October 16, 2015, by Jonathan Teoh
My Summer Internship Experience at Eli Lilly
I undertook an internship this summer for 3 months at Eli Lilly, a pharmaceutical company. I found out about it through an email sent out by the Careers Advisory Service (CAS), sometime in January this year. All I had to do was email CAS with my latest CV and they sent it to the company. I was called up by someone from HR in April and we had a short phone interview, and I was informed of my selection during exam period. I worked in the oncology department of the marketing team, running market research surveys.
If I could summarise my work briefly it would be like this: the company was introducing a new drug for the treatment of gastric cancer. They needed market research information from people who actually treat gastric cancer, specifically oncologists. This is where I came in. I drove around to cancer wards in public and private hospitals across the Klang Valley, and one in Nilai, interviewing oncologists and recording the data I obtained. I mostly asked them about patient experiences and disease management. Sometimes I corresponded with doctors via phone or email. I did this for about 2 months, after which I tabulated all the data and presented it to the regional marketing director. This data provides information about the local gastric cancer market, which the company can use to devise their marketing strategies for this new drug. I also simultaneously ran a similar survey for a lung cancer drug, although that drug was already on the market.
Ultimately the skills needed to perform this internship were soft skills such as communicating effectively, a good old dose of persistence and hard work, and a bit of thick skin as well I must admit. There isn’t really a method to surveying these doctors so I had to learn a lot on the job. Most times I would find myself sitting in waiting room staring at the oncologists’ room door waiting for them to head out to the toilet, planning my ambush like a news reporter. I got a lot of rejections, a lot of ifs, buts, and maybes, but I had plenty of time to keep trying and wearing the doctors down until I got a response. You need to be aware of the little things like which days are better to visit which doctors, what time they go for lunch, and when the patients start clearing out of the clinics etc. so that you can work more efficiently. You need to be friendly with the nurses and keep a big smile on your face so you don’t tick anybody off. I also needed to have in depth knowledge of the drugs and the diseases. The doctors don’t want to waste their time talking to someone who doesn’t know anything about gastric or lung cancer.
If you are interested in exploring the pharmaceutical sector then I would recommend this internship for you. You get to interact with people for many different fields, experience a corporate environment, and expand your horizons a little more. I was challenged and found it difficult at times but I also enjoyed myself and relished the new surroundings. The atmosphere at the office was friendly and people were helpful and encouraging. I learned a lot just by talking to people, to experienced working with colleagues from varied backgrounds who had a lot of knowledge to share. There were also other interns under the program so I had peers around me as well, which made it more fun.
Eli Lilly are thinking of running the program again next summer, so keep your eyes peeled for anything from CAS.
Elijah John Bepono (3rd year BMS student)