Marketing Mambo

A Pharma Marketer Advises on Navigating Life's "Oh Sh*t" Moments from Author Michael Biarnes

March 28, 2022 Terry McDougall Season 2 Episode 13
Marketing Mambo
A Pharma Marketer Advises on Navigating Life's "Oh Sh*t" Moments from Author Michael Biarnes
Show Notes Transcript

Having worked in oncology, neuroscience, and diagnostics, Michael Biarnes has dedicated his career to improving patient outcomes in the healthcare sector. Along the way, he discovered his passion for mentorship and advising, striving to help individuals define success for themselves and take tangible steps towards achieving a happier and fulfilling life while achieving their career aspirations.

Michael has a BS in Biology from Penn State University, an MS in Biotechnology from Georgetown University, and an MBA from Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. Michael published his first book titled Redefining Success: Stories, Science, and Strategies to Prioritize Happiness and Overcome Life’s “Oh Sh!t” Moments in 2021.

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If you'd like to talk to Terry McDougall about coaching or being a guest on Marketing Mambo, here's how you can reach her:


Her book Winning the Game of Work: Career Happiness and Success on Your Own Terms is available at Amazon

Here's how you can reach host Terry McDougall:

Her book Winning the Game of Work is available at Amazon

Hey everybody. It's Terry McDougall at marketing Mambo. My guest today is Michael Barnes. And Michael is a marketer  in the pharmaceutical industry. And   if you've been a listener to marketing Mambo, you know, that I am very interested in all aspects of marketing. And one of the things that I've seen is that for. 

Many people. Getting a business degree or maybe communications degree is the foundation upon which they build their marketing career. And for. Michael his career was built on. A foundation of science-based he was a biology major and then got a master's in biotech. Technology. And so,  that makes sense because pharmaceuticals is such a complex and science-based industry. 

 I was super curious to learn more about. What it's like being a marketer in pharmaceuticals. And I think that you'll be really interested to hear what he has to say. And not only that, but  mike has also. Also written a book called redefining success. And He's got a lot of interesting insights into what it means to lead a successful life. Not just a successful career. So settle in and enjoy the conversation. That I had with Mike. And speaking of successful life and successful career, if you've listened to any. 

Of my podcasts. Whether marketing Mambo or any that I've been a guest on, you  know that I'm passionate about helping people expand that overlap between professional success and personal happiness. And. And you can check out Mike's book, redefining success, or if you also want to have some tips on not only how to be happier in your life. 

But more successful in your career. Check out my book, winning the game of work. Career happiness and success on your own terms. It's available on Amazon. And pretty much any place else that books are sold. So now without further ado, let the Mambo begin.  

Hey everybody, it's Terry make-do with another episode of marketing Mambo. And my guest today is Mike Barnes. He is the author of a brand new book called redefining success.  He is also the manager of new products and business development at Janssen pharmaceutical companies of Johnson and Johnson.

And he's got a really interesting backgrounds with  a BS in biology from Penn state, a master's in science and biotechnology from Georgetown. And then he went back a few years later and got an MBA from Georgetown. So Mike, welcome to marketing Mambo. How are you? 

Hi, Terry. I'm great. Thank you so much for having me. How are you?

I'm doing really great. I mean, I love having great guests like you on my show, so it's, couldn't be better. So, got a really impressive background and  I'd love for you to talk to us about what a manager of new products and business development does in pharmaceuticals. 

Yeah, thanks so much. So we covered. And to end the drug development process. So it's a really unique role. We work with products that are coming out of R and D the most innovative things that we have, and we prep them for launch and transition them from a global purview to a very us centric purview, which is drastically different.

You can think about all the different kinds of healthcare systems. We have the different kinds of providers. Are  within the ecosystem, how there might be patient needs that differ between Japan, the us, and China. So we have our global team developing these amazing products, and then we need to translate all of those amazing products to what would work in the USA.

Okay. So it's really like fitting it to the needs of the marketplace. 

Yup. On a hundred percent 

And building out our capabilities for that.

oh, well, tell me more about that. What does that mean? 

