I graduated with a master’s degree in pharmacy from Queen’s University Belfast.I undertook my pre-registration year in a community pharmacy chain in Northern Ireland. I was employed as a pharmacist manager with the same company post pre-registration year. I spent a further four years as a community pharmacist.
I thoroughly enjoyed this role, especially being a pharmacist tutor. This very much sparked my interest in training others. I had always been curious about alternative pharmacist roles, but felt my knowledge of career paths was limited.
As pharmacists, we need to know that the
services we provide are effective, safe, and efficient. This way we can make
sure patients are getting the care they need and deserve. We also need to know
that the services are continuing to meet the requirements of an ever-changing
By Tarquin Bennett – Coles, Principle Consultant at Carmichael Fisher
The Life science sector is a vibrant and constantly changing environment that can suit those who like to take educated risks with start-up ventures or those who want a more secure long-term career within a large organisation. Getting into the sector is still people/connection based so establishing a network and reliable advocates will help you make the first step. If you can find a person you can interact with rather than using an online portal then this will improve your chances.
Deciding on the right role and company for you will require some due diligence on the company values and culture. Most of this can be achieved online. Glassdoor is a useful tool to see what people say about a business, good and bad.
Nevertheless, having someone you can talk to who actually works at the company you are interested in is even more useful. If you can use your network to help you achieve this, then it will give you a head start.
To make the right step also requires some realistic self-assessment.
You can use online tools for this or If you can find someone you work with and ask them how you come across in meetings or day to day you can find out a great deal about how you are perceived. It is also worth thinking about what motivates you, what will drive you to get up for work or travel a long way for a meeting? Do you like to work in a group or independently? Even at an early stage it is well worth thinking about where you would like to land after the role you are applying for. Having this in mind will help you weigh up the potential of the position now and as part of your broader career aspirations even if they change.
Some individuals choose to join the sector via a service organisation then move across to biophama or MedTech businesses once they have their network in place. This includes joining life science teams in the large consulting houses (PwC, E&Y, McKinsey etc), boutique players (Huron, Cambridge Consultants, Sagentia), outsourcing businesses like a Contract or Clinical Research Organisations (CROs – IQVIA, Paraxel, Covance etc) or biopharma sales companies.
Others, choose to start out in a corporate setting via the City (equity analysis), private equity or venture capital businesses and then transition across.
In addition, the emerging data and digital space means some technology players (Amazon, Google, Apple, Samsung etc) are moving into the healthcare sector and they require experts with an understanding of life sciences sector so this may also offer a way in. Hot areas of growth also include diagnostics & biomarker businesses, AI/Machine Learning, data science and digital health companies.
Once you have gained some experience, or if you want to make the step immediately, then there are some key skills and experiences that companies most value. If you can highlight these when you apply or at interview then they will help differentiate you and increase your chances of an offer.
Demonstrable track record of success.
Examples of persuasion and influence whilst working outside your area of management control
The ability to prioritise between the urgent and important.
Expertise at working to tight deadlines and dealing with a fast paced environment for service delivery & communication (this should suit all pharmacists).
Project management skills & the ability to switch focus/direction due rapid market shifts or new convergent technologies.
Right now certain functions and disciplines are in particularly high demand. These include, analytics, data science, informatics, medical affairs and information, toxicology, pharmacology, business development, clinical development, regulatory affairs, market access and pricing and reimbursement.
Another thing to consider before you join the industry is to choose a location where there is a cluster of companies and sector support businesses already located there. This will increase the opportunity for you to progress and find alternative work if the position does not work out or the company goes through a major transformation or acquisition. In 2019 we are seeing some major merger and acquisition activity. Most successful clusters (Cambridge, London, Oxford, Edinburgh, Manchester, and Cardiff etc) will also have good transport links, access to funding streams, academic and research hubs, hospitals and service businesses nearby.
Once you make the step do remember you are likely to be joining a sector where there will be five generations in the workplace (Gen Z – 18yrs old in 2018). Each generation defines success and working habits with a slightly different perspective so it is worth considering that if you are working in a cross-generational team or have a line manager from a different era.
In terms of what lies ahead you have a myriad of choices once you break into the sector so keep checking in on your own plans. Leadership agility is being highlighted as a future “must have” and so is some international experience so if you can add those to your existing skill set, then you will be in a good place to progress. Similarly, there are now more industry collaborations and partnerships than ever before so involvement in such projects will help you stand out. Good luck, you have an exciting future ahead.
QPs assure the quality of our medicines, so it’s important
they’re well trained and fully understand how pharmaceuticals are manufactured.
As a QP you’ll be legally responsible for certifying batches of medicinal products before they’re used in clinical trials or available on the market. You’ll also need to understand the factors that can affect the safety of medicines and supply chains.
by Jodie Williamson, Pharmacist and Professional Development and Engagement Lead at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society in Wales.
As a pharmacist working for the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, I have the privilege of meeting the bright young leaders of the future. I have just returned from the annual conference of the British Pharmaceutical Students’ Association (BPSA) in Nottingham and was blown away by their enthusiasm for pharmacy and their ideas for the future.
It’s been a few months since my last update – so as a
reminder, I asked my colleague RX to be my peer – she eagerly accepted (I do hope that means she is not going to have a
‘take no prisoners’ approach to my Peer Discussion?!). I also gave some thought
to where I would like the discussion to take place and settled on an office at
So, the day has arrived and I am on my way for my very first
‘formal’ Peer Discussion!
