J&J Internship (May – July 2017)


Choy Ying Feng (Year 1 Pharmacy student)

What made me sign up for the internship was partly because I did not have many commitments for the summer break, with a relatively minor role in the Pharmacy Freshmen Orientation Projects (FOP). If I had not gone on this internship, I would likely have been working part-time during the holidays to earn some pocket money, and it was great that this internship provided an allowance. As Year 1 Pharmacy students, some of us may have had some experience in hospital or community pharmacies, but most of us have no insight into the pharmaceutical industry at all, and I was rather keen to find out how life in the industry was like, compared to the hospital and community pharmacies. I decided that since I had no existing scholarship bond yet, I would take the opportunity to delve into an area with alternative career options which I may have to consider in future.

During the course of the internship where I was in the Marketing team with some fellow interns, I had opportunities to work with some of the Sales Representatives, Product Managers and Medical Science Liaisons in the Pharmaceuticals division of J&J, and it was an enriching experience despite the steep learning curve that we faced at the start of the internship. Apart from the routine taskings and projects that we received, we also had the opportunity to attend internal product trainings and regulatory talks, attend external events that J&J participated in (such as GI-HEP 2017, Best of ASCO 2017), and were also involved in the planning and execution of events for healthcare professionals (such as the inaugural IBD COE and the 4th COE in Hematological Malignancies). As part of J&J’s Corporate Social Responsibility initiative, we also had the chance to join the staff in painting flats for beneficiaries of Hope Worldwide Singapore.

This internship made me to realise the importance of teamwork, without which we would not have been able to accomplish much during our internship. We often had to rely on one other’s expertise and knowledge, be it in terms of scientific data research (where the Pharmacy seniors are better able to analyse study results), presentations or events planning. Similarly, we also witnessed for ourselves the cross-functional collaboration involved in every project that J&J embarks on, with staff from Marketing, Medical Affairs, Regulatory Affairs, Finance, Franchise Support etc. coming together to review the latest updates and discuss future direction.

Other key takeaways that I had were that of the need for continual learning, the need for an analytical and objective mind, and the need for good time management. Firstly, research and clinical studies are constantly being carried out, and it is vital that we stay abreast of the latest findings, to ensure that the company’s drugs are safe and effective, and that the support and outreach programmes in place remain relevant for patients and their physicians. Secondly, it is important for us as future pharmacists to be discerning of what we read in scientific articles, to question the way the data has been interpreted and presented, just like how pharmacists are expected to provide an objective assessment of the drug options for doctors or patients. In the context of pharmaceutical industries, this would also apply to ensuring that the product claims are compliant and justified by adequate scientific data, and not misleading for the consumers. Lastly, good time management is as important as anything else in the industry, as there will be countless things waiting to be completed, and in order to deliver on our promises, we must learn to prioritise the tasks on hand, and not over- promise others what we can do.

My previous impression of pharmaceutical industry was that it was mainly about process innovation, or quality assurance and quality control, since many pharmaceutical firms do not have R&D facilities in Singapore to accommodate pharmacy graduates with a passion for research. Similarly, J&J does not have any research facilities, nor does it have any manufacturing plants in Singapore, but through the internship, I have had the opportunity to interact with pharmacy graduates who are working in the marketing and regulatory affairs departments, and now have a better understanding of the roles that pharmacy graduates can take on in the pharmaceutical industry. Other preconceptions I had (which were dispelled through the internship) were that pharmaceutical firms were all located in highly inaccessible regions in the west (J&J has relocated from Jurong East to Kent Ridge!), and that there was little opportunity for human interaction compared to working in the hospital and community pharmacies (as I was expecting to be facing my computer screen most of the time).