Yeah. So we're standing up teams pre-launch for not just marketing, but we're working with our trade and distribution partners. We're working with the insurance companies, the payers to make sure that,  this is covered that, our patients will have access to this new drug as soon as it's available and on the market.

We're working with, our medical teams we have scientific affairs team. Creating all sorts of great data to supplement our clinical trials. So we can talk a little bit more about the nuances of marketing within the pharmaceutical sector were very strictly regulated. But there are some things where, you know, you can have side research projects, which are published in peer reviewed journals.

They're all scientific, but  it's not marketable material, but it's still a human. Way of disseminating key information to,  the doctors who will end up prescribing this to, the patients who need it.

Yeah.  To me, it's really fascinating because as you say, it's highly regulated. I came from a financial services background, which is highly regulated, but it's a drop in the bucket compared to the regulations that you find in pharmaceuticals. And therefore, obviously it has a big impact on how you market, I think that the point that you just made about, research and, papers that go into the medical journals and that clearly would have an influence on doctors understanding the drug and feeling confident about prescribing it. So,  I would love it.

if you'd go a little bit deeper there, because again, I'm just trying to get my head wrapped around it. It's such a different, environment than what I'm used to from a marketing standpoint.


Yeah. So from a marketing standpoint, we really think about this in a few different ways. So right now I'm working on a product for instance, where there really hasn't been much in terms of a new innovation, a new medicine for these patients. Pretty much ever. So  these are kind of rare diseases.

They're very high unmet needs. And so we're using novel mechanisms of actions as science words, for things that, you know, haven't been really used in the past, but they provide great end results. But that means that it's not just marketing a product and having a brand and things like that. Usually what it means is way up.

Educating providers of this new mechanism, creating a landscape and making sure that there's great awareness that because it's a rare disease that these rare diseases exist, there's some great data out there that shows that if you have a rare disease, it might take five to seven years for you to get the correct diagnosis.

And it's just because the doctors that you're seeing just aren't used to seeing many cases. And So. can you educate the market that these diseases exist, how they're diagnosed, what mechanisms of action are important in these diseases? And that's before you even start talking about your specific product, that's simply just getting a lay of the land.

Then you get into on the backend marketing your product and you work with FDA to figure out exactly what you can say based very, very carefully on how you designed your clinical trial. So, a lot of nuances, a lot of red tape, but many different ways that we have to market.

And it's branded, it's unbranded. It's all sorts of things.

Yeah, that's so interesting. And yeah, it's, not as open of a market as a lot of other products, right? Like where you just innovate and you're like, Hey, we made this new yo-yo, let's go out and sell it to whoever wants it. Right.  It's so, interdependent between the insurance companies and the medical profession and the government.

So interesting. 

Yeah.  And in there as well, super important patient advocacy groups, the patients themselves. So we do all sorts of market research, make sure that we're meeting all their needs. And it's like you said, so many different stakeholders that you need to be able to speak to.

Yeah. You know, I think your background is so interesting too, because you've got the, biology and biotechnology backgrounds. And then what was it that led you to decide to go back and get an MBA? 

 From the get-go I thought eventually I would need an MBA, but I thought as I started my career at first, I really liked the science. You know, I'm a nerd at heart.  It's what I like. But I thought it was really important that if I was going to be a business leader one day, that I really understood the processes, the lab work.

So I worked in a lot. For five years doing R and D doing drug target discovery, literally getting my hands dirty, using pipettes, all of that great stuff, doing data analysis. From there I was fortunate. I made the jump to the business side and I was really able to translate that science into, business insights, trying to understand key practices, how to get the customers, exactly what they needed.

And as I started to reflect on next steps, I saw that no matter which path took moving forward, an MBA would be immensely helpful. It really opens your mind. It makes you explore problem solving in a different lens. And I think it's crucial, , to get those kinds of perspectives, if you want to be good leader moving forward, I mean, you can do it with hands-on experience as well.

 But, I figured the MBA was, a good track.

