Defining a Career Path in the New Pharmaceutical Era

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Robin Robinson

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Avoiding the Bull’s-Eye

When management needs to trim the workforce, there are ways to avoid being the target. The value of an employee increases if he or she has a can-do attitude, is a problem solver, and can react quickly to changes and challenges in the business environment. Binner. AstraZeneca. Employees need to know themselves and their passions so they can build on their strengths. We all need to remember the 70:20:10 rule of professional development: 70% of development comes from learning on the job in stretching roles; 20% comes from activities such as coaching and being mentored; and 10% comes from formal learning in the classroom or, more recently, online. To ensure longevity, employees need to make the most of these learning opportunities and take on roles that stretch and challenge them to learn new skills; they need to find a mentor and expand their networks to interact with people they can learn from, and they need to identify opportunities that keep their skills current. Working on projects is a great way to develop quickly because… Thought Leaders Valerie Binner. Global Human Resources, Business Partner, Drug Development & Project Delivery, AstraZeneca, which discovers new medicines that are designed to improve the health and quality of life of patients around the world. For more information, visit astrazeneca.com. Lisa Feldon. Partner, Healthcare Practice Leader, McCormack & Farrow, a search firm for corporate directors, C-level, division, group, and top functional executives. Ms. Feldon is also President of the HBA Southern California Chapter. For more information, visit mfsearch.com. Nancy Lurker. CEO, PDI Inc., which provides commercialization services for established and emerging biopharmaceutical companies in three business segments: sales service, marketing service, and product commercialization. For more information, visit pdi-inc.com. Erica Peitler, R.Ph. CEO, Erica Peitler & Associates, a firm dedicated to helping individuals and teams transform their leadership potential into leadership performance through coaching. For more information, visit ericapeitler.com. Gregg Russo. VP, Human Resources, Daiichi Sankyo Inc., which focuses its research and development on dyslipidemia, hypertension, diabetes, thrombosis, oncology and autoimmune disease. For more information, visit dsus.com. Pam Saras. Senior Staffing Director, Millennium: The Takeda Oncology Company, which is a global center of excellence in oncology with a robust pipeline focused on disease pathways for a variety of cancers. For more information, visit millennium.com. Kathy Schroeder. Director, Talent Development, Astellas US LLC, an affiliate of Astellas Pharma Inc., which is dedicated to improving the health of people around the world through the provision of innovative and reliable pharmaceutical products. For more information, visit us.astellas.com. Ms. Schroeder can be e-mailed at: kathy.schroeder@us.astellas.com. Avoiding the Bull’s-Eye When management needs to trim the workforce, there are ways to avoid being the target. The value of an employee increases if he or she has a can-do attitude, is a problem solver, and can react quickly to changes and challenges in the business environment. Binner. AstraZeneca. Employees need to know themselves and their passions so they can build on their strengths. We all need to remember the 70:20:10 rule of professional development: 70% of development comes from learning on the job in stretching roles; 20% comes from activities such as coaching and being mentored; and 10% comes from formal learning in the classroom or, more recently, online. To ensure longevity, employees need to make the most of these learning opportunities and take on roles that stretch and challenge them to learn new skills; they need to find a mentor and expand their networks to interact with people they can learn from, and they need to identify opportunities that keep their skills current. Working on projects is a great way to develop quickly because this often exposes employees to new challenges outside of their current role. Feldon. McCormack & Farrow. The first step in ensuring career longevity is to engage in continuous learning both in and outside an area of expertise and then take that learning and put it to work. For example, I know a geneticist who recently went back to school to earn a certificate in marketing, which allowed her to round out her skills and set the stage for advancement in a variety of different avenues. As a result, her company is giving her the opportunity to work as product manager, allowing her to use both her science and business skills. Scientists with strong business acumen will be hired no matter what the economic situation. The second step is to treat one’s career like a business. Create a business plan for your career; engage a board of directors and an advisory panel to help shape the plan over time. One of the findings from the E.D.G.E. study conducted by the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association is that people who have career mentors are that much more successful. The third step is to choose one or two professional organizations and become an active member; working on boards and projects with others will help build some deep, long-term relationships. Don’t wait until you lose a job to start building your network. Lurker. PDI. It’s a tough job market for everyone, but the best practices are still the tried-and-true principles that applied even before the current economic times emerged. Those who can answer yes to the following will continue to do well and have done well over the past 10 years in this industry: Are you a can-do