From failing an MPharm to joining a Silicon Valley tech company


Early on in my MPharm degree, I had a crystal clear vision of my career. I wanted to become a Clinical Pharmacist. I worked very hard towards it - I did my summer internships at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust in London and UVA Health System in Virginia, USA. Later that summer I was offered a Pre-reg interview with 3 top London hospitals.

Every single detail was perfect, except one - I failed a Professional Practice exam in my 3rd year, twice. Result? I could not continue with the MPharm. Instead, they offered me a BSc in Pharmaceutical Studies and wished me good luck in my future, assuring me that everything will be alright.

Effectively, in my eyes, I failed at everything I was striving for. The world has collapsed right in front of me. My dream of becoming a Clinical Pharmacist has faded away.

Nevertheless, I had to face an uncomfortable situation and move on. As I was not prepared to enter the workforce, I decided to continue my studies by doing an MSc in Pharmaceutical Sciences and Management. After successfully completing my Masters, I returned back home with the hope to find a career that would fulfil my ambitions. I had absolutely no idea what that would be though, I was still completely lost.

I started my career in Krka, a large generic manufacturer, in the Quality Assurance (QA) Compliance department. My main responsibility was monitoring, implementation and control of the implementation of international and national regulations, guidelines and recommendations in the area of QA. I was focusing mostly on coordinating quality-related activities with our manufacturing and distribution affiliates around Europe.

In addition, I was assigned a trainee project that I had to deliver by the end of traineeship. I was tasked to design a tool that could be used to classify quality deviations. This project required me to fully understand how the pharmaceutical industry works. Hence, I was sent to do different rotations to see what people do. This was very helpful and it made me realise that the industry is kinda cool.

Then, one day during the summer while having a barbecue with my colleagues, I received a tempting message on LinkedIn from a Regulatory and Scientific Consulting firm, Asphalion: “I'm writing you as we need someone to work on ISO IDMP in Barcelona. I think that your QA background is quite positive for this position. Would you be interested in an interview?”

I had absolutely no clue what ISO IDMP was, but Barcelona sounded like a place to go. Interviews went well and I got the offer. It was a tough decision to make though - I had to move abroad again, but this time not speaking a word of the local language. I knew in the long-term I would grow tremendously both personally and professionally, so I packed my bags, booked a one-way ticket to Barcelona and off I went.

The scope of my work has changed significantly. Firstly, I switched from Quality Assurance to Regulatory Affairs, so I was pretty much starting from a scratch. Secondly, I changed from the industry to consulting. So all of a sudden, I had to have solutions to all the problems our clients had. The learning curve was exponential and I was lucky enough to have the opportunities to learn from my colleagues as well as attend numerous conferences where I have gotten insights on how various regulatory challenges are approached by different companies.

My focus was working on the data standards. Regulatory affairs is constantly going through changes. The industry is slowly moving from documents to data. So there was quite some IT involved in my work too. It’s quite fascinating when you realise how technology can enable things, such as electronic prescribing, electronic patient information leaflets that are displayed in your local language when you scan the packaging with your mobile, etc. We are still quite far away until these technologies are fully utilised, but we are getting there!

In the summer of last year, there was an opening in Business Development team at Asphalion. The work seemed very interesting, even though my business background was a bit limited. However, having pharmaceutical background combined with knowledge of quality and regulatory affairs has been critically important. When it comes to selling, it’s much easier to sell a product or service, if you understand the client, i.e. their needs, their challenges and how your product/service can solve that. Business is all about generating value to the buyer.

I joined the team and my focus has shifted from working on projects to selling what I know. My role was talking with the prospects/clients, trying to understand their needs and how our regulatory services can solve their challenges, generating business proposals and then closing the deals. I was also involved in managing marketing campaigns to position our services. It was in this role where I fully understood the importance of listening to the people.

This summer, I attended Veeva R&D Summit - One of the fastest growing tech companies, based out of Silicon Valley, that builds cloud solutions for pharma and biotech.

While they were presenting the current apps and what’s coming in the future, I was just sitting there thinking: “This is incredible, I want to be part of their journey!”

I spoke with a few of their colleagues and realised that we share the same values. I went through a long interview process. But the patience was well worth it. I am joining their team of Solution Consultants this January and I could not be more excited! My role will be to help the regulatory professionals transform and simplify their daily work using modern and innovative technologies that Veeva offers.

Being involved proactively in student associations, such as the British Pharmaceutical Students’ Association (BPSA) and European Pharmaceutical Students’ Association (EPSA), I have gained a deep appreciation of the challenges students face today when it comes to starting a career - It’s super stressful.

Having gone through this challenge myself, I thought there must be a simpler way to start a career. Hence, I started an initiative called Pharmadelic with a vision to bridge the gap between the young talent entering the job market and the industry's ever-increasing challenges to find this talent and a mission is to augment awareness of possible pharmaceutical careers amongst students and recent graduates.

We post entry-level job opportunities relevant to pharmacy students and recent graduates on our Telegram channel daily, so that you don’t have to waste time searching all those confusing career pages.

In addition, we run a podcast, the Pharmadelic Experience, where we host pharmacists who work in various interesting fields. They share their personal stories on what they do, how they go there and some practical advice that can help you get started.

Sometimes the opportunities are presenting themselves as failures. And sometimes you have to take advantage of these opportunities otherwise you might miss the train.

In hindsight, I really believe that trying out all these roles has developed me into who I am today. I have loved every job I have had, and even though I still do not know what my dream career is, I am getting close to it.


This article was written by David Kološić



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