Working for Global Pharma/Therapeutic Companies

Ello mates,

Just wanted to know if there are members who work for any of these fancy pharma or therapeutic companies and could provide some advice or expertise. Began my search as I prepare for a move, and they seem promising in terms of compensation… and I am more than qualified for the higher end positions which I am pretty happy for (compared to being a teacher).

Also, how much money should I save? I believe it would be different this time around since it would be a U.S. company with a foreign office.

Hello, from fancy pharma

Aye! If I may, how is daily life, and do you work for a U.S. company in Taiwan, or Taiwanese?

Depends on what part of a pharma you are targeting - function (clinops/RA/GA/operations) or line (sales/marketing)?

My main interests are in clinical operations, especially in being an associate or manager, where the bulk of my experience lies. Seeing that they offer high end compensation for such even in the U.S., I would like being one in Taiwan to be my first long-term full-time job. How do they differ, though? I imagine the sales department is comparatively more stringent in terms of expectations…

Although I haven’t worked in ClinOps I have the strong impression that over here it doesn’t pay anywhere close to what you seem to be expecting. For example, I know of a CRA in San Diego who makes about 2 or 3x MORE than a CRM or CPM here in Taipei (clinical research associates typicially report to clinical research managers and project managers). How is that for messed up compensation? While that may well be an extreme case, I hope it tempers your expectations accordingly.

What kind of experience do you have? Most seem to have a health related background (pharmacy, life sciences) and even though conventionally, the heads of these departments have medical doctor (MD) degrees, the CRMs and CRAs do not.

How is your Mandarin? If you cannot engage investigators and particularly their staff comfortably (and by this I mean mostly that they effortlessly communicate with you), then you probably should have some specialty so a pharma could justify such an unusual hire. Because there A LOT of your peers from Taiwan (with a similar background as you - experience, education) who are here or are coming back here who do speak Mandarin fluently.

Fwiw, I noticed there to be a lot of talent hopping around between pharmas and CROs, and there are many small CROs trying to scrape some business from the pharmas and biotechs. Maybe you can join them first and then segue to Big Pharma that way. And depending on your background, the pay could be better or worse than a CRA or CRM at a pharma (which as I have already said, is going to be much much lower than in the US or Europe)

If it’s a US company with a foreign office, then you need to negotiate a USA level based salary plus additions to assist with moving and living in that foreign country.

If you’re being hired in a foreign country to what happens to be at US company, then you’re probably going to be stuck with local base salary with similar benefits.

…which is why such moves are reserved for senior management or high potential talent, or specialist roles. It would be surprising for a multinational to offer the same for manager level or below, especially when the local talent market teems with qualified and inexpensive altermatives locally.


Thank you for your contributions, guys.

I have heard about this “internal preference” bit, but my understanding is that it seems to discourage people who may not be in for the long-term, which doesn’t fit my case. I accept it as a barrier as I believe I am a competitive candidate, especially for the specialties. I also have already a number of years being a CRA in my history and wish to at least be a CRM if/when hired and move up, and am predominantly looking at U.S. companies based in Taiwan (I suppose that clears up the salary bit).

While I do not have an MD, I would argue that my equivalent experience gives me a chance; I have worked in numerous specialties performing research in top 3 hospitals in the U.S., and others with internationally acclaimed healthcare professionals, physicians, physician assistants alike. Some of the less impressive bits (during my college career) has involved a post-doctoral team using patented technology and neurocomputation in their research efforts, etc. I also have physician shadowing under my belt, where I have had the pleasure of overseeing clinical and pharmacological relations so there’s a little exposure there.

I am currently at an intermediate level of spoken Mandarin, and professional in writing – I have been intensely studying for quite a while and will not cease until I reach the level I desire, and I am confident I will be able to communicate comfortably before I board the plane. I also understand that only about a third of the positions (b/w 33-40%) of positions I am interested in have “excellent Mandarin skills” as a written requirement so it is really about how I work myself with speaking going forward. I also understand that English is more commonplace in these environments (from what I have heard, though I expected the opposite) but I would definitely love to hear anecdotes that defend the utility of Mandarin.

I hope this experiential conglomerate gives me a chance, somewhat, to land the upper level jobs (at least CRM), if not senior management off the bat!

I still dont think a multinational company will hire an expat for such a junior position. Unless you have guanxi with a C-level/Sr VP person. There are simply too many qualified people who will work for much less and require so much less paperwork.

Do you have a TW ID or a spouse who has one? That will help.

Do you have a Master’s degree or more? In ANY field of study. Then you should be targeting a senior manager position or associate director role at least. And for those roles you might (I am talking “big maybe”) be able to go through a headhunter. Again, I would be surprised for a multinational office here (which is only going to be an LOC) to engage a hunter unless there was a highly specific need.

Based on what little I know about you – studied abroad, 5 years of industry experience but none in market, no known relationships to KOL or senior execs that you can leverage – I would look to be a consultant at a local CRO or academic lab or government agency then make the jump over to Big Pharma in 6 to 24 months.

Search LinkedIn for anyone at the TRPMMA or DCB who studied abroad (hopefully at your own Alma mater) and take them out for coffee within 2 weeks of getting here. Tell them your story, make them like you, and cross your fingers they will refer you to a friend in industry.

Pay to attend the pharma committee meetings at AmCham and the ECCT and schmooze the middle managers who attend their speaker events. The speakers invited to such events are either middle to senior managers or vendors who have had direct access to decision makers in the past. Make them like you and want to stay in touch.

Since you have had clinical study experience, check in (i.e., coffee is enough) with the KOLs of your therapeutic area and seek their contacts and advice. Be gracious and breif. Top research hospitals include NTUH TPE-VGH Mackay CGMH. There are more but start there. Taiwan has done an excellent job positioning itself as an easy place to run clinical trials - so ask the people who run those departments and labs for contacts in their networks.

