USYD pharmacist: how I became a senior product manager

William Pastega is a senior product manager at Novartis
William Pastega is a Sydney Pharmacy School graduate working in the pharmaceutical industry. He manages the Novartis ophthalmology portfolio worth $100 million each year.

Early career

William originally studied science with a pharmacology major, he dabbled in the industry for about a year, then returned to the University of Sydney to complete a Master of Pharmacy.

After graduating, William entered into the community pharmacy sector and spent the next four years as a head pharmacist. For William, this time was infinitely valuable and solidified the foundations of his career.

How to break into big pharma

William Pastega, Master of Pharmacy graduate.

William Pastega, Master of Pharmacy graduate.

Now, as a senior product manager, he is involved in hiring medical science liaisons, many of whom come straight from community pharmacy, “they understand what patients need, are more well-rounded, have a different approach and are better equipped for the industry.”

William is often asked what is the best way to break into the pharmaceutical industry. "A MSL [medical science liaison] is honestly the best role to enter the industry in, it’s a relatively new role and is a great way to understand the industry” he advises.

From an MSL position, you can take either the medical route (eg, clinical trials) or the commercial route as William did. He became a team leader, then a product manager and is now the senior product manager.

Day in the life

Day-to-day William is responsible for all of the commercial activities that happen within the portfolio. His days range from ensuring there is enough product in the country, negotiating with the pharmaceutical benefits scheme for an appropriate price, to travelling to meet the prescribers to understand their needs and requirements. He is even going to Barcelona to the World Ophthalmology Congress in a week’s time.

Today, career opportunities in pharmacy are very diverse. He explains that pharmacy can open every door in the industry. “A PhD can do the same thing, but a pharmacy degree will do it quicker and will give you the practical experience.”

William's career timeline

  • 11/11/2005
    Photo of bottles, beakers and other science equipment

    Bachelor of Science

    Graduated BSc majoring in physiology and pharmacology
  • 13/11/2009
    Photo of the pharmacy building exterior

    Master of Pharmacy

    Graduated MPharm the graduate-entry master's program
  • 21/09/2011
    Photo of pharmacist organising medicines on shelf

    Pharmacist manager

    Head pharmacists at Penna's Pharmacy in Edensor Park
  • 16/01/2015
    Architectural photo of the Novartis headquarters building

    Medical science liaison

    Moved into the pharmaceutical industry in various medical science liaison roles at Novartis
  • 15/07/2016
    Photograph of workers in open plan office

    Product manager

    Promoted to product manager at Novartis
  • Photo of a man walking through the Novartis foyer

    Senior product manager

    Current role at Novartis under the ophthalmology portfolio
25 July 2018