Well as a fellow MBA, I completely agree. I mean, can understand certain aspects of a business, but being able to see, maybe what you've done early in your career. Larger context of the business and understand all the different functional areas I think is really, invaluable. So, what was it that attracted you to marketing having started in the labs, doing more of the science stuff, it's really a different.

Type of path and most people that I've interviewed for this podcast. So,  tell me what was it that was attractive to you about, marketing. 

Yeah. So to me, I love marketing because in the end you can develop the best product in the world. But if people don't know about it, if people aren't educated about it, it's not going to get in the hands of the people. And in the end, the reason I'm in healthcare is to improve patient outcomes.

I knew. We're very early on. I didn't want to be a PhD. I didn't want to be necessarily the person that would be the subject matter expert in a very specific disease. But I knew that I wanted to be close enough to the science to understand it, but then translate that into getting it in the hands of the people who needed it most.

And so I see that as marketing, right? So could it become a doctor? I explore that route a little bit. It wasn't, for me, I think marketing is a great fit for what I like seeing the innovations, translating the science into something that's usable and making sure that,  we feel unmet needs for patients in the best way possible.

I agree with you that that's marketing at its heart, right. It's really about being an advocate for the patient or the client and understanding like, what do they need? Yeah, If they need something, how are they going? Even though that it's available. So I also think it's super interesting because you have to have the step of knowledge from a scientific standpoint, to be able to understand and speak the language of what it is that you do at a pharmaceutical organization.

So very interesting.

Yeah, no, I consider myself a Bridger. So I love being able to talk with the scientists, the people doing the actual work, people, doing the clinical trials at R and D. And I love being able to translate all of that valuable information. And it's something that is digestible for the average person who may not like science might even be scared of science, but still wants and needs  these products whenever they get ill or hopefully,  as a preventative case.


I can totally relate to that. You know, having worked in financial services and some of the services and products that we sold were not. especially in the B2B arena, we're a little bit exotic, right? So it wasn't like the average person was going to understand it, and being that person who was the translator was fulfilling, to say, what is it that they actually need?

And how do we translate what we have and demonstrate  that this is going to fulfill that need  I think it's a really important, role that is, played in business for sure. 

Yeah. And,  I really liked the other end as well. Right. Taking the insights from the end user, from the patients, from, your clients and making sure that if your product doesn't actually fill those needs, you can relay that back to the development team and they can make the changes necessary.

They can innovate the clinical trial as necessary to make sure that yes, we are fulfilling damned user's needs.


I used to call that Being the advocate for the customer.  Is there anything else that you want to tell us anything that is interesting or different about what you do that you think be interesting for our audience to hear. 

Yeah. So  it's a brave new world. I won't lie. So I'm about, six months into this role or so I'm learning and getting up to speed myself. And I can tell you that, as complex as an ecosystem, as you can imagine, Healthcare might be even more complex. Right? I know we have a lot of issues  in this whole system.

And  there's many, many players  in the. Landscape, but,  just getting up to speed on the different nomenclature, the different players, what they care about, how they view different problems.   It's like a brave new world that just opening Pandora's box, if I'm going to use all the cliches in the world.

But, yeah, super complex ecosystem.  I like to advocate whenever I'm talking and we're talking about healthcare for folks who. Are considering pretty much any career, you can do it in the healthcare realm. Right? So if you like tech healthcare is in tech, right? If you like being client facing, we have patient facing, if you like finance pretty much any functional group that you want to do, you can do it in healthcare.

And there's so much good and so much impact that you can have in this field. That really is what drives.

Yeah, it sounds like if you enjoy, complexity which I think it's, sophistication and interesting challenges, it sounds like a really good industry go into. I mean,  I tend to like that,  complexity. Kind of fun  to be able to have something meaty,  to grab onto, and also to have,  those opportunities, right?

Like once you get to know the industry and then, there is a bit of a barrier to entry, right? You have to, like, in your case, you've got, a biology degree and then a master's and biotech and now another master's. So, very cool. Well, let's pivot to talk about your book. So this is how you and I met was we went through the same book writing program that Eric Kester from Georgetown university put on.

