By MATTHEW KRISTOFFERSEN
Redlands Career Spotlight is a series where ETHIC News interviews a new Redlands professional every week about their job, education, daily life and more in order to educate readers about potential careers students can pursue after high school. In this issue, Dan Soury’s tours of South America and motivational advice for readers make being a Pharmaceutical Salesman a respectable occupation.
Q: What is your profession, and how long have you been working?
A: I have had an illustrious career. I worked for Johnson & Johnson for 2 years and I have worked at Pfizer for 33 years. My whole career has been in the Inland Empire. I worked in Pasadena with Johnson & Johnson and was relocated to Redlands with Pfizer and have been here ever since.
Q: Where did you get your education? Did you enjoy your time in college?
A: I spent two years at Pasadena City College. Then, I went to California State University Long Beach. I had the time of my life. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do there, so I took a lot of classes. And because I had a lot of grants, I wasn’t worried about being in debt. I wasn’t under pressure. Tuition was $120 per semester. I studied graphic design and took business classes.
I realized that a large chunk of the tuition went to the marching band and the football team. The art gallery got zero. I thought, “Why don’t I run for Student Body Senate?”
I lost the first time. I then won Treasurer. Politics has been in my veins ever since. I became Student Body President next. At the time, we were the largest university on this side of the Mississippi River. Being right on the beach was really fun. I took sailing and fishing classes, too.
Q: Was becoming in your career something you always wanted to do?
A: Absolutely not. It was the last thing I thought I’d be doing. When I graduated, I worked for a magazine in Long Beach for a couple of years. It was a great magazine. I did graphic design. I sold ads and designed them. It wasn’t a lot of money and it was a lot of pressure.
One day, a friend of mine told me he was planning on going to South America for a year. I thought it was something I would love to do. I quit everything and took a Spanish class and off we went. I ended up spending eight months in Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru. When I returned, I had missed it so much that I spent another three months in Mexico, Belize and Guatemala. I also went to the Galapagos Islands for almost a month. It was really fun.
When I came back, I went to several interviews and they all wanted to know about the two-year gap in my employment history. They said they wanted someone who commits to staying here. They didn’t believe me when I told them I was settling down. Someone gave me the business card to Johnson & Johnson and told me that I would be perfect for a sales job, so I called their manager and ended up going to four interviews and eventually got the job. I started liking it, it was just talking.
When I moved to Pfizer, it was a lot more money, and it was just a lot of fun. I realized that talking for a living isn’t bad! The money is fabulous. Most of the doctors have become friends of mine. I’ve gone fishing, skeet shooting and hiking with them. Over the years I’ve gotten to know their families, too. I’m being paid to be friends with lots of people. It’s a great career.
I’m also constantly learning about new products. It challenges your mind. It’s fun to know things about medicine and about the drugs that are on the market. The drugs that we have are the best-in-class, I think. We have Viagra. We came out with Celebrex. Lyrica. Those are all phenomenal drugs. I promote the best drugs out there, which is fun. For most patients, they may be the best choice. It’s a good thing to give patients the best drugs they can.
Q: What is the hardest part of your job?
A: The hardest part of the job is going to meetings for two days straight. I have to sit on my butt for hours on end.
Q: What do you enjoy most about your job?
A: I think that the greatest thing that you can do in this world is public service. To do things for other people. The greatest reward I’ve ever gotten in my life is to do something for someone else. It makes me feel really good. In this job, I do things for people every day, whether it’s giving information to staff or teaching doctors how to prescribe these drugs. I think I’ve made someone’s life a little bit better in the process.
Q: What are the biggest misconceptions about your line of work/education?
A: People have a really negative image of sales. I think everyone wants to help each other. The doctors help me. The nurses help me. I don’t try to sell anything, even though I’m in sales. My job isn’t to sell, it’s to educate about which patients are most compatible with my drug. The physicians will use it where it’s most productive. People think it’s really hard because you’re trying to cram things down people’s throats. It’s not like that all. If you do things for people, people will go out of their way to do things for you.
Q: Do you have any advice for high school students?
A: Do what you really really enjoy, then work that as a job. I loved ceramics and I loved art. And I’m finally, 40 years out of college, doing that again. My income is allowing me to do it. I really, really enjoy my job. I enjoy doing things for people, it’s not what I thought I’d do, but I love it. Find your passion. If you can turn your passion into an occupation, you will be the happiest person in the world. Even though it’s not practical and it might seem a little dumb, just do it.
Q: What is your favorite location in Redlands?
A: My home. That’s where I have my succulent nursery and my orange trees and my vegetable garden and my tortoise. I really like it here. That’s my favorite place in my town. My own backyard.
Q: What do you do in your free time?
A: I like to fish and fly fish up the Sierra Nevadas. Fishing is really relaxing. Watching my granddaughter ride her horse, too. My son coaches at Chaffey College, and watching their soccer games is something I absolutely love to do. I really like music. I could just sit and listen to albums all day when I’m making ceramics.