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Jenny Hepburn (1986-1993)

Jenny is a strategy consultant in the pharmaceutical industry – here she talks about following a career in science

What were your favourite subjects and who were your favourite teachers at School?

I always enjoyed Science and Maths but Chemistry was definitely my favourite. Mrs Fairweather and Mrs Hall in particular transferred their passion for the subjects.

What further study have you undertaken since leaving School?

I studied Chemistry at Oxford University.

What does your job involve and how did you progress to your current role?

I now work as an independent strategy consultant to the Pharmaceutical Industry and have my own business, providing advice and support to Pharmaceutical Companies who are developing new drugs & need to navigate through some tricky challenges along the way.

I started on the graduate scheme at Zeneca (now AstraZeneca) in North Manchester, in an entry-level role in Purchasing, which might seem like it’s not really related to what I do now, but it gave me a good grounding in the overall business, supplier management & negotiation skills.

Then the merger with Astra happened and I took an opportunity to move into the Pharma commercial division in Market Research & Business Analytics, where I managed the delivery of a lot of different types of Market Research, sales analyses and forecasting models, and learned a lot about all of the wider thinking that has to go into developing a new drug.

After about 5 years I then became a Global Publications Manager, looking after the dissemination of clinical data to the medical community through, for example, manuscripts and congress activities.

I was then appointed Global Brand Manager for a specific product, which involved setting the strategy for the team and liaison with the local teams around the world.

There was a reorganisation in AstraZeneca in 2008, and I decided to take voluntary redundancy and try something different. I moved to Oxford and worked for a few years as a Marketing Consultant for a consultancy company who provided services and strategic advice to Pharma companies. I was able to further expand my experience by working on ‘the other side of the fence’ as a supplier to the types of company I had previously worked for, and enjoyed the variety of working with different clients in different disease areas.

I then moved back to the North West in 2011 to work for another consulting company as a Senior Consultant. I took more responsibility for developing the business from scratch as we were setting up a new consulting division within an established Medical Communications company. I recruited, led and coached a team and delivered a range of projects, as well as having responsibility for business development (both securing new clients and expanding the work we did with existing clients).

Most recently, around a year ago, I decided to leave full-time employment to become an independent consultant and so I set up my own business – this has given me a lot more flexibility and balance but I couldn’t have taken this step without all of the experience and contacts I’d gained through my employed roles.

Who/what influenced your career choice?

I wanted to continue in a scientific field, but knew I didn’t want to be a ‘bench chemist’. So I looked for a graduate position in an industry where a science degree would be an advantage & chose the Pharmaceutical Industry.

Who/what has been your biggest inspiration?

I’m inspired by people who work hard for their success – for example sports people who are dedicated to being the best they can be every day.

Which skills do you consider to be essential for your job?

Problem solving – mostly I work with clients who have a question they need to answer, or actually sometimes they aren’t even sure what the question is! I need to help them break the issue down into manageable pieces and then develop an approach to answer the questions. Attention to detail, listening and appropriately challenging, ability to absorb a lot of new information and get up to speed in a new area very quickly, time management, organisation and self-motivation are also important. I also have to be competent in using Microsoft software and confident in presenting and defending my recommendations (although that’s something you develop over time and with practice).

What do you like most about your job?

The flexibility of working for myself now, but also knowing you’re helping to get the right medicine to the right patients. I also enjoy spending time face to face with my clients who are based all over Europe and the US, and the times where you know you’ve really helped them. I’m currently spending a week a month in New Jersey – which has meant a bonus of quite a few personal weekends in New York tacked onto the ends of trips now I’m more in charge of my own time.

What is your biggest challenge in your current role?

Balancing delivery of ongoing work with the need to develop new business – and functioning with jet lag!

What do you consider to be your greatest career achievement?

Gaining the experience, contacts and confidence to set up my own business.

How did Bolton School help you to be successful in your chosen career?

School really made it feel ‘normal’ for a girl to be interested in science, and that you can achieve whatever you want to if you work hard. It also taught me the importance of grasping opportunities and being able to present an argument confidently.

What advice would you give to our pupils interested in your field of work?

Remember you can use a science degree in so many ways – you aren’t committing to a life in the lab by studying it at University. Take opportunities when they come up and don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone or take some calculated risks, because that’s when you learn and grow the most. Be patient, ask lots of questions, gain as much different experience as you can and always do your best on every task you’re asked to complete, no matter how small. Learn from every experience, good and bad. Be prepared to work hard and go the extra mile, it will be worth it in the long run.

Jenny has set up her own consultancy business

Jenny has set up her own consultancy business