And I'm presuming that you met Eric through your MBA program. 

I actually met him through student that went through the program and then recommended it highly to me. And of course Eric made himself readily available being a professor at Georgetown.

Yeah. Well, so let's talk a bit about your book. It's called redefining success,  why don't you tell us what the full title is? And talk to us a little bit about what the book is about and what, inspired you to write. 

Sure. So the full title is redefining success, stories, science, and strategies to prioritize happiness and overcome life's oh shit moments. 

That's a mouthful. 

Yeah, so it is a mouthful, but I thought that it was the best way to capture what was going on here. Right. So, to give you some context as to what's in the book, maybe I should tell you a little bit about why I wrote this book.

So I was, doing the healthcare career and wanting to get up to the C-suite level. As quickly as possible. And, two things happened actually. So one was, I was noticing that more and more of my time, more and more of my decisions were being dictated by my career and not necessarily aligning as well with the other facets of my life.

So taking more time, I was commuting a lot. And so I was really reflecting on, you know, what I wanted to do next. Personally, what ended up happening was my father ended up being diagnosed with cancer. And after a two year battle where literally every three weeks I was driving from DC to Philly to be with him, for oncology visits, radiation, all this things.

He ended up passing away. And that is what I affectionately call an oh shit moment. It's something that really knocks you on your butt and makes you think, why am I doing the things that I'm doing? What am I prioritizing in life? Maybe even a step before then? What are my priorities in life? And how do I align my life to better reflect my priorities.

And so,  that's when I decided to push, pause, decided to pursue my MBA because I knew I wanted one because I knew that no matter what path I chose, it would be helpful. And. Frankly. I'm so glad I did it. Let me hit this reset button and really explore what was out there. But along the way, I started talking to individuals like yourself, like so many people in my program, people in every industry possible.

And I noticed I wasn't alone that. Many people go through life and find themselves in a career where all of a sudden, they're no longer aligned necessarily with what is driving happiness and fulfillment in their lives holistically. And so, as I started writing, I realized that can no longer have these conversations.

I can no longer do this research just for me. And so I started this book writing process to share my findings with the.


well,  it's so great. And there's a lot of similarities in your book and your reason for wanting to write your book and my book winning the game of work. And you know, because we both went through the writing process that in the beginning, Eric says, okay, you might not even know what your book is about, but it's about the intersection.

X and Y, and for me, it was about the intersection of professional success and personal happiness, because I think we could both probably relate to this idea of being an overachiever, right. Like being sort of into school. And, you said you're a science nerd and,  professional success was always important to me.

Academic success was important to me. And so I'm not going to walk away from that, but on the other hand, sometimes you can really like you were saying lose sight of what's important because maybe you are so goal oriented, like, oh, I want to get this degree, or I want to get a job with this company and move up.

And, we put the blinders on and just really focus on that goal and then maybe wake up one day and, You had your oh shit moment with your dad, you know of wow. Like what's life really about, I mean,  is it really about that quote unquote success or is it about enjoying these moments with the people that you love and, and so forth?

Well, so what are some of the major themes in your book? 

Yeah. So similar to you. If I had to say what's the intersection of my book, it's the science of happiness to literally using that nerdiness and mind. So the science of happiness and society's definition of success. And so. The reason I go into that is, I think we're all kind of trained at an early age, like you said, to achieve to get that a  and to get that great job and to get that next promotion.

And, who's telling us to do this. And so that's why I call the society's definition of success. And, that might not align with your version of happiness and fulfillment. And what about health and what about your family and your community? The fun you want to have, and there's so many other facets to life.

So, some of the themes that I talk about are, , happiness, of course, fulfillment. There's a lot of great work out there. So the science of happiness, the science of fulfillment, the science of mindsets and how mindsets actually are super critical. There's a fascinating research showing that of the happiness pie.

