Emerging job prospects in the pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors

Staying relevant and acquiring the right skills to tap into high value opportunities

Among the many lessons that emerged from the Covid19 pandemic, a primary one for India is the need for better healthcare infrastructure as well as more human capital in the fields of pharmaceuticals, life sciences and other healthcare spaces. As policy makers and healthcare leaders embrace emerging technologies like never before to improve patient outcomes, the opportunities for job seeker of today have increased immensely and are changing too.

Through two back-to-back panel discussions, Forbes India - Jobs of the Next Decade, a special series powered by Indeed, unveiled a 360-degree view of new age jobs emerging in the pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors, with valuable takeaways for job seekers.

Moderated by Mridu Bhandari, Editor – Special Projects, Network18, the first panel comprised Farhat Umar, SVP & Group HR Head, Mankind Pharma; Sirshendu Mookherjee - Group Head - HR - Narayana Health; Archana Bhaskar, CHRO, Dr Reddy's; Shreya Bhagwanth, ED – HR, 3M and Sashi Kumar, Indeed India. These industry thought-leaders discussed the theme ‘Health-tech in the Next Normal’ with a special focus on the career options that were emerging as a result of it.

According to a survey by Indeed, healthcare and allied sectors saw the maximum hiring in Q1 2021 (Jan-Mar’21), compared to other sectors. Representing Indeed, an active stakeholder in the changing jobs landscape within the country, Sashi Kumar said, “Health sciences as a career option has gained relevance since the start of the pandemic. While there has been an increase in hiring there has also been a rise in interest to work in this sector.”

As in the case of other industries, Covid19 has accelerated the adoption of digital technologies in pharma and healthcare, impacting traditional roles in these sectors. Farhat Umar observed, “There is a paradigm shift in the pharma sector. Digital transformation and technology has led to a lot of new positions being created with many candidates being hired from the IT sector.”

Taking the observation further, Archana Bhaskar said, “There is a whole lot of activity that has spawned as a result of Covid19, which centres around digital trends. The route-to-market and manufacturing processes are changing and science and innovation is going at a pace that we never expected; services around preventive and curative are also changing. With all this, we expect a significant increase in jobs in pharma.” She also underlined another growing trend of jobs being created at the intersection of industries, such as pharma and Information Technology. Accordingly, not just pharma but ancillary industries will see a growth spurt too.

Sirshendu Mookherjee pointed out, “Two streams of treatment and care had to be run parallelly - Covid and non-Covid. So, from a jobs point of view, with the scheduling and rotation of staff due to the need for intermittent quarantines, more people were needed as back-up. This opened up opportunities in traditional lines of work. At the same time, digitization and the new normal uncovered various other career opportunities, as hospitals reached out to patients through their devices.” Training and deployment of people in the healthcare industry will be the key, going forward, according to him.

Bringing the focus to innovation in these changing times, Shreya Bhagwanth averred, “The landscape of healthcare is changing considerably on the back of science, technology and innovation.” She highlighted various innovations, such as conversational AI healthcare platforms for doctors and patient healthcare data management systems, which represent intersectionality of functions and the need for teams to develop suitable products. “We have seen enhanced investment in teams and skilling for IT development, cloud operations, project managers, etc.”

The panel also discussed automation, machine learning, augmented reality, virtual reality and other technologies which will play a crucial role in healthcare. They explored health tech of the future and its impact on human capital requirements to enable it; specific job roles and skills that will be needed in this next normal; the emergence of remote treatment requirements; how technology is enabling healthcare to pervade the rural areas, triggering healthcare career opportunities; the need for aspirants who seek jobs in this space to learn; reskilling and upskilling models for mid-career opportunities through virtual trainings, amongst others.

The second panel discussion that followed, which was themed ‘Building successful careers in Pharmaceutical and Health-tech sectors’, featured a panel of eminent industry experts including Deepak Arora, Director - MA & Commercial Excellence, AstraZeneca; Dev Tripathy, VP & Head HR - R&D, Glenmark; Manoj Gupta, SVP & Head HR, Medanta; Varun Mehta, Director & Head HR, SRL Diagnostics; Manoj Garg, CHRO & Business Head International, Dr Lal PathLabs Ltd and Rohan Sylvester, Recruitment Evangelist, Indeed India.

It explored the new and high value jobs being offered by the pharmaceutical and health-tech sectors, where candidates can look for these jobs and the different skill sets that are in high demand when it comes to fast growing healthcare companies. As the year gone by has been truly transformative on various fronts and pharma and health-tech have been at the heart of this transformation, the expectation from human capital in these sectors has also changed.

Rohan Sylvester pointed out, “Considering the world we live in, the pharma and healthcare sectors are seeing a huge demand for talent. Interestingly, some of the roles that are in demand are not the traditional ones. There is a demand for data base administrators and coders and profiles like data analysts and data scientists are also expected to gain traction.”

Acknowledging the importance of the emerging intersection of technology and pharma, and the job opportunities that it was brining, Manoj Gupta said, “It’s not only qualification for a job but competency which will be critical. The speed of execution and implementation and launch and delivery of services to patients will be very different from the past.”

“The pandemic demonstrated how dynamic the market is and underlined the need to keep pace with it. Diversity and inclusion help us achieve this,” said Deepak Arora. “Diverse mindsets and ideation with inclusiveness of learning should be able to cut across bureaucracy and deliver a win-win situation.” Essentially, he suggested that the right kind of talent acquisition can help keep the pace of agility.

Emphasising the need to stay relevant, especially at present, Varun Mehta said, “The healthcare industry is trying to attract the right kind of talent in certain segments, like IT, scientific technicians who specialize in genomics, molecular biology and R&D, are in demand. There is also a need for employees with skills in compliance and documentation.”

Adding on from his perspective, Dev Tripathy said, “A host of opportunities have opened up from product management, sales and marketing, raw material procurement, supply planning and demand forecasting in the manufacturing domain to clinical research and finally on the innovation side, drug discovery, toxicology, etc. are trending across the value chain.”

As new technologies like AI, ML, IoT, are ripe for disrupting the healthcare sector and use cases are emerging every day, there are concerns that automation will result in job losses. Allaying these fears, Manoj Garg assured, “We are in a very high demand scenario and automation is being used to service the demand better and in a more efficient manner. Repetitive jobs with very little decision making required at a human level will get automated and only the number of people doing those jobs will decrease.”

Other insights that emerged from the discussion were that as the learning curve steepens, harnessing of data is going to be critical to the success of any new age healthcare company and the outsourcing of high impact, niche jobs in healthcare and pharma to India will pick up. There is also rising scope for gig and remote workers with niche talent.

Finally, there was a consensus that with innovation pervading every aspect of pharma and healthcare, profiles and expectations from every work stream are changing drastically. Constant skilling, on and off the job, will become the key to staying relevant in this ecosystem which is rapidly evolving.

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