Sharer studied aeronautical engineering at the U.S. Naval Academy from approximately 1968 through 1971. He earned a B.S. in engineering 1970 and an M.A. in 1971. He later received his MBA from the University of Pittsburgh's Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business in 1983.
As an engineering graduate, Sharer served in the navy from 1971 through 1978. He served on two naval fast-class nuclear submarines. At the age of 27, he became the chief engineer on the USS Memphis (SSN-691) overseeing her construction and her crew's training. He left the navy with the rank of lieutenant commander.
From 1978 to 1982, Sharer worked at AT&T and simultaneously earned an MBA degree from the University of Pittsburgh. Sharer briefly spent time in a consulting position with McKinsey & Company, a management consulting firm.
In 1984 Sharer joined General Electric (GE), where he served in several executive roles in corporate development. In 1989, Sharer left GE for an executive vice president position in marketing at MCI Telecommunications Corporation, where he stayed until 1992.
In 1992, he joined biotech company Amgen, Inc. as president from October 1992 to May 2010 and chief operating officer from 1992 to 2000. He was also a director of Amgen Inc. from November 1992 to December 31, 2012. Amgen was then world’s largest biotechnology company, but small when compared to large pharmaceutical organizations. Some criticized the choice of someone without a medical or chemical degree for the position, but his predecessor at Amgen, Gordon Binder felt that the company already had enough people with strong science backgrounds. Instead, Sharer’s corporate experience was what was sought after by Amgen. Nevertheless, Sharer took a 'crash course' in biotechnology, taking six months of half-sabbatical to immerse himself in the study of biotech issues. Sharer even reportedly hired his old firm, McKinsey, to tutor him in pharmaceuticals and biochemistry.
After 20 years leading Amgen, it was announced that Sharer would retire at the end of 2012. A spokesperson for Amgen credited Sharer with the company's success. During his tenure annual revenue had reached nearly $16 billion with operations in 55 countries, up from $3.6 billion in revenue and a presence in 17 countries before he assumed the top jobs.
In 2012 Sharer joined Harvard Business School as a senior lecturer in business administration teaching corporate strategy.
Boards on which Sharer served as a director
Sharer has served on the boards of several companies:
Geotek Communications Inc. since 1994
Northrop Grumman Corporation from December 16, 2003 to May 20, 2015 (later renamed Titan II Inc.)
Chevron Corporation from 2007 to May 27, 2015
Independent director of Unocal Corporation since June 1, 1997
3M Company from 2001 to May 8, 2007
Micromet, Inc. from March 2, 2012 to March 7, 2012
Independent non-executive director of Allied Minds plc since June 5, 2015Chairman of Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America from 2005 to 2007
Trustee California Institute of Technology
Chairman of the board of trustees Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History
Board of directors U.S. Naval Academy Foundation
Trustee National Parks Conservation Association