person? Are you proactive? Do you come up with solutions rather than problems? Do you interface well with teams, bosses, and subordinates? Are you flexible and willing to do different things? These days an employee needs a breadth of skill sets. Those who just stay in a very narrow, unidimensional functional area of expertise are going to be at greater risk during layoffs. Managers are not only looking at the resume; they will take into consideration how an employee is able to pull together disparate experiences to create a more holisitic view of the business. Typically, depending on the company of course, only one-third to one-half of employees actually have that mindset. The biggest thing is to have a positive attitude. People want to work with others who are enjoyable and have a can-do attitude. Causing dissension, complaining, or highlighting what is wrong with the organization instead of finding solutions is not a recipe for success. Peitler. Peitler & Associates. There are three general career best practices in any job environment: be an up-for-anything individual, be a well-rounded player, and be a seeker of leadership and/or career coaching at critical change points. Timing is uncontrollable; one never knows when an opportunity may arise, so it is important to be open, flexible, and willing to move in the direction of change. Managers love employees who are willing to take risks and to help shape and create a new venture. During their career, people have to avoid being pigeonholed as a marketing person or a sales person. In pharma, it is really important to have great in-depth experience with product knowledge; it is equally important to have an opportunity to be involved in a role that interfaces with customers — physicians, patients, payers — to get a holistic understanding of the business. Management today is looking to nurture talent that has the potential to interface across the organization. Employees also need to keep their eyes open to where the organization is moving, because that is where management is focused; employees want to be focused on the same areas. Russo. Daiichi Sankyo. There are a couple of strategies that people can employ to be successful in their career in both good and bad economies, and one is to be a continuous learner. Our industry is experiencing a lot of changes. For example, the influence of managed markets and managed healthcare. Companies are reorganizing salesforces and marketing efforts because of these changes and people who want to ensure long-term success should consider how those changes are going to impact their functions. For instance, reps need to understand the role of the payer and how this influences their territory. Companies are actively trying to educate employees, and employees would be smart to jump on the bandwagon and stay on top of industry trends. Also, career longevity is tied to delivering a positive attitude at work. Hard work and a positive attitude can outperform talent in terms of bringing value to an organization. People who volunteer for taskforces or take on extra responsibilities and do so cheerfully and deliver results will be viewed as adding more value than those who don’t. Saras. Millennium. People who are the most successful have broadened their skills and deepened their knowledge not only in their own field but outside. One key to success is being flexible and not becoming fixated on one career path. I’ve witnessed many examples in our organization of people who have come into a particular discipline but then branched out to learn other parts of the business. As a result, they have been very valuable to the organization. Mentors both from inside and outside the company are a must. If faced with a layoff, mentors can help with networking and offer career advice that makes sense. Schroeder. Astellas. The best practice for ensuring career longevity in the pharma industry is to be an excellent performer in one’s current role. When looking at long-term career success, many of us forget that the most important thing to do to ensure future career success is to be a strong performer now. While it’s important to step back and look at where your career is headed and put together a plan for developing key skills, those who are most successful in the future are also intimately focused on performing well today. While they are performing, those who succeed are also making themselves more employable and marketable for the future. We also know that what makes employees marketable in today’s tough times is not just functional or technical expertise, but high-performance skills. We are building a high-performance culture and giving our employees the knowledge, skills, and tools to become consistent high performers. We recently launched a development program that helps employees, managers, and leaders develop their skills and competencies in these key areas. As we build our high-performance culture, we are also developing our employees, which supports their long-term career longevity. When a Resume is Necessary Our experts provide some practical advice for getting another job within the industry when the worst case scenario comes to fruition: layoffs. Binner. AstraZeneca. Lots of companies are recognizing that now is a good time to find great talent. If you happen to be in the job market, try to view this as an opportunity. It’s important to be clear about what you are looking for and what you offer. Being open to all suggestions can seem desperate, and this impacts one’s credibility as a candidate. As a hiring manager, I welcome someone who wants to explore with me how his or her core capabilities could be best used. There is now so much data available about organizations on the Internet that it’s very simple to make the most of that information before applying for a role; do the research and