“Re-examine the Career Codebook”: Key Insights from the 2022 SAPA Career Development Workshop-Master Class

On Aug 13, 2022, Sino-American Pharmaceutical Professionals Association (SAPA) Career Development Workshop-Master Class was held at School of Pharmacy, Fairleigh Dickinson University, Florham Park, New Jersey. Pharmaceutical and biomedical professionals gathered with career coaches and seasoned advocates to discuss the unspoken rules in workplaces and transform the mindsets to help their career advancement and growth.

The workshop was kicked off by John Sun, the workshop host, with a warm welcome to all the onsite and online attendees. He introduced the master class theme, “re-examine the career codebook”, aimed to explore the hidden rules that people unconsciously apply in their daily jobs and activities. Like playing poker games, people play their cards according to specific rules and instructions given to them. A winner at one game table may not necessarily perform well if he or she switched to a new game table where the players are playing differently. This illustration describes a common struggle that many professionals encountered when transitioning from academia to workplace. This master class includes six sessions covering various hot topics. Each topic tackled one type of mindset that may have hold us back in our career progression.

John Sun giving the opening remarks of the Career Development Workshop. 

SAPA President Xiaodong Chen also shared his personal growth experiences at SAPA and provided an overview of the SAPA organization and its missions. Xiaodong highlighted various SAPA achievements and continued community building efforts. He also invited folks to join the upcoming Summer Picnic (on August 27) and Annual Conference (September 30 & October 1). Xiaodong expressed gratitude toward SAPA leaders, volunteers, sponsors, and looked forward to continued collaborations.

SAPA President Xiaodong Chen introduced SAPA’s core missions and shared his career growth experiences with SAPA.


Session A: Understand and Manage Your Boss

Nicole Quon, Senior Director at Ferring Pharmaceuticals, started the first session of the day “Understand and manage your boss”. She presented three case studies where the subordinates fail to meet the managers’ expectations. Nicole pointed out that instead of passively and blindly doing what the manager asked you to do as in the old codebook we got from school, she encouraged people to actively understand the manager’s perspective. One can better comprehend the intention of their bosses by asking the following questions (1) What does my boss prioritize? (2) How does my boss like to work? and (3) What are my boss’s pet peeves?  By comparing the discrepancy between the manager and individual’s preferences and in working style, the subordinates can (1) change some of their own approaches, (2) ask the manager for things that matter to them, and (3) let go of unimportant aspects and focus on common interests and priorities.

Nicole Quon, Senior Director at Ferring Pharmaceuticals, presenting the first session “Understand and manage your boss”.


Session B: The Inside Story of Performance Review and IDP

Next, Toshio Kimura, Senior Director at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, revealed the inside story of performance review. Unlike in academia setting where students were graded on quizzes and exams, Toshio pointed out that managers are more likely to evaluate the subordinates’ performance on (1) the impact of their work, (2) the visibility they have gained through the work, and (3) the collaboration with teams and other functional groups in the organization. In addition to managers’ expectations on the jobs, subordinates should also think about taking extra responsibilities outside of their core roles, especially the tasks and activities that are aligned with their individual development plans. These above and beyond factors constitute a heavily weighted part of their performance evaluation. Back in the school days, students were solely judged by teachers or professors on how well they did in coursework and exams. Whereas, in workplace, it is more important to develop a systematic way of demonstrating the performance along with peers, managers, and stakeholders and collect their feedbacks. Moreover, increasing the visibility and networking within the organization will also help the associate to seize the opportunity for promotion. In other words, clarify aspirations, communicate & demonstrate commitment, and plan for succession.

Toshio Kimura, Senior Director at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, revealing “the Inside Story of Performance Review and Individual Development Plan”

After the two morning sessions, the representative from Accurant BioTech shared their core services and welcomed the new talents to join their fast-growing organization.

At the luncheon session held in a spacious lounge, the workshop instructors and workshop participants were excited to share their learnings, connect and build new networks.


