PDA Letter Article

Impactful Pharma Career Day at PSB City Campus

by Tee Wei Ling, National University of Singapore, and Shreeyasen Senthilkumar, Carissa Paul and Blythe Therese Ho Qianxian, La Trobe University (PSB Academy)

The PDA Singapore Chapter hosted its inaugural Pharma Career Day 2023 in March, welcoming some 400 attendees interested in learning more about the pharmaceutical industry in Singapore. This successful event provided an avenue for graduating university students to interact with pharmaceutical industry stakeholders in Singapore, affording them an opportunity to ask questions to seasoned practitioners and engage directly with industry professionals.

Held on PSB Academy Singapore’s City Campus, participants and sponsors had widely anticipated the Career Day event since it was announced in December 2022. With the PSB Academy, 11 different companies, such as MSD, Lonza, Novartis, NNIT, Master Control, Zuellig Pharma, CSI Medical Research, World Courier, No Deviation, GDMC and Sanofi, sponsored the event. The entire event was managed by student volunteers with mentorship from the PDA Singapore Chapter Board Member and Volunteers.

Informational sessions, chosen when participants booked their tickets, were divided into two tracks. Students Wei Ling and Shreeya, with guidance by G Somasundaram, a Board member from PDA Singapore Chapter, moderated Track 1. Carissa Paul, a student from La Trobe University, and Blythe Therese, a student from PSB Academy, with guidance from PDA Singapore Chapter Board member Samuel Tan, Head of Strategy and Operations at Novartis, moderated Track 2. Following the presentations in each Track was a panel discussion that included all speakers.

Track 1

PDA Who's Who

We would like to acknowledge the efforts all the volunteers without whom the event would not have been possible:

  • Andiyanto Sutandar, Project Sponsor; President-Elect, PDA Singapore Chapter
  • Samuel Tan, Project Manager, Board Member, PDA Singapore Chapter
  • Natalie Wu, Public Relations, Early Career Professionals Volunteer
  • Jack Lim, Logistics Manager, Volunteer
  • Liew Li Hui, Publicity Manager, Student Volunteer
  • Wayne Ewe, Operations Manager, Early Career Professionals Volunteer
  • Rama Tummala, Treasurer, GSK, Treasurer, PDA Singapore Chapter
  • Somasundaram G, Program Manager, Board Member, PDA Singapore Chapter

The first speech was the introduction to PDA by Emily Cheah, Charles River Laboratories, President of the PDA Singapore Chapter. It was an engaging talk that served as an amazing introduction to the whole event, as Emily shared what PDA is all about and what the students can gain by joining PDA as a student member.

Loh Qiu Yi, Assistant Vice President of the Economic Development Board, then discussed Singapore's growing biopharmaceutical industry. It was interesting to learn how the biopharmaceutical industry in Singapore has grown and will grow further. The talk gave confidence to new graduates seeking a job in this industry. Of news to many participants was the availability of scholarships for undergraduates keen to pursue careers in the pharmaceutical industry.

Next, Jordan Tan, a Process Expert with Novartis, spoke about selecting a career in pharmaceutical industry. As an early-career professional himself, Tan provided insights about his daily work experience. He shared many life lessons with his listeners, including how to build a supportive community with colleagues and how to take the first step in supporting others, instead of just waiting for others to move first. He encouraged fresh graduates to step up and join events to learn new things.

Brett Marshall, Corporate Head–QA & HSSE of Zuellig Pharma, rounded up Track 1 with a talk on the pharma supply chain and quality. The students learned about the many integrated processes, from the manufacture of products to logistics prior to the final administration of medications to patients, and how this integration ensures quality and patient safety.

For the final speech of Track 1, Punam Owens, Executive Director–Site Quality Leader of MSD, presented a talk on diversity and inclusion culture while engaging and driving competitive advantage. It was very meaningful to learn about the diversity, equity and inclusion culture in MSD and how that drives a management culture of fairness and equity as well as creativity.

Track 2

The first speaker of Track 2 was Samuel Tan, who opened by introducing PDA. He gave an overview of the opportunities and benefits of being a student member, including access to the various PDA programs, volunteer opportunities, technical reports and newsletters. His talks spurred many attendees to use the QR code he shared to join PDA as student members.

Next, Liu Maolong, Director and Head of MSAT at Lonza, shared his personal experiences of working at Lonza. Maolong talked about his background and how lost he felt when he was starting off his career. Learning about Lonza during that time allowed him to find a fulfilling career that has encompassed a broad range of jobs, including engineering, quality control, quality assurance and technical roles.

Liu Maolong’s presentation was followed by Nelson Wong, CEO and Founder of CSI Medical Research, a local contract research organization, and Selina Wong, Associate Clinical Operations Manager at CSI Medical Research. In the first half, Nelson Wong talked about his career journey in clinical research while debunking myths in the clinical industry. He took the audience on his journey in entrepreneurship that started with an early career as a clinical research officer before he founded CSI Medical Research. Then, Selina Wong spoke about work culture and the many team-building activities the company participates in. The prospect of a good work–life balance and an enjoyable work environment caught the attention of many students.

Matthias Wagner, Regional Sales & Marketing Director–Asia Pacific at AmerisourceBergen World Courier, took the podium next. Matthias first shared some statistics about the pharmaceutical industry, proving to the audience that it is a promising area to start a career. He then explained the difficulties and complications that arise during clinical trial development and how companies like World Courier can help aid their counterparts with logistical support.

The fourth speaker was Daniel Lee, Line Manager at NNIT Singapore. Lee spoke about the digitalization of the pharmaceutical industry, a very different area than earlier talks. He covered the various aspects of digital software systems and the broad scope of IT operations. He then shifted the topic to how these systems can be used in the pharmaceutical industry. He discussed a variety of applications, such as the use of data management systems in clinical trials and virtual reality as an alternative to hands-on training.

In the final session, two representatives from Master Control, Jack Lim, Regional Account Executive, and Ciaran O'Keeffe, Director of Asia-Pacific Business Development & Channel Sales, conducted a fireside chat about pharmaceutical digitalization within the quality and manufacturing functions. Unlike the previous presentations, Lim engaged more casually with O'Keeffe by asking questions while presenting their content to the audience. They spoke about O'Keeffe’s life in Ireland prior to moving to Singapore and discussed Master Control as a company and what their solutions offer to the pharmaceutical industry.

Both tracks ended with a panel discussion, allowing students to freely ask questions concerning career pathways, opportunities and other personal topics. The students then visited the various career booths set up by the sponsoring companies to learn more about those companies and career opportunities.

Based on the feedback from student participants and sponsoring companies, the event overall was a huge success in achieving the goals the organizers had set! Additionally, this inaugural event provided a good foundation for future successes.