Whenever we start doing something, we have some vision about that which sometimes get confirmed by the new knowledge we gain or rejected. As Sowell (2018) says that “Visions are the foundations on which theories are built. Visions are very subjective, but well-constructed theories have clear implications, and facts can test and measure their objective validity.” Sowell quoted that Bertrand Russell once said that “Every man, wherever he goes, is encompassed by a cloud of comforting convictions, which move with him like flies on a summer day.”
There is a thinking that we should do away with the visions altogether and should focus on reality itself. However, the reality is too complex that a single mind is able to understand without any external help in terms of knowledge and guidance which also provides direction to the mind for analyzing reality. So visions are a necessary part of our lives and having a vision about anything we are going to go is of a lot of help in doing that thing successfully even if it proves altogether wrong. They rest on some sort of nature of a man as different people respond to the same thing differently. That is what happened to me as well when I joined the Pharmaceutical industry. I joined as an assistant product manager and now a days working as a product manager in a pharmaceutical company.
The role of product managers has rapidly evolved over the past few years not only in pharmaceuticals but also in other industries. When I joined the Pharma Industry, I was working in another manufacturing industry and was pretty much aware of what I need to do in order to be successful in the Pharma industry. So I had a vision about my new responsibilities as an assistant product manager and how I would be able to get success in the sort of a new career path.
I believed that a product manager is a contact point between the customers and the pharmaceutical company. I believe that I would be assisting my supervisor or manager in managing marketing and sales in a certain line of products in a certain geographical area. Through my prior experience, I knew that I would be dealing issues like managing brand image, aligning marketing of new products with the company’s marketing strategies for other products and pricing and distribution issues. However, I was confused regarding whether I would be concerned with the company’s image in Pharmacists and doctors or among the general public. My view in this regard was that I would be concerned with the company’s image among the direct customers, distributors, doctors,and pharmacists as if they consider a product good, they are going to prescribe it and the company is going to get business.
Another confusing thing for me was the kind of reports I was going to prepare. Although I had experiences of report writings and presenting Pharma Industry is a different thing from other manufacturing industries as you need to cater both immediate customers as well as end consumers while ensuring that you adhere to the strict standards imposed by the government. My thinking about this is that I might be writing standard reports (again it depends upon the industry norms as well as the company that what kind of reports it asks its team to prepare). Those standard reports can be of any kind and I searched over the internet to get an idea of the reports for both pharma and other industries that product managers use to prepare.
I knew before joining that the product managers also need to do strategic work. As a matter of fact, most of the work of product managers in all industries are of strategic nature. They need to make marketing strategies or atleast be part of the team that develops marketing strategies. Product managers also do a lot of tactical work where they need to get the strategies executed. They need to conduct meetings, they should be pretty good at time management and prioritizing things. I was of the view that a product manager can easily go on top as a marketing head and has a good chance to become a chief executive officer as well. That is why, even before joining the pharma industry as a product manager, I started planning studies like MBA and some other management courses. However, I knew that I would also be reading some pharmaceutical stuff in order to know exactly what we are doing and able to understand the product well. However, I was also expecting proper training from the company after joining. This was my vision about the job of Product manager in a pharmaceutical.
Later on, when I joined the job as an assistant product manager. The first issue that I faced is the cultural shock. The culture of the new company was quite different from what I used to at my previous organization. This is one thing which I never thought about before joining. In my previous organization, there was a lot of autonomy to every employee and we can do things in our own ways provided that they meet the specific criteria. However, in the new organization, there was very specific guidance about everything we have to do and there was very little autonomy of doing things in our own ways.
I got know within a few days that Pharmaceutical marketing, although is pretty much similar to other marketing, is quite a different job. One needs to be mentally strong, have great analytical skills and appropriate technical knowledge in order to succeed at this level. Communication skills are also imperative, perhaps more than my initial thinking as a product manager needs to talk to customers as well as vendors and consultants in order to bring the best outcome for the organization.
