School of Graduate Studies

School of Graduate Studies
School of Graduate Studies

Queen’s Alumna Mentor Diana Wong: How to Do Business with a Science Degree?

By Dalia Thamin, August 2016

Diana Wong

Diana Wong

Job Title: Principal, Real-World Evidence Solutions at IMS Health, London, UK office
BSc Biochemistry, Queens, 2005
MSc Biochemistry, University of Toronto, 2007
MBA, Health Sector, University of Western Ontario-Richard Ivey School of Business, 2010

Diana Wong’s work days are busy at a leading global consulting and technology services company, focused on the health sector, yet she makes time to guide Queen’s students entering the job market. As part of Wong’s volunteer role as a Queen’s Alumna mentor she took the time to share the story of her career rise.

Wong’s role at IMS Heath

In a nut shell, Wong describes herself as a “biochemist turned management consultant.” Wong is a principal at IMS health, which is a “health data company,” says Wong. The company supplies medical data to researchers and pharmaceutical companies so they can use it for research or to make informed decisions on the cost effectiveness of drugs.

Wong says the company provides “real-world evidence” on how drugs perform in real life outside of controlled clinical trials. Wong, who’s London, UK based, has an internal strategy role at IMS, which includes mergers and acquisitions. Wong is helping the company grow by “developing a 5 year strategic plan and implementing it.”

Wong also works with clients on an initiative called Enriched Real-World Data Studies. IMS offers technology services that “combine retrospective research with prospective observational studies,” says Wong. IMS provides technology that enables prospective data collection such as patient reported outcome.

Wong finds it exciting that she is working in “a very new field” which is growing rapidly. “Analytics and healthcare is a brand new field …there might be a couple of academics who are doing it, but it’s really IMS building a new business,” explains Wong. “There aren’t a lot of companies doing what IMS health does today, we offer some very new services that we are pioneering,” she adds.

Wong works with about 30 companies in Europe, North America, Middle East, North Africa, and in Japan, China, Australia and Brazil. “I like the fact that I have global role, up until now I’ve been very geographically focused when I was living in Canada..,” says Wong. “I really like the fact that I can expand my reach and I’m getting exposure to different types of businesses and cultures and different types of services,” says Wong. “I’ve been learning a lot and I think this is quite rewarding for me,” she adds.

A Mentor Helped Wong Embark on a Career in Consulting

Wong did her undergrad at Queen’s in BioChemistry and then she did her Master’s of Science in BioChemistry at the University of Toronto. It was at U of T that Wong met an alumna who introduced her to the idea of using her science background to work in consulting.

“When you are in grad school you really don’t know what your options are, you think the only path is you can become a professor or go to pharmaceuticals, or you can go to medical school, these are the three options for sciences degrees,” says Wong.

Wong recounts how she attended a talk by a U of T alumna who did her PhD in Biochemistry and worked for Boston Consulting Group. Wong recounts that it was the first time she hears about consulting and was “really intrigued and interested to know what she (U of T Alumna) was doing and how it used her skills.” “It was more I didn’t know what consulting was until I met her and when I learned about it, I was interested in making the transition,” says Wong. Wong credits her mentor for helping to make the transition from science to business.

After the talk Wong exchanged contacts with the U of T alumna and they stayed in touch. “When it came time to apply for jobs she helped me make the connection with the right people and helped coach me through the interview process for consulting, it was really informal,” says Wong.

Wong says she didn’t want to become a researcher, not because she didn’t like research, but because the long time it takes to see results in the science field. “It takes about 30 years for a product to go from discovery to the market, so if I started in my early 20s, I still would not have seen the fruits of my labour,” she says. Wong was impressed by her mentor’s talk and the aspect of using her existing skillset to work as a consultant and see the results of her hard work sooner.

Wong explains that consulting has a lot in common with research. “You are doing a lot of research and analytics and you’re coming up with a solution or recommendation, so it’s really the same thought process as scientific research, you are just applying it to different things,” says Wong.

Wong started her first job in Canada at a healthcare boutique SHI consulting (Shift health), in Toronto, in 2007. “I was able to really use my scientific knowledge from the content I’ve learned from my Master’s and I was able to apply it in a business setting,” says Wong. She worked on evaluating how different drugs performed in the market and writing business cases for drug launches.

After about a year later Wong moved to Deloitte Consulting, in Toronto. “I was able to convince them that two biochemistry degrees is really good for financial services consulting, so I did financial services consulting for about three years,” says Wong. Wong also did her MBA while working “to get promoted from junior to senior level in consulting at Deloitte,” she explains.

For almost 10 years Wong worked hard for about 100 hours a week which involved traveling for 3 to 4 days a week between Canada and the US, before settling with IMS in London, UK. You can check Wong’s Linkedin profile for more information about her work experience. Wong also offered her career tips for Queen’s students.

Career Tips Q & A: Queen’s Alumna Mentor Diana Wong

What do you like about mentoring students?

I was mentored and I had people help me while I was going through this process of not knowing whether or not I want to be a scientist during grad school. I feel it’s really good to give back so I’ve mentored students at Queen’s and U of T and also random people who reach out to me at Linkedin, and I volunteered at a non-profit to give career advice. I want to make sure people go down the right path. I find that when you are a student you have a very narrow sense of what is out there and what you can be doing. Unless students talk to someone who is more experienced they won’t necessarily know what are their options. For me I didn‘t even know that management consulting existed until someone randomly came into one of our classrooms one day.

What’s your advice for students approaching graduation and thinking about their career options?

The first thing is you don’t always have to have a job related to your degree. I think university is not just about acquired learning but a lot of it is the experience you have. Just because you took chemistry it doesn’t mean you have to be a chemist. There are a lot of different paths that you can take. You just need to be able to take a step back and say what do I want to do and how can the skills I’ve learned in school work towards that.

Once students start searching for jobs, what’s your job search tip?

Definitely reach out to different people who work in similar fields. You might not know someone directly but I think it’s really great to have an alumni network at Queen’s. When I graduated and moved to Toronto, I researched every single person in Toronto at Queen’s alumni network who was in management consulting. Every single one talked to me, looked at my resume, and gave me really good career advice. So I was really thankful that Queen’s started that. So it was really good and all of the people were very helpful and very happy to talk to me and give me advice.

What’s your advice for building your career once you’ve started the first job?

A lot of people come to a job and then find it’s not exactly what they think. I will give management consulting as an example. Students may think consulting and strategy is so great you are going to give the CEO advice, but the analyst might not even see the CEO. The analysts are going do a lot of number crunching. I think it’s not about you going in and you are going to have a certain experience, it’s more or less building skills and all of those skills are going to help you attain the type of job you want to attain, but it may not be that job exactly.

A lot of people come in to consulting and they hate it because of the long work hours, lots of travel and it’s quite demanding. But even if you don’t like it, it’s good to get experience under your belt and move on to something different. I find in today’s world a lot of students who graduate they go into a specific job and they think if they don’t like it they’ve got to change careers, but I think it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s more or less what did I learn from this experience, what skills did I attain and what is the next thing I can apply that to. I don’t need to do a career switch or anything right away. I just need to make the most out of the job as I have it and then move on to something different.

It’s more about thinking of what are your transferable skills that you can bring to any job. People think I took English then I will become an English teacher. It’s more I know how to do analytics then I can do problem solving. There are skills you learn that you can apply in any job.