Your Career As A… Manager In The Pharmaceutical Industry


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Interviewing inspiring ladies across a diverse range of industries and roles, each with a great journey to tell… Providing our readers with industry insight, knowledge, words of inspiration and we hope a smile or two along the way. 

Name: Aimi

Industry: Pharmaceuticals

Job title: Commercial Management Trainee

The role:  It’s a scheme to fast track future leaders for the business (FLP), it rotates us across different functions of the business for 3 years

Description: My current rotation is as a brand manager, which involves managing supply, demand and promotion of a product portfolio. This involves global stakeholder management, market research and product launch project management

Last book read: Playing Big, Tara Mohr

career, graduates, advice


How would you describe the experience of being a female in your industry?

I actually find being a female in the pharmaceutical industry highly refreshing compared to my past experiences in the IT Consultancy sector and banking world. Some of the most senior leaders in both our sector and company are female, role models which are hugely influential and inspiring to me. I am still conscious in my industry there are still too few females at board level across a multitude of global organisations, which highlights there is work to be done. I deal with this proactively, being a UK Lead for our Women’s association and champion for female development within our field.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever got in your career so far?

Feedback is a gift, Seek it greedily, but swallow with caution.

Historically every time I received a piece of feedback I took it as gospel, and launched into a radical mission to address the constructive advice. More recently I’ve learnt that feedback says just as much about the person giving it as it does about you. My advice to you when it comes to feedback is to choose carefully what you hold on to and what you respectfully decline. Essentially it’s simply someone offering a perspective, that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily true. When it comes to receiving feedback balance it with other people’s views, but make sure you ask the right people: the movers and shakers, key stakeholders, mentors, team members for regular feedback, the 360 approach works well here.

What was the career path you took in order to get where you are today?

I’ve had a range of jobs in my career so far and said yes to everything along the way. From running Anne Summer’s parties to leading NFP teams, it’s all been hugely character building. My curiosity led me abroad where I worked in media in Paris and Argentina, which made me more self sufficient and mature. I also think my time as a Manager for the John-Lewis Partnership was hugely useful. As it taught me the incredible life lesson:  It really is all about people and customer service! I also followed my entrepreneurial flair, selling books into water stones, handmade crafts and everything in-between.

A huge learning curve for me was my time in sales. It’s no secret that many CEO’s of major companies have a solid grounding in sales. I worked for a global training consultancy, selling training packages to FTSE 100 companies. It was a tough job with stretching and demanding targets, but through this I learnt the art of the consultative partner selling approach. I also learnt how to present to senior leaders in a range of industries and how to cope under pressure. This job also gave me insight into loads of different companies, so I was able to window shop and find out what worked for me. Overall my confidence and communication skills blossomed. I learned how to sell myself which is a must for any job!

I’ll never forget answering the interview question: “where would you like to be in 5 years?”. My response was “a fantastic director and an incredible mum. Tell me, as a company how can you support me to balance the two and excel at both?” The response was phenomenal and is a huge reason I took the job I am in now.

What was the most important decision you made in that path that brought you where you are today? 

Making the decision to be a small fish in a big pond!

When I was applying for graduate schemes I was in the fortunate position of having a fair amount of offers. Some played to my strengths and sat perfectly within my comfort zone, but I could see how my career would play out year-on-year. Some (like the one I accepted and am in now) pushed me so far out of my comfort zone I was struggling to come up for air.

I got thrown into a world of science surrounded by ex- health care professionals who find bio-chem master’s textbooks light reading. I’m from a world of literature and art, business and languages, theatre, and having to conqueror my insecurities of being average at science amongst such intimidating people was a huge mountain to climb. I’ll never forget my first day, when all the new starters sat around in a circle and announced which Oxbridge Uni they went to and where they got their science based phd. When it got to me I simply said “Hi I’m Aimi, and I have no idea why I’m here!”. Everyone laughed but I wasn’t joking it baffled me. In time I found myself and am so happy to work in a place that constantly challenges me and forces me to be the best I can be.

The best thing you have ever said in an interview? 

No thanks!

I remember interviewing for this IT Account Management Job, which claimed to be the “best graduate scheme in Europe”. I had recently moved to London and had bills to pay, so was delighted to have secured a place at the assessment centre. At the interview we had to do various tasks, and by the end of day 3 I entered the board room, where I sat across from 5 stern looking people. Without even introducing themselves or offering me a glass of water, one of the men in a power suit threw a pen across the table, lent forward and said “sell me this pen”. This is a well known dated technique and the exercise itself didn’t offend me, but the arrogance and rudeness did.

As the interview progressed and they asked me “what’s 5×6, quick!” and to spell “liaise” and other insulting questions sporadically throughout the 2 hours, I knew this wasn’t for me. I carried on and answered their unoriginal questions, and at the end they asked if I had any questions. In my anger I defiantly asked “so, you seem satisfied. As such, will you be offering me the job?”. They looked at each other and smiled and said, “yes it’s yours, are you keen?” at which point they were mortified as I said “no thanks”, gathered my things and left. I learned from this that interviews are a 2 way thing, you need to impress clearly but so do they. Don’t be afraid to say no.

What is the most bizarre/toughest/oddest question you have been asked in a job interview?

If you could invite any dead person to dinner, who would it be and why? Believe it or not I’ve had this absurd question twice! This question is odd in itself, but it’s also completely predictable in terms of how they want you to respond. When asked the first time for a bar job in a hippy bar naturally I replied “Bob Marley”. The second time, when applying for a charity role, “Mother Theresa” was the obvious answer.

What inspires you most in this role?

The mission of our company. Everyday I know that the work we do helps patients to receive their medicines to live fuller lives. It helps to contribute to the breakthrough of thousands of new medicines that help people all over the world to live longer and without pain and stigma. This in itself is hugely inspirational.

What motivates you to keep going?

Aside from the buzz of hitting targets, helping patients and financial rewards, it’s the sense of purpose. This career choice feeds my ambition, fuels my ability to reach my potential and keeps me on my toes. I’ve also always wanted a family, and this job is helping me to create the house/garden/family holidays I can picture in my future. Lastly it’s the recognition and development opportunities, particularly for women- it really plays to my feminist tendencies.

Written by Aimi

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