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Question about Industry Roles

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Question about Industry Roles

Postby BMK » Tue Nov 24, 2015 11:02 am

Hi all,

I have perhaps a naive question about the dual-ladders/various management roles in industry. We've seen a lot of discussion in the past weeks about business development, product development, project management and R&D management, and a bunch of associated topics. My question is how divergent/integrated these roles are in practice. For example, in company X, would each role be often handled by separate individual, or is it more common for two (or more) of these roles to fall under the duties/responsibilities of a single person?

In other words, at what "rung" in the ladder might someone start wearing multiple hats of the types we've been reading about, being involved in business development and project management? Would the same person be involved handling both the clinical trials needed to support the regulatory application needed to bring a product to market and R&D management? Would the same person often be the one expected to initiate establishing academic-industry collaboration?

Hopefully the above was clear. It's a pretty open-ended question I admit, so thanks in advance to everyone who chimes in!
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Re: Question about Industry Roles

Postby Dave Walker » Tue Nov 24, 2015 12:01 pm

Hi BMK,

Great question!

I know that most others on this forum have more experience, but I can tell you what I've seen. Generally, bigger companies have more individualized roles, and smaller ones mean wearing multiple hats. Every company has an "org chart" to decide who reports to whom; if a decision is big enough, it goes to upper management. The job description is still a pretty good indicator of how much hat-wearing might happen -- does the Project Manager help with Technical Support, Marketing and Sales? Or are these siloed off from one another?

In your scenario, who handles decisions effecting both ongoing clinical trials and R&D, I would think that goes way up to the CEO deciding with input from the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) and Chief Scientific Officer (CSO), who handle the operations of each separately.

For career purposes, though, I think any rung is a fine place to learn about other parts of the company and even gain some skill. It usually involves taking on extra work or "volunteering" to help with a project, but this usually has many benefits.
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Re: Question about Industry Roles

Postby Dave Jensen » Tue Nov 24, 2015 12:42 pm

BMK wrote:Hi all,

I have perhaps a naive question about the dual-ladders/various management roles in industry. We've seen a lot of discussion in the past weeks about business development, product development, project management and R&D management, and a bunch of associated topics. My question is how divergent/integrated these roles are in practice. For example, in company X, would each role be often handled by separate individual, or is it more common for two (or more) of these roles to fall under the duties/responsibilities of a single person?

In other words, at what "rung" in the ladder might someone start wearing multiple hats of the types we've been reading about, being involved in business development and project management? Would the same person be involved handling both the clinical trials needed to support the regulatory application needed to bring a product to market and R&D management? Would the same person often be the one expected to initiate establishing academic-industry collaboration?

Hopefully the above was clear. It's a pretty open-ended question I admit, so thanks in advance to everyone who chimes in!


Hi BMK,

Good question. I agree with Dave, that this is company-size dependent. However, even in the biggest companies, certain categories report up to one person. For example, perhaps Business Development and Sales/Marketing all reports to the same VP. In other areas, they may want to have a purposeful split, for example with Quality Control and Quality Assurance. But sometimes Quality and Regulatory report to the same VP. So, I'd say it's really a question that each company addresses independently.

The cool part about working for a small company early in your career is that while you will still have these decisions about what ladder you'll be on (see article in this month's Tooling Up), you can get a great deal of experience quickly across different disciplines and job titles. In two or three years at a small company, you can have involvement in 3-4 different kinds of jobs and this gives you great experience to choose what you like. In a big company, you could be in one department and one job type for a decade.

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Re: Question about Industry Roles

Postby Dick Woodward » Tue Nov 24, 2015 3:07 pm

Dave J. is correct about small companies. If you are a "silo" type of person, small companies are not for you. If you like the challenge of coming to work each morning with your plan for the day all set, and you walk in the door and that plan is out the window, then small companies are for you. In a small company, your title frequently matters less than what you know how to do (or can figure out how to do).

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Re: Question about Industry Roles

Postby D.X. » Wed Nov 25, 2015 11:52 am

BMK wrote:Hi all,

I have perhaps a naive question about the dual-ladders/various management roles in industry. We've seen a lot of discussion in the past weeks about business development, product development, project management and R&D management, and a bunch of associated topics. My question is how divergent/integrated these roles are in practice. For example, in company X, would each role be often handled by separate individual, or is it more common for two (or more) of these roles to fall under the duties/responsibilities of a single person?