I would recommend my classmates to apply for the internship, be it to network, to gain a better understanding of the pharmaceutical industry, to experience some freedom at work, or just to occupy your summer holidays. J&J has quite a comprehensive portfolio of products ranging from pharmaceuticals, medical devices to consumables, which provides for an interesting overview with regards to regulatory practices, as compared to other pharmaceutical companies which may only deal with pharmaceuticals. The staff at J&J are also very approachable and willing to share about their roles should you be curious about what their job scopes. If you are concerned about not being able to comprehend all the scientific terms and information that you will come across, worry not as there are always pharmacy seniors you can reach out to, apart from the product managers. Not only are there programmes to increase our product knowledge, there are also self- development activities that occur regularly which employees and even interns can take part in too, and these range from laughter yoga to networking and sharing sessions by business leaders. Did I mention that J&J now has their very own gym at the new office?

Er Annabel (Year 1 Pharmacy student)

What made you decide to go for an internship?

Johnson and Johnson’s products include numerous medicine and medical devices. Being a pharmacy student, I hoped to gain a better understanding of the different types of pharmaceutical products being marketed because I felt that this is relevant to my course of study.

In addition, Johnson and Johnson have retained its popularity among Singaporeans for many years and I am curious behind its success. I believe that part of it is linked to its successful marketing so once I saw that the job scope has a marketing aspect to it, i decided to apply for this internship.

What life lessons have you gained from this experience?

During the internship, I had the opportunity to be under two different departments and I am grateful for that. I was under finance for the first half of my internship and under regulatory affairs for the second half of my internship. I learnt excel skills during my time in finance because I had to handle massive amounts of data. During my time in regulatory affairs, I was exposed to many guidelines such as those for stability testing and advertisement of products and I have a better understanding of it now. I think this will give me a head start should I decide to choose the regulatory path after I graduate.

Overall, I learnt how to be proactive because rarely anyone has time to teach us things step by step at the workplace because they are busy with their own tasks. A lot of self learning and observing is done and asking questions is crucial to clarify doubts and expectations. I also improved my communication skills through the various presentations I made. Lastly, I learnt that sometimes it is very hard to satisfy the needs of various stakeholders; hence as long as what we believe that we are doing is right, it is good enough.

How has the internship changed your impression of the pharmacy industry?

The pharmacy industry is one, which is very dynamic and patient centered. There is huge competition to produce drugs to meet the needs of the population. The drug production is one, which is long and uncertain, so each drug, which is produced, is very important and profits are concentrated in only a handful of drugs. Therefore, pricing strategy is very important. At the same time, being a healthcare company, it is also necessary to take into account of the welfare of the people. In essence, the pharmacy industry is a complex industry.

Would you recommend your classmates to apply for the internship?

I would highly recommend my classmates to apply for the internship as I feel the culture in JnJ to be very positive as they encourage self-development. During my term in JnJ, I attended a few workshops, amongst which, one was on the 7 habits of highly effective people. Additionally, interns were given the same level of respect as ordinary staff. We had the opportunity to be involved in the organizing of events such as the Inflammatory Bowel Disease – Centre of Excellence that is a medical conference. Personally I also helped created the slide decks for the training of industry professionals. These activities made me gain a sense of ownership.

Feng Ouyuan (Year 2 Pharmacy student)

What made you decide to go for an internship?

My decision to sign up for an internship in a pharmaceutical industry setting stemmed from my desire to explore other career pathways outside of clinical that my degree is able to offer.

What life lessons have you gained from this experience?

The most important life lesson that I have learnt was to be adaptable. In the workforce, we are required to work with people of different professions, backgrounds and attitudes. Priorities would definitely differ and that could potentially be a major source of conflict, which through experience, we could foresee and mitigate if necessary. Being adaptable also means that even if a situation is less than ideal, problem solving skills are required and we would need to think fast on our feet to come up with solutions to better the situation. This would require an optimistic but still realistic outlook towards life.

Another important life lesson is to how to work under stressful situations to meet deadlines. There are often times when emotions run high due to stress, but it is important to keep a level head and try to rationalize and organize our thoughts, to remain focused on the primary goal of the task, in order not to be distracted by messy details.

How has the internship changed your impression of the pharmacy industry?

