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Emily Hollebon: Chemistry – Ashfield Medcomms

Emily Hollebon profile picture

What degree course did you study and when did you graduate

I studied Chemistry and graduated in July 2021 with a BSc.

Why did you choose that particular degree course?

When starting university, I knew that I wanted to work in a science-related field, but I was unsure exactly what career path I wanted to go down. Chemistry at Warwick offers a wide range of modules, so I was able gain insight into various career options and tailor the course to my interests.

Tell us about your employer

Ashfield Medcomms is a medical communications agency. We work with pharmaceutical companies and healthcare professionals to help educate and inform people on a variety of therapy areas.

The company’s reach is global – there are over 830 staff in Europe, North America, Africa and Japan, and an extended network of over 10,000 people across more than 35 countries.

What was the position you were recruited for. Please briefly outline the position you were recruited to within your organisation and summarise the business needs and role you fulfil

Ashfield Medcomms offer a training programme called allegro.WRITE. This is a fast-tracked programme designed to develop entry-level candidates into skilled and competent Associate Medical Writers (AMW).

I am currently over halfway through the 2-month training phase as an AMW, and I am loving it so far! The team have supported me throughout and I have had opportunities to work on a variety of projects, including manuscripts, abstracts, and slide decks. For each task, we receive 1:1 feedback to help improve our writing and understanding of the therapy area.

After I complete my 8 weeks of training, I will start my first rotation where I will be working on an oncology account with a large pharmaceutical company. There will be a mixture of both medical affairs and publications, so I will be involved in a variety of projects!

What attracted you to this position?

I wanted to be involved with new and exciting research in a medical setting and I also wanted to be able to combine science with writing. I liked the idea of working in a fast-paced environment and in a fast-growth company like Ashfield Medcomms.

What are the key skills you learnt at Warwick that have helped you with your career to date?

The skills and knowledge that I gained from my time at Warwick have been invaluable. Aside from developing an in-depth scientific understanding, I also gained a great foundation of scientific writing through completing numerous journal articles and literature reviews. I was taught to think analytically and interpret data appropriately, which are important skills to have as a medical writer.

What has been your greatest career challenge to date and how did your experience and skills help overcome it?

The greatest career challenge to date would be building resilience. We receive a lot of feedback, and it can be hard to navigate through that without taking it to heart.

Also, most people who started at the same time as me on the allegro.WRITE programme came from a more medicinal / biological focused background than myself, so I worried about not having the same level of technical knowledge as others. However, I realised quickly that working in medical communications is very different to academia and so everybody was at the same starting point as me!

What top tips would you give to students looking for a career in your market sector?

Focus on good examples of written work that you have produced, either at university or elsewhere (such as a blog). Prior to starting at Ashfield Medcomms, I worked as a typist for a gynaecologist. This really helped to improve both my written communication skills and understanding of clinical practice, which has been useful as an AMW.

When you are in the job, I’d say time management skills are essential! It is likely that you will be managing several projects at once, so it is important to stay very organised and calm. Juggling tight deadlines during my time at Warwick definitely helped with this!

What do you know now that you wish you had known when you were applying for jobs?

Be prepared for a lot of rejections! It’s unlikely that you will get the first, second or even 10th job you apply for. The competition is high, especially in the medical communications industry.

Any additional advice or comments?

Be enthusiastic about your work and get involved with social events – it’s nice to have friends in the workplace too! Also, make sure to get the work-life balance right.