Podcast Transcript: Mahek Shah - 2021 President of the Victorian Pharmacy Student Association (VPSA)

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​​​Welcome to Your Pharmacy Career Podcast, proudly brought to you by Raven's Recruitment, Australia's leading specialist pharmacy recruitment agency. The podcast series is being created to shine a light on the diverse and inspiring careers of Australia's pharmacists. Each episode will focus on the varied career opportunities within the pharmacy industry by exploring the career paths taken by leaders in the fields of Community Pharmacy, Hospital, Industry, Government and Professional Organizations. Careers never follow a defined path. Everyone's story is different and unique in their own way. The podcast series will help you discover the world of opportunities that exist and reveal pathways to achieve your dreams and aspirations. Whether you are a pharmacy student, early career pharmacist, or simply looking for a change at any stage of your career, the podcast series is designed to help you navigate ways into a career and a life that you love. Your host of the podcast series is Allie Xu. Allie, herself a pharmacist, is now the founder of Global Pharmacy Entrepreneurs and a passionate advocate for pharmacists to grow, innovate, excel, and make a lasting impact in the world. It's now over to our host, Allie Xu.

[Allie Xu] Hello, Mahek, How are you today?

[Mahek Shah] Good, thank you, Allie. How are you?

[Allie Xu] Good, thank you. I'm so excited to have you on the show. You know, we've been having all these amazing leaders from the Australia pharmacy world. Now I really want to get to know you and understanding from, the president of Victorian Pharmacy Society of Australia’s point of view. I know you've been following our podcast series, you've been listening to all these great leaders. I want to really hear from your learning, your take away, as well as your journey understanding, from a student point of view, how can we help you more? How can we help you to build this successful pharmacy career? So, and I'm just so inspired by what you're doing. You know, you're only a third year pharmacy student. And you've been doing amazing things and collaborating and creating events for students, as the President of VPSA. So yeah, tell us, tell us how did you get into pharmacy?

[Mahek Shah] Yeah. So I got into pharmacy as — so I came in out of year 12. And to be honest, I didn't know what to do. I kind of wanted a balance between, you know, the medical world, helping people, but also I wanted to be able to, you know, go outside, live my life kind of travel and everything. And so medicine was an option. However, I felt that I'm that kind of person where if I was to sit in with a patient, I would probably cry with them. Because I'm kind of an emotional person as well. You know, I'll probably be like, “Oh, you have this,” and we'll sit there sad together. But yeah, pharmacy, for me, I actually found out that my grandfather worked for GlaxoSmithKline as one of the higher members. And it kind of just, it was weird how that worked out. My mom was saying that I was living as him, like he was living through me, because he did sadly, pass away. However, I think it's great that we have that sort of connection. So I guess in that way, it was meant to be pharmacy. And yeah so I, once I started working in the field of pharmacy. And once I was looking at actually getting into pharmacy, a lot of pharmacists, were telling me, “Don't go into it, the pay is horrible.” you know, “It's not worth it, not what you want to do.” But I still pushed ahead and I was like, “Look, I'm in a position that I can, you know, advocate to change it, I want to be a part of something big.” And that's, you know, why I'm glad to have met you, Allie. And I found that, yeah, I was coming into the career, I was hearing all these things. Even whilst working as a student pharmacist, I still hear it from my preceptors and everything. But I feel that I'm in the position to, you know, be someone that people can look up to and kind of have a voice. And pharmacy is changing. And I'm so thankful for, you know, all the leaders that we have who are pushing for it. But I'd really like to get more involved and kind of show people that what we do is quite important. We’re really important members, for example, in hospital in community. We often are taken for granted sometimes. And even as a student, I feel that. I can't imagine what a head pharmacist would feel. And yeah, so, I think I've deviated from the question, Allie, but pharmacy for me is a way that I can, you know, talk to patients, empathize, but also push forward for advocacy as well. Because, you know, I didn't know what a pharmacist did before I started working in pharmacy. And it's just nice to know that you have that little bit of knowledge that you can share with everyone. There's so much potential to do something with it. So, yeah.

[Allie Xu] Wow, yeah. Thank you. So I was about to ask, what is a pharmacist to you? That's something we’ve, you know, been discussing a lot with other pharmacy leaders that define the future of pharmacy. What is the pharmacy or pharmacists to you?

[Mahek Shah] That's a great question, Allie. And there are so many different aspects of a pharmacist that make them the pharmacist. To me, being a pharmacist is engaging in the innovation of the medical world, in terms of drug therapy, but also being that first point of contact with your patient. You know, the ability, as well, is being able to work with a range of other health professionals. Because, you know, when two heads are put together, it just permits a more nuanced conversation. And I feel that— so, pharmacy for me is that patient aspect, building rapport with the patient, being able to engage in innovation and medication, and also, I guess, being at the frontlines of advocating for your career. And I think that, you know, many careers don't have to do that for themselves, because they're already established. Pharmacy has been established in the past. And now, you know, technology is taking over. So we have to kind of, you know, assert why we're important. So, pharmacy to me is a way to channel, you know, my abilities, to be able to show off my clinical knowledge as well, talk to patients, and kind of be that middle point between the patient and their doctor as well and work together with the doctor.

[Allie Xu] Yeah, thank you. So what are skill sets that you are looking at gaining to help you to reach that successful pharmacy career?

[Mahek Shah] Yep, that's a great question again. And I think as a third year, I'm not entirely sure of how to get where I want to be. So as a third year I'm working as a community pharmacist and I'm currently finding that there's a gap between what the patient understands we do and what, you know, what the pharmacist actually does. And so I would really like to be able to get an insight or have some sort of way to learn about how to liaise with patients in that manner, how to be respectful, how to show them what we do, and how to kind of raise awareness about what we do. Kind of like advocacy, but in the community sector. So you're dealing with those kinds of situations. And also, I guess, talking to GPs, when you're, for example, on the phone. Working with them, rather than working against them. Or, you know, there's always a bit of that stigma associated with having a good GP who's open to listen to a pