Where can a graduate degree from the University of Illinois take you? In this monthly series, we catch up with one recent Graduate College alum and ask the question: "Where are they now?".
Norman Atkins, Jr. graduated from the university with a customized joint MBA/PhD (Neuroscience) in 2009. He joined the team at Shire Pharmaceuticals as a Senior Medical Science Liaison for US Neuroscience Global Medical Affairs. After a series of promotions within the company, in June 2016, Norman was promoted to Franchise Global Medical Lead on the Shire Neuroscience Medical Affairs team. In this new role, he heads a cross-functional Global Medical Team for one of the company’s ADHD products. This entails being responsible for articulating the medical strategy for educating/supporting healthcare providers regarding ADHD disease state and clinical/scientific data regarding the company’s ADHD therapies. He also contributes medical/scientific input as a member of the larger Product Strategy Team for the marketed product.
What skills, competencies, or experiences are essential to your work?
Oral/written Communication skills, strategic planning, process improvement/re-engineering, cross-function teamwork and collaboration, critical/analytical thinking, and data analysis are a few of the key competencies that I use in my role.
What is the most interesting, rewarding, and/or challenging aspect of your job?
My work helps ensure that our field medical teams are equipped with non-commercial, scientifically rigorous information and resources to share with researchers, clinicians, and healthcare stakeholders at the patient touchpoint. It is rewarding to utilize my joint business and scientific background to support medical/clinical breakthroughs that help patients with life-altering medical conditions.
What has been the most valuable transferable skill you gained from graduate school?
Cross-functional (or inter-disciplinary) collaboration and teamwork.
What experiences made an impact on your career choice?
I participated in a Certificate in Business Administration for Scientists program early in my PhD studies. The third session on business strategy opened my eyes to the possibility of converging my skills, graduate training, and passions to help ensure translation of scientific advancements into effective, targeted medical solutions.
What is one piece of advice you would give to graduate students at Illinois?
Use graduate school as a vehicle for pursuing your passion, even when it leads you down unconventional paths.
This interview is part of the monthly Grad Life series called "Where Are They Now?" which chronicles the career paths of recent Univeristy of Illinois Graduate College alumni. Interviews are conducted by Laura Spradlin. Laura contributed to Grad Life throughout its first year. She is an alumna of the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at Illinois and studied English and French at Illinois Wesleyan University.