Find the passion and show you can do it!

I’ve recently taken a career course organized by KI career service office. Below is a portrait from my course assignment about a person, whom I interviewed and is currently working in the life science  industry.


Mikael Hanson is a Senior Project Manager for Global Commercial Development at AbbVie – a global biopharmaceutical company. Mikael and his family enjoy their current lives in Chicago, USA, awaiting future challenges. “I always wanted to have an impact on patients’ health, in terms of receiving and developing medicine. I had a plan, and now I am really grateful for that”, Mikael says.

After finishing his MSc in Biomedicine, Mikael continued his PhD journey in tumor immunology at Karolinska Institutet in 2001. However, he made his mind on not pursuing academic career early in his PhD education.


I was very lucky to know my passion – the gap between science, patient and business.”

In order to get there, Mikael started to think what experience and education he needed. As a result, he studied Business economics at Stockholm University besides his routine lab work, and successfully acquired a MBA degree in 2004.

Mikael explored his career journey in the industry firstly as a business developer in Actar – a biotechnology company, which is a part of KI innovation system in 2006. Of note, Mikael had his PhD dissertation in 2007. After about two years of work at Actar, he felt the need of getting further close to the industry and patients’ need. Therefore, it was quite natural for him to join IMS Health in 2008, where the focus was on the data driven business intelligence but also involves projects planning and execution, and business development.


That is the place where Mikael and I met. I was lucky to have an internship with two other KI master students at IMS Health for two months in 2011. He was a management consultant in the company and supervised our student project.

Mikael gained a lot of experience in business both from Actar and IMS Health. Still, he thought it was a little far away from his original goal – helping patients make better decisions. That’s why he moved into the pharmaceutical company AbbVie as a Commercial Operations Excellence Manager, where he believed to be much closer to medicine and patients. Later on in 2014, he and his family moved to US for the current position within the same company.


“Try to find your passion!” Even on the phone, I can feel his positive attitude and energy. It is probably because his current work involves two parts. One role functions as the chief of staff to improve organizational capabilities when it comes to pipeline marketing and people development. “For example, now I am working on where and how to invest our pipeline products with the maximum potential”, he says. Another part of his work includes strategic planning on therapeutic area such as better understanding patients’ needs. Mikael also mentions the differences of work in Sweden and US, and wants to bring more Swedish teamwork spirit to the AbbVie in US.

“I am really at the crossroad of medicine and business, and that is where everything comes together!”, he concludes enthusiastically.


What is Mikael’s secret to successfully find an industry job after the PhD?

“When I was about to finish my PhD, I knew that I can convey a compelling story to my future employer by being honest and saying clearly what I dream about doing, but also was able to show that I can successfully succeed my primary role.”


Advice from Mikael to PhDs:

“Gain more experience outside your normal PhD job and show your commitment, then prove it with evidence. For example, courses in bioentrepreneurship are highly appreciated by the employers.”

“Showing and acting upon your vision where you want to be.”

“Do not think about the next job as the preferred job. Instead, consider it as a stepping stone to move ahead. Then, it is easier to know what jobs that one can take, and to keep developing yourselves.”


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