Lisa Swift-Young loves that her roles in the medical sales industry have let her put her values into practice. Swift-Young has worked on both sides of the industry, engaging with pharmaceuticals and pharmacy. And in each of these positions, she’s been challenged to push herself further, learn to harness the skills to benefit herself, trust the lessons others have to share, and use her disposable income to pay it forward.
Although working in such a white-dominated industry wasn’t easy at the start, Swift-Young did not let being a woman of color limit her. She set her focus on her passion for science and dedication to making a difference. And those motivations set her on course for seizing every opportunity to push herself and learn all she could.
Now, Swift-Young supports other women in medical sales with her strategy success coaching. While she does work with men in her coaching sessions as well, empowering women of color in particular has been her focus.
With over twenty years of experience, Swift-Young’s perspective on the industry is invaluable. Here’s what she wants to share with women charting their course in medical sales:
Be a lifelong learner
One of the best ways to move beyond any barrier in your path is to constantly challenge yourself to learn more, do more, and be more than you thought possible. Swift-Young’s determination and love for learning are evident in her success in sales.
I love being around people who challenge me. And in this industry, you surround yourself with people who are at the top of their game, like doctors, nurses, and pharmacists. These are really smart people. I’ve gotten my MBA, but the clients have pushed even further with their fellowships and beyond.
So the challenge is to always be on that cutting edge and stretch your knowledge base. And you will never get to the point that you have all the information because things always change.
In my experience, being a woman of color in a space where there weren’t many has also been a big motivator to continue to push myself. Being different in the room, I’m probably one of the first people like me that someone has worked with in this capacity. So, for me, it was important that I make sure to represent accurately, and to the best of my ability.
Learning to be a lifelong learner also involves building your communication and listening skills. I know the conventional wisdom says, “If you’re not telling, you’re not selling.” And when I first started, I probably believed that. But as I’ve moved up the ranks, I’ve learned it’s really about understanding what your customer wants, or even your boss. You gain so much from really listening to what they’re looking for.
Recommended reading: Use these tools to improve your communication skills!
Give yourself what you give to others
Too often, women (especially, women of color) hold themselves back because they don’t recognize they are ready for or deserving of the next promotion or raise. In an effort to give and grow for the sake of others, they forget to give themselves a boost, according to Swift-Young’s experience in the sales field.
I think a lot of times, because women are givers, we go through all these processes for others. But we don’t always see ourselves in those places. We have all these skill sets, and we use them in so many areas. But so rarely do we apply them to ourselves.
For example, I think women in medical sales have an innate ability to organize and plan. We’re used to planning out objectives and goals. And those are things that you can use in your life.
What skill sets do you want to hone? What opportunities can help you reach your personal goal? The company has their own objective. But what is yours?
Developing a personal strategy is very similar to what you do for your company. And having it helps you move forward when things get challenging — it helps you build milestones.
Additionally, a lot of the companies I’ve worked with in the past have really good resources on their platform. So learning to access them and use the people around you to build a skill set you can use for the current company and beyond.
Recommended reading: No matter what you’re going through, remember to prioritize your growth:
Find a valuable mentor
Finding the right mentor at the right time can make the difference in how you chart your course, but women need to be reminded this option is available to them. Swift-Young shares that women of color, in particular, can make leaps and bounds in their careers by finding inspiration in their allies.
When I first started in pharma, there were two women in medical sales pivotal to my success. They gave me my first shot to get into the business. They were sort of mentors, and I don’t think I even knew what that was at the time.
For women of color specifically, that is something that has not always been available. My mentors were not women of color, but they were allies. And so I think women of color ought to look for allies and/or women of color in their industry to guide them.
Women of color can even look outside their industry. Finding mentors, coaches, or sponsors is something that is new to the Black community because it hasn’t always been available. But the interesting thing now is that you can have a virtual mentor or coach who you’ve never met.
A good mentor or coach is really someone who helps you navigate through the different challenges and shows you the steps to getting to resources. There’s a ton of information out there that can be so helpful to your path. But looking for it on your own might take you ten steps whereas a mentor can show you how to get it in three.
Invest in philanthropy
Of all the great aspects of being a medical sales rep, most (32%) say making a difference and having an impact are the best parts of their job. Swift-Young shares her passion for philanthropy and suggests how great of a difference women in medical sales could make banding together for this cause.
One of what I view as being my most important roles in this industry has been philanthropy. And that can be on the financial side, but it’s also about giving back. I really want to emphasize how important that is.
As I’ve jumped into the role of philanthropy with a variety of foundations, including my own, I’ve learned that there’s a weight to it. Philanthropy has intention and direction. It brings you power as an individual and reminds you of the responsibility you have.
In medical sales, particularly, there’s usually disposable income. And giving back keeps you focused on what you’re really doing the job for. It isn’t all about the money or the expensive car. Philanthropy grounds you in your purpose.
For me, it’s been a reminder that I do what I do for my job because I get the chance to make a difference while making a living.
Women, I believe, will change the way things are. For some this notion can be scary. Change is hard and uncomfortable. I believe women will use their power to heal and humanize others. Using this power in a platform like philanthropy will make a difference in our community, country, and the world.