Anna Shen is a prime example of the diverse career paths and growth opportunities available throughout BMS globally. Based out of Shanghai, China, Anna is currently an Immuno-Oncology Gastric Cancer Marketing Lead, but the journey from her undergrad and graduate degrees in the UK to exactly what her current role entails, is both eye-opening and fascinating for anyone interested in the sciences.
“I graduated with an MS in Pharmacology from Oxford University,” she explained. At that point, Anna found herself at a crossroads, albeit a good one from her perspective. “I had the option of going back to academia for a PhD, or going out into the working world,” she said. “I began to discover that I really enjoyed talking to people. The communication aspect of my work and how it aligned to my creative side appealed to me.”
“I returned to China and started my career in sales,” she said. After gaining a year of experience in the field, she joined the BMS Marketing team. “I started as a product supervisor in marketing for an anti-hypertension drug,” Anna recalled. “Soon after that, I was working on relaunching a mature product, along with preparing to launch another Chinese drug.”
Anna found that the work offered in the pharmaceutical industry as opposed to academia—especially the marketing side of it—aligned nicely with her background of science and marketing. In the meantime, a reorganization in Anna’s cardiovascular unit had her temporarily leave BMS, which led to her picking up some oncology product management experience elsewhere. But four years later, she was back at BMS.
“BMS talked to me about a new gastric cancer indication launch opportunity in China,” she said. “There wasn’t any hesitation. I could get some new launch experience, but really, BMS was building upon a robust and differentiating portfolio of pioneering oncology medicines to address the demographic and medical needs in China. It was all guided by our BMS China 2030 Strategy. And I wanted to be a part of that.”
China 2030 Strategy is a long-term plan that shows a commitment from BMS in China, projecting significant investment in core therapeutic areas (TAs) to address the enormous unmet medical need in China in areas like gastric cancer. Anna was aware that the need for effective immunotherapy and oncology therapies was huge in China. With this large a market and an industry that cannot market directly to patients, the role of marketers was crucial in getting critical information and clinical core value of treatments delivered to healthcare specialists.
An interesting facet of marketing is that the team is involved in almost every stage of the product lifecycle. “We need to understand the essence and the evolution of the market better than anyone, usually from collecting insights from customers, sales and matrix teams,” Anna explained. “That way we can develop strategies that achieve quick wins as well as long-term goals. My day-to-day work includes articulating key messages that get distributed via integrated platforms.”
Breaking through the clutter is incredibly important, but the science and the therapies must be up to the task. Like all BMS employees, Anna puts everything she has into the job, knowing that it’s the patients they are working for. “Many of us are—or know of—people battling cancer,” she said. “It makes me excited to be a part of it. At times it might seem like climbing a mountain. But it makes me proud to be part of the journey.”
In a market as large and highly competitive as China’s, Anna and her team are constantly looking for innovative and more effective ways of doing the work, as the patients’ needs and the physicians’ mindset are constantly evolving.
“We recently won a BMS innovation award for being able to speak to and win over our customers with precise messaging,” Anna recalled.
There were a few other reasons that made it easy for Anna to come back into the BMS fold. An environment that encourages everyone with ideas to speak up, high-performing teams with clearly defined goals, and lots of opportunities to grow within the organization all made an impression on her.
“The commitment of leadership, the commitment to China—it all adds up to an exciting place to do meaningful work,” she said. “When we add ‘innovation’ into the mix, to me, meaningful and innovative work make for very interesting work. And the BMS innovation award our team won is a good testament to that.”
Speaking of "an exciting place," the BMS location in Shanghai offers a very international and modern feel, with colleagues joining from all over China. Anna speaks fondly of the affection the residents have for their city, as well as the dedication and commitment that BMS employees have for their work.
“It’s an open-minded and passionate city, and my colleagues are very passionate about their work,” Anna said. “That leads to a special collaboration. BMS is a very diverse culture that encourages innovation and inclusion. If you’re working toward transforming patients’ lives through science, you need an environment like the one we have here.”
No matter where you might be on the globe, if Anna’s story inspired you, explore the amazing number of diverse career choices BMS has to offer. Not only could the work you do transform patients’ lives, as Anna noted, but it could transform your career as well. Explore the options: careers.bms.com.
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