Career Stories

How a Music Major Built a Meaningful Career as a Biotech Marketer

Hùng Pham, a senior marketing manager at Biogen.
Hùng Pham, a senior marketing manager at Biogen.
| Courtesy of Biogen

One of Hùng Pham’s favorite icebreakers when he meets new people is revealing his college major in music. His choice of study is surprising, given that he’s currently a senior marketing manager at the biotechnology company Biogen, supporting the U.S. Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) franchise.

Pham launched his career in marketing communications in the nonprofit space, and later pivoted into the pharmaceutical and biotech industries. “There’s a common thread of helping people and patients care for their health throughout my career that I’m extremely proud of,” he says.

Here, Pham talks about transitioning into a new industry, his career growth since joining Biogen, and some of the lessons he’s learned throughout his marketing career.

Tell us about your career journey, and how you got to where you are today.

I spent the first decade of my career working for different patient and health advocacy nonprofit organizations, where I focused on developing and executing marketing materials. I also managed fundraising events like annual walks, receptions, and galas. During this time, I had the opportunity to work closely with pharmaceutical and biotech companies as event sponsors, and that experience piqued my interest in those industries.

I initially struggled to pivot because my nonprofit experience didn’t quite fit what most organizations were looking for. I eventually found a role on a retail pharmacy marketing team, which I believed to be a step in the right direction. While there, I learned about the health insurance landscape and continued refining my strategic marketing skills and executing projects in a corporate setting, which was a big change from the nonprofit world.

Later, through a friend and mentor, I secured my first role in the pharmaceutical industry working on marketing strategies for a neurology franchise with therapies that treat epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease. Neurology was far from where I imagined my career might take me, but it’s become another thread on my journey of helping patients. It also led me to an opportunity to join the Alzheimer’s disease marketing team at Biogen. I was familiar with Biogen, and the chance to join the team in its early stages and build toward a product launch was something I couldn’t pass up.

What attracted you to work at Biogen?

Biogen’s mission aligns with my personal belief that every person should have access to the medicines, therapies, and resources that allow them to live their best life possible. I’ve been fortunate that my career has allowed me to use my passion and skill set to deliver on that belief.

Biogen also had the balance I was looking for: company size, visibility to leadership and other colleagues, responsibility, and the opportunity to make an impact.

What are you responsible for in your role?

I primarily manage non-personal promotions geared toward healthcare professionals (HCPs). Non-personal promotion, as the name implies, is marketing or advertising that usually casts a wider net—things like email marketing, banner ads on websites, and social media campaigns. These tactics complement the direct interaction between a sales representative and a doctor.

I also help manage our presence at professional society meetings and congresses, create strategies for digitally engaging and nurturing customers, and collaborate closely with our field sales team to ensure they have the tools and resources needed to interact with customers.

What about this work is exciting and inspiring?

One of the greatest joys I get out of my work is that what I’m doing could ultimately help a patient. Most of us have been a patient at one point or another, and many of us are or may become a caregiver during our lifetime. It’s exciting and inspiring to know that the work I do educates, informs, and helps patients and caregivers, whether directly or through their doctors and care teams.

What do you like best about the company culture at Biogen?

The culture—how things get done, how colleagues interact with each other, and our shared stories—is one of the best that I’ve experienced to date. I joined Biogen in 2020, and working virtually made it almost impossible to separate work and personal life. (In those early days, it was not unusual to see me holding one of my newborn twins while on a conference call!) But the teams I’ve been on truly care for each other inside and outside of work. I’m also now a member of the company’s Parent Networking Group.

I have also benefited from Biogen “walking the talk” around talent development. I’ve had the opportunity to work with incredible leaders who became mentors and advocates, and I’m already in my fourth role here because they have allowed me to grow. These leaders want to hear my voice and opinion. The opportunity to demonstrate my skills and value, and to be subsequently recognized for it makes me an even stronger believer of the culture and people here at Biogen.

What advice do you have for someone just starting out in their career?

There are three key things I’ve learned along the way:

Be curious with other people because it helps build better relationships and expands the mind.

Be resilient. Things don’t always go as planned, and over the course of my career, flexibility has been key. Others have sought me out because they know I can adapt and am comfortable in the face of constant change.

Be generous. Give your time, share your talents, and offer your wisdom to the extent that you’re able to. Generously place your skills and efforts into things that move the needle, at work and at home. Over time, your curiosity and resiliency will help you identify what those things are.

What skills and characteristics would a candidate need to succeed as part of your team?

Although it’s usually easier to identify the “hard skills”—things like years of experience and technical fluency with programs we use—I believe that “soft skills” are where candidates can really set themselves apart. For example, your attitude and personality, how empathetic you are toward others, how much grit and drive you have, and your ability to read people and situations and adapt accordingly. 

If “hard skills” are foundational to what you do, then “soft skills” influence how you do it. If you’re someone who’s willing to roll up your sleeves, get a little messy, learn in the process, and not take yourself too seriously—we can teach you the “what.” You just need to bring your unique “how.”

What’s the best career advice you’ve received?

Take feedback—both positive and constructive—from others with grace. More importantly, act on that feedback: Keep doing the things that create positive feedback, and adjust the things that return constructive feedback. Strive to continuously learn.

Above all, the best career advice might be to not let your career be the only thing in your life. You are so much more than your title at work. Whether it’s a parent, sibling, spouse, partner, volunteer, friend or—more likely—a large combination of them, make sure you work on your titles outside of work, too!

Updated 8/16/2022