My name is Preetam Patel and I’m proud to call myself a pharmacist. In 2013 everything I had worked so hard for and invested in came to an end and I saw my name on the GPhC register, a massive weight had been lifted and I could start practicing. I completed my pre-registration year at a large multiple under the guidance, supervision and mentorship of a very accomplished pharmacist who taught me how to run a 16000 item store without breaking a sweat. Having a tutor who taught me how to think for myself, set me up for a career in pharmacy which is constantly changing and developing.
But before that, let's go back a little, I came from the stereotypical Asian background of first generation immigrant parents, first to go to university and owned and ran a corner shop. This is where I attribute developing many of my skills for retail pharmacy from the age of 11 into my late teens as they both needed the same key skills which are vital for both settings. For example, effective communication, team building and motivation as well as understanding the principles of running of a successful business.
During my time working for some of the big multiples I found it easy to integrate my upbringing into my career in community pharmacy. I was fortunate to have some great area managers who wanted me to progress and I took on more senior roles, such as leading a cluster of branches, working on projects like 'Healthy Living Pharmacy' and working closely with the area manager to organise regional teams and work towards regional goals. All these opportunities were taken onboard alongside striving for better clinical and business outcomes from my own branch. With my community roles I embarked on a clinical diploma in tow to enhance my clinical practice by gaining a better understanding of key conditions as well as being proactive with my career.
I currently work as a Business Development Manager for Magna Laboratories, who provide specialist mental health services to hospitals in the UK. My company was looking for a CV with a blend of business and clinical skills littered with other key indicators such as people management, field working and evidence of CPD to name a few. This is where pharmacists can provide a unique set of skills which no other healthcare professional can gain so easily and early on in their career.
My day to day role is very, very varied, think of my title as an umbrella term for project managing many different aspects of the business. This has included homecare business development, tendering for NHS contracts, new service development, key account management, business development and education delivery. I work primarily in sales and marketing but there are huge overlaps where I could be attending conferences and networking to liaising with the medical information department to resolve clinical queries or setting up contracts for new business and negotiating the commercial aspects. Everyday is different and an opportunity to learn.
Looking back I personally believe when it came to careers day at university pharmacy students weren’t given the whole picture when it came to industry. We did not need a first degree and we definitely did not need to go to a ‘special’ university to get into industry. There are more roles than medical information, manufacturing and QP. Roles in industry are very competitive as you will be competing against graduates from other disciplines not even science related in some cases. The training provided is robust and consists of days if not weeks of dedicated study time with a huge emphasis on continued professional development through seminars, courses and degrees.
Regulatory affairs, medical affairs, sales and marketing, manufacturing, medical writing, R&D and robotics are just a few areas I have seen pharmacists work in and if you look at director level more often than not there are pharmacists leading the company. It is important to note that in each of these departments there can be a large hierarchy and teams can work on different projects in the same office. I started off my research into industry by looking at the available roles, reading their specifications and unashamedly stalking professionals on LinkedIn and asking them about their roles. Trust me, it’s a great way to get an insight and most people are more than happy to help and advise you.
The pharmaceutical industry is very clinical and technical in practically all roles for pharmacists as you need an in-depth understanding of the conditions, medicines and governance. It is also very competitive and isn’t for everyone as there is a lot of trial and error trying to get in. With many pharmacists looking for new pastures the competition will intensify and it will become harder. If I could go back and give myself advice it would be to keep upskilling in whatever setting you are in, whether it be through higher education or taking on more responsibilities.
Secondly I’d say get comfortable with rejection and learn from every negative that comes your way. There are going to be obstacles in all sectors of pharmacy maybe a bad boss, maybe a brick wall in career progression but it’s what you do to overcome those factors and how you progress that makes you unique and gives you those vital differentiating skills to all those other candidates. Lastly I’d tell myself do different things explore the opportunities out there community, hospital, general practice and industry. I’ve yet to come across two pharmacists who had the exact same career progression in industry it’s just that varied. Once you have chosen a sector you like give it your all and apply, apply, apply and keep applying but never forget to keep upskilling as any new experience will be an asset.
This article was written by Preetam Patel