As pharma evolves at a revolutionary speed, what do today’s young executives need to stay ahead of the crowd and what can they learn from some of the brightest and best who are already doing just that?

Developing your personal pathway

Thomas Butler works in the professional relations team at Sanofi on bespoke projects, with particular responsibility for developing clinical and payer advocacy. He studied economics and went on to a master’s degree in organisational psychology before starting work. “Although not directly related to the pharmaceutical field, both degrees provided a very good platform for financial understanding and gave me the ability to pull out the relevant or important elements from a wide range of information and data,” he comments. “If you do a degree, do it in a subject for which you have a passion and it may add something different and valuable.”

However, Thomas’ first job was with GMTV. “So clearly I hadn’t decided on a career in pharma at that point!” he quips. “I heard about the industry through friends and family and was attracted by the promise that if you are good enough and work hard enough you have a good chance of success – something I wasn’t too sure of in TV!”

Thomas took a traditional career path, repping in primary then secondary care with Ashfield, then Roche. With Sanofi he moved into market access and then from the field into head office as an associate product manager, where projects included the diabetes webhub diabetesmatters.co.uk and congress management. He then became brand manager, gaining experience in project development and implementation and operational and long-range planning and finally to professional relations. He sees this as particularly exciting because: “Relationships are the cornerstone of any business.”

Personal Career Development

Early on in his career, Thomas did the Chartered Institute of Marketing certificate which he initiated and his employer co-funded. It gave him a good grounding in theory and, importantly, he believes: “It was a clear marker to head office colleagues of my commitment to this career pathway. At Sanofi, he feels lucky to have been put through an internal marketing college – a comprehensive programme which offers great training and support. 

Throughout his career, Thomas feels that he has been the driver of his personal and professional development, but that all the companies he has worked for have been willing to discuss how they could support this. As a general industry-wide comment, he would love to see more companies creating a variety of structured career paths on offer at all levels making a variety of choices the norm and with the benefit of spreading expertise throughout the company, across traditionally closed paths. 

Career advice

His final words for aspiring execs: “Development is not something that can be done to you, rather it must be led by you! Try to experience as many different roles as you can to have a better, more rounded approach, but also to make sure that you end up in a role you truly enjoy. It is very difficult to excel in a role you do not find fulfilling. Try also to remember that at the heart of what we do is the desire to make things better for people and to create and deliver projects of excellence for patients – it is a rewarding goal.”

Develop your career with PriMe training courses from the PM Society. A new module The ABPI Code of Practice - Unlocking Marketing and Creative Insight, running on 15-16 September 2014, has just been announced.  The course gives you the tools to transform a firm understanding of the Code into strategic and creative insight and give you fresh approaches to developing winning marketing campaigns.