While studying for my A levels, I wasn’t sure what to study at university, although my interests were English and biology. Knowing that there wasn’t much that I could do with an English degree and that a biological one would stand me in better stead, I pursued the scientific course. However, I wanted more from my degree than pure biology, preferring to keep my options open. Imagine my delight when I found a biological and forensic science course! Not that I was looking for a career in forensic science; I just wanted to keep things interesting, and 3 years of studying forensic science WAS interesting. My lecturer came from the Forensic Science Service, so not only did he have numerous horror stories for us, but he also had plenty of experience – enough to warn us that working in the field would mean lots of research and monotony. Maybe, then, forensics was not for me…
Throughout my 3 years at university I knew that I had actually enjoyed writing my various essays, projects and thesis – perhaps one of the few who did! On one occasion, I even had a conversation with a lecturer on where I had obtained such extensive essay-writing skills, the like of which she was not used to seeing among her first-year students. The more I thought about it, the more I wondered if I could combine my two passions from sixth form: writing/English and biology/science. The answer came in the form of my second-year pharmacology lecturer who joined us from an industry in which she wrote patient healthcare leaflets.
At the time, further education was not right for me, and I was not particularly taken with the idea of research-based positions/studying; therefore, I have never undertaken a PhD. Some roles will ask that you have a PhD, others won’t. I have been lucky to start my career in the industry without one, but I am surrounded by medical writers who do have theirs.
Once I graduated, I started looking at medical editing/writing roles, as I then knew them to be called, and took up an Editorial Assistant role with a company specialising in online post-publication peer review. Here, I received on-the-job training in the very basics of grammar, which has stood me in very good stead since! I spent 4 years in this role, but had the company not restructured, I think I would have started to look elsewhere, as I had started to outgrow it.
It was at that point that I first learned of medical communications agencies. Had I known of them sooner, I think I would have started with a medical communications agency and not spent 4 years at my previous company, given that their area of expertise was so niche – most of the skills are transferable, but as a lot of medical communication roles ask that you have experience within a medical education agency, I felt that I was starting over and that my 4 years’ experience counted for nothing.
I was lucky that Darwin offered me an Associate Editor role with my prior experience. At Darwin, I edit a variety of materials, from agendas to PowerPoint decks to manuscripts, on a daily basis, and the best bit for me is the variety in topic area! There is no monotony – I don’t work on the same therapy area, for the same client, or even with the same MS application day in day out, and it’s great! I also work on the internal newsletter team, which I love; it gives me a chance to be creative and to use my writing and, occasionally, project management and leadership skills. There is plenty of opportunity to learn, whether it’s the current project/therapy area that I am working on or brushing up on grammar/editing tips. There are also lunch and learn sessions and training days for career development. Working within medical communications and at Darwin, I am able to combine my two interests, passions and strengths from when I was 16!
[Find out more about Darwin Healthcare Communications here]