29 Oct Cristina B., Product Manager
A Day in the Life of Cristina B., Product manager for a global pharmaceutical company; Syracuse, New York. U.S.
What I Do
As a product manager, I am responsible for marketing and developing the affiliate marketing strategy for a new product/compound we are launching within my country. My work on the marketing plan begins with field trips to interview doctors and get to know the market.
I conduct primary marketing information that goes beyond the statistics. I also develop the local market research plans, PR programs, and promotional materials. I conduct competitor analysis and brand-equity studies, and I perform competitive analysis.
What I Enjoy Most
The opportunity to learn leading-edge technology in the pharmaceuticals industry and to tailor marketing programs to respond to customer needs in an emerging market. We are really creating something from scratch rather than taking over an established territory; both the product and the territory are new.
What I Enjoy Least
Not being able to go directly to consumers. We are in a very regulated environment; therefore, I must use marketing strategies carefully and avoid talking about the product itself. At least marketing is not as prone to routine as other areas in this closely regulated industry, like clinical trials.
The medical environment is challenging because I am not a doctor, although I have a medical-related degree. In emerging markets, my industry really prefers doctors. I compensate by learning a lot of medical terms and also by being fully knowledgeable about the therapeutic area I am responsible for.
Why I Chose This Career
I graduated from college in 1994. The economy was in pretty good shape when I graduated, but people without work experience had no competitive advantage. I had a degree but no practical experience, so I chose to join a very young and motivated staff at a charity where they needed help and recognized hard work. I wanted to stay close to healthcare.
Even though I wasn’t providing healthcare directly, it was a good asset to have had the exposure to the field through the charity work. This became important leverage to getting the job I have now in the pharmaceuticals industry.
Desirable Traits to Be Successful in This Career
The basic marketing skills acquired through an MBA degree will give you the tools, but you need natural instincts for managing projects and interpreting numbers, as well as practical exposure to the chosen field. Any experience that helps you demonstrate those skills is useful in the long run.
You must develop an understanding of the pharmaceutical industry, especially within the particular country. Since this is such a regulated environment, knowledge of how to operate in that environment is almost a requirement if you have no medical training as a doctor.
To get this job, I was able to sell the marketing and financial management experience that I had gained working with the director of a charity. Through that job, I had learned to deal with and understand patient-family relationships, and to work with the government and the doctors. I was able to leverage this experience, along with my industry-related marketing internship experience, to get the job after my MBA.
Words of Advice If You Are Considering This Career Path
You have to have both the energy and the patience to work in markets in which marketing direct-to-consumer (DTC) is not allowed. You must be very creative within these confines to get messages across indirectly. This takes a lot of drive, but it can be a lot of fun.
Product management is not only marketing but also finance and strategy. Analytically, financial skills are still important, so don’t think that marketing is a “soft” MBA path. I am running a business here and must support my budget and performance indicators. I also have to sell what I want to do within my company; I do this by using the numbers to show the potential value.
I would advise getting any experience that is relevant to medical professionals through work or by acquiring more education.
What I Did Before This (Including Pre-MBA and Post-MBA Jobs)
After college, I joined a charity in New York. The charity was called Angel Appeal and was part of a nongovernmental organization that developed programs for children with HIV and related illnesses.
Our role was not to provide direct medical treatment but to enable treatment via multidisciplinary programs involving counseling (social, psychological, medical) as well as daycare. We worked in conjunction with infectious disease control entities.
I worked my way up from the very bottom over a six-year span, starting as an administrative assistant, then earning promotions to administrative manager and eventually executive director. As executive director, I was responsible for marketing, project management, and financial management of the organization.
I decided that I needed the formal education of an MBA in order to supplement my real-life management experience. I wanted to learn, hands on, the theoretical concepts and insights ensured by a high-class international MBA program.
During the MBA, I completed an internship in marketing for Baxter Healthcare. I developed a marketing strategy for a customized patient education Website. I performed bench marking, industry analysis, and competitive mapping to tailor the site to the U.S. market.
Educational Background (Undergraduate, MBA, Other)
- MBA, Whitman Syracuse University, full time, with concentration in marketing and strategy, 2012
- Bachelor of engineering in medical systems, optics, and fine mechanics, five-year degree, Whitman, 2004
- GED, Columbia University, Community Impact Program, 2001
In MBA Programs, I’d Suggest You Look For…
Evidence of the reputation of the school, determined by employers and the quality of the teaching faculty. Talk to the alumni to determine key differentiators among the schools.
Look to grow in a personal way within the school—through the richness of the student body or organizations on campus. For me, the international component of the student body was critical.