Marine Biology to Chief Executive British Pharmacological Society ITCIM Career Profiles
Name: Rachel Lambert-Forsyth (she/her)
Job Title: Chief Executive, British Pharmacological Society and Managing Director of BPSA Ltd
A levels/ equivalent: Biology, Chemistry, Psychology and Theatre Studies A Levels
Undergrad and post grad degrees: BSc Marine Biology and Coastal Ecology and MSc Sustainable Environmental Management
Favourite science fact: Barnacles have evolved the longest penis of any animal for their size - up to 8 times their body length - so they can find and fertilise distant neighbours. I loved being told this on a rocky shore in the South West when studying – my 2 primary age son’s also love it!
Journey in 3 Words: Rapid Exciting Supportive
Briefly describe your role: Working closely with our Trustee Board and the senior management team, I am responsible for delivering the vision, mission and strategy of the British Pharmacological Society, and its subsidiary company (BPSA Ltd).
What motivated you to pursue a career in science: I have always loved the natural world and had an affinity with the marine environment since a young age. I studied marine biology, and then went on to study sustainable environmental management as I found out in my undergraduate degree that whilst I loved the outputs of scientific research, I was a really bad research scientist! It was the combination of my love of scientific evidence, informed debate, and policy development, that eventually brought me to my roles within the scientific learned society world.
What advice would you give someone wanting to follow the same path? Firstly, go for it! Secondly be open to opportunities and do not worry too much about following the same path as others. I initially felt like a bit of a failure that my degree didn’t lead to working in the ocean or within the marine sector. Overtime I realised that my degree set me up for a really exciting career and that an education in biological sciences provides many transferrable skills that are attractive to employers (more on that later).
What advice would you give your younger self: Take up any opportunities to grow your CV (within reason – don’t over stretch yourself!) and learn from those you admire, actively seek out opportunities to gain experience, and don’t be afraid to ask for support.
What transferrable skills do you use from your degree now in your job: My degree taught me to analyse data and consider all the evidence in front of you before making a decision. It was in my Masters that I learnt to debate and discuss ideas, challenge the status quo, and bring together multiple disciplines to answer big societal questions from a societal, economic and scientific view point. It also developed my communication skills so that I could discuss complex ideas in a clear and concise manner.
What advice would you give on dealing with rejection and perseverance? Don’t give up – seek constructive feedback but then consider it carefully, and only act on it if you feel it fits your values. Also, I would say that it is fine to mourn an opportunity that you don’t achieve – that is natural human behaviour. Once you have dealt with this emotion – then objectively look at what you wanted from it and look for other opportunities that meet that need. Each rejection is an opportunity to learn, but it might not always feel like that, and that is ok.
How do you feel careers in your field have evolved / where are they heading to? In the learned society sector we have evolved over the years to be much more than just an ‘old boys club’ or ‘elite society’ to a sector that champions our disciplines and the scientific advances our members are making through meetings and journals and showcases the diversity of our members. We support and welcome the next generations into our community, helping them as they navigate through various career stages and evolving our offer to meet their needs, now and into the future. For my current community, pharmacology and therapeutics is advancing all the time, COVID-19 and the work of pre-clinical and clinical pharmacologists to support the development of therapeutics to treat this new virus, is a good example of our members’ work in practice. However for more detailed information I would recommend taking a look at our new careers pages, where a lot more detail can be found.
When considering your career path, how much has your potential salary affected your decision? Not at all really; but equally I would not be honest if I did not admit that sometimes the jobs I applied to were more attractive because the salary was supportive of my wider aspirations to secure a positive financial future for my family. However, I would never take a job just for the money, I am ultimately driven by the need to make a difference, and add value, so these values will always come first.
Connect with Rachel on
LinkedIn: Rachel Lambert-Forsythe
Learn more about the British Pharmacological Society