So you want a career in pharma?

careerdecKEY TAKEAWAY: The biggest challenge facing pharma is not from the affordable care act or from the consolidation of insurers, it’s that talented and passionate people will continue to leave the industry and that it won’t be able top attract the change agents needed to remind people that helping patients and developing good products leads to a healthy company.

“I’ve had it” a recent pharma executive who is also a close friend called to tell me.  “I understand that business is business, but slowly I have witnessed a stronger disregard for helping patients in favor of sales”, she said.  She is an Executive Director with close to 20 years working in pharma on both the agency side and within marketing.  I consider her smart, savvy and an excellent marketer, but her story sound too much like others I have personally heard or read.


The companies that are attracting talent are the companies that are viewed as on the cutting edge with CEO’s who are leaders because they understand how to lead.  Where does that leave pharma?

I keep going back to a group of MBA students I was asked to guest lecture on healthcare marketing.  I asked “how many of you are considering a career working in biotech or pharma?”  Not one hand was raised and that is a really bad barometer for our industry.  I love the challenge of pharma marketing, but I also have a strong sense of empathy as it’s hard to sit in research and not want to reach through the glass to help patients in need.  As a consultant most of my work involved developing a marketing strategy, reviewing a competitor’s site and identifying opportunities.  Some clients “get it” but others need help because they are in over their head.  They rely on their agencies to do too much without oversight or guidance and then they spend countless hours trying to find out where they went wrong.

Unqualified to qualified

Biopharma needs a deafening wake-up call.  CEO’s need to develop initiatives NOW to both retain top talent and recruit new talent.  They need to weed out the people whose talent is eclipsed by their corporate political ambitions.  They need to hire smart people and let them do what they do best not integrate them in an environment of back-to-back meetings in matrix environments.  If they don’t, they risk becoming a big business that nobody wants anything to do with. [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=”null”] Right now the public has a poor view of pharma despite all that the industry has done and that’s because the industry is devoid of leadership.[/inlinetweet]

So you still want a career in pharma?