This internship definitely has increased my understanding of how the pharmaceutical industry works, as well as changing my perspective of it. I am now better able to appreciate how the pharmaceutical industry contributes to the healthcare provision in our country, firstly, through research and development to produce new drugs for patients with unmet needs, but also to increase patient access to drugs.

Would you recommend your classmates to apply for the internship?

I would highly encourage my classmates to apply for this as even though there is a very steep learning curve initially, there were many learning opportunities provided for interns. Furthermore, we were also given the room to develop our own interests and skills through our tasks.

Toh Ting Fu (Year 2 Pharmacy student)

I decided to go for this internship as I want to gain some working experience as well as exposure to the pharmaceutical industry. As NUS’ pharmacy curriculum focuses more on clinical practice and research, I felt that the internship provides me with an opportunity to gain insights into the pharmaceutical industry, which is pretty much unheard of.

Through the internship, I have learnt that in order for me to improve, I need to be pushed out of my comfort zone and do things that I am afraid to do. The internship allows me to push my limits, which helps me to learn how to perform certain tasks quickly. I have also learnt how to multitask and manage multiple projects simultaneously. There are never ending work, studies or things to do, hence it’s all about prioritizing the more important or urgent ones over the others. Also, I have learnt how to work with different people with different working styles.

In the real work setting, everyone is busy and no one will be there to hand-hold you and teach you everything that you need to know. Therefore, I need to adapt quickly to a new environment and pick up new knowledge fast. Furthermore, it is my responsibility to find out myself or from others on how to perform certain task. Even though people are busy, some are still willing to spare their time and share with you their experience on handling certain projects. As I talked to more and more people, I become confident in approaching people for help and have also improved on my interpersonal skills. The two most important takeaways are to never be afraid to move out of your comfort zone and never be afraid to ask people for help.

The internship has changed my impression of the pharmacy industry. Previously, factories and manufacturing plants were what came to my mind when I hear the word “industry”. Through the internship, it has made me realize that the pharmacy industry is not just about manufacturing drugs. There are other functions involved such as regulatory affairs, sales and marketing, research and development, quality assurance and quality control, etc. All these functions work closely together to ensure the success of a drug portfolio.

I would definitely recommend my classmates to apply for the internship as it is a fulfilling experience. The internship allows me to gain insights into the pharmacy industry, improve on my soft skills such as communication and expand my social network.

Yeo Mei Ching Sharon (Year 2 Pharmacy student)

As the end of Year 2 drew closer, it dawned upon me that it would be a short two more years before I have to enter the workforce. Aside from hospitals and community pharmacies, a career path in the industry has been briefly mentioned by our Department now and then, but the term ‘industry’ had felt very elusive as a large portion of our curriculum focuses on the clinical aspects. As I strongly believe that experiental learning has the ability to effectively pave the way for one to gain deeper insights, I decided to apply when our Department announced the availability of a Marketing position in Johnson & Johnson.

The experience was, in a nutshell, phenomenal and life-changing. While being in pharmaceutical marketing calls for a very fast-paced lifestyle and the stress can pile up to great heights, I would say that it is ‘good stress’ as the various challenging tasks makes the job thrilling and teaches you how to prioritize your work – a necessary skill in Singapore’s work environment. To put it very broadly, when I was there, Johnson & Johnson gave me opportunities to learn and hone my interpersonal skills, ‘creative’ skills, leadership skills, organizational skills, resourcefulness, pharmaceutical knowledge and hard skills like designing and analyzing data. The culture at Johnson & Johnson is great as the people there are not just friendly and concerned about your welfare, but great communicators and people who understand the value of teamwork and taking initiative. I truly have enjoyed my time there!

In my eyes, this internship has shone a more positive light on the pharmaceutical industry as previously, I especially have been worried about ethical concerns in the industry. It is reassuring to see that many people (in Johnson & Johnson at least) have not forgotten who their products are catered for in this competitive landscape – the patients whose physical and mental health majorly depend on these drugs. I would definitely recommend my classmates to source for chances and experience how delving into the pharmaceutical industry can potentially be a fulfilling career for themselves.