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Science Careers: Interview with Kristin Ryan

Name: Kristin Ryan
Current employer: Astellas
Job title: Field Director, Urology
Science Career: Pharmacist
Time working in this field: About 25 years

How would you describe what you do on a typical day to a student?

Every day is different! Sometimes I am at home learning and reading a research paper, or I might be out in the field with one of my direct reports meeting with a customer, or I might be meeting in an airport lounge giving a performance review. Every day and every week is different and at times unpredictable.

How did you become interested in this area of science?

I raised dairy cows growing up along with showing horses. I would get drop calves. I had about a 50%-50% rate of a calf living (which paid for my college). I became interested in science because I was wondering if I could change those odds to be more successful.

What did you study in high school, college, and graduate school?

In high school, I took general education (no AP classes during my time). As an undergraduate student, I was a Biological Sciences Major. In graduate school, I enrolled in the School of Pharmacy at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). I followed up with a Residency in Pharmacy Practice and then a Fellowship in Cardiovascular Pharmacotherapy.

How would you describe your work environment to a student?

I am field based. What that means is that I live in Boston, MA, but my company's headquarters are in Northbrook (outside of Chicago), IL. I manage six employees who live east of Chicago. Before I started managing people, I covered the New England Upstate New York area. So, I would travel about four days a week, and then one day a week I would work out of my home office.

What are some of the key characteristics that are important for a person to succeed in your type of work?

Ability to work independently yet collaborate well. Strong written and oral communication skills.

What do you enjoy most about your work? What do you not like or wish you could change?

I like the variety of my day-to-day work. Sometimes it is challenging to move up the corporate ladder because there are only so many positions and a move forward might require a move into corporate headquarters in IL. This would mean a big change since I live in MA!

What was a project that you have worked on that you found particularly interesting?

Doing projects that involve our entire team is the most fun. For example, working with a team to get a compound ready for commercial launch is fun and exciting.

What can a student do now to prepare for a career in your field in terms of coursework and extracurricular activities?

My biggest piece of advice is to get all your schooling complete upfront. It is challenging to go part way thinking that after you work for a bit, you will go back and get that terminal degree. Get it all done while you are young and do not have large responsibilities in life like a family, mortgage, etc. Pick a field about which you are passionate and work and develop expertise in that area. Extracurricular activities that demonstrate commitment and/or oral presentations are valuable.

Is there any advice you would give to someone interested in this field that you wish someone had given you when you were starting out?

I wish someone had told me to get my M.B.A. before starting my career.

Is there anything about your profession that you think people misunderstand, or anything you think people would be surprised to learn about your job?

I think some people tend to think that the Pharmaceutical Industry is "slimy" or not above board. In fact, this industry is crucial to helping patients on a large spectrum by bringing new medicines to the marketplace.

What do you do in your free time?

I am a 4-H mom (my son shows Icelandic Sheep). I am also a LEGO® mom (my son competes in LEGO Robotics). I am a gardener. As a family, we follow the NFL—Go Patriots! My husband and I enjoy cooking together.

Free science fair projects.