Advancing your Career in Pharma: Part II
This is a continuation of our discussion with Dr. Abou Gharbia, a recent guest speaker of the ACS Careers Industry Forum. For a full bio please go to our blog.
Part I provided an overview of Pharma R&D operations and entry-level opportunities at Wyeth. We will continue talking about key ingredients to advancing your career in pharma.
After a few years, some chemists may want to consider a career change, moving off the bench gaining experience in other functions and moving into management. Dr. Abou Gharbia pointed out that there are many opportunities in other parts of the company for chemists to explore. After 5-6 years, employees that become familiar with the business, could be considered for work in other parts of the organization.
“Some of these functions may depend on their writing skills. If you have strong writing skills you may consider becoming a clinical writer, or [if you have strong] coordinating [and] multitasking [skills consider a role in] project management, or [you may enjoy working in] regulatory affairs.”
Management positions such as director, senior director, and even vice president are available as per departmental needs; however, organizations generally promote from within for these high-level positions.
“… advancement will depend on you: your performance, the quality of work you’re doing, inventive contributions, communication skills, interpersonal skills, which are really important. You could be a rocket scientist, but nobody [will] want to work with you [in the absence of key interpersonal skills.]”
Dr. Abou Gharbia mentioned that in the beginning of his career as bench chemist, he worked without any technical assistance. His rise through the ranks took time and effort. It also took passion. Dr. Abou Gharbia believes that the reason he excelled in his job, is that he really loves doing chemistry with a purpose. He goes on to say that he really believes that everyone can excel in their job.if they worked hard on the tasks at hand.
He also points out that some time your most creative chemists are not necessarily your best team players and we need to create the right environment to bring the best out of every one. Transitioning from the lab into management requires you to interact with multiple individuals in various departments.
“interpersonal skills are really important, and to manage and move the program forward [requires] working with not just your chemists, but also biologists, patent attorneys, and multiple organizations within the company. So it’s important for individuals who wanted to progress into the management ladder [to be able to contribute to working in a multidisciplinary team.]”
When asked about globalization, Dr. Abou Gharbia stressed the opportunities for chemists in the US and abroad. He cited his experience with outsourcing 150 chemists in India, but stated that this outsourcing initiative did not result in any job losses in US operations—only expanded capacity. The expansion of operations into India also resulted in opportunities for US chemists to work in India through a rotation program. These interactions broke down cultural barriers between operational sites and allowed for efficient IP transfer.
To listen to the complete conversation with Dr. Abou Gharbia or to read the interview transcript from the interview, please the ACS Careers Industry Forum page.