Session C: From Gallup to Hogan – The Essence of Leadership

The afternoon sessions continued with Jingrong (Jamie) Huang, Founder and Leadership Coach at Princeton Leadership Academy, to discuss the essence of leadership. As a certified leadership coach, Jamie explained two of the most well-regarded leadership assessment tools, CliftonStrengths and Hogan Personality Inventory. Individual can use these tools to assess their strength and weakness. She demonstrated how individuals can leverage their personal strengths into essential leadership skills in workplace. Jamie suggested the audience to write a success journal by regularly recording personal growth and achievement, which will promote self-accountability, help us think beyond, and propel us forward and upward.

Jingrong (Jamie) Huang, Founder and Leadership Coach at Princeton Leadership Academy, is leading a vivid discussion with the workshop participants.


Session D: How to Toot Your Own Horn?

The following session “How to toot your own horn?” was presented by Lauren Supraner, the President of CAL Learning. Lauren asked the audience first to consider the differences between applying for college versus getting for promotion at workplace. Unlike the standardized tests and common requirements for evaluating students when applying to colleges, job promotions do not use standardized evaluations among the candidates. Therefore, selling yourself for promotion is an art at the workplace. To practice, first, one can start with crafting concise messages to discuss their successes, with a focus on outcomes and the bigger impacts of these successes. Ideally, one can supplement with vivid anecdotes or examples as they are more memorable. Next step is to build confidence and fluency by practicing self-promoting messages without digression. Finally, taking action and selling yourself at work with the consideration of (1) to whom you are selling your success to meet their needs, (2) additional values you can offer, and (3) how your success fits into the company’s larger picture.

Lauren Supraner, the Founder and President of CAL Learning, leading the session “How to Toot Your Own Horn?”


Session E: Work Smarter, Not Harder

The next session was led by Sandy Suh, Vice President, Regulatory Affairs & Chief Compliance Officer at Recordati Rare Diseases Inc. Sandy began the session by stating the importance of work smarter, not harder at business.  She then shared in detail on how to work efficiently. Her tips include (1) strategize your life and career by having a long-term goal and also day-to-day plans; (2) work efficiently to complete daily work sooner and then use the additional time to develop yourself; (3) know your preferences and what you want to do; (4) networking with people from different-levels and cross-functional teams in the company, and ask how you can do to help them; (5) build an authentic and trustful relationship with bosses and peers by sharing hobbies, interest and family/recreation stories; and (6) know your boss and his/her priority. In this interactive workshop, attendees also asked how to network with senior levels managers and received insightful feedback from the instructors.


Sandy Suh, Vice President, Regulatory Affairs & Chief Compliance Officer at Recordati Rare Diseases Inc., discussing with the audience on how to “Work Smarter, Not Harder”.


Session F: Redefine the Meaning of Success

At the last workshop session, John Sun, Global Program Lead at Novartis, asked the participants to redefine the meaning of success. Instead of focus on the glorious title and credentials, thinking more about the development journey and meaningful impact.  He first pointed out that time is precious and starting to advance early in career gives you more chances to advance. John shared his personal stories and his lessons learned in networking with senior management in the early stage of his career. John then shared his tenets for success and leadership, including how to go outside of his comfort zone to develop leadership capabilities, grow through conscious practice through non-linear progression, ask critical questions, praise people appropriately, and use body language to communicate and develop executive presence. In the end, John also provided several useful tips in happy hour settings, helping the participants to be mindful for the common mistakes in networking.

John Sun, the workshop host and Global Program Lead at Novartis, hosted the last session on “Redefine the Meaning of Success”. 

In the closing remarks, John encouraged all attendees to reflect the new rules in the career codebook, practice what they have learnt from the career development workshop on the next workday and check back on the progress over a year. To conclude the event, John wishes everyone the best in their career development and be memorable in a good way. SAPA will continue to host such high-quality career development events to support the growth and advancement of the pharmaceutical and biotech professionals.

Group photo of workshop attendees, speakers, organizing committee members and volunteers.


Participants actively interacted with the instructors, career coaches and advocates.