If you want to envision a pie, only 10% of our happiness comes from our circumstances. So that's our house, our salary, our job, our car, you name it. 40% comes from our mindsets. And so part two of my book, dives, deep into mindsets, we're talking about gratitude and vulnerability and building relationships.

And, you name it. I have some tactics in there as well, some worksheets,  funny enough, that other 50% of the happiness pie is actually genetic. So not much you can do about that. That's okay. 

Oh, wow. 


So there's a really cool research that I cite in there showing how they got to that 50% mark,  depending on which study you look at, it's a little bit higher, a little bit lower, but without fail, genetics is part of that happiness pie.

So,  the key take-home, there's other things you can connect. Mindsets are what dominate, whether you will feel happy or not. And so there's all sorts  of science and literature and research that I point to saying here's some mindsets and you know, they're not all gonna work for you. They don't all work for me.

The central thesis of my book is there's really no guru that can tell you what success means for you, except for you.


so true. It's so funny because  if you look out into society for every example of somebody who, Was, an excellent student and went to Harvard and did all the things that society tells them to do. And then ascends to the highest rungs of what we call success.

There's an example of someone who has the opposite experience and went on to be successful. Or you can just run into people maybe in your neighborhood who knows what they do, but they're super happy and they seem to be enjoying their lives. And, who's to say that might be the most successful out of Fabry buddy, right?

That, that person who's just happy walking their dog around the neighborhood or whatever. It might be the happiest person that we ever meet most successful person that we ever meet, which is really it's really cool. 

I completely agree. And , I think we can all agree that at least happiness should be somewhere in your definition of success or not living a happy life.  If you're not feeling happy, then what is success? can you really consider yourself successful? And so,  that's not to say that you shouldn't work.

Some people are actually really driven by work. And one of my chapters focuses on some of those folks. They love it, there's actually something called an engaged workaholic. Which are literally spared from all of the terrible health ramifications of being a workaholic. If you are an engaged workaholic, meaning you love your work, you love what you're doing, but you're just working a ton of hours.

You actually are spared from this terrible health ramifications. Which is just fascinating to me. And so,  my message again, is, I can't tell you what's going to make you happy. I can't tell you what success should mean. But what I can tell you is if you don't put in the work to do it for yourself, you're going to end up with someone else's definition of success.

You're going to be misaligned and you won't be as happy and fulfilled  as you think  you will be. And, , I actually love your example. I know we talked about it. I feature your story in my book about goal achievement about self-actualization . I love your story so much. So thank you for sharing.

Well, thank you for interviewing me. I really appreciate that. And  I've said it many, many times that I agree with you in terms of. What is success? Like the money and the title and the cars and the vacations and all of that. If you really don't have the space to enjoy it.

And you know, when you were talking about the engaged  workaholics, what came to mind was this idea of choice, because I really believe we are always at choice. But sometimes we allow others or maybe our perception of what others expect of us to color what we choose.  That choice might not be coming from inside of us.

It might be saying, oh, well this is what my parents expect. Or this is what are the neighbors going to think or whatever. And we make choices that aren't really aligned with. What we truly want deep down inside. And you know, when you're talking about the engaged workaholic, I mean, that's somebody who has chosen that profession and they've chosen to work,  the hours  that they do.

But  if you're getting enjoyment out of it, I mean, always say it's about energy. It's energy in and energy out.  If you're doing things you enjoy, it's going to fill your energy tank up. Okay. if you're doing too much of what you don't enjoy and not spending enough time refilling the tank, you're going to end up in, a deficit and that's when people get burnt out.

 And I think that it's just about awareness, 

yeah, I love that analogy. And to your point of awareness, one thing that has been revolutionary for me is this concept of a life plan. So literally I have documented what matters to me. And I have this one in my book, a template of how you can do this for yourself, but what matters to me and how I should be spending my time and what my goals are for the next six months.

And that's the key I revisit this document every six months to say, how did I do, am I living aligned with what I thought I wanted have, this is what I want to change because that's okay too. You know, sometimes we find something new, a new passion, whatever it might be, and we want, we want to change and that's no problem whatsoever, but without having the capacity to really understand what.

