Women are outnumbered in medical sales. In fact, the 2020 Medical Sales Salary Report, found that women earn just 80% of what men do and hold only 16% of management and director-level job titles.
While, at first glance, this may seem discouraging, there is a multitude of highly-successful women in medical sales. We’re talking to these professionals to find out what it means to be a woman in the field and what it takes to be successful.
Samantha Wagner always knew she wanted a career in the medical science field, she just wasn’t exactly sure what.
While attending the University of Iowa, Samantha had the opportunity to shadow doctors in the pediatric cardiology unit. It was there that she discovered her passion in the medical world and decided to specialize in cardiology. But after starting the med school application process, she realized her heart wasn’t fully into pursuing this career path.
From there, Samantha pressed forward looking for different professions that spoke to her passions. When the CEO of Medical Murray, a contract medical device development, testing, and manufacturing service provider, came to talk in one of her classes, the company’s cardiology focus immediately piqued her interest. She applied for a job and before she knew it, she was moving across the country — and Sam hasn’t looked back since.
By gaining experience in a variety of different areas, keeping an open mind, and saying yes to every opportunity, Samantha is now building a successful career in the medical sales industry as a Business Development Engineer.
Here’s her a look at Sam’s inspirational path to success as a woman in the medical sales world:
Diversify your experiences
Like many college undergraduate students, Samantha didn’t really know what she wanted to do after college. But, by keeping an open mind and having a “yes factor” mentality she was able to gain experience which unexpectedly led her to a successful career in the medical sales industry.
Since I didn’t really know my path and what I wanted to do after college, I was just trying to diversify my experiences as much as I could. I wanted to try a variety of things to see if anything would catch my interest. I said yes to literally every opportunity that came my way, I tried everything, and I’m very thankful that I did.
For example, I was a student-athlete and held leadership roles on the team in college, I volunteered at the hospital and had a research position, and I coached a local diving team. I had all these tools in my tool kit from my different experiences like time management, organization, work ethic, leadership, and determination that set me up to be ready for whatever comes at me.
I also think my degree in Biomedical Engineering was a great program to set me up for really any path I wanted to take. My dad and I have the same degree from the same school and he has taken a completely different path than I have. It’s a very versatile degree that gives you a great foundation for whatever career path you may want to take.
Don’t be afraid to try something different
After landing her first role at Medical Murray as an R&D Engineer, Samantha eventually moved over to the sales team as a Business Development Engineer. Even though Sam had no sales training or experience, she embraced the opportunity.
I joke that I was either a bad engineer or just too social of an engineer, so the only option was to move me over to the business development team. I had no formal sales training when I started, all I had was an engineering degree and some people skills. Being able to challenge myself, learn, and grow from no sales knowledge to becoming a well-established member of our sales team has been such a highlight in my career.
My boss has been a great mentor too. He allowed me to take success into my own hands. He saw a lot of potential in me that I had no idea existed, and took the risk of hiring an engineer to be on a sales team.
I also think it was helpful being in R&D before I moved over to the sales team. I have a better understanding of our process and I can talk with customers, understand their devices, and talk to them through the technicality of things, which can be a big benefit to the sales team.
Embrace being the underdog
The medical sales world is a very mature industry. Being a young female in this industry can be intimidating, but that only motivates Samantha to work harder to prove to people that she is qualified and knowledgeable.
Being a young female with an engineering background makes me unique in the medical sales industry.
Working within a field where I may be written off for being young or female or inexperienced, whatever it may be, I see that as being the underdog and I like the challenge. I like the idea of being able to turn someone who may be skeptical of my knowledge or my experience and show them that I am qualified and knowledgeable. Being able to gain people’s respect that way is rewarding for me in my career.
Be open to new experiences and connections
Samantha encourages everyone, but especially women, to find experiences and make connections to help pave your own unique medical sales career path.
Finding a way to get technical experience, the same way I had my R&D experience before I got into sales, is a great way to learn more about the medical sales industry. Take certificate programs to introduce yourself to the industry — there are so many great affordable programs out there. Volunteering and even watching YouTube can be a great resource to help you understand what’s going on in the field.
Also, this past year we learned how easy it is to connect with people virtually. Connecting and networking are key. Don’t be afraid to find people online, reach out, and build your network in the industry.
And lastly, be confident. It sounds cliche and so easy, but I think a lot of times women in the industry can be intimidated or scared. Just walk in like you know exactly what you’re doing, exactly what you’re talking about, and no one will question you.