We grow strong by supporting each other. It helps us avoid reinventing the wheel every time. After working in the pharmaceutical industry for more than 8 years, I have been fortunate enough to work on dynamic, exciting projects with world-class professionals.

So I thought of sitting down to write the most share-worthy learnings that I’ve picked up during my professional experiences.

I’ve divided this post into two major sections. The first one consists of purely marketing-related learnings that will help you improve your marketing craft. The second one is aimed at sharing the learnings that can help refine you as a professional stepping into your new role with the twist of remote working.

So without further ado, let’s head straight to the learning points.

My Learnings from a Marketing Perspective

7 years into working within different medical and brand communication agencies, providing digital solutions to different pharmaceutical companies, I had an opportunity to take on a role that offered a new perspective. I moved from the ‘agency side’ to the ‘client side’ and started working at a large pharmaceutical company’s global digital team.

I was a little apprehensive of this move at first and so I took on the role as an external contractor which has given me a great insight into how pharmaceutical companies work.

Before I share the hurdles I met along the way, it’s important to mention here that for a while, the pharmaceutical industry took a purist approach when it came to ‘digital’. For example, it took the industry a long time to begin adapting digital channels of marketing as a probable option. This is primarily based around the stringent regulations that make decision-makers cautious. While digital marketing is now widely being used by pharma companies, the industry still lags behind other industries.

My first piece of learning can prove to be especially beneficial for the agencies that execute local and global marketing projects for pharmaceutical companies.

As you know, there is commonly a divide within a pharma company; global team vs regional teams vs local teams and all different stakeholders in between.

Agencies are often hired by global teams to support the development of their marketing initiatives and materials. These marketing assets are then shared with regional and local teams for utilising them wherever suited for their markets and translate or localise where required.

In parallel, we find that regional/local teams appoint their own agency to help either develop bespoke materials for their market or utilise the material provided by the global team.

This is where the disconnect and most of the difficulties faced by the agencies lie.

So, here’s my take on this issue for all medcomms/brandcomms agencies working with pharmaceutical companies on a global or a local stage.

When working with local teams, always ask your client for contacts at a Global lead level to make sure that:

a) all services you are providing are compliant with the standards set by the global team e.g. global brand guidelines or a preferred marketing tool that is being used across the company.

b) the already developed materials that can be used here are not ignored. It also gets you noticed at a global level, creating more opportunities ;).

For agencies working with global teams, it is very important to keep localisation at forefront of all assets being produced. Offering a ‘localisable’ solution will help you win your clients because you are making their life much easier. A simple ‘localisation guide’ that your client can share with the local teams can prove to be the very delicious icing on the cake we all love!

My General Learnings

As I mentioned earlier, I had transitioned from within an agency to an in-house global digital team of a pharmaceutical company.

I’ve always been a strong believer in the power of a network. I totally agree with Robert Kiyosaki when he says, “The richest people in the world look for and build networks, everyone else looks for work."

And that’s the top challenge I faced after joining a global team. It was hard even to know who was doing what in an enterprise of this size. Then I committed myself to building the right professional network. My efforts paid off and I soon had a great network to give and receive value.

So here are my tips for setting up a great network.

1. First of all, I combed through LinkedIn and connected with people working in the company who I already knew in any way. This triggered LinkedIn to suggest more people from this place who were connected to my existing connections. After connecting, I reached out to them to introduce myself and invite them for a 'virtual' coffee, wherever possible. This activity helped me know and connect with many great professionals from within the same company we were working for.

2. I would also often find myself on calls with people who I didn’t know but were key decision makers or stakeholders for certain projects. Following up with them after the call to set up a 15-minute introductory call was always a hit!

3. Whenever I found someone who had more knowledge and experience about a topic I wanted to learn, I never shied away from asking my existing connections for an introduction. I’ve met wonderful people through introductions who also added value to my professional knowledge.

These 3 not-so-hard actions helped me grow my network exponentially and rapidly gain visibility in the company. As a result, I had the chance to work with amazing people on exciting projects that developed me as a professional and as a human being in general.

If you are weighing your career options in the pharma industry’s digital/marketing function and need help, feel free to drop me a line at hi[at]hussainahmad.co.uk

I’d be more than happy to sit down with you to discuss it thoroughly to help you gain clarity and make the best decision.

Best of luck!