I don't want to identify the company I worked for by name on this blog (and please don't try to guess - all attempts will be deleted from the comments), so all I'll say is that "my" products comprised various ranges of kits that we sold to research labs. Marketing pharmaceuticals to doctors and their patients is a different kettle of fish entirely, and not something I'm qualified to comment on in any way other than rants about advertising prescription drugs on TV. (WTF? I couldn't believe it when I moved to Canada from the UK and saw my first Viagra ad).
My job was to handle all aspects of my products' launch and promotion. At its best, the job was fun and tapped into my creative abilities in a way I've not experienced (at work) before or since. At its worst, it combined the stress of tight deadlines with the boredom of repetitive brainless tasks. The latter scenario became increasingly dominant throughout my time in the job, as we launched more and more products and became bogged down in "maintenance marketing" (the tasks described as Boring below).
- The people. I interacted with people in most departments within the company, and most people were great, but the team of product managers was especially helpful and supportive. Good colleagues are very important to me, and these guys were awesome. I'm still friends with lots of people from across the company - my new job is only a few blocks away so there are frequent beer, coffee and lunch dates.
- Big meaty creative projects. My favourite was the video we made to promote our lead product, for which I wrote the storyboard and script, worked closely with the producer, assisted at the shoot, helped with post-production, and even saw my pencil scribbles converted into animation by someone much more artistically talented than me. My gloved hands also made it into a couple of scenes after our main "actor" left for the day. I also had fun with puns - we were often asked for slogans for ads, t-shirts etc, most of which never made it into the public eye, which is a shame. I also came up with some promotional item ideas (e.g. playing cards with our logo on them) and got to work closely with the resident graphic artists on ads, emails etc.
- Big meaty writing projects. This was where they needed a scientist, as my projects included literature reviews, summaries of published papers that used our products etc. The promise of this type of work was why I took the job, but there wasn't nearly as much of it as I would have liked.
- Conferences. Yes, I was one of those people who stands at a booth, trying to get your contact details in return for the playing cards and pens you're taking. I loved meeting researchers and discussing how our products might help them with their work.
- Endless paperwork.
- Initiating, proofing and signing off on endless product labels.
- Product inserts. Dear god, the product inserts. Each one unique, but having to conform to a standard template. The 5 different R&D scientists who developed the products, each with their own interpretation of the standard template. The struggle to ensure accuracy and consistency at all times. The endless revisions. And, the straw that broke the camel's back, the major change to the standard template that entailed making detailed revisions to dozens and dozens of inserts. I just finished this project before I left. I almost went nuts.
- Product manuals. Possibly the only thing worse than the product inserts.
- The endless meetings, other than those that discussed the fun projects in the first category.
- Management speak - constantly shifting, never comprehensible (be sure to have your ducks in line so they can sing from the same hymn sheet).
- Decision making by committee, and/or multiple edits and sign-offs required on every single label and document, each successive signatory tending to reverse the changes made by the person before them.
- Lack of a sense of humour (I was made to remove all "fun" scenes and dialogue from my video script because scientists are supposed to be serious and will not respond to cheesiness. Yeah, right, tell that to BioRad - their PCR video went viral and is now a cult favourite that I've even heard scientists sing in the pub (Who's your Daddy?)).
- Continual changes to paperwork processes and other SOPs.
- The few bad apples among my colleagues.
- The endemic email diarrhea (most of it designed to cover the sender's back by copying the entire company on every message).
- Constant minor niggly urgent tasks that took me away from my cool projects, e.g. individually editing each of 60 web pages because we decided to change our nomenclature and our website editing interface sucked.
Marketing has some very fun and creative aspects, but it's not for everyone. If you're thinking of taking this route, choose your company wisely; the tasks performed by product managers (and marketing departments in general) vary between companies, and from what I've heard, my company wasn't exactly typical. Try to find out - preferably from people with the same job description - what their day-to-day life is like, how much of their time is taken up with maintenance marketing, and how much time they get to spend on the creative stuff. As with requests to meet students and postdocs from a potential new lab, any reluctance by your interviewers to let you talk to existing staff should be a red flag, especially if you're new to the field. (Disclaimer: I actually did talk to several other product managers before taking the job and got some very mixed messages - politics being what they are and all).Despite some of the negative comments I've made, I learned a hell of a lot during my time in industry. The experience helped me to get my current job and will continue to be useful to me throughout my career. Ultimately, if things go to plan, the primary benefit will probably be that the job diversified my network of contacts. But that's a post for another day.