If I had to start again ...

I'd hope to be half as lucky as I was this time. I never set out to be a chief executive or even a businessman.

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

I'd hope to be half as lucky as I was this time. I never set out to be a chief executive or even a businessman - it was pure accident. I was a scientist conducting research in Paris, and on a trip back to Glasgow I met a bloke in a pub who persuaded me to go for a job at ICI. It just went from there.

So I can't claim to be a good example of career planning. My one guiding principle has been to avoid doing anything as a stepping-stone to something bigger. Don't do things because you think you should, or because it'll make you more money. Do it because it means something to you, and see how it goes - you'll do it well and the opportunities will open up.

I never felt I had to sacrifice anything to get to this position, but in retrospect I guess I didn't spend as much time with my children as I would have liked. I remember once going to my son's parents' evening, and my wife introduced me to a lady she knew. 'Oh,' she said. 'I thought you were a single-parent family.' But who knows - perhaps if I had been around more it would have been worse for them.

Seriously, though, I've been very lucky to work in such a special industry and I wish I was starting out in it now - there are so many opportunities ahead in science and healthcare. I've lost count of how many times patients have sought me out to thank me for our products, with one even coming to my office in London from California. How many people in their working life get that kind of fulfilment?

I'll miss lots about the industry. I joke that I'll find it difficult to give up the drugs, but, truthfully, I'll miss the science, the people and the buzz. Being chief exec of a major company means things are always happening around you, and the adrenalin level is always very high. Leaving the executive role is going to be a major change.

- Tom McKillop stepped down as chief executive of AstraZeneca in December.

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