In other words, at what "rung" in the ladder might someone start wearing multiple hats of the types we've been reading about, being involved in business development and project management? Would the same person be involved handling both the clinical trials needed to support the regulatory application needed to bring a product to market and R&D management? Would the same person often be the one expected to initiate establishing academic-industry collaboration?

Hopefully the above was clear. It's a pretty open-ended question I admit, so thanks in advance to everyone who chimes in!


Hi BMK,

You recieved some good insights and in the context of a small Company.

Where I can add in relation to your first question how intergrated/diveregent are the roles you described. I propose that you start thinking about this with a cross-functional mindset. A part this means whereas one function may drive one of these activities, for example Business Development, the elements that fuel their strategy development and tactical exectuion can involve other functions, such as Marketing and Business Analytics. How they inferface can be different, in one element, Marketing may set the over-arching strategy and platform by which Business Development may use as thier guiding Posts for future acquistions or licensing opporunities, leveraging Business Analytics function or expert to assess Commercial potential. How active each of those functions are can be related to Company size or internal Business unit size etc. IN this particular case they may Report up the same line, or diverge again related to organizational Chart and and Company set up. On the other Hand, you may have a Marketing Person have elements of Business Development, this could be in the context of Life-cycle Management - basically sizing up opporunity in very much the same way a Business Development Person does but sitting in a Marketing function. In this case R&D members can lend their Expertise and functional resources to Support these endeavors an so on.

As already noted Company size predicts Level of involvement and overlap of each fucntion.


Regarding your specific question about the Person involved in clincal Trials supporting the regulatory application - again think cross-functionally. Definatly the Regulatory Affairs activites are owned by that fucntion, but they are dependent on Expertise and resources from a Clinical Development Medical Director who, in Addition to serving as reesponsible for a clinical Trial, they are responsible for ensuring appropriate incorporation of that Trial into a Regulatory Affairs owned dossier as needed. Cross-fuctionally. Consider that the Clincail Developement Medical Director is also working with Clinical Trial Operations, Drug Safety , Drug Supply, Marketing, Business Development etc. You get the Point. In a bigger Company for examaple, some of Clinical Development activities can be served by a Medical Affairs function or in smaller companies or Business Units, it can be a Medical Affairs Person manages all those cross-fucntional Interfaces.


How deep can one function address or take ownership of another function activities can be limited by laws and reguations - epsecially in pharma. So a Marketing Person cannot do the activities of a R&D function. However does not mean the two fucnctions are not strategicaly aligned.

To touch on a small Company, I'm in one now , it can give alot of exposure to other fucntions. In my specific role I run a Governance board called a Global Brand Team, whereas I sit in a Marketing function my Job is to integrate the 9 functions that sit on my Team - in this case I wear many hats - and the glue to my Team is a dedicated Project Manager who serve as my right Hand. Any Business impacting decision that is taken on my Brand, must run through the heart of my Team. I'm not in Senior Leadership, but my Partner who works in a big pharma, tells me, thier GBTs are run by very very senior People, very high on the ladder, i.e. Functional Heads, so in this case a small Company is giving me that Level of experience at a middle-management Level. And in my Company, my GBT reports, among others GBTs, Report to the highest governance board in the Company, .that's one is all the Executive Vice Presidents. There is good and bad, small companies give alot of visability and accountablity- depending on your personality, it can be a good and bad Thing. Depends on what you want.

Feel free to ask any more questions!

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Re: Question about Industry Roles

Postby Dustin Levy » Tue Dec 01, 2015 1:36 pm

As companies grow, they develop some schizophrenia in this area. They build functional groups responsible for these roles, and encourage people to “stay in their lane”, then at the same time they lament this “building of silos” and encourage people to collaborate cross functionally. These dynamics can be maddening for those individuals who value logic and reason.

Regardless of organizational structure and your role within it, there are common skills that all should get comfortable with. These can include getting unproductive meetings back onto the rails (a project management skill), being honest about product deficiencies without scaring customers away (a sales and marketing skill), and maintaining small talk with a key client’s personal assistant (a business development skill).

