Interview with Michelle Lemus, Sales Representative at GlaxoSmithKline

michelle-lemusPlease give us a little background about yourself. 

I graduated from Queen’s University in 2015 with a major in biochemistry. I took the cooperative education option in the biochemistry program where I had the opportunity to do an internship at the Neural Stem Cell Institute and Antibe Therapeutics. I gained relevant experience in both research and industry. I then went on to do a Masters in Biotechnology (Mbiotech) at the University of Toronto. After doing my CO-OP at Queen’s, I felt that the industry side, especially pharmaceuticals, resonated with me most and I wanted to pursue a career in this field. The Mbiotech program was great for helping me understand the industry by integrating science and business courses coupled with relevant industry experience. I graduated from Mbiotech in 2017 and I am now a vaccines sales representative at GSK (GlaxoSmithKline).

What is your day-to-day work life like? What are your day-to-day roles and responsibilities like at your company?

As a sales representative, every day is different. I meet with different doctors/pharmacists and every encounter is different. I work hard to deliver product knowledge to health care professionals so that they feel confident using our products and can give the best treatments to their patients.

What has been your career path leading up to your current position?

When I was doing the Mbiotech program, I had a 12-month internship at AstraZeneca as a study delivery coordinator. I secured my position after I graduated, but I wanted a more customer-facing role and to be at the forefront of driving business, so I went into sales.

What are some of the challenges you faced, if any, leading up to your career?

I think the biggest challenge is figuring out what you like and what makes you happy. I am definitely an extrovert with a lot of energy and I love to be around people. The biggest challenge I faced leading up to my career was being in a position where I didn’t get to be myself. This was a huge eye-opener during undergrad. I had done two theses, which meant an excessive amount of time in the lab. As much as I love science and learning new things, research was not for me. My energy and enthusiasm is really appreciated in my current position and I love being able to talk to customers all day and get them as excited as I am.

What qualities or skills are the most important to succeed in your role?

While I am fairly new at my role, I would say the top qualities would be: communication, active listening, and high sense of initiative. In addition, being able to work independently and have a business owner mindset are very important for success in my role and to drive the business of the company. In this role, it’s also really important that you have thick skin. You can’t let small things get to you!

How do you imagine your career progressing in the near and distant future?

This question is tough. The pharmaceutical industry is so big and I still have so much to learn, so I really have no idea which sector or therapeutic area I will be in. I know that eventually I will want to mentor other employees to be successful and lead a team, so perhaps a managerial role or director.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

When I was younger, I used to always focus on my weaknesses and try to improve them. I recently read Strengths Finder 2.0 and recognized that I should not be focusing on strengthening my weaknesses, but focusing on building and developing my strengths. By taking this strength-based approach, I feel more confident, engaged in my job, and overall happy with my life. I wish I had started taking this approach at a younger age. Invest the time and energy on your talents; build your strengths!

Interview by LSCDS Exec Member Candice Tang

Candice is a MSc. candidate in the Applied Immunology program. She is interested in pursuing a career in science or research communications and hopes to change the way science is understood by the general public.  She can be found on LinkedIn here.