I am sitting at the bus stop waiting to be ferried to the office where I have booked a room. To get the best out of my Peer Discussion I sent my peer RX a short summary of a current role of mine that I want to discuss. I also sent her the RPS Peer Discussion prompt sheets for the peer and the practitioner (that’s me!). So we are all set and I am looking forward to the beginning of a new relationship – albeit a learning one. Except, typically of me, I am mulling, in the midst of a very crowded bus shelter (with people cowering from driving rain), whether discussing something else might be more useful – I want to get the most of my time with RX. Deep in reflection I am pulled out of my thoughts when the old lady next to me gets up for her bus and before I know it, she is on the floor and there is blood coming from her head on the pavement. A mother and daughter, a young man and me spring from the bus stop and attempt to stop her bleeding and call an ambulance. We lift her onto the bench, she is fragile with the most piercing blue eyes – I look at her closely, she seems in full control of her senses. We wait for the ambulance.
A little while later, I am back on the bus and back in reflective mode (who’d have thought London buses were good for reflection – mind you it is some way prior to the schools’ ejection hour and the kids taking control of public transport!). I think about the old lady we just helped. It would seem a possible subject for the Peer Discussion – I could discuss how I managed the situation and what my learning gaps might be. Alas I am no longer in clinical practice so I cannot relate it to a current role and the old lady was a member of the public rather than a service user. So whilst my reflection was interesting, it wasn’t that useful as that specific instance would be outside the GPhC’s requirements. However I am then on a roll and other potential work areas start to whirl round my head – a big project I am involved in, a controversy I caused at a board meeting (may be not), my recent appraisal and my need to understand Microsoft planner – a project management tool (how will we stay awake discussing that?).
As the bus nears its destination, I decide to stick to the original plan. After all, it wouldn’t be fair to spring a new topic on RX plus I will get more out of this experience if RX knows what I want to talk about. I will discuss a role I have advising a panel on pharmacy education. I am one of only two pharmacists amongst a plethora of medics, nurses, healthcare scientists and allied health professionals. I want RX to help challenge and support my practice here as it is more isolated (this is one of the reasons the General Pharmaceutical Council set-up the Peer Discussion – to make sure people in my position continue to improve their practice). We can explore that I have learnt everything I need to and that I can communicate effectively to the panel who in this case are my service users that need benefiting – a GPhC requirement. I can’t help thinking that the old lady at the bus stop was typical of my previous service users in a hospital less than a mile from the location of my Peer Discussion…. Join me for the next exciting installment – how did my Peer Discussion go?!
Read Chris John’s other blogs all about his Peer Discussion journey here
The Biopharmaceutical and life science sector can be quite conservative so having experience and some knowledge of the sector will help if you want to join the industry. The larger companies will look to take calculated risks so any “extra” comfort that you can offer regarding your experience, skills and understanding that match the sector, and the role, will help differentiate you from those without it.
Draw on your experience of the science and pharmacology and any additional insight you have from dealingwith the public and healthcare provision. If you are new to the biopharma sector then it would be time well spent to make contact with those who have already enjoyed time in the sector or those who have recently joined the industry.
Tap into your networks of contacts via social media, the RPS, and see if you can grab a coffee, skype or phone call to explore the industry and roles that interest you. See if you can also attend some events to bring you into contact with relevant individuals and businesses. The industry has many support associations and recently they have come together under the banner of United Life Sciences (ULS), a strategic partnership representing over 1100 life science and healthcare organisations across the UK and internationally. These associations offer resources, events, tips, news, statistics and access to positions and leaders in the sector.
ULS was formed a few years ago by the BioIndustry Association (BIA), Bionow, BioPartner UK, One Nucleus (ON) and MediWales.
LinkedIn is the best social media platform for business related follow up so make sure your profile is up to date and you highlight the skills and experience you have that fits the sector. Try to find people that work at the companies you are interested in to get an insider’s view and see if you can get a warm introduction to someone who can open a door for you. In addition if you are able to find out about the values of the company and put together some examples of when you have genuinely exhibited those in your work this will be well received.
The industry is constantly changing and evolving so keep up to date with the news flow. No company takes new molecular entities (NMEs) from pre-clinical drug discovery to launch without multiple collaborations, partnerships and alliances so giving examples of when you have successfully managed projects, and people, who are not under your direct influence or control will leave a positive impression and is seen as a key leadership skill.
Similar understanding how convergence technology, data science, AI, machine learning and digital health is impacting the sector is a good conversation topic.
In blog 3 we will look at what you can expect once you make the step into industry and what sort of career pathyou can choose
by Ross Gregory, Head of External Relations, Royal Pharmaceutical Society in Wales
Time to Influence
Throughout the year, RPS speaks on behalf of its members in Wales at the highest strategic levels. We do this with pride and professionalism to influence the change we want to see in health care. Most importantly, we can help improve patient outcomes through the interventions of pharmacists.
While the issues vary considerably, one variable remains a constant: influencing change takes time. The recent publication of a National Assembly report into dependency on prescription drugs reminded us of this very fact. Read more Time to Influence ›
By Tarquin Bennett – Coles
Principle Consultant, Life Sciences EMEA & US at Carmichael Fisher
According to figures from the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) the biopharmaceutical industry the number of pharmaceutical enterprises has been increasing since 2010. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), by 2015 the number of enterprises operating in the UK was 573 (manufacturer of basic pharmaceutical products and pharmaceutical preparations). The number of employees in the UK working in the sector in 2016 was 63,000 with 24,000 dedicated to R&D.
The scale of the sector means there are opportunities for new joiners at all levels covering lab based positions to externally focused sales positions and everything in between. Trained pharmacists and technicians will already have a knowledge of the pharmacology of drugs and in many cases will have dealt with questions from patients and the public that will give them insight into the benefits and challenges of developing new drugs, supply chain, compliance and convergence of digital health technology with the sector. Read more What opportunities does the pharmaceutical industry offer? ›
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