How change became my catalyst for opportunity
By Gaby Maniscalco, Strategic Planner
Change. It has always been a constant part of my life. My first exposure to it was when I was 6. My mom and I moved from Brazil, where I was born, to California. Not the best experience at first, but I learned to live with it. And just as I was starting to get used to my new life in Cali, another big change—at 10 we were headed back to Brazil. Change didn’t stop there. At 14, I was back in the United States, but this time in Missouri. Yeah, that Missouri, not the best place for an immigrant high school freshman. This one was the hardest change in my life, but like before, I learned to embrace it.
Finally, it seemed that change had left me alone, and Missouri became somewhat of a “home base.” And just when I was getting comfortable again, you guessed it, change came knocking on my door. Immediately after college, I was offered an internship in New York City at Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK). This change was different. This time I was all for it—I certainly didn’t want to live in Missouri, so NYC here I come.
Having gone through so many moves, so many changes, I thought moving to “The City” would be a piece of cake. I was wrong. Adulting wasn’t that easy of a change, especially with the added stress of being in a new city with no family or friends. Again, I embraced the change. I loved my job at MSK. Every day I got to help immigrants in NYC get free health screenings, health education, health insurance, and the list goes on. On top of doing such rewarding work, I was surrounded by incredibly smart and influential researchers that strived to make a difference and change how the healthcare industry addressed (more, didn’t address) the needs of vulnerable populations.
Then change struck again, but this time I was the one that had changed. I felt I had learned everything I could at MSK, and I wanted to experience something new. I wanted to challenge myself and get a new perspective on our healthcare system. So, I took a leap of faith and applied to a medical communications healthcare agency. To my surprise, they hired me.
Even though I was accustomed to change, I underestimated how difficult this transition would be. The learning curve was steep. I was an Account Manager, at the mercy of clients. My job was to ensure everything the agency produced and presented was as perfect as it could be. This sounds simple, but it’s far from that. Managing multiple projects, with a diverse team, with demanding clients, and with a strict boss was a wake-up call. Eventually that change became the norm. My account responsibilities became routine—I learned how to manage teams (for the most part), budgets, timelines, and how to always try to anticipate what the clients wanted. Finally, I felt I was “good” at my job again. I continued to grow in my account role, going from medical communications, to healthcare provider (HCP) marketing, and then to a mix of HCP and consumer marketing.
But guess what…change found me again! Now I’m starting to think I might have a problem, maybe I’m addicted to change, maybe I’m just getting bored because I expect change. No, that’s not it, there is a reason why I want change. Something was missing, and I’m not the type of person who settles. I was willing to make a change and find a position that I would be happy with. Taking another big leap of faith, I saw an opportunity at my agency to move to Strategic Planning. I felt that my underlying passion for research, for understanding human psychology, and for finding ways to change behavior would be fulfilled in that position.
I think I was right...becoming a Strategist has, in my perspective, merged all my experiences. My first-hand experience of working with patients and the community taught me how to engage with consumers. The endless research, data collection, data management, and exposure to clinical research practices helped me learn the intricacies of market research and data analysis. My time in Account gave me a deeper understanding of how the pharmaceutical industry works and how to provide meaningful support to clients. I know I still have a lot to learn in my role, but I can say that I have found a place where I’m intrigued and excited about the work I do.
Life doesn’t always go as planned. Things change, people change, life changes. Looking back, all the changes I’ve made—geographically, professionally, and personally—have taught me something valuable. With each change came new opportunities, and I’m happy to have found a career path I enjoy. I know this is not the end of the changes that will come in my life and that every change will be hard, but that’s the point. Change isn’t supposed to be easy, but it’s only with change that we are challenged to become the best versions of ourselves.