What to do if you are marooned on a digital island in a sea of data

Inspiration for my blog comes from many sources. Stories I am told, new material I have come across, training courses, current affairs or things that I am suddenly fascinated by. Today’s topics cover life, the universe and everything, to quote Douglas Adams.

I share my thoughts on what to do to love your job, data management, perception and reality and managing reality through regulations and codes.

Topics for today’s blog are:

– Secrets to being happy in your job without moving to an island
– What to do if you are marooned on a digital island in a sea of data
– Healthcare disparity as an example of how we see the world
– When medical associations write codes

Secrets to Being Happy in your job Without Moving to an Island

A senior pharma company executive recently told me how much she loves what she does. I was impressed. She said “I love my job, I have managed people, but I don’t enjoy it much. I am experienced. I know exactly what I am good at, what I enjoy doing, and where I can add value. Any promotion I am offered that takes me away from my core interests and pleasures, is a promotion I will turn down. I am paid well to do a job I like to do, how lucky am I?”

This individual has been working for many years. It has taken her time and experience in various roles as well as a lot of self-reflection and the courage to say no to the wrong opportunities to end up in a place where she is very happy. For most employees it takes a while to get to the right place. Your degree is the foundation, the rest is finding the right ecosystem. I have written about how to do this in two recent newsletters. You can find the content here and here.

However, even when you know what you want, don’t expect plain sailing. The broader your skill set and the better you are at what you do, the more opportunities you will be offered. A colleague shared that he is often approached by individuals who have great suggestions for projects he can get involved in. He also is able to politely decline. The lesson here: once you know what you want, act in alignment with your goals. By all means enjoy being courted, but know when to say no, or perhaps, not now. Don’t be seduced by opportunities for the wrong reasons: status, money, prestige, team leadership, if you know beforehand that you don’t want the job. Likewise, if you are not enjoying what you do, act, instead of hoping it will get better at some point.

Key takeaways: self-knowledge and self-awareness are the foundation upon which satisfying careers are built. Work on your professional skills by all means, but don’t neglect personal development.

What to do if you are Marooned on a Digital Island in a sea of Data

A comprehensive data management strategy provides a competitive advantage in today’s rapidly changing business environment. As the world becomes increasingly digital, the pace of business and the volume of data that is created, consumed, and stored is growing exponentially. Unfortunately, data management has not kept pace, and digital solutions have been, and often still are, developed in silos, leading to a disconnect between systems, data and data analytics. Data is marooned on «digital islands». Disparate working practices and a lack of standards and standardisation further compound the problem.

Most companies face and are working on these three topics:

  • How to gain insights from the terabytes of data held in disconnected systems and whether it is worth it
  • When, where and if to use AI
  • And how to design and implement a company wide data management strategy

Supporting teams to identify a data management strategy that is fit for purpose is something that makes me happy. Some considerations:

  • What are the key insights you need to support the business now and in the future?
  • What type of data will you need to have to answer your questions?
  • What data do you already have and where is it stored? What is missing?
  • What is the source of the data you need, will that potentially change as markets/the business evolves?
  • What are the technology and competency requirements? Never start this exercise with the technology.
  • How will you approach data governance and standardise working practice?

I will be taking part in and running a panel on data husbandry, digital islands, the promises and challenges of AI and what we can learn from other industries in June 2023 at a Connect in Pharma event. I will be joined by Peter Shone, Chief Technology Officer at iEthico, who I admire enormously for his knowledge across time, space and different industries of all things data related. You can register for the event here.

Key takeaways: 1) If you struggle with this, you are not alone 2) In an environment where you are under pressure to do more with less, being able to get data insights may give you the competitive edge you are looking for 3) the sooner you get a handle on it the better 4) Before you dive in make sure you have asked the right questions and documented the answers.

Healthcare Disparity as an Example of how we see the World

A week ago, I had a bicycle accident. I called my doctor the next day, had an appointment an hour later, and the confirmation that my wrist was not broken within 24 hours of the event. One weekend my mother fell. I took her to AE. We waited for four hours in the AE of the hospital that is five minutes from her house for a CAT scan, as well as the results of the X-ray confirming that she had broken her leg. She was admitted to hospital immediately. Her operation was scheduled as soon as possible based on her clinical status. At no point was there a lack of resources or a bottleneck that impacted her access to tailored health care.

In contrast a friend’s dad in the UK needed medical support. The GP said, “we don’t do house calls, call the community nurse”. The community nurse said, “I cannot come unless I have a referral from the GP”. In the end the family called the ambulance. The ambulance arrived thirteen hours after the call. My friend’s father was then in the ambulance in a holding pattern for seven hours in the parking lot of AE, alongside twelve other ambulances, as AE was full and the health system is hopelessly overwhelmed.

Key takeaway: Our frame of reference and what we consider acceptable is strongly influenced by the society we operate in and what is “normal” where we are. This is true for any activity in our life. While working across cultures it’s therefore worth asking for underlying beliefs that influence decisions or viewpoints, you might be surprised, and it will definitely make things easier.

When Medical Associations Write Codes

Pharma companies employees are trained to adhere to the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA) codes, regulatory authority guidance documents and to be GxP compliant. Beyond IFPMA codes, country laws and regulatory authority guidelines, the industry also has internal Standard Operating Procedures. I was intrigued when I recently came across a code of conduct for corporate sponsors penned by the European Board for Accreditation in Hematology (EBAH), headquarters are based in the Netherlands.

The introduction to the code of conduct states “The agreement will define a code of conduct which will govern the commercial entities’ sponsorship of CME activities organized by (representatives of) academic and scientific organizations”. The goal of the code is to ensure that activities are non-promotional. Unfortunately, there is no date on the document, no version, nor information on validity of the document, so I don’t know how old it is. The EBAH has other guidelines on their website too. This is the first time I have come across a Code of Conduct addressing the interaction between physicians and the industry that has been penned by a body representing physicians. I’d love to hear from anyone who is aware of any other similar codes.

Key takeaway: the landscape governing interactions with healthcare professionals is continually evolving as witnessed by the fact that medical associations now write Codes outlining best practice when medical association members and the pharmaceutical industry engage for CME activities.

I hope my blog provides you with some useful insights and, as ever, I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

If you are struggling with your job, not sure where to go from here, want to develop further in your career, or want to look at repeat patterns in your daily work and private life, that you suspect may be blocking you from reaching your full potential and you would like to discuss how executive coaching could help, please contact me for a confidential and informal chat.

Best wishes

Isabelle C. Widmer

Love your job without moving to an island
Photo by Isabelle Widmer