Welcome to the Real Life Series. In this section, GlobalMBAcareer brings you real life experiences of various MBA professionals who work across various roles from around the globe. Through this series, we intend to share with you what it means in real life to have a certain role and what it takes to be successful in it.
In this series, Robert – Director of Commercial Analytics of Actelion shares what it takes to have a successful career in the Commercial Analytics field through a 3 part series.
Commercial Analytics – Dr. Robert Siegmund (Part 3)
What should MBAs do to pursue a career in commercial analytics?
In general, I would say that the MBA is a perfect preparation for a career in commercial analytics as a good business school will actually teach many of the analytical tools needed in the daily work of a commercial analytics manager. Something to consider is that – commercial analytics is of course part of the wider marketing discipline. So, entering into this field makes more sense if you want a career in marketing. Assuming a traditional MBA course where you do the general courses in the first year and you have electives courses in the second year, it makes sense to focus the second year elective courses on marketing, corporate strategy, marketing strategy and market research and market analytics, if such specific courses are offered.
During the term breaks within the MBA course, I recommend to do work in analytics in corporate marketing departments or at agencies working in analytics. I did for instance two projects in the strategic marketing department of Hoffmann-la Roche during my MBA. Post-graduation, it makes most sense to join an agency/consultancy focused on analytics or join the market analytics department of a corporation at local, regional or headquarter level. Usually companies will come to the business school campus to recruit, but be sure to make also your own research regarding opportunities and companies that interest you. A key choice is of course the market or product you want to be working on as an analytics executive, is it pharmaceuticals, biotech, consumer goods, automotive, financial industry etc. There is no industry, market or product area where analytics professionals are not needed.
What are the skills required to be successful?
- You need to master the skills of several disciplines: strategic marketing, market and social research, competitive intelligence, data analytics, forecasting and strategic planning
- Need to be a very good communicator as you will be working with senior management in scoping project but most importantly you will have to communicate the results of your analyses to senior management
- Presentation and writing skills are very important for this role
- If you are based in Europe, most companies will expect you to speak a second and perhaps a third European language besides English. This will also help with cross-cultural understanding as you will be working across many geographies.
- Often there will be time pressure to deliver the result of analysis, as each analysis will feed into an important decision
- You need to be able to work in an environment of pressure and thrive on managing projects against deadlines
- Also, you need a “thick skin” as sometimes the analyses will show a signal or result that is against the expectations of the decision makers. Sometimes there is a tendency by the decision makers to “shoot the messenger” in such cases. In this situation, just stay calm and argue your case based on logic and evidence, never ever become defensive
- So in summary, a very challenging but also very exciting and rewarding job, as you will be privileged to give input directly into strategic decisions, for instance you will be involved in decisions around key product launches
What do employers look for when recruiting for a commercial analytics position?
An MBA will be an important qualification to have, if not an MBA then hands on sales & marketing experience, in depth knowledge of the product and market, language capabilities, negotiation skills and brand marketing experience is an plus but not strictly necessary. The person needs to master the key methods of market research, competitive intelligence, analytics & forecasting.
A familiarity with the data sources and databases in the respective industry, publicly available and proprietary, is an advantage. Another important skill is project management of external market research agencies, so if there are existing connections and experience with such agencies, it is a clear plus. The person needs to be a strategic thinker but also analytical down to a detailed level, if necessary. Generally, people with 3-5 years’ experience will progress from analyst level to a managerial level and after 10 years progress from managerial to director level and after 15-20 years’ experience to VP or department head.
I have outlined above the potential career paths if you start in commercial analytics in pharma or biotech. In the future, commercial analytics will become even more important due to the emerging field of “big data”. In the past, the main data we worked with were from industry sales audits such as IMS, providing sales and volume data and of course data obtained via large primary market research studies or primary competitive intelligence. Now and in the future there are many additional sources of data: health data obtained via apps on smartphones or smart watches, so called “real world” treatment data obtained via insurances or health care providers, social media monitoring.
The large number of additional data, now dubbed “big data” will drive a need for more and better commercial analytics executives in pharma. Another trend will be the integration of market access & pricing and along with the commercial analytics departments into a larger market access & insights department, as the methods and the analyzed data are very similar between market access and market analytics.
So the opportunities are many for MBAs who are inquisitive, curious and analytical and are excited to work in an area that is challenging and developing very fast.