One of Merck's (NYSE:MRK) top executives has left the company and the big pharma sector, in general, to work elsewhere. Jim Scholefield, Merck's chief digital officer, has been hired by Marriott to fill a similar role. He'll be replacing Marriott's former chief information officer, Bruce Hoffmeister, who announced his retirement last September after working for the hotel chain for 30 years.

Scholefield had been hired by Merck back in late 2018 as the company's first chief digital officer at a time when other major pharmaceutical companies were making a big shift toward digital technology. At the time, his responsibilities included handling cybersecurity concerns for Merck, which had become a big worry following the 2017 NotPetya cyberattack, which cost the company over $1 billion in damages.

A jigsaw puzzle piece with a picture of a person being removed from the larger puzzle.

Image source: Getty Images.

Scholefield's tenure at Merck lasted less than two years before he decided to leave, and the company has no clear replacement in place. Dave Williams, Merck's Vice President of animal health IT, will be taking over as chief digital officer in the interim.

Big pharma's digital shift

Back in 2018, many large pharmaceutical companies, such as Novartis, Pfizer, and GlaxoSmithKline, had all been making moves to put a greater emphasis on digital technology. This included hiring new senior executive positions specifically focused on this goal. Sanofi's new CEO, Paul Hudson, is also working to boost the company's digital capabilities, which include having a separate chief digital executive on the company's leadership board.