Bring gifts. I am not talking about money or trinkets but (hopefully) some interesting or valuable insight that you can share to make those meet ups over coffee or at industry events worth THIER time. Remember, there are plenty – a lot – of local candidates and returnees happy to work the same job at an MNC for 1/3 what is paid in the US.

Can you get away with not doing any of this? Sure, but only if you have the specialist background or guanxi - or both: I know a returnee who claimed to have an MD degree in Europe and managed to scam their way to senior medical positions in multiple MNCs over a 5 year tear. Absolutely horrible to work with, but kept getting hired on charm alone, because of what people thought they knew about this person. Lasted no more than 2 years at every stop but has an impressive list of names on their CV, because some companies will hope their hiring mistakes are not mistakes at all, especially for high level positions.


Target these groups for contacts:
IRPMA (where your US Pharmas hang out)
Academia Sinica
And the hospitals I mentioned above

There is a lot of jumping back and forth between industry, academia, government and vendors. So much that is is rare to find any successful executive who hasn’t done a stint in at least 2 sectors.

Those groups have websites and the savvier people in the organizations are on LinkedIn (maybe not actively so but it’s one way to reach them; be sure to find other ways to reach them).

And don’t sniff your nose at the Generic drug makers and device makers. There are many of them here. They all have personal links back to pharma and biotech – especially in functional areas, including ClinOps. They went to the same schools, dated the same people, ate the same lunches, fought the same struggles etc etc. You will find a mix of them at the industry groups I mentioned.

And while someone with your apparent profile is an unlikely fit for Taiwan, there are foreigners who have figured this out. Some have gone all the way to the top, too. Find them and ask them, too.

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Lol. Dated the same people!

Thanks for the response, I could tell that took some effort.

I take your advice seriously. While I currently do have it in with senior management and department heads where I am, I undoubtedly (and based on your anecdotes) could benefit from moving higher on the ladder and making contacts. I think I will focus heavily on that and making good contacts in the future, which I hope will expand my horizons a bit. The idea that someone would work for less is so exploitative on the companies’ side, but from what I understand there is already great pay discrepancy on the island between local and foreigner (even for less specialized positions) so I suppose it deserves its own topic. Either way, it’s about being more competitive from now on, and that I will achieve.

Thanks a lot for the info.

I don’t really look at it this way. Yes, people make less money here on average than, say, in the US, and people in the Philippines make even less on average – comparing salary levels is not very meaningful except in our own context. I know people in Taiwan who live here with their kids, but work remotely overnight trading on financial markets for US hedge funds. US salaries with a Taiwan cost of living and lifestyle for the family.

On the flip side, I know how much we paid a caregiver from the Philippines we brought over for my father-in-law after he suffered a stroke. The caregiver’s sister has been employed as a domestic helper for 15 years in my brother’s home; I don’t know how much my brother pays the older sister, but coming to Taiwan likely pushed the younger sister’s salary level to one comparable to the older one’s despite the younger one not having any serious work experience at the time. And if it weren’t for Taiwan’s labor laws, which peg a minimum wage for caregivers and domestic helpers at 4x to 10x what you might find in Manila, the younger one would be earning far less. (NOTE: even under the Philippines’s Kasambahay Law, domestic helpers outside Manila face a similar disparity to those in Manila).

So, in other words, I don’t think it is as much about companies exploiting the worker as it is there being workers (caregivers, CRAs, fresh graduates, etc), being willing to work for less. And they are willing to work for less because they have a lifestyle that they are cool with - being close to family, relatively cheap beef noodle soup, no mass shootings, and the shadow of China invading at any time.

Below are some salary threads I found on the forums, if you are interested in this type of discussion

Indeed. For what it’s worth, I would be more than happy to not be paid the $80-90K USD some of these positions offer (commensurate with folks’ experience) and begin at around $60-70K USD, since the positions I currently hold pay just about that (hypothetically, of course). I am generally a frugal person who consistently spends between 30% & 50% of the average American, not to mention Taiwan’s cost of living. I suppose what I mean to say is overall, the company is making a huge profit off of people’s contentment on the island, and the argument stands on whether it is the Taiwanese to blame for being cool as heaven, or Americans being greedy as hell.

And lol, it’s admittedly hard to tell whether the China thing is stealth snark, but it made me chuckle.

US$ 80 to 90k a year is what directors make. For a CRA, divide that by 3 (or more). And unlike PSRs, there are no incentives unless the whole company exceeds targets.

I did a quick Google search for 104 pharmaceutical director and came up with this listing for a Director in a Taiwan pharma – probably a generic or a biotech:
自[104 人力銀行網站]分享工作資訊:Business Development Director (Pharmaceutical) _ Spring Professional_藝珂人事顧問股份有限公司躍科分公司 ─ 104人力銀行

It was posted by Harriet Shih of the headhunter called Spring Professional. Here is her LinkedIn profile

At the bottom of the second screen grab is a link to a salary chart:

The chart is NOT of Pharma but for Advertising, a much lower scale industry. The first row is the pay range for a Planning Director. NT$64k a month works out to about US$27k a year. Let’s say Event Planner (#6 on the list) is equivalent to CRA on that chart – this pays on average NT$33k a month, a bit less than half of the department head.

This MSL position might be interesting to you. It is in Medical Affairs, not ClinOps

自[104 人力銀行網站]分享工作資訊:(Global TOP10 Pharmaceutical) Medical Science Liaison _ ROBERT WALTERS_華德士股份有限公司 ─ 104人力銀行

If you find out the pay range, pls post it here