Updated: Jan 27, 2022
Andrew Olaye - Head of Market Access
What do you do?
I am currently the head of Market Access for Europe at a mid-size gene therapy company. Market Access is the process of ensuring that patients are able to access drugs quickly and continuously, at a sustainable price for the health system and manufacturer. My job as a Market access professional is to convince regional and national health systems or health insurances to include my company's therapies on the list of medicines they fund. The typical activities include, (1) working with doctors, patients and other stakeholders to develop clinical and economic evidence demonstrating the value of our therapies to the health system; (2) determining a commercially viable price that captures the value of the therapy whilst being affordable to the health system; (3) convincing the health systems to fund the therapies. Fortunately, I have a cross functional team of very capable individuals that assist me with these activities.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
Oh, where do I start? I would keep it to these four points, but there are many more! (1) First, I love the fact my work contributes to patients getting access to lifesaving treatments often for very severe conditions with no alternative options. (2) Secondly, my job is so intellectually stimulating and varied, from pricing therapies, negotiating with health systems, interpreting clinical data etc. No day is the same but I love it! (3) The varied nature of market access means I am constantly learning and refining a wide range of technical as well as interpersonal skills such as leadership, influencing and persuasion, strategic planning and time management skills. (4) It takes a Village to get a drug funded by the health system. Hence I get to meet and work with a variety of people across the globe. This gives me an opportunity to travel, expose me to new cultures and broaden my horizon.
How did you get into Pharma?
What can I say other than it has been a journey! During my pharmacy degree, I knew that despite loving people I didn't want to work in local pharmacy nor hospital. So in my first year, I started looking for industry summer placements and reached out to my university registry department for support. Although they informed me that my chances were slim (then it was less than 15 places in the whole UK and most companies preferred 3rd year students), they provided me with a list of all the pharmaceutical companies in UK. After writing to over 50 companies, I finally got a placement at Aventis Pharma in my 1st year. This placement enabled me get a pre-reg placement as a pharmacist with Pfizer and the rest is history.
During my A levels, I marveled at how you could use the knowledge of science to develop medicines that can improve the health of many people. I saw how the AIDS pandemic was brought into relative control by the innovative medicines developed by pharma and life sciences sector. Also, over the last 100 years, Pharma industry has been relatively stable and financially rewarding sector. Finally, there are lots of opportunities to experience different roles, if you get bored of one role or fancy a change. For example, I've seen people go into Medical Affairs, Clinical development, marketing, etc.
What has your experience been being #BlackInPharma?
First of all, I didn't know anyone (black or white) working in the pharmaceutical industry. So when I started, it was a bit of a culture shock. I felt like I had to change myself in order to really fit in. However I was fortunate that I had a few champions (senior work colleagues who took a liking to me and mentored me) who encouraged me to be myself! As I have progressed through my career, I have just learned that hard work and talent breaks most barriers. The pharma industry is getting more diverse compared to when I started. Groups on LinkedIn like Black Pharma provide opportunities to network with other black professionals within industry.
What top tips would you give to someone who would like to get into your role/Pharma?
Belief - Believe in yourself and don't limit your aspirations.
Research - Google is your friend! Spend time researching about your chosen field, so that you can at least show your future employer you know about the company and the role. Nothing worse than an applicant not having a good understanding of the role/area they are applying for.
Network - People are most likely to hire people they know (and like)!. So use social platforms like LinkedIn to help you build your network. An informal mail to someone on LinkedIn may be the pathway to getting a role in the industry.
Perseverance - Applying for your first role in pharma, can be a very disheartening and difficult experience. But, please don't give up or let it dim your enthusiasm. As Aaliyah said; 'if at first you don't succeed, dust yourself and try again'.
Think creatively - One of the biggest obstacles to getting your first role is lack of experience. There are creative ways of addressing this, for example you can start writing LinkedIn posts (might want to ask someone with experience to review it) on pertinent topics affecting the sector of interest, or offer to provide pro-bono consulting (another way of saying voluntary placement).
Apart from saying the worst jokes ever, I am a budding photographer and chef.