do you manage that?

NT  After an event I always take time off to explore the destination or neighbouring cities/countries. It’s a fantastic way to experience the local culture but also to return to work relaxed and recharged.

RS  Do you commute to work every week from Nice? By what means? And how do you fill in the time en route?

NT  I usually drive from my home to my office, both in Nice, and listen to the radio on route.Let me explain. My head office is in Lugano, Switzerland. I usually go there for one or two weeks in a month to work with my colleagues there. This week I’m working in Lugano. However, I mainly work in the ESMO Nice office and even if I work a week in Lugano, I always come back home for the weekend.

RS  You also attend many industry events, association courses and educational sessions. Are you learning – or building a contact list?

NT  I believe learning is an integral part of life. One never stops learning and also meeting different people is what makes the learning experience so special.

RS  Ten years from now, where do you hope to be—CEO of ESMO?

NT  I’m both ambitious as well as extremely passionate about what I do. In ten years’ time I would like to continue being an integral member of an organisation, but in a position from which I’ll be able to share the experience and knowledge I will have gained in order to play an ever-stronger mentorship role in respect of those in the same corporate position I find myself in now. Above all I would want to make a meaningful difference to the communities I will be serving.