And then trying to align your life accordingly and reflecting, you stand no chance. So my wife and I literally go through this almost like a performance evaluation of ourselves. We kind of document where we want to go the next six months and we literally have Google calendar appointments to do this with ourselves every six months.

That is really great. I actually have. Who has done that for like 15 years. And he tells me that he's accomplished like 80% of the things he's actually got a spreadsheet and he goes back and he  highlights the things that he's accomplished. And I'm super impressed by that.

But I do think, going back to the whole idea of mindset, that if you can keep yourself focused on the things that you've decided you want in your life, you're going to see those opportunities. Your energy is going to go towards that. Your efforts are going to go towards that rather than,  maybe losing focus or, getting distracted along the way.

So, you know, kudos to you guys for being so disciplined about it. 

Yeah, well, don't get me wrong. We still stray from time to time, but, yeah, we do our best and I think that discipline is what matters. And they say, as you write things down, you're much more likely to actually accomplish them. So, 

Yeah, there's a level of commitment to that. I think,  I love what you were saying about the mindset too. And I look forward to looking at that part of your book because  that's something that I see a lot in coaching is that it's really a matter of getting clear on your goals. Making sure this is really what I want.

Cause a lot of times people aren't really clear on what they want. Really. They're just sort of like doing stuff and maybe not really stopping to say like, why am I pursuing this goal?  Is it something I want, am I doing it for some other reason? But also if you decide that you want to go really shifting to a mindset that you believe it's possible. 

 I don't know if you touch on that in your book at all, but sometimes I find that people will tell me that they want something, but yet they'll immediately say, well, here's all the reasons why it's not likely. And I'm like, okay, you don't believe it's possible. Probably not going to happen. 

Yeah. So, some of that is touched upon. So I have a chapter about our passions and about the growth mindset and how they're actually intertwined more than we think. And so part of the growth mindset is trying new things and being open-minded and feeling like you can go and do new things and learn.

And there's a lot of science out there. That's debunked. You can actually teach old dogs new tricks. I don't care what age you are. You can go do new things you can learn and you can adapt.  And if it's something you want to put your mind to, yeah, the growth mindset, I highly recommend that chapter, chapter 10.

Yeah. Okay. Okay, good. I'll have to look that one up. Well thank you So, much for coming on today. And before we wrap things up, do you have any last words of wisdom for our listeners?

Yeah. So,  I waited for my own oh, shit moment as I call it, but I hope that you do not. So  there's a lot of researches, a lot of reasons why you should align your life around your priorities. Now first it'll make you more resilient for when inevitably an ocean. Comes to you, but second, you're just going to reap the rewards sooner.

You're going to feel happier. You're going to feel more fulfilled. You're gonna feel more aligned with your priorities. So, you know, I waited. I hope that you all don't, feel free to reach out to me. , I'm happy to connect and help guide in  this process. If possible, read my book.

There's some great resources in there as well. And if none of that resonates, that's cool too. Just don't wait,  go align your life around your priority.

Yeah. I'd love that. That's such great advice. Now it's redefining success. And where can people find your book?

Yeah. So luckily it's anywhere you purchased books. So Amazon Kobo, Barnes and noble for my Canadian friends, I just learned that it's up on indigo. So feel free, reach out anywhere.  You can also get information if you can't find it anywhere. Go to my website, Michael. And all my book info is on there as well.

So, yeah, anywhere you buy books, you can find redefining success.

Okay. So Michael any place else that you want to share with people about how to get in touch? 

Yeah. So I'm on all socials. Very easy to find just my full name. Michael BRNs I guess there's not many of us or maybe I was just the first to get all the handles, but, yeah, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, I'm there. Feel free to reach out.  I love connecting with folks, so let's connect and  let's hear about your story.

Awesome. Well, I'll put all the links in the show notes, Mike, thanks so much for coming on today. I really enjoyed our conversation. 

Thank you, Terry. This is fantastic.