By Padmanabhan Eangoor
As a graduate student, I look forward to working in the pharmaceutical industry after earning my Ph.D. I thought that preparing myself for this career would require a lot of technical skills, so I worked on developing as many skills as possible. My knowledge and confidence in experimental design, execution, analysis, and ability to form reasonable conclusions has greatly improved as I continue to explore the field. It was not until I attended my first AAPS meeting, the 2013 AAPS Annual Meeting and Exposition in San Antonio, that I realized technical skills were not a top priority for recruiters in pharmaceutical industries. To my surprise, soft skills were the top priority. Although I wondered in disbelief how soft skills could outweigh technical skills for a potential employee, the need for soft skills became clear as I learned more from career development workshops at that annual meeting. In an industry with thousands of employees, honesty, trust, the ability to clearly communicate research and nonresearch ideas, the ability to help team members, and the skills to take the lead become very important for the successful and timely completion of a project.
It was time for me to analyze myself and to make a list of the soft skills that I hadn’t fully developed, including leadership, communication, management, and people skills. The list wasn’t easy for me to read through, but the realization of where I stood that day was important and necessary to improve. I understood that I should not feel shy about my shortcomings. I realized that I needed help in multiple areas but would have to address these areas one at a time. At this point the untapped potential that AAPS offered attracted me.
First, I got involved with AAPS’ student chapter at Mercer University (MUSCA) and explored leadership opportunities there. I was eventually elected as the chair-elect of MUSCA, and over the next two years I helped our team introduce many educational and fun activities to fellow graduate students at Mercer University. In 2014, I came across a conference called Graduate Research Association of Students in Pharmacy (GRASP). Mercer hosted the conference in 2015, made possible by a team of highly dedicated student volunteers that I was privileged to work with as the chair of the conference. Hosting GRASP taught me many leadership, organization, communicative, and, most importantly, team skills that I would not have learned anywhere else. It was amazing to plan things as a team and see how brilliantly the plans were executed.
Further, oral communication was not my strongest skill a year ago, but I was able to take advantage of Toastmasters club at Mercer University, and today I can see huge improvements in my research presentations. My written skills were not good either, and the only way to improve these skills was to write whenever I got a chance, like writing for the AAPS Blog.
Almost two years later, I am happy to say that I am a stronger and more confident leader than I ever was before. I now have a new list of weaknesses that I want to work on because self-improvement is a constant process, but I will be moving forward with an experienced outlook, which I did not have before. I want to learn more about the pharmaceutical industry so that I am prepared to join it when I graduate. The AAPS Mentoring program has provided me with a mentor to guide me through this preparation. I want to learn more specifically about the pharmaceutical analysis field and have since volunteered as a student representative of the AAPS APQ section.
All this would not have been possible without the opportunities provided by AAPS at both the university and national levels. The role of mentors in guiding and supporting a person through his/her journey to success is phenomenal, and I consider myself fortunate to obtain timely advice from my research adviser, AAPS, and Toastmaster mentors. I hope some of you will realize your potential and weaknesses at this year’s AAPS Annual Meeting and Exposition and strive to achieve your goals after similar reflection.