"I'm passionate about life sciences," says Karima Siddiqui, who studied biology at Imperial College, London, then gained a PhD in Medical Sciences from the University of Oxford. "But I wanted to work in a commercial environment; somewhere I'd be able to apply my scientific knowledge while also developing my business skills," she explains.
That's why applying for a role at IMS Consulting Group (IMSCG), one of the leading consulting firms in the life sciences sphere, was a "no brainer" for Karima. She joined the firm two-and-a-half years ago and now counts the world's top pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies among her clients.
IMSCG's work is similar to that of general management consultancies, and there's no need to have a scientific or medical background to join the firm. "We identify the challenges our clients are facing, then we analyse those issues and put together recommendations to help the client overcome them," Karima explains.
Consultants at IMSCG enjoy a wide variety of work, from assisting clients with geographical expansion, to delivering branding and commercial strategies, to advising on pharmaceutical investments. "I love the variability in consulting," says Karima. "I get to move between different types of projects quite regularly, work with different personalities and travel around the world to meet clients. The challenges they're facing are constantly evolving, which means I'm always thinking of new strategies and solutions to help them."
Karima's current project
Karima is currently working on a product launch for a global pharmaceutical company. "The product will be launched in all of the major markets around the world, and it's our job to make sure the internal preparations by the company are coordinated globally," she explains.
There are a number of work streams on such a large project. Karima is responsible for one of them: facilitating discussions between representatives of the company in different countries and pressure-testing their materials and strategies for the launch to make sure they're robust. "I'm liaising with 10 to 15 client members who are based all around the world, from the US to South America to Japan," she says.
"Organising and attending these forums is interesting because I get to work with people at a very senior level within the client company and gain insight into the complex discussions that are taking place. I always get a massive adrenaline rush at the end of a successful meeting."
We take a peek inside Karima's diary as she prepares to hold a global teleconference with the client representatives next week...
Monday 28 January
I wake up, take a quick shower and have some breakfast. I leave the house by 8am and jump on the tube to work.
After stopping off for a coffee, I arrive at the office. I skim through my emails and respond to the queries I've received over the weekend. I often receive emails overnight from our US-based clients, which I address first thing in the morning.
I think about the key deadlines coming up, how I'll approach the work I need to do, and make a to-do list for the day and week ahead.
I have a meeting with a first-year analyst I'm supervising to discuss the framework for a presentation we'll deliver to our client at the global teleconference next week.
We brainstorm the materials we need, discuss the content we'll include and map out the format of the slides on paper. We then divide up the tasks and agree to complete the work by the end of the day.
I have a teleconference with my main contact at our client. I give him a status update on the activities being carried out and the agreed agenda ahead of the bigger meeting next week. We've got a good working relationship, so it was a relaxed and informal conversation.
After the teleconference I write my contact a brief follow-up note to recap the key discussion points and the actions both of us need to take before the big meeting.
People are starting to ask what everyone wants for lunch. We decide to go out for sushi, which we bring back to the office and eat together. Everyone is really sociable here, and we have a big, open seating area where we can relax and chat before getting back to work.
We have an internal project meeting attended by everyone on the product launch team. There are eight of us altogether, ranging from analyst to senior principal. We do a round-robin, where each person highlights what they're doing and what challenges they're facing. We then discuss different approaches and possible solutions.
Project meetings are really valuable because you get input and advice from senior managers as well as new ways of thinking from your colleagues. IMSCG is a collaborative environment, so whether you're a junior or senior team member you're always encouraged to contribute to discussions.
I check in with the analyst I'm supervising to make sure everything we spoke about this morning is moving forward and that there are no issues in developing the presentation.
I attend a meeting about what IMSCG is doing at universities to reach out to students. I lead the Imperial College, London graduate recruitment team, which involves planning and organising on-campus events for students. I catch-up with team leaders for other universities and we talk about the activities we're arranging.
Extra project work is highly regarded within IMSCG and there are lots of things you can get involved in, from volunteering and fundraising to being part of the social committee, which organises Friday night drinks and parties.
I follow up with my clients by email or by giving them a quick phone call to make sure they know the objectives for the big meeting and what materials they need to prepare.
Over a cup of coffee, I review the progress my analyst has made on developing the presentation. We discuss how it could be improved, and then make the amendments.
I send the presentation material to the Engagement Manager, who oversees the overall management of the project. He'll review our work later and send some feedback in the morning.
It's the end of the day! IMSCG is a flexible environment so as soon as you've finished what you're working on you're encouraged to go home - there's no need to stick around. I'm feeling energetic so I'll go to the gym this evening.