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By Urvi Gala and Rakesh Gollen

Urvi Gala-finalRakesh GollenThe 2014 AAPS Annual Meeting was a perfect amalgam of sessions for scientific and professional development. The session Women in Pharmaceutical Sciences—Career Development: Facts, Myths, and Tips was well-attended by budding and established women from academic and industrial arenas of the pharmaceutical science field. Despite the fact that higher numbers of women receive degrees at all levels, they still represent only 6% of executives in the largest companies in the US, and this session was aimed at empowering women to climb both vertical and horizontal career ladders.

The session began with the incredible talk Finding mentors and supporters—“the how and who” delivered by AAPS past president Marilyn Morris, Ph.D. By summing up statistics from the past four decades, it was evident that bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees earned by women in the sciences were on the rise, but this has not yet translated into a similar increase in tenured or tenure-track positions in academia. To have a successful career as a pharmaceutical scientist, having the right mentors at various stages is indispensable. Morris spoke about how selecting an appropriate mentor can improve a person’s professional success and personal satisfaction. She clarified myths regarding mentors, and emphasized that one may have a number of mentors who help to advance and guide one’s career. She stated that having mentors that suit one’s career and personal needs is the right choice. More so, the mentoring process benefits both mentor and mentee: mentor in terms of having a productive research career and mentee in terms of having someone to lead you to a successful career. She also provided sources such as MentorNet that could be used for choosing mentors. AAPS contributes to mentoring, through networking opportunities, by organizing mentoring breakfasts at NBC and annual meetings and by offering mentoring programs.

Diverse networking is also recommended for a rewarding career. Annette Bak, Ph.D., the director of Discovery Pharmaceutical Sciences, Merck & Co., Inc., gave an informative talk titled Networking Is a Two-Way Street—Powerful Truths about Professional Relationship Building For Women. Bak stated that specific networking strategies are recommended when women network with men in cultures where there is a different perception of gender roles in society. She introduced Hofstede’s Masculinity Index to provide context to the recommendations. She referenced other literature case studies, where men have more contacts with central figures in the company than women and most women prefer to engage in online networking. Thus, to break such norms, she suggested various tips, such as women networking with men socially and professionally for a genuine perception and approach. One-on-one meetings could also be conducted, and to avoid any possible awkwardness, locations such as cafeteria or professional offices should be considered. One of the key aspects of good networking is to not only be a good speaker, but a good listener too. Bak also suggested topics such as professional books and volunteer activities to get started with conversations.

The full potential of good mentoring and networking can only be realized when one strikes a good work-life balance. To emphasize the same, the entrepreneur Nurulain Zaveri, Ph.D., who is the president and chief scientific officer of Astraea Therapeutics, presented Setting Life Goals, Achieving Work-Life Balance, and a productive, fulfilling career. Zaveri shared her own personal journey as she embarked on the balancing act. She stated that milestones in life such as choosing a career post-graduation or reevaluating one’s career midway are decision makers of one’s work-life balance. Before trying to strike a balance, she noted that it’s important to define yourself and choose life goals appropriately. She also shared tips such as making a to-do list, compartmentalizing, focusing on the present, moving on, etc. for achieving the balance. Using professional resources like employee assistance programs and personal resources such as family is a good idea, too. She emphasized that health shouldn’t be neglected while juggling with managing several domains. Finally, Zaveri concluded, that technically there isn’t a perfect balance; it’s all about making choices and living the same happily!

The session also had breakout group sessions, wherein the attendees discussed potential issues and ideas with the speakers. The mentoring group came up with ideas such as choosing a mentor based on experiences and having multiple mentors in order to aid one’s career development. The networking group generated a mantra of maintaining long term relationships for fruitful networking. The work-life balancing group shared personal experiences such as changing jobs and planning a family early on to have a smooth balanced life.

Thus, the overall session was highly informative and got the audience thinking! So if you missed out on this, please check slide decks. Let’s get our career plans rolling ladies!!

Urvi Gala is a graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in Pharmaceutical Sciences at Creighton University in Omaha, NE. Her research focuses on development of solid dispersions and their characterization.
Rakesh Gollen is currently pursuing his Ph.D. from Long Island University, with a major in Drug Metabolism and Pharmacokinetics, under the supervision of Dr. David Taft. His research focus is on the predictions of pharmacokinetic parameters in special population, using the physiologically based pharmacokinetics modeling approach.