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Accenture: The many roles of Kathrin Schalper

This article was originally published in Accenture.

We sat down with Kathrin Schalper, Strategic Development Advisor for Halloran Consulting Group, Inc., to discuss the many different roles she has held and the change she has created within the Life Sciences industry. She had a lot of real-world insights to share.

On her choice to pursue a degree in pharmaceutical sciences.

KATHRIN SCHALPER: Pharmaceutical sciences is a very broad degree, very varied. I didn’t want to box myself right away into one specific area like chemistry or biology. The huge advantage of having a degree in pharmacy is it opens up a lot of different career avenues.

On what brought her to the business world.

KS: It was really the desire to innovate, to help, to bring new medicines to the market. I was interested in the application itself, and less the basic research.

You are interacting with patients there on a regular basis. You know what it takes not just to bring a product to the market, because everybody loves to talk about R&D. This is exciting, this is innovative, this is new. But then actually when it comes to maintaining the product on the market, it’s something that receives less attention. But this is very, very important to have this background. And just to open up my horizon a little bit more, I was more interested in a career in corporate compared to academia.

On her transition from the lab to corporate.

KS: It was very easy for me because I had my Ph.D. In Europe, pharmaceutical companies will partner with the universities. The company basically sets up a grant for you—it’s still independent research, but the topic is owned by the funding company. The company that funded my grant at that time, they later got taken over by Bayer. That already gave me a really good insight in how the corporate world works, and the challenges around that. But it helped a lot because I already had a very realistic expectation and a real-world insight when I started my first corporate role after I obtained my Ph.D.

On her motivation to pursue teaching.

KS: I’ve always been very interested in teaching. One issue I found when I was in college was that applied sciences were supposed to be very interactive and interesting but were taught in a rather boring and un-engaging way. I wanted to change that.

Just standing in front of a student audience, working through a case study together, we have a lot of fun in our classes.

On her drive to publish papers.

KS: It’s a desire to make a topic accessible to a general audience. Bringing a message across in an engaging way. Doing all the research for it, deepening my own knowledge, widening my horizons, and also rethinking certain approaches, rethinking how I tackle certain issues.

On the importance of empowering young women.

KS: There’s one recurring pattern, that women obtain higher level degrees than their male counterparts. They excel in academia. But then once they enter a corporate career, suddenly this relationship or this ratio is reversed.

I’ve been interviewing throughout my career and one thing that always sticks out to me is women who are very educated and have excellent credentials have a tendency to belittle their own contribution to projects. I don’t want to say that everybody needs to toot their horn all the time, but I do notice that—I don’t know if it’s necessarily lack of self-confidence or just a habit that you make your own contribution smaller than it is.

Many very highly educated women feel that if they don’t fulfill every single requirement of a job description, they won’t even be considered. We should be educating women as they go through their careers, through their lives, to understand themselves better.

On her advice to young women in Life Sciences.

KS: Do away with perfectionism. Nobody is perfect. Don’t let yourself get unhappy, desperate, think you’re not performing to your maximum. We are all human. The world will still be spinning without you being perfect.

This blog is part of a series that focuses on individual journeys of the women in life sciences who are driving change to how we develop and deliver better patient outcomes.