Making the leap from academia is challenging. I gradually realized during my PhD that research was not for me – I preferred talking about science and visualizing information. Leaving academia was tough; my PhD had gone well and everyone assumed I’d be applying for post-docs. I’d spent the previous 5 years researching Alzheimer’s disease and my whole life involved dementia because my family run a care home. I was determined to move into something as worthwhile as researching dementia, but I also wanted a career that was right for me.
Finding a job with the right fit became a project in itself! I’d always been someone interested in many different things. I felt like a Russian doll, with so many possible careers within me: there was a part of me that wanted to tell stories (journalist), create things (artist), solve problems (scientist) and teach others (teacher). I spoke with many people in different roles and, reflecting on these conversations, I discovered some core elements I wanted from a job: creativity, meaningfulness, problem-solving, scientific knowledge and teamwork.
I started to reach out to different companies requesting work experience. Much to the intrigue of my fellow scientists, I spent several days in an editorial office of a top-tier medical journal – but it wasn’t for me.
At this point, I didn’t really know anything about MedComms. Part of me wondered if the role of a Medical Writer was solely dedicated to writing manuscripts with minimal teamwork, and I had doubts about moving into industry. I’ll never forget how friendly and enthusiastic the Recruitment Manager from Oxford PharmaGenesis sounded when she called about my work-experience request. I felt a surge of excitement at the prospect of contributing to a company that needed my help! We arranged a placement to give me a flavour for the role.
It didn’t take me long to realize that almost everything I’d assumed about medical writing was wrong – my first day alone included voice coaching training! My first big task for a client was to create a communication campaign about updates to Standard Operating Procedures. I enjoyed thinking of ways to spark up interest in the updates and worked with designers to develop GIFs, a company first. During my internship, I also worked on infographics, podcasts and some more traditional MedComms work (e.g. systematic literature reviews). I spoke to different people across the company, made friends and realized I’d found a company with values that cared for its employees. After completing my internship, I took a short break to travel and then returned as a fully-fledged Associate Medical Writer.
Working in MedComms often reminds me of some of the best university projects – I love the palpable excitement of solving a problem together and how different perspectives on a team are encouraged. I have found I love helping clients to understand their needs, frame their thoughts and collaborate across large companies. It’s a cliché to say that no two days are the same, but it’s the truth!