August 18, 2008
Why do you do what you do?
We all have a pretty good idea of what the average person in the street might think of big pharma, and the chances are it's not too complimentary. We all know, too, that the industry is not entirely blameless for its sunken reputation.
But what the average person in the street probably doesn't know is the enormous amount of passion, dedication and sincerity with which pharma people do their jobs.
As part of our annual Career Issue coverage, we profiled seven successful individuals whose career paths have been unorthodox, to say the least. We wanted to know how they ended up in healthcare marketing and what makes them stay. But while their career backgrounds differed wildly, the tone of their responses was largely consistent.
“My father died of a heart attack when I was eight years old,” says Joe Shields, product director, Enbrel at Wyeth, about his reason for entering the industry. “I will likely never discover a new medicine or build a manufacturing line but my strengths lie in simplifying the complex and helping organizations communicate through authentic stories.”
The importance of telling such “authentic stories” shouldn't be underestimated in pharma's fight for credibility at any level, industry, company or employee.
“Nothing brings a hush over a room quite like a patient telling her personal story of fighting a disease,” continues Shields, who originally set out on a career in TV and film production. “It's truly humbling to hear about people trying to live ordinary lives while overcoming extraordinary difficulties brought on by illness. Real life is always more powerful than fiction.”
Fabio Gratton, co-founder and chief innovation officer at Ignite Health—and one-time personal assistant to Tom Cruise—originally set his heart on a career in Hollywood. But after falling into healthcare marketing by accident, he quickly came to share Shields' passion and commitment.
“I never in my life imagined I'd be doing this,” Gratton admits. “But now that I'm in it, I think it's one of the greatest industries in the world—where else can you tell stories, be creative and help people?”
Chris Schroeder, CEO and president of The HealthCentral Network, has been similarly humbled by his experiences. “I have learned a ton from people who get up in the morning and go to bed again having saved lives,” he says. “Biotech and pharma have had a huge impact on people's lives. Most of the marketers I now know as friends are proud of this.”
I'm sure virtually everybody in this industry has a similarly heart-warming story. What a pity the average person in the street won't get to hear it.
Of course, this issue of MM&M also features the much-anticipated annual Career & Salary Survey. As well as all the usual numbers on salaries, aspirations, motivation, job satisfaction and migration, this year we have added data on how employees rate their firms according to various criteria.
But the coverage in this book represents a mere snapshot of the survey. For the complete report, featuring numerous additional insights, data sets and job titles, you need to pick up the Career & Salary Survey Premium Edition.
I hope you enjoy taking a break from stories about science, budgets, strategies and regulations to read about the people that make it all come together.