Our #EdLifeSciences spotlight continues with this fantastic insight into the varied world of medical communications, specifically account management, from University of Edinburgh alumna, Alexandra Bradie.
By 2019, Alexandra had completed both her BSc (Hons) Biological Sciences (Immunology) and MSc Science Communication and Public Engagement at the University of Edinburgh. Alexandra is a member of the client services team at Delta Kn, part of AMICULUM.
So, what is medical communications?
Medical communications is the development and delivery of programmes that facilitate scientific exchange between pharmaceutical companies and healthcare professionals. They do this by taking complex data from research and clinical trials and transforming it into tailored programmes, tools and resources through a variety of formats.
There are two main roles available when you join a medical communications agency, either editorial (medical writing) or client services (account management). I joined as an account executive (client services) and have progressed to an account manager over the last two years.
What does an account manager do?
An account manager role has two sides to it:
- the project management side which ensures projects are delivered within the brief agreed with the client
- the client services side, which involves building client relationships, keeping the account profitable, forecasting revenues, and trying to grow the account.
You usually work on many projects across a couple of accounts, so being able to prioritise work is essential. Day-to-day tasks involve being the point-of-contact for clients, day-to-day management of projects (liaising with internal teams, monitoring progress and ensuring deadlines are met), resourcing and financial management (e.g. developing and tracking budgets, invoicing) and working on proposals for new projects. It also involves a lot of problem-solving because clients can be tricky!
What skills do you need to become an account manager?
After my Biological Sciences undergrad, I did a Science Communication & Public Engagement masters. However, the core skills required for account management can be demonstrated with an undergraduate degree and your own experiences:
- Useful for: Managing different parts of your projects, parallel and competing timelines.
- Example: Have you run small projects before (a fundraiser for your society? Held a big event?) These can show project management skills. But even juggling university deadlines, societies and part-time jobs can be an example of being organised.
- Useful for: Working with your team to deliver for the client. You need to get along with people, identify how they work, their strengths and weakness and be able to adapt.
- Example: If you are part of a society, sports team or even a group project, these all require teamwork.
- Useful for: Liaising with clients and your team.
- Example: Are you a sociable person? Do you do any public speaking? Have you had any customer-facing roles? Are you a good listener? All of these can show you are a good communicator.
Attention to detail
- Useful for: Budgeting & invoices, timelines, keeping track of all the moving parts of a project and representing your team and client.
- Example: Proofreading or editing your friends’ work or part of your degree where you’ve had to look at a lot of data in detail can be good examples.
- Useful for: Understanding the content in the projects you are working on, being aware of pharmaceutical companies and having a general interest in progress of new therapies.
- Example: Your science degree and having an awareness of science in the media.
Any kind of work experience which gives you a broader understanding of the healthcare sector is a bonus. I worked at a prescription delivery start up and did work experience at a hospital. These gave me insights into the NHS prescription service and pressures on hospital staff.
The medical communications sector is growing rapidly and there are lots of job vacancies which means it’s a great time to join! I enjoy my job and I’m glad I’ve found one where I can use my skills, keep up-to-date with emerging science and ultimately help healthcare professions to help their patients.
Thanks Alexandra – great advice with examples of how students can showcase their skills.
If you’re interested in using your degree outside the lab, a career in medical communications could be “write” for you.