Pf Award Winner Sarah Valente-Smith on the power of pharma mentors

Sarah Valente-Smith, Key Account Manager for women’s cancers in the oncology division for the south west, MSD, and Joint Winner of the Best Newcomer Award at Pf Awards 2018, on how pharma mentors have helped her forge a career.

What attracted you to working in the pharma industry?

After university I wanted to have a role that enabled me to progress and build a career, and that’s exactly what the pharma industry and MSD enable me to do. It’s a career rather than a job. The biggest part of why I do what I do is to help patients access the right medicines at the right time. The patient is at the forefront of all our work.

What is your current role and what territory do you cover?

As I write this, my current role is senior diabetes representative covering South Warwick and South Worcestershire. However, I have recently achieved a promotion as key account manager (KAM) for women’s cancers in the oncology division for the south west which I am extremely excited about!

Congratulations on your Pf Award win, how did it feel when your name was announced?

I was in complete shock, I didn’t expect it at all as I knew it was a really strong field.

What does winning this Pf Award mean to you?

I feel really honoured to have been recognised across the industry, I think it’s wonderful there is such a platform to recognise achievement for people like myself who are at the first stages of their career.

How did MSD support you in the application process?

MSD were highly supportive throughout the entire process. My manager suggested I go for it and her support and guidance was fantastic. MSD really invests in its people, and prides itself in recognising and rewarding employees. Supporting the Pf Awards is part of this.

What opportunities does MSD offer you in terms of career progression?

There are lots of opportunities to progress; if you display willingness, they will do everything they can to help you hit your goals. MSD also don’t look at age or overall experience as a limiting factor, as long as you demonstrate passion and enthusiasm and are willing to work hard to develop your skills. Additionally, I have a fantastic manager who really believes in me and has really helped drive my development – it has been incredibly empowering!

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Do you have any pharma mentors, and if so, how have they guided and influenced you so far?

I have been lucky and had a number of mentors within MSD. When I first started, I was assigned two ‘buddies’ as part of the mentor scheme, and their advice and support has been invaluable. Most recently, I entered the MSD Women’s Network mentorship programme and I was assigned a mentor from Israel who is the oncology director. She has been really valuable in helping me achieve my latest role.

What have been your most significant achievements so far?

Up at the top has to be my Pf Award. If I’m honest I still can’t quite believe it! In addition, gaining my senior ranking representative role and my recent KAM promotion which I am over the moon with!

What advice would you give to a young person thinking about entering the pharmaceutical sales industry?

If you’re looking for a career rather than just a job, then this is a really exciting industry to be in. Don’t let not having any experience put you off applying for jobs first time, you can gain plenty of transferable skills and do research – I didn’t have any shadowing or experience before I got my role with MSD!

This article on pharma mentors was originally published in Pharmafield.