Although just 22 years old, Daniel Thompson’s life has been impacted by a series of health tragedies to hit those closest to him.

The University of Aberdeen student recently lost a grandparent to the aggressive brain cancer glioblastoma, a close friend died of bile duct cancer cholangiocarcinoma and he also witnessed a death first-hand.

But these heart-breaking events have made Daniel, from Aberdeen, who is studying a Masters in Chemistry, more determined than ever to follow a career in medicine, medical research and the pharmaceutical industry.

“I am determined to learn from these experiences and want to go into medical research where I can contribute to the development of new treatments and help people hopefully overcome their illnesses in the future,” he says. “I am incredibly passionate about medical research and what it can achieve and really want to pursue this as my career.”

Daniel, who is the first member of his family to go to university, recently completed our first Summer Student Placement Programme which saw him picked as one of 10 students from 270 applicants to become a Regulatory Affairs Officer in Sanofi UK’s General Medicines unit.

At Sanofi, we know that our business thrives on new ideas and fresh perspectives which is why we launched the programme, giving university students the opportunity to work at the heart of some of our key strategic business areas and gain vital experience and insights into how the pharmaceutical industry works.
Despite the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, we have successfully implemented the programme which gave the students valuable, hands-on experience while developing key skills such as communication, teamwork and problem solving. It also gave Sanofi the chance to embrace generational diversity and develop some vital project work with different insights and approaches.

The programme ran from July 15 to September 30 with roles across General Medicines, Regulatory Affairs, Supply Chain, Public Affairs & Advocacy, Finance, Human Resources, Pasteur, Medical and Market Access.

Nothing provides Daniel with more enjoyment and satisfaction than reaching the top of a mountain.

Daniel says: “My role focused on submitting applications for a variety of licenses as well as a few projects related to Brexit. I was very proactive, so I had the opportunity to work with different members of the team, allowing me to gain very useful insights on a variety of topics,” adding that the experience gave him: “huge in-depth and valuable knowledge into the pharmaceutical industry.”

“Offering internships provides students with work experience, both doing meaningful work for us, but also letting them experience what it is like to have a full-time job and work in a large international company.” Gordon Tillett, Head of HR

Supporting the Next Generation During a Global Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on people worldwide, but the younger generation has been particularly affected with universities forced to close their doors, work experience opportunities drying up and even jobs no longer available.

According to the youth charity YMCA, a third of 18-24-year-olds have lost their job through either furlough or redundancy. And a report by the London School of Economics in 2020 found that young workers were twice as likely to have lost their jobs compared to older employees and 62% of university students questioned said their long-term plans have been affected, with 68% saying they believed their future educational achievement will be affected by coronavirus.

Because of the pandemic and lockdown restrictions, the students also faced the challenge of kick-starting their placement in a remote working environment. Every student rose to the challenge and, mid-way through the programme, the company returned to its pre-pandemic hybrid working model allowing employees back into the office part time.

Sanofi UK Head of HR, Gordon Tillett, says: “It is always hard for young people to start work as employers look for those with work experience. Offering internships provides them with work experience, both doing meaningful work for us, but also letting them experience what it is like to have a full-time job and work in a large international company.”

“We had an impressive number of students apply for just 10 places and it was tough to make a decision. We were looking for students with a hunger to learn and a good mix of experiences at university who showed that they were doing more than just study. Being a well-rounded person with a broad range of interests is incredibly important and we were also looking for a diverse group to join us”, Gordon adds.

Learning from each other
Celine Hashweh from Amman, Jordan, is studying a Masters in Genetics at the University of York and was picked to work in Sanofi’s Medical department.

She says: “I was involved in various activities in the medical department and was always encouraged to challenge myself, push boundaries and make the most out of my time here. This was my first job working at a leading company and when I was able to go into the office, I really liked the environment and culture there.” 

Celine, 21, adds: “With the help of many people in Medical, I reached out to colleagues to learn about their roles and improve my knowledge of routes I can take in the pharmaceutical industry. I was constantly given the opportunity to work on my career and CV development through networking, working on different projects and attending lots of meetings. I led the delivery of an educational video on the epidemiology of flu in light of COVID-19 and had the opportunity to work with external parties. I was delighted to drive a project from start to finish."

“This was my first job working at a leading company and when I was able to go into the office, it was a fantastic opportunity to fully immerse myself, build a wider network and I really liked the environment and culture there.”

Celine worked in the team led by Ian Gray, Medical Director for UK & Ireland, who felt that the experience will help her pursue her next role with confidence.

He says: “It was rewarding to see her evolve into a confident, productive team member over the course of the programme, bringing new energy, enthusiasm and voicing a different prospective to our activities. This opportunity and experience will help Celine pursue her next role with confidence.”

Exercise plays an essential role in Celine’s day to day.

Roles in different areas of the business
Brigitta Fora, 28, from Budapest, Hungary worked in Market Access during her placement. Currently studying an MSc in International Health Policy at the London School of Economics, her aim was to “learn as much as possible about the strategy of how different products enter the market and the economics behind the process.”

Not only was Brigitta able to learn, but according to her boss Richard Hudson, Senior Health Outcomes manager, she also added great value to the team.

He said: “From the student side we have been keen that they get an experience of pharma and the market access community that is as wide possible. This has been tricky in the COVID environment where most people are working from home, but I believe my student now has a real sense of what working in market access is all about through the many meetings we set up with colleagues from across the business and the times she has been able to come into the office (on one occasion for a market access paddle boarding session on the Thames!).”

Also, “she has been gathering insights and information to help us with some of our submissions to regulatory authorities. The information collected will be invaluable in making sure we are ready to tackle them when they come around.”

Brigitta finished her placement convinced about how she wants her career to be. “My experience at Sanofi reinforced me that I would like to work in the industry. Pharma offers real purpose and many exciting opportunities.”

Brigitta loves to enjoy nature in her free time.

The Future’s Bright
Each of the students of 2021 - Bence Balazs, Jaweria Khalid, Namra Din, Celine Hashweh, Amaal Hasen, Lizzie Brown, Yimian Tiang, Elena Crameri, Brigitta Fora and Daniel Thompson - have contributed a huge amount to Sanofi during their placements.

According to Gordon, the programme “went very well, with high calibre students who did valuable work and showed fantastic flexibility during challenging times when they had to be partly in the office and partly working from home. That is not easy when on work experience and they all rose to the challenge and excelled during their placements.”

“Nurturing the next generation of innovative thinking is important to everyone here in the UK. This is a brilliant initiative and is one that has been a huge success and we are already looking forward to welcoming and supporting the new intake in 2022.”

For anyone interested in joining the programme, we will be providing more information about how to apply on our website and social media in the coming months. 

In the meantime, if you have any questions, please contact us via our Twitter channel and we’ll answer all your queries.

Some of the students welcomed by the Head of HR, Gordon Tillett, on their first day at Sanofi UK.