understand as much as possible about an organization before making contact. Feldon. McCormack & Farrow. If you have just been laid off, give yourself time to decompress. There is a lot of emotion involved in a layoff situation and often some anger, and that can come through if you jump into the job search too soon. Put some distance between you and the old job, process the emotions, and then move on. When you are ready, one best practice is to schedule informational interviews. By that I mean call people you admire and want to work for, not just people who are hiring. Schedule a coffee meeting, pick their brain, get an introduction to somebody, or find out about their company and goals and what opportunities might be out there in the future. Lurker. PDI. It is vital in the pharma industry to maintain a network. People dislike that word because they either don’t have a network or it’s not in their nature to be outgoing, but a network is simply keeping in touch with people. I maintain good relationships with colleagues, former bosses, suppliers — anyone I come in contact with. It is important to not become short-sighted and always consider the long-term implications that your actions and interpersonal relationships today may have on your future career and success. All too often, people find themselves in a situation where someone they had a run-in with in the past at one company now stands between them and what they need or want at another. People who have figured out how to create win-win situations and still sell their ideas will always have opportunities. Peitler. Peitler & Associates. Do your homework; find out who is building muscle or building a competency in a new area that you have experience in. If you got laid off from a large company, don’t just focus on other big companies. Find out which companies are moving in a direction where you have already been a change agent; you are likely to be highly attractive to these organizations. Another piece of advice is to appropriately position and brand yourself — not so much as a technical expert, but as a diversified healthcare professional. If you’ve had many roles and experiences in your pharma career, then put those forth in a way that allows a prospective company to recognize your diversity, depth, and creativity. One of the biggest mistakes I made when I was in pharma was not building a broad enough network. My advice is: don’t get so caught up into your own company’s world that you lose sight of having an outside network. Those who widen the lens of what their skills and competencies are may be able to find a job outside of the industry. For example, medical affairs people have strong communications skills and are able to distill technically detailed information. They can also read and understand medical clinical studies. Alternative job opportunities for medical affairs people may be found in ad agencies that want people who understand how to read clinical studies and how to better position a drug based on how it works. Food, beverage, and candy companies are also now becoming more interested in these skills. Chocolate, soup, and orange juice companies are all now looking for people who can speak to the health benefits of their products and how to prove that those benefits are meaningful. This is a big opportunity for medical professionals. Russo. Daiichi Sankyo. It sounds trite, but we consistently talk about the importance of networking and tapping into people who we know. In this environment, one can’t be shy. Take advantage of social networking opportunities on LinkedIn and Plaxo. This is a relatively small industry, so often we encounter people whom we have worked with at other companies and we can stay in touch online through the social networks. We are all reactive sometimes, but maintaining connections helps with networking and meeting challenges. There is also great value in community service. Volunteering in one’s community is a great way to make contacts and do something good at the same time. Saras. Millennium. It is important to have an updated and professional resume. I can’t say enough about the importance of networking. Employee referrals are given a higher priority, and in this environment employee referrals really come to the top. And even if you are unemployed, you should continue to attend industry meetings and read the industry newsletters to stay informed on where the jobs are so you can focus your efforts on companies that are hiring. Schroeder. Astellas. Be sure to have an up-to-date resume that captures successes in a results-oriented fashion and the key skills that can be brought to the table. Use your network to let those you already know what you are looking for and to get introduced to others who might help you find the next right job. Remember that there is more than one next right job and, more importantly, that you never know where it might come from. Those who are most successful in locating the next right job fastest keep their networks from past companies and professional organizations up to date. Help Wanted: The Job Hunt Despite the downturn in the industry there are still jobs to be had, especially in pathology, translational medicine, global manufacturing, and global regulatory and compliance. Sales, understandably, has limited opportunities these days. Binner. AstraZeneca. Areas where there are skill shortages are pathology, veterinary surgeons, in vivo, certain toxicology roles, and translational medicine. From a drug-development perspective, there are roles for physicians, biostatistians, certain regulatory affairs functions, and global drug development project directors. People with solid project management and Six Sigma skills are in a good position, regardless of the sector. We are always looking for good leaders who have experience leading global teams and who are able to do so outside of their own technical area of knowledge. Feldon. McCormack & Farrow. Biotech is becoming quite large on the West Coast; California is becoming one of biggest hubs in the country, besides Boston and Research Triangle Park, N.C. San Diego and San Francisco are big biotech areas, and bioengineering and clinical research are always going to present opportunities. International regulatory and compliance expertise are going to be big areas for growth as companies outsource more. As the FDA starts to focus more on global compliance, people who understand overseas manufacturing and compliance issues to satisfy the FDA will have a very important skill. With pharma regulations restricting what field-based salesforces can do, more companies are turning toward marketing through technology, and people with expertise in that area will become more valuable as well. In some cases, sales people are at risk, as well as staff support positions such as finance, legal, and human resources, mostly because of the redundancy in those positions, especially in light of all of the recent mergers. Lurker. PDI. Certainly sales is a tough place these days and is at the highest risk because, in general, pharma companies are going to continue to downsize and move toward specialty forces. Marketing still is and will continue to be an integral part of all pharma organizations, particularly anything that has to do with nontraditional promotion. Anything related to this area is going to be a strong career path, as well as analytics and market research. Russo. Daiichi Sankyo. I think most opportunities are going to be in the convergence of the health outcomes area, managed markets, and marketing and sales. As insurance companies and payers gain influence on the pharma marketing cycle, it is more important than ever to understand how this will impact the industry. It’s not enough anymore to have a drug that is clinically superior. Now companies must demonstrate how the drug fits into the algorithm of care for patients and how it provides a good return on investment for the insurance company. The ability to use data effectively and understand the issues will bode a person well in terms of looking down the pipeline. These changes create another emerging trend, which is greater regionalization of marketing efforts from a managed healthcare perspective. Saras. Millennium. There are jobs out there. At Millennium we are looking to add 150 positions in 2009. For us and other companies that are hiring particularly in the oncology space, an area that is still competitive in terms of development positions, we are looking for bachelor- to Ph.D.-level scientists and we are hiring clinical research and regulatory professionals for our medical organization, where the needs often outweigh the supply of qualified candidates. Schroeder. Astellas. It is difficult to link growth and advancement to a particular discipline in pharma. You can study trends, but the best advice is to match your own skills to an organization that is working in areas where your talents and skills are a good fit. By following these tips, you will increase your ability to find the next right position in an area that is satisfying to you and where you will succeed. F PharmaVOICE welcomes comments about this article. E-mail us at feedback@pharmavoice.com. Hard work and a positive attitude can outperform talent in terms of bringing value to an organization. Gregg Russo, Daiichi Sankyo The path to business success can be a long and winding road or a straight route to the executive suite. Experts in the field discuss best practices for carving out different paths for successful career advancement in this tough economic climate. In any job market, employees need to be willing to push out of the comfort zone — if they are not willing to do that, they are not advancing in their careers. Nancy Lurker, PDI Thought Leaders Valerie Binner. Global Human Resources, Business Partner, Drug Development & Project Delivery, AstraZeneca, which discovers new medicines that are designed to improve the health and quality of life of patients around the world. For more information, visit astrazeneca.com. Lisa Feldon. Partner, Healthcare Practice Leader, McCormack & Farrow, a search firm for corporate directors, C-level, division, group, and top functional executives. Ms. Feldon is also President of the HBA Southern California Chapter. For more information, visit mfsearch.com. Nancy Lurker. CEO, PDI Inc., which provides commercialization services for established and emerging biopharmaceutical companies in three business segments: sales service, marketing service, and product commercialization. For more information, visit pdi-inc.com. Erica Peitler, R.Ph. CEO, Erica Peitler & Associates, a firm dedicated to helping individuals and teams transform their leadership potential into leadership performance through coaching. For more information, visit ericapeitler.com. Gregg Russo. VP, Human Resources, Daiichi Sankyo Inc., which focuses its research and development on dyslipidemia, hypertension, diabetes, thrombosis, oncology and autoimmune disease. For more information, visit dsus.com. Pam Saras. Senior Staffing Director, Millennium: The Takeda Oncology Company, which is a global center of excellence in oncology with a robust pipeline focused on disease pathways for a variety of cancers. For more information, visit millennium.com. Kathy Schroeder. Director, Talent Development, Astellas US LLC, an affiliate of Astellas Pharma Inc., which is dedicated to improving the health of people around the world through the provision of innovative and reliable pharmaceutical products. For more information, visit us.astellas.com. Ms. Schroeder can be e-mailed at: kathy.schroeder@us.astellas.com.

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