Hannah Winter – Merck Sharp & Dohme Limited

Name: Hannah Winter

Job role: Policy and Public Affairs Executive

Employer: Merck Sharp & Dohme Limited (MSD)

How did I start my career?

I studied English at university as an undergraduate and International Security Studies as a post-graduate. After university, I was keen to remain actively engaged with current policy issues and so carried out a couple of internships for organisations that were lobbying on issues I was passionate about. Interning provided me with invaluable experience, placing me in good stead in the tough graduate job market.

What do I do?

I provide policy and public affairs support to the wider External Affairs directorate at MSD. This includes policy monitoring and project support, informing strategy from a health policy perspective. The monitoring and research I undertake is varied given the many disease areas in which MSD operates and I engage with a variety of external stakeholders as a result. The primary focus of my role is to ensure that the patient remains at the heart of everything we work to achieve at MSD.

What motivates me about this job?

Being part of such an important and innovative industry motivates me daily and my role requires me to be plugged in to the patient organisation community, which I find inspiring. What motivates me most of all is that I am working daily to help shape policy for the benefit of patients.

What skills do I need to do my job?

Good communication skills are a must, as is the ability to think strategically and long-term. I've had to develop strong project management skills for this role and I need to remain highly organised as I can be working on multiple projects at once.

What did I gain from my CIPR Qualification?

It was interesting to study Public Affairs from an academic perspective and I often apply what I learnt in class in my job. I left the course feeling inspired and confident in my chosen profession, which I think is important given the current attitude towards lobbyists. The research project I completed as part of the Public Affairs Diploma has gained interest at work and I have been given the opportunity to present the findings to an internal audience.

What I want to do next?

Over the next year I will be focusing on fine-tuning the skills I developed during my first year working at MSD and I want to continue to specialise in health policy for the foreseeable future.

What advice do I have for someone starting out in Public Relations?

In my experience, internships have proved invaluable, as you gain the much-needed professional experience that employers look out for. You will also have begun to develop your professional network, which it is so important to develop in PR and Public Affairs. Supplementing a relevant degree with professional qualifications such as those available through the CIPR comes highly recommended.