All the gear but no idea - A Q&A with Mollie Gunn, Practice Manager

7 Minutes

How long have you worked at i-Pharm Consulting and what are the main responsibilities of you...


How long have you worked at i-Pharm Consulting and what are the main responsibilities of your role?

I started at i-Pharm back in April 2019. It feels like last year, it’s gone by so quickly! I work on Commercial and Medical Affairs talent acquisition within the Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology space.

Tell us a bit about your Functional Specialism

I focus on roles within Medical Affairs, Sales, Marketing and anything digital all within the Pharmaceutical, Biotechnology, Consumer Healthcare, Medical Aesthetics and Animal Health space. It’s quite a broad market, however it’s given me the opportunity to work with companies that I really like and have a real interest in. I’ve put a lot of time and effort into working with companies that are niche, different and that I share the same values with because it helps when I’m speaking with candidates. I focus on entry level roles up to senior management including C-Suite and director level appointments with a focus on niche, senior, critical and multi hire campaigns.

How did you get to where you are now?

When I kickstarted my career in recruitment, I had no experience as my background was in Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Science. I studied that back at home in Ireland, but it was difficult to get an entry level role within Pharma there and I knew that I wasn’t someone who wanted to work in a lab for the rest of my life. I then decided to move to Australia, and I got my first ever telephone sales job in life insurance sales and I honestly don’t think I would be as good in recruitment if I hadn’t done that job. It was the most intense sales job ever as we used to ring up like 700 people a day. I figured out then and there that I was super competitive, I really liked being on the phone and from there I decided to get into recruitment.

I had one interview, but I didn’t understand what recruitment really was in terms of client and candidate management, so I didn’t end up getting into recruitment then. I then got a job in what my plan was, in Medical Sales. I did that for a couple of months, but it was all on the phone again and it wasn’t overly challenging, it was great but at the same time I knew I wanted something more. After that, I decided that I was going to get into recruitment.

I wanted to combine recruitment with what I had done previously which was medical sales and then I found i-Pharm. I started in 2019 as a junior recruiter with absolutely all the gear but no idea. The first six months were challenging. I was stressed and anxious but my way of channelling that was by ringing everyone and talking to as many people as I could to understand the market. Within the first nine months I ended up making nine placements which I didn’t expect because everyone else always said that your first six months in recruitment are hard. I realised in January 2020 that I was good at this and then 2021 took off with insane growth. I guess three years of hard work and three years down the line, people remember who you are from simply calling them and just building super strong relationships. That’s my approach, it’s always been long term, so I’ve always had a longer-term approach to everything that I do in recruitment.

What do you enjoy most about working at i-Pharm?

In all honesty, I don’t think I would work for another recruitment company. I see myself staying here at i-Pharm for a long time because the people that I work with, and my boss are phenomenal. I feel valued here. Even the small things like receiving recognition for making deals and sharing special announcements internally like your work anniversary. I’m someone who likes having that recognition, that’s why I do what I do because we all feel really valued.

Here in Sydney in particular, there’s only ten of us so we’re all very close knit, we’re like friends rather than colleagues and everyone here works collaboratively to hit the same goals. That’s one of my favourite things, we’re all super motivated. The flexibility piece has also been huge. I’ve wanted a dog for years but could never get one. i-Pharm then announced that we could work from home, and I knew that was my sign to get a dog. It may sound silly but having that flexibility and the option to manage my day has been huge. The unlimited annual leave has been a game changer for us as well as most of us here are expats, so it’s stressful trying to manage your whole year around going home and you don’t want to book any other holidays as you have this big bulk of time that you want to spend at home. Having the unlimited annual leave this year has been a massive relief for me. Overall, I’d say culture is the most important thing and I recruit in an industry that I’m obsessed with.

What do you think makes your team a success?

In Commercial, everyone is super motivated, and we do the right thing by our clients and our candidates always. If that means that we don’t necessarily make a deal, that’s fine as I’d rather be able to sleep at night than do something to jeopardise that. Honesty and transparency are always our priority. Candidate experience is really important for us too. We treat everyone the same way whether you’re a client or a candidate. This ties into that long term piece where I think this might be a candidate now but, in the future, they might be a hiring manager. It’s also the drive and motivation that we all have. Everyone wants to do well, and we all want to see each other do well so we pull each other up. Those are the two main things, caring about people and being motivated to do well and to be successful.

What have been your proudest achievements, individually and as a team?

Individually was probably 2021, because that was an unbelievable year and I never expected that to happen. The fact that I qualified for the incentive trip to Whistler, Canada was huge as well as my promotion to Practice Manager. Team wise, the sheer amount of growth that we’ve seen not just within the consultants as we’ve doubled in size, but probably from a revenue perspective and just genuinely seeing how we’ve gone from doing well to this very high level with everyone performing strongly. When I first started here, we weren’t doing half of the work that we’re doing now and just seeing some of the clients that other teams have brought on and some of the candidates that we work with is amazing. I’ve seen us as a team get better every single year and grow personally and within the business. We should all be really proud of that growth.

What’s something about you (a fun fact) that not many people know?

My real name is Lauren but when I was a baby my nana used to say ‘Mollie my Irish Mollie’ so the name just stuck!

What would you do (for a career) if you weren’t in recruitment?

I would probably work in Animal Health Sales as a representative for a company that would sell into vets. I would basically be doing one of the jobs that I recruit for.

If you could meet anyone, living or dead, who would you meet?

Elon Musk. His worth ethic is insane, and I would love to pick his brain and understand how he became so successful.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to get into recruitment?

Do your research and figure out whether this is genuinely the sort of role that you’ll like and be good at because a lot of online sources give you an overview of what recruiters do, but don’t give you a full insight into the realities of the day-to-day. When you’re getting into an interview setting you may find that you are not able to answer questions as best as you can because you don’t have a full understanding of the role.

Especially for 360 recruitment, it’s vital to understand the importance of what business development is, what strategy you’ll use, how much work it takes, understanding the account management aspect, the whole sales cycle and simply understanding the type of environment that recruitment is. You want to make sure you’re someone who likes to work towards targets, is driven by doing well and by being successful, so understanding the role is really important.

Perhaps speak to other recruiters in the industry and find out what they did, how it was when they started, understanding what the desk was like that they started on, whether it was client services or key account management. You really need to understand everything about the role that you’re interviewing for and what your job is going to be. I think talking to other recruiters and understanding some of the challenges and positives they’ve had will really get you fired up.

So doing your due diligence in terms of understanding your role, understanding the market and what it’s going to take, as if it was easy everyone would do it. Know how to manage your own emotions and your own expectations but I think talking to people and doing your research is the best way.

Check out our Careers Site for more information on life at i-Pharm.