Born in Surrey and attending a Catholic convent school, Bushra Ahmed, 41, spent her formative years living in Spain where her father took a job before moving to Bradford at the age of ten to be surrounded by family members.
Recently, she took on a role as a senior consultant at The Value Circle, an organisation that partners with large private and public sector organisations, such as the NHS, to provide external strategic change, policy support and board development.
With an interest in science as a young girl, Mrs Ahmed didn’t know what career path she wanted to take once she completed her A-levels at Huddersfield New College. It wasn’t until her father drove her to Blackburn, Lancashire, to speak with a relative who worked in pharmaceutical sales that she decided that she wanted to enter the big pharma sector.
Mrs Ahmed said: “I was born in Surrey, and I went to a Catholic convent school in Windsor before moving to Spain with my family for a couple of years as my father travelled for business.
I enjoyed my time at the convent, the discipline was interesting, In Spain, I attended an English-speaking school. We didn’t move to Bradford until I was ten because of my mum’s family connections.
“I knew I liked science, but I wasn’t sure about what I wanted to do. My dad was at a wedding where he met a relative who was telling him about his job and that it was a high-level role. My dad took me to Blackburn to visit him where he explained about the role, and I thought it sounded great and extremely interesting.
“During college and university, I did some sales roles to prepare myself for when I graduated. I was a team leader in the children’s clothing department, a checkout operator in Morrisons and I also worked at the National Blood Service.”
Mrs Ahmed graduated from the University of Huddersfield with a Bachelor of Science in Pharmaceutical Sciences. However, she didn’t enter the industry straight away. After getting married to her husband, Mrs Ahmed fell pregnant with her two children and spent their early years at home looking after them before she entered the job market.
The pharmaceutical industry is big business in the UK with an annual turnover of £36.7bn every year, with 63,900 people employed in the industry in 2017
“I knew I liked science, but I wasn’t sure about what I wanted to do. My dad was at a wedding where he met a relative who was telling him about his job and that it was a high-level role. My dad took me to Blackburn to visit him where he explained about the role, and I thought it sounded great and extremely interesting.“
After about a dozen interviews, Mrs Ahmed secured a role with one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies GSK, in 2006 where she achieved 110% of her projected sales, moving from a low coverage and frequency to exceeding her objectives. After being made redundant from her sales gig from working in the industry for half a dozen years, Mrs Ahmed set up her locum GP agency.
The senior consultant said: “Once I left university, I got married and had two children, so it wasn’t until a couple of years later when I began my career in pharmaceutical sales. This role was great because it fit around my family life, and I was able to have a good work-life balance.
“I spent about six years working in sales before being made redundant. When I was let go, I thought that I should dabble with business. I set up a local GP agency from the University of Bradford, where I made connections with practice managers, doctors, nurses and business managers.”
After just under two years of opening the locum agency, the pharmaceutical sales representative pursued a medical-legal company with one of the GPs she met through the locum agency. “Unfortunately, the doctor emigrated to the UAE, and I met another GP and worked together on a pharmacy project,” Mrs Ahmed said.
In 2013, Mrs Ahmed went back to big pharma, working as a therapy account specialist at AstraZeneca in the diabetes division for just under four years. Here, she ranked in the top three for regional sales in 2015 and ranked 8th overall out 137 teams across the UK.
She said: “I missed my sales job, so I went back to the pharmaceutical industry and secured a job working with AstraZeneca in the diabetes department.
“Diabetes is quite close to my heart as a lot of my family members are diagnosed with it. I’ve also seen the progression of the disease, with people close to me suffering from kidney failure which is where my interest in the disease comes from and what attracted me to this role.”
After a “volatile” two years in the big pharma industry with international layoffs due to the pandemic, Mrs Ahmed was recommended to apply for a senior consultant role at a company based in Wakefield that works with organisations such as the NHS to provide expert strategy-level advice.
The mum-of-three added: “My newest role is as a senior consultant at The Value Circle. The team is led by David Cockayne, who used to be the private secretary to the health minister, and we’ve got some high-profile people working on the team.
“The job is fantastic because we are working within new integrated care systems, consulting on strategy, governance, and change. Looking at how organisations work, how they set out their objectives and if they are hitting them.”
“Currently, we only work in the UK, but I think it would be interesting if we could work further afield abroad.”