Embracing a Career in Pharmacology
I vividly remember my Orientation at Hamilton and visiting the professors at the Welcome tents with my parents. One conversation that particularly sticks out was my conversation with Professor Jeremy Medina (Spanish). During this conversation, I shared with him my plan to major in Spanish and economics and then go to law school to become a sports agent. His advice was “explore different things; you may change your mind.” At that point of time, I was adamant that I wouldn’t. I interned with two minor league baseball teams after freshman and sophomore year, researched my dream job, visited the Career Center, and found various Hamilton alumni who were happy to speak with me about their careers as sports agents.
Say yes (even if you’ve never done something before)
Take Risks (good risks that will push yourself outside of your comfort zone)
Ask Questions (ask Hamilton alums, family friends, friends, etc. to talk about their careers and what they like and don’t like).
As I entered my junior year, my parents suggested I work with contracts to see if I enjoyed contracting as that is a huge part of law school and being a sports agent. The path I chose to explore this through was actually at a pharmaceutical company. While I was there, I learned about what they did, talked to a lot of people about their career goals and their career paths, and had the opportunity to speak with a variety of attorneys within the company and outside of the company. The consistent thing I heard was to be really sure you wanted to go to law school since it’s a lot of time and money/student loans to decide after three years of law school or a few years into working that you don’t like it.
I still elected to take the LSATs and apply to law school during my senior year and was accepted into a law school program. However, when it came time to return the acceptance and send my deposit, there was something holding me back. The company I had interned with had a college hire program that would allow me to see what working fulltime in the Pharma world would be like. My law school acceptance deferred, I started working for a big pharmaceutical company a few weeks after graduating Hamilton.
The working world was a lot like my experience at Hamilton; you could be as involved as you wanted to be, which I loved! Being busy is something I like, so I volunteered for every group I could and took every opportunity to learn. Within my own department, I helped make process improvements, learned new systems, and brought energy only a 22 year old can bring to a group who had been there a long time. The first year came and went quickly and I was hooked. In the next four years, I was promoted twice and learned about different groups where I could expand my knowledge and skillset about pharmaceutical contracting.
Although I never pursued my law degree, continuing my education was still important to me. I was fortunate that my company was supportive of a master’s in business administration and helped me pay for it. After a year out of Hamilton, I started my MBA classes at night time and I was able to complete my master’s in two years. I will admit that I really focused on school those two years, but I was completely able to handle a full-time job and the education. Hamilton really had taught me how to be efficient and adaptable and many of the concepts that we had reviewed in the classes at Hamilton seemed familiar to me.
I had been at the company five years when I got a message on LinkedIn from a recruiter. I was happy where I was, I wasn’t looking to change, and quite frankly, I was in a comfortable, safe spot. But, I figured I’d at least listen to what she had to say. There was a start-up biotech company who was looking for a Senior Analyst with my skillset. There was a lot of risk in it, but after much deliberation, I took the risk. I’m not a risk taker so it was very scary, but if there was ever time in my life to do this, it was now. Well that decision is easily the best decision of my career. Within my new role, I was able to still manage what I had known, but learn about the distribution and reporting of pharmaceutical products and also patient assistance programs. Did I know anything about either of these things? Not a thing, but I was willing to listen, learn, and work hard. This startup was a great spot to be exposed to so many parts of the pharmaceutical world and from a career standpoint, I was also able to be promoted twice more in two and a half years.
One thing I can share about the pharmaceutical industry is there can be some instability with the startups, but it is also the best way to get lots of different experiences if you are willing to work hard. The startup I was working for was going to be sold and for me, it was the right time to start thinking about other options due to my long commute and my upcoming wedding. Again, the LinkedIn message I got from a recruiter had perfect timing. There was a mid-size pharmaceutical company located 10 minutes from my house looking for someone of my position.
Company number three allowed me to learn how to set up nursing support programs and learn the buy and bill space of injectable pharmaceutical products. I was there almost a year when I received a phone call from my boss from the start-up. He told me that he had the perfect job for me at a company that was a small-to mid-sized company ready to experience huge growth potential. You will quickly learn once you get a boss that you trust, he/she will be your boss forever and you will always accept their guidance for your career development.
Hamilton has a long history of connecting students with alumni and parents whose advice, expertise, and resources help talented young people achieve success for themselves and in their communities.
In May 2014, I started my job at my current company. It has been a great fit for me since I can lead my own department, including day to day operations and strategy for future enhancements. My group is responsible for helping patients understand their insurance coverage for our products, get help paying for their medications and apply for free products. I’m fortunate that what I do does have an impact on people who need medicines to help them with their diseases. When you get a letter from a patient, caregiver, or even physician thanking you for how you’ve helped, it is one of the nicest things you can hear and you realize we really do have an impact on people’s lives.
Looking back now to my freshman orientation, I still remember my conversation with Professor Medina, and he was right. I’m glad I kept my mind open to learning new things, talked to people, and was flexible with my master plan before executing it. I am so grateful that I wound up in my job and have a career that I can truly make a difference to a patient’s life.
Meghan Hover Szczech '06 has worked for four different pharmaceutical companies in the 11 years since graduating Hamilton.