Public Relations Director

This role is often about building bridges between people, both inside and outside the company, so you’ve got to have good interpersonal and leadership skills.

​So what do you do?

Essentially, I find ways to address the challenges our healthcare business faces in Europe. That can range from trying to ensure that government organisations understand the nature and value of innovation in our industry, to the promotion of understanding of the importance of well-conducted, well-regulated animal research in the development of better safer medicines.

How long have you been in your current role?

About 15 months.

How has your career developed since you entered the industry?

On leaving the NHS 15 years ago, I worked as a Clinical Pharmacology Physician in a Phase 1 contract research organisation (CRO).  This gave me a good insight into the workings of the pharmaceutical industry and the types of companies involved.

I then joined a pharmaceutical company as a research physician in 1995.  Working in the Clinical R&D environment, I’ve researched a wide range of investigational and marketed products at all stages of clinical development.  This has included the leadership of multidisciplinary clinical teams at both European and Global levels in the areas of osteoporosis and pulmonary hypertension respectively.

In 2006 I moved to work in the “business environment” world of Science Policy and Public Affairs.  In a very short space of time, I’ve learned a great deal more about the workings of the company and the challenges it faces as a large R&D organisation.

What qualifications and experience did you have when you entered the industry?

I’d done an intercalated honours BSc degree in Experimental Pathology while at Guy's, I have a medical degree (MB BS) and Fellowship of the Royal College of Anaesthetists (FRCA)..

Do you think additional qualifications or experience would be an advantage for someone entering the industry now? What might be valuable?

I can only really speak for the clinical research aspect of the industry.  Here, I think the key thing entrants should have is a postgraduate qualification of relevance.   Medicinal R&D is a complex, challenging and high risk business.  We therefore need to employ the very best clinicians and scientists.  Having a postgraduate qualification implies a sound knowledge of a specific area of medicine as well as a reasonable amount of time having been spent in clinical practice.

However, we often find that potential entrants (e.g. at interview) often lack the very basic understandings of the principles and practices of clinical research (e.g. how to analyse a scientific publication, how to interpret summary data).  Therefore I would recommend anyone interested in a career in medicinal R&D to take every opportunity to engage in clinical research in their current workplace.

Why did you decide on a career in the pharmaceutical industry?

Having completed my FRCA I just decided that a long-term career in clinical medicine was not for me.  However I wanted to find a job whereby I could apply my medical training but in a different way.  As I’d always had a strong interest in clinical pharmacology at Medical School, finding a role where I could play a part in the development of new medicines was very attractive.

What are you most proud of in your career?

Leading the global clinical team that helped achieve the approval of sildenafil for the treatment of pulmonary arterial hypertension.

What possibilities are there for your career in the future?

This is difficult to say, only because I know there are many.  Fifteen years of clinical development and business environmental experience can open many doors.  Also, the industry is constantly changing, so opportunities that may not be apparent today may well be tomorrow.

What is it like socially where you work?

I work in the equivalent of a modern university campus.  It’s a very open and spacious working environment with Starbucks coffee bars, shops and a great canteen!  There is also a fully kitted out gym and we have physiotherapy, osteopathy, dentistry and ophthalmic services on the campus.  There is a wide variety of colleague network groups to facilitate diversity and sharing of information.  There is also a social club/bar/restaurant and large sports ground about a mile off site.  We have a choir, a wind orchestra and an amateur dramatics group.  We also actively promote the importance of voluntary activity in the local community and colleagues are allowed to take up to 5 paid leave days per year to pursue these.  So, there’s plenty going on socially…there’s probably more, but this is what comes to mind immediately!

What do you think are the most important skills for someone in your role to have?

Knowledge and experience of R&D and the challenges we face are key.  This role is often about building bridges and “joining dots” between people, both inside and outside the company, so you’ve got to have good interpersonal and matrix leadership skills.

What one piece of advice would you give to someone seeking a career in the pharmaceutical industry?

Do not think that industry is an easy option.