What I Do in Pharma? A Brief Overview and Other Jobs in Pharma

Many of my Instagram followers noted in my Instagram poll that they would like to hear about what I do in the Pharma industry. Some people think I mean pharmacist when I say Pharma - no I am not a pharmacist. Although, there are some pharmacists who make the transition to Pharma but I will explain that a bit later. 

I currently work as a full time employee in the Pharma industry. I work at what is typically ranked as a Top 10 Pharma company based on revenue and/or other factors. I say full time employee because I previously was a contractor. Therefore, we will start with my first experience in Pharma as a contractor. 

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Okay here we go: I worked for 1.5 years at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia in clinical infectious disease research. I had gotten two promotions in the last few months in the position, but even then I knew that I was not working up to my full potential and not being compensated to my full potential. I had a Master of Public Health degree and years of clinical project and/or study management experience. 2 months or so before the end of that position, I started looking for new jobs. My friend (who God was training up to be my church's Youth/Young Adult Pastor which will come into context later) was talking to me about how he was looking for a job. He also has a Master of Public Health degree, so he too was looking for healthcare jobs. He recommended to me about looking at some open pharma industry jobs. To be honest, I had no idea what pharma was at the time! All I know is I knew he hears from God and it was well with my spirit, and God began encouraging me to begin looking on sites like Indeed.

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I found a contractor position that was posted by the Pharma company in which I currently work. The position was in Epidemiology/Outcomes Research as a Study Manager. I applied for the position, and literally got an email the next day for an interview. I had a phone interview, in-person interview, and was hired all within about 7 days. They told me in the phone interview that they were close to selecting candidates to notify of hire, so my application had just made it in on time! 

It is very competitive to get into pharma if you have no prior experience in Pharma - it does depend on what department/functional area in which you are applying. Contractor positions are a good way to get into a pharma company. There are a ton of contractor positions that pharma companies have as a means of operational efficiency instead of having full time employees because it can get expensive hiring so many employees! If God is leading you to take a contractor position in pharma, I encourage you to apply because if you work hard and have favor, God will bless you to find a full time position while working on the inside.

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I spent about 14 months in health economics and outcomes research (HEOR) as a project manager. I was hired as a study manager but there was a need for me to support health economics work so I was willing! I worked in the primary care line on a Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus SGLT2-inhibitor that was recently launched on the market. The type of projects I worked on were budget-impact models, cost-effectiveness models, network meta-analyses, literature review projects, and AMCP (Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy) dossier for the product. These projects are considered market access and reimbursement projects needed to gain access and reimbursement for patients around the globe. All of these projects were leading up to filing of the product with regulatory agencies and well as the reimbursement submissions. 

I worked SUPER hard in this position. I put my head down and worked hard. I didn't go around gassing myself up to other people, I just let my work speak for itself. I had no experience in HEOR, but I was willing to work where the need was and learn what I could about the HEOR division and my department. About 12 months into the position, I decided to apply for a full time position. I was always looking at the job postings to see what would be a good fit for me. I found a position for Senior Global Project Manager supporting early development and product development teams. I interviewed a few times and ended up getting an offer! (I have so many testimonies about this job search process, but will leave those out of this blog post. Maybe the subject of another post!) 

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Now I am in global project management! What we do is support the early development (Typically in early development during the Phase 1A, Phase 1B studies) and product development (typically product (late) development during the Phase 1B/2A, or 2A, 2B, 3 studies) teams. It depends on what type of study and what it's being used for. This is just a simple framework. These teams I support are the teams responsible for the overall strategy of their assigned vaccine or drug. Basically, there are about 8 or so core functional area leads who sit on these teams. Examples of functional areas include Discovery, Toxicology, Clinical, Global Trial Operations, Commercial, Project Management, Outcomes Research, Manufacturing for example. I am one of those 8 or so people who sit on the development team.

Additionally, I support the clinical subteam. This is the team responsible for all of the clinical trial strategy for a particular drug or vaccine. For example, there can be like 20 clinical trials for one vaccine or drug or there can only be 3 for example. It depends what is needed for filing and launch of the product. 

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Also, I sit on other functional area subteams as a project management rep. Examples include regulatory subteams, clinical trial team, clinical supplies, publications, etc. Many functional areas have their own subteam in which they drive forward development of the vaccine or drug, but all of these subteams report back into the development team and/or clinical subteam. 

My role is to ensure that all subteams are performing work according to the strategy developed by the early/or product development team. I drive execution and delivery of strategy and deliverables, like governance and other project management deliverables like timelines, costs, internal governance interactions, etc. I keep the early/or product development and clinical subteam accountable to the timelines and strategy in which they have developed. That's pretty much my job! 

For my millenial followers, don't think you need some advanced degree to work in pharma. There are people in my department who are global project managers and they have a bachelor's degree only. I will run through a list of some departments/functional areas in pharma:

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Discovery (chemistry and biology), Toxicology, Translational Pharmacology, Pharmacokinetics/Pharmacodynamics, Outcomes Research, Epidemiology, Marketing, Social Media, Market Access, Manufacturing and Controls, Finance, Resources Planning, Clinical Supplies Management, Clinical Trial/Study Manager, Clinical Scientist (non-MD/DO level), Labeling, Publications, Legal, Scientific Affairs, Medical Affairs, Regulatory, Project Management, etc. I mean I could keep writing on and on! Many physicians and pharmacists work in many of these areas, but there is room for people who don't have graduate school and/or professional school training. There are so many positions, and there is a place in which you could fit in! Do some internet research and you will find alot. 

I am so grateful to be working pharma with some of the greatest researchers and clinicians. This job will definitely prepare me well for being a leader in my medical school class.

Also shout out to my Young Adult Pastor! This is why I encourage you all to seek out your Pastors for counsel. They are there for a reason. If you don't have a church home, I encourage you to find one. I am not sure I would be working in Pharma right now if it weren't for my Young Adult Pastor allowing Holy Spirit to use him to encourage me to apply at Pharma. Let me know if you have any questions. Comment below and I would be happy to help in any way that I can!

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