Research, academia or industry? The dreaded question all STEM PhD students face. I felt that these were the only options open to me as a future career and I know I’m not alone in this feeling. While we are constantly told that our skills are transferable, there’s less information available on where they could be transferred to.

Finding an internship through mentoring

Through the Student and Alumni mentorship programme at Corpus Christi College, I was paired with Nick, the founder of redthread. This mentorship was designed to allow students from ethnic minority backgrounds to seek professional and personal advice from alumni in their field. I was drawn to Nick’s profile because we shared a similar academic background (PhD from the same department), and he had used his transferable skills to run a market access communication consultancy. In our monthly mentoring sessions, I learnt more about his career journey and I was offered a paid internship at redthread. A fantastic opportunity to learn more about what medical communication and market access entails.

What did I learn?

I’ve been involved in various projects, gaining a broad range of skills. The first was a landscape project for a pharmaceutical company. This involved creating an information slide deck to support the use of an approved drug as a first-line treatment. I spent time dissecting through the resources to gather the relevant information. I worked closely with a senior writer who provided in-depth training. Writing for regulatory purposes is completely different to writing papers for journals, as the language needs to be precise and there are pre-approved templates for legal purposes. I’ve also been learning about the different types of scientific advice offered by regulatory bodies and HTAs. Developing redthread’s Equality and Diversity policies and recommendations is another project I’ve been working on. I’m grateful that Nick has given me the space to continue working in this area and I’m excited for it to be rolled out in January 2023. Watch this space!

A picture of a table with pink, yellow and orange post-it notes in the foreground with 3 people working together at a table in the background.

Reflections on my time at redthread

Through this internship, my idea of medical communications has expanded. My assumption was that long technical dossiers for regulatory bodies were the norm. However, I quickly learnt that there’s scope for creativity e.g., creating slide decks and patient narratives. The team are constantly finding new ways to improve the delivery of their work. For example, I was recently involved in a virtual workshop that incorporate the use of Miro boards (online whiteboard with virtual sticky notes) to gather feedback from a large audience.

Despite being a fully remote company, I was surprised by the strong community spirit. WFH is a useful but new concept, therefore employers need to be aware and reactive to any issues that may arise. Nick and the team are making active efforts to avoid isolation. We have regular meetings, morning coffee chats via Discord and constant chats on Slack. The recent company retreat was a great opportunity to learn more about everyone’s personalities and quirks; we left feeling closer and with a unified work purpose. Working at redthread has changed my perspective on what to expect from future places of work. Their strong values on sustainability and charity work are evident through their actions- it’s not just words on the company website. At the retreat, we spent over 4-hours researching and planning ways to ensure redthread reaches net-zero in the future.

Concluding remarks

This experience has exceeded my goals for the internship. I’ve learnt so much and gained new skills e.g., market access writing styles and communicating effectively with clients. It’s been motivating working with amazing people from diverse career backgrounds. I understand that every company is different but this immersive internship has given me a holistic view into the world of medical communications, a career I can see myself enjoying!