It took more than 40 job applications for Moriam Ajala to get a role working in the pharmaceutical industry, and now she is thriving.
In her ten years since qualifying as a pharmacist, she has risen to senior posts at Boehringer Ingelheim, specialising in medical compliance and certification, and now she is head of compliance services at Prism Ideas, an agency that provides final signatory services to big and small pharma across Europe.
In just one year, she grew her team from three people to nine — all women, many of whom had no previous experience in the industry. She also trained five employees across multiple European countries on the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations’ Code of Practice, who all passed their exams with flying colours.
“When I told people I moved into industry, they said: ‘Oh my gosh, you sold your soul’,” says Ajala. “But my sole purpose is to make sure that my patients are safe. That companies aren’t advertising drugs to people that they shouldn’t do or advertising drugs in ways that they shouldn’t do.”
What motivates her is knowing she can prevent incorrect information reaching not just the public, but also healthcare professionals, who will go on and prescribe to the public. “We need to make it as ethical and as compliant as possible,” she says.
At university, Ajala learnt little about the pharmaceutical industry, other than being told it was difficult to get into, and this is something she is keen to change. In her spare time, she guides others to help them into jobs in compliance: “I found I was doing quite a bit of training alongside my job and I really enjoyed that. I enjoyed the feeling of people coming on board into a brand-new industry and learning things, but even more so seeing pharmacists find this third route where I think you have a bit more work-life balance.”
She has mentored four pharmacy students and preregistration pharmacists, all of whom now work in the pharmaceutical industry. “I’ve managed to build a community of pharmacists who wanted to get into industry, it took them a while, but they’re finally in there now. It’s about letting pharmacists know that there are other options for them.”
Until now, this activity has been purely altruistic, but Ajala is taking a leap into the unknown once more and is about to leave her job to set up her own consultancy business. This will fuse her two interests: providing final signatory work, and formal training and mentoring.
“It’s almost like industry is another world. People don’t know, for example, that pharmacists are only one of two professions that can become final signatory. People just aren’t familiar with what is involved.” Just recently, she met a fellow pharmacist at her daughter’s nursery, who was peppering her with questions about the work she did after having to turn down a job at a pharmacy at Sainsbury’s because she couldn’t do the hours.
But Ajala fully acknowledges that she wouldn’t be where she is now without the fantastic support of managers along the way. Now, it’s her turn to pass that on and help build the confidence of others.
A couple of years from now, she hopes she has more success stories to share from those she has helped into the industry, as well as actively contributing herself. “I want to help with risky projects, to use my knowledge and experience to say ‘let’s make this more compliant’. But I also still want to be able to enjoy time, and my friends and my family and my daughter balance it all.”
“Moriam has demonstrable mentoring experience with junior colleagues and also has showcased their role to a diverse university membership”
“I am really grateful I met Moriam, she has been a great help and has showed me that a career in pharma is more than achievable”
“She encouraged me to not give up on pursuing my dream of working in the pharmaceutical industry”
Meet the rest of The Pharmaceutical Journal’s Women to Watch 2022 here