The company provided me training for a month (which was on hand obviously) and then I properly started working on tasks independently as assigned by my supervisor. Now with every passing day, my views and vision about the job started getting changed. One of the shocking activity that I was required to maintain day to day was forecasting and Budget management. Although I knew already that every department has to work within its budgets but I never thought this work can be so cumbersome and detailed as I am doing now. The other specific areas where I am now responsible (and assisting product manager previously when joined as an assistant) developing my personal knowledge and expertise and joining conferences and seminars to keep me updated about the new developments. I am also supporting the sales team in the field and often visits the customers, particularly when some customer has a complaint or suggestion. This is necessary for the management of the Brand Image, which is also one of my primary responsibilities. I am not only involved in traditional marketing campaigns but I also need to manage digital part of the marketing and needs to carry out implementation activities of the marketing campaigns. Moreover, it is not only the immediate consumer we want to satisfy, a pharmaceutical company needs to satisfy the end consumer eventually but it is essential to satisfy the immediate buyer or distributor or customer first. Both types of customers need to be managed effectively because dissatisfaction of any one of them means curtains for the company and loss of not only the revenue but sometimes billions of dollars spent in the research and development stage of the product and years of time which may be invaluable.
This is quite different to what I envisioned, however quite manageable as well and I managed it in a good way through changing myself a bit in terms of cultural acceptance and through the development of my knowledge and experience. That is the main reason for my success in this role. As Friedrich A. Hayek once said that “Not all knowledge in this sense is part of our intellect, nor is our intellect the whole of our knowledge. Our habits and skills, our emotional attitudes, our tools, and our institutions – all are in this sense adaptations to past experience which has grown up by selective elimination of less suitable conduct. They are as much an indispensable foundation of successful action as is our conscious knowledge (Sowell 2018).”
My role requires a lot of critical thinking and judgments on a daily basis. Whenever we need to launch a new product or a new marketing campaign, it is based on the vision about the idea. That ideas come not only from experience but also through the education and application of different theories. However, it is not always the case that the initial plan gets successful or the things pan out as per plan. There is an element of surprise more often than not and I need to change the initial plan several times to reach the final plan that eventually goes into implementation. So, my job involves a lot of visioning and then modifying that vision on the basis of analysis and application.
My role becomes very vital when a product is brought into the market. I need to manage not only the marketing activities of the already available products but need to ensure that we market a new product in a way that it does not cannibalize sales of existing products and that is when critical thinking becomes most important. Many times, plans with months of planning and working gets failed and needs to be altered at the last minute or after launching a campaign, we need to withdraw the whole campaign because people it does not communicate the intended message or with intended efficacy. All these experiences add to the vision that aids the thinking and judgment when the same type of work is to be done. Therefore, I believe that with experience and knowledge, our vision gets broad and we are able to better predict outcomes and theorize things better. We are also able to better communicate things on the basis of our vision which also ads to our repute and respect and our personal power in a particular role. For example, my experience and knowledge add to my personal power as a senior product manager and my juniors look towards me for guidance in their work. They know I am going to help them and I have the ability and appropriate knowledge to do so as well.
Vision also help to start new things effectively. For example, when management asks me to prepare marketing plan and campaign for a particular product, it is the vision about the product and potential that I have is what helps me start working on the idea generation and all the ideas generated are a direct consequence of my vision. However, if I decide to do further research and the vision about the product is changed as a result, then the ideas also get changed.
In the end, I would say that having a vision is extremely important for a product manager and he should have the ability to critically think and judge things in light of that vision. Moreover, he also needs to make his or her vision brought through gaining as much knowledge as possible about not only his or her area of responsibility but also about the products and services that can directly and / indirectly relate to the area of responsibility. This helps better understanding of the big picture and one can then plan the next action on the basis of the vision. If vision is near to the actual situation, then those plans work more often than not. However, if that vision is not close to reality, then either those plans fail or they need to be changed in light of the new knowledge. However, it is impossible to work on any idea or job for a product manager without having a vision. Better the vision of a product manager, close to the reality, better the outcome for the organization and vice versa.
Sowell, T. (2018). A Conlict of Visions. (2018). Homepage.eircom.net. Retrieved 28 October 2018, from http://homepage.eircom.net/~odyssey/Politics/Sowell/Conflict_Visions.html