‘When You Get Told ‘No,’ It’s not Rejection But Redirection’: Be Unafraid In Defining Your Career

Sponsored by Pfizer

Shandy Reed

Photo courtesy of Pfizer.

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“Ease is a greater threat to progress than hardship.” — Denzel Washington.

That’s the advice Shandy Reed has for women who are trying to find their professional passion and purpose. “Sometimes, we’re afraid to get out there and try something new out of fear and for a million other reasons,” she states. “However, we don’t always recognize that when we stretch ourselves and find our voices, something incredible is waiting on the other side. I believe in staying true to yourself and not trying to fit into anyone’s mold of who you are or should be. I have a quote on my wall that says: ‘There will always be someone who can’t see your worth. Don’t let it be YOU.’”

In her own experience, this advice has helped Reed direct her own career in a way that works for her. For instance, Reed left the pharma industry a few times in order to open up more opportunities for her family. “I’m sure many people thought I was crazy to branch out and try something new, but those pivots brought on new challenges and the development of new skills that have helped me succeed in various situations,” notes Reed. “I’m grateful for the times I took calculated risks.”

Thanks to these risks, she’s been able to grow a career that suits her. Previously a Patient Access Coordinator in Rare Disease at Pfizer, Reed recently transitioned to a Rare Disease Community Activation Lead role for the West.

This is a perfect career move for Reed, who describes herself as “a true health and education advocate.” “I’ve been committed to finding work that allows me to improve health literacy and health equity,” she tells us. “Each of these roles are unique and involve doing work I am truly passionate about. They also align with my purpose of serving others.” 

For those seeking a great career that brings them fulfillment and joy like Reed has, she suggests focusing on your strengths and passions — as well as staying true to yourself.

To understand more about her career journey, leadership and the advice she has for others looking to grow in their professional lives, we recently reached out to Reed. Here’s what she had to say.

Tell us about your previous and current job.

I was a Patient Access Coordinator or PAC for the last year.  When patients opt-in, the PAC's offer support on issues related to access, reimbursement and coverage while trying to help reduce drug accessibility barriers.  In this role, I was helping patients and caregivers navigate through the access journey when they were prescribed medication for ATTR-CM, a form of heart failure. 

In this new role, I will be working to expand a community outreach program called “Voices for the Heart” that strives to raise awareness about hereditary ATTR-CM (transthyretin amyloid cardiomyopathy) in the Black, African American, and Afro-Caribbean communities. 

What do you find most rewarding and challenging about your work?  

The most rewarding part of this work is being able to interface with opted-in patients and caregivers every day. It’s such a privilege to offer support, especially knowing how much these families have been through. To be able to assist them in this way and through this process is a humbling and wonderful experience. 

The most challenging part of this work is the emotional lift it can be sometimes.  We want to help the patient as quickly as possible, as we recognize the seriousness of their diagnosis, but things don’t always work out. Being empathetic and patient in seeing each case through is very important

What advice do you have for someone new to your industry? 

Find a mentor and have touch points with them monthly or every other month depending on what your goals are. And always remember that when you get told “no,” it’s not rejection but redirection. Every “no” I’ve received in my career was a blessing in disguise or just an opportunity to pivot and grow in a different direction.  

What is your No. 1 piece of advice for women who are moving into or want to move into leadership roles?  

Diversity of skills and thought are what make companies and projects thrive. Everyone doesn’t have to be — and shouldn’t be — carbon copies of one another. Teamwork makes the dream work.

Let’s talk about your company’s culture. What’s your favorite aspect of it, and how does your company help you succeed?  

I love the people that I work with and feel that my colleagues truly want to be successful and do excellent work. Our people are what make the culture in Rare Disease great. One of the things that’s helped me succeed are the tremendous benefits that are offered to employees. From medical benefits to caregiver resources to continuing education support — these are all things that help me and others work well and with purpose.

What people, resources, and tools do you rely on to get on to attain work-life balance? 

I’m a big proponent of mentorship. I’ve had incredible mentors throughout my life and career, and they’ve all made a difference! I also believe that sometimes you have to say “no” so that you can say “yes.” I’ve learned that you indeed can do all the things… but not necessarily do all the things well. Just because you might desire to get promoted or advance in your career doesn’t mean you need to raise your hand and be involved in everything. Though I’m still a work in progress with this, having boundaries at work and home is important and necessary. 

What’s the most memorable piece of career advice you’ve ever received?  

Don’t chase a role or a title, but chase the capabilities that you can gain from career opportunities. The industry is changing and so are job responsibilities. Focus more on what you want to learn and gain from an experience and how you might contribute to a role, versus just chasing a title or career grade. (Thank you, LaSonja Chapple Campbell ?.)

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