Claire Smith won two Pf Awards in 2018 and she hasn’t stopped winning since.
Tell me about your background.
I started in the industry in 2001, fresh from university. I had studied Business and Marketing Management, and at the time it was unusual for pharmaceutical companies to take on candidates without a science background. Nonetheless, I was taken on by Servier because I had a first class honours degree – the hard work did pay off!
I started out as a medical information executive and I had initially planned to go into marketing after a short stint in this sales role. But once I was out in the field, I loved it and couldn’t imagine working in an office; every day was different, and I was meeting new people and learning about the amazing differences we can make to patients’ lives.
I’m married with two children and we live in the Herefordshire countryside. I’m into fitness – I love running, netball and skiing (although I’m not as good as my children now!) and we travel as much as we can. I’m also an ambassador for the NHS Blood Donation service and speak at donor awards ceremonies, having needed lifesaving blood a few years ago.
What has been your career path to your current role?
I have always been in a field-based role, mostly in cardiology, and held many different roles including hospital specialist and regional business manager, and in project management too. Having worked for Servier for 15 years, I wanted to focus on making a difference to patients with heart failure and transitioned to Novartis. One thing has remained the same since the start of my career – I have always put patients at the heart of what I do each and every day.
What do you enjoy the most about your job?
As an Account Manager no day is the same, and I’m often in different parts of the Midlands every day. Working with heart failure specialists is amazing when I hear how someone’s life has changed dramatically because they have had access to our medicines. These stories motivate me to ensure our medicines reach the people who need them, no matter where they live. I’m passionate about ensuring patients don’t have to wait for medicines. My daughter was admitted to hospital with asthma several times before getting the right treatment, and because of this I understand how not only the patient, but also those around them, are affected when someone falls ill.
At Novartis, we have a culture of working cross-functionally. I am currently actively working with the brand team and providing field force insights to shape the brand strategy. We’re unique at Novartis in that we work as one team with one purpose, to work faster for patients. Since our new Chief Executive has taken over, Vas Narasimhan, we are working in a culture that is inspired, curious and ‘unbossed’ – it’s so exciting and different to how we’ve worked in the past. Consequently, it comes as no surprise to me that Novartis has been certified as a Top Employer for the sixth year in a row. The motto here is ‘I came for the job, I stay for the culture’, and I do believe this is correct – I work with some of my best friends.
You won the Experienced Account Manager and Commercial Innovation Awards at Pf Awards 2018, tell me about your wins.
In 2018, the competition was the biggest it has ever been. The application process and Assessment Day were challenging, but actually really enjoyable. During the assessment, it was great to be surrounded by my peers – everyone was so supportive, and this really helped me forget the nerves and share my passion for the role.
On the night of the Pf Awards, I was delighted to hear I’d made the final six, but winning was a total shock! It was a lovely surprise, and one I will always remember as a highlight in my career. It was great to be recognised after many years in the industry doing my best to bring medicines to the patients who need them.
It was also wonderful to be able to celebrate my Commercial Innovation Award with my team members – I had worked really hard with the brand team on improving digital communications with our customers, and successfully scaled up digital as the primary format for our meetings.
Did it have an impact on your career?
Last July, I was delighted to be promoted to a Principal Key Account Manager (KAM) at Novartis, in recognition of my success at the Pf Awards 2018 as well as my performance as Senior KAM. I was also recognised by my peers, winning the Players’ Player award in our franchise last year. The global Novartis team were also keen for me to share insights into my award success with the global field force, which enables meto act as a role model to others.
You recently won the Novartis Country President’s Activate Award, what is this, what did you win it for, and will it have an impact on your career?
At Novartis, we recognise associates who have collaborated not only with their team and franchise, but right across the company. This year, I was awarded the Activate Award by our Country President, Haseeb Ahmad, whom I have worked with throughout the year. I’ve had the fantastic opportunity to consult with him, to give him an insight into working in the field. This has helped reshape our culture to allow us all to work freely with one another to get the job done in the right way – by putting the emphasis on patients rather than sales. To demonstrate this new one-team approach at our company conference, we even made a ‘carpool karaoke’ video together!
I don’t know of any other pharmaceutical companies working in this way, without a hierarchy. This year is the Year of the Field at Novartis, so it’s a pivotal time for recognising the people who are the face of the company – I’m really excited about what this year will bring.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
As I’m a working mum, I was particularly proud to win the award on International Women’s Day! I’d recommend anyone to go to the Pf Awards, challenge yourself, meet your peers, have fun, share your passion for the job you do, and who knows what might happen!
Claire’s winner’s interviews at Pf Awards 2018 are available online.
Go to www.pfawards.co.uk
Read the full magazine here: April Pf Magazine