As an example, if you’re in a technical/R&D role, but happen to be the only person in the room with the customer, you’re the salesperson at that point in time (breaking out of your silo). Your job is to keep the seat warm, then hand off to the qualified sales lead the first chance you get (getting back in your lane). The key is the hand off afterwards – you’re only the salesperson for a brief moment, and certainly not entitled a piece of the commission.

If you get good at supporting others around you, they will become your allies and open doors for you in the future – in your current company or in new companies that they’ve moved on to.
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Re: Question about Industry Roles

Postby Rich Lemert » Tue Dec 01, 2015 3:05 pm

To add just one thing to Dustin's comment - if you do find yourself acting as a de facto salesperson, remember to be circumspect in your comments. Don't make any promises or commitments, even implicit ones, that you are not authorized to make. Pricing and delivery, for example, are two areas where the sales force may be negotiating agreements of which you are completely unaware, and even a casual toss-off comment might completely disrupt their plans.
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Re: Question about Industry Roles

Postby Dustin Levy » Tue Dec 01, 2015 4:40 pm

Also, make sure the customer is a real customer and not a competitor. This will happen most often at a trade show. Scientists/engineers who have been invited to stand in their company’s booth, but left alone for 2 hours while the salespeople take a long lunch, are notorious for giving away competitive intelligence. People like me will “accidentally” tuck our nametags under our jacket, butter you up (where’d you go to school, what did you study, where did you publish), then get you talking about product design details, what you’re working on next, what you’ve heard about your company’s strategic initiatives, etc. Then we’ll slide off and forget to give you our business card.
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Re: Question about Industry Roles

Postby D.X. » Fri Dec 04, 2015 4:43 am

Touching on Dustin's Point about growing companies who grow functional Groups and then lament about Silos, aye aye aye spot on. I'm facing this now as our recent Company culture was complete siloed, no transparency between functions etc. and now with a recent Change of managment (to include CEO) we are moving to mandated governance boards with cross-fucntional Team. Oh my god - what a pain its been for me, trying to get all the silo thinking Folks around my table to work transparently, seeing big Picture, understanding strategy aye aye aye, AND i have a decent % of thier HR Performance Objectives (irrespective of department, they have a dotted line to me). If one can, where polictics allow, work non-siloed and cross-functionly, that's a step up development wise, so good comment.

My only other comment regarding "de facto" sales Person - consider that at the end of the day, if and when there is a Moment of annoyance and dissatisfaction with a customer, you are not a Person to that customer. You are NOT a salesperson in that Situation. You are NOT a scientist in that Situation. You ARE the Company! If that customer starts to express negative advocacy to others, they won't mention your Name, or your title, they will say your Company Name. Doesn't matter if you wear a suit or not. This was my experience back in my MSL days where we did try to differentiate our selves from Sales Reps. But in push to come shove situations (as it happens with some customers) - I was referred to by my Company Name, i.e. "ABC Pharma" is here, or "ABC Pharma" said. In the worse case senario, - happened to my colleague, they were mis-quoted in a huge huge internationally known News paper - once with just a Name, and from then one, as the Company Name.

Point is, at the end of the day where as you may not be SOP defined or legally defined spokesperson for the Company, you still are and you can be Held accountable irrespective of spokesperson Status. So be attentive to that tiny element - in front of customers, you are the Company.

Wear that hat cautiously and with professionalism always. Follow the advice given above as well.

good luck

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Re: Question about Industry Roles

Postby BMK » Mon Dec 07, 2015 3:20 pm

First, let me thank you all for your feedback and advice! The reason I asked was because I was applying for a senior scientist position (which I was referred to via my network) in a growing medical device company, and the position is a mix of both business development and project management (the later in the form of Academic-Industry collaborations). A lot of what was discussed here and in other threads came up at different points over the course of a few rounds of interviewing. It's amazing how serious preparation makes a difference, and I could tell that my interviewers were impressed that someone with an academic background was even remotely aware of half the issues we discuss on these forums.

Happily, I received (and accepted) an offer for the job!
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