Meet the trained scientist who transferred to PR

It’s 2020 and we’re in the thick of the pandemic. As one of the privileged few that got to go to my place of work, I load my antibiotic bone cement samples into the furnace in the lab. They’ve got to sit in there at a temperature of 800°C for nearly an hour – plenty of time to contemplate my life choices.  

It might seem like a leap to go from a career in pharmaceutical science to PR, but in that moment it made sense to me. As an undergrad I did Medical Physiology, after which I started doing pure chemistry in a pharmaceutical lab. For the non-scientists reading, that’s already quite a shift, but I craved an even more seismic career shake up. I wanted a career that would allow me to flex my creative muscles while also feeding the methodical mind I’d sharpened during my time spent in the world of science. In all honesty, PR hadn’t crossed my mind before the pandemic. As an outsider looking in, the industry began to stand out as brands scrambled to respond to unprecedented times. I felt that people like myself, often moved to action by a health event, might be uniquely positioned to add value to the industry. During my scientific career I’d had to deal with many a potential crisis or hazardous situation, and talk through an exciting potential new breakthrough in a friendly, professional and engaging manner – PR is same thing, right? 

I found myself particularly impressed by the variety offered by the Splendid Futures internship programmme. If I was going to make this change, I wanted the opportunity to try it all. Now that I’m in, I can confirm I get to do pretty much everything and anything from helping to develop ideas that will turn into a campaign for a well-known brand, to watching someone on Instagram unbox the mailer I personally packed and sent to them.  

As a former scientist, I often had to describe abstract concepts in a meaningful way. This has felt strangely similar in practice to my work now. Whether I’m writing up the literal abstract for a new study or explaining why I’m certain that influencer X should be the face of a new campaign, I’ve had to be ready with a good rationale for my decisions and plan appropriately.  

Since joining the world of PR just over 2 months ago, I’ve quickly felt the tangible impact you can have on your audience. Don’t get me wrong, on a day-to-day basis my experience of hospitals, and pharmaceutical or clinical physiology labs had me on my feet – but the kind of practical lab work I found myself doing didn’t really allow me to inject much of my own personal flare. I wanted a career where I could see my ideas shaping our work more immediately. PR is great for this. Through brainstorming, media outreach, and the very visible results of what we do, you can establish your voice quickly and see the positive impact you make. 

My advice for anyone considering a similar leap of faith from science to PR: do it. There’s likely a reason you feel drawn to that job description you’ve bookmarked, and you never know what you’re capable of unless you try. All that time spent learning about research design and big data still comes in handy for me when I’m coming up with new ideas or tracking what our competitors are doing. Small warning: the abbreviations and acronyms in this industry are, at first, a lot more confusing than chemical compounds or drug names though, so be prepared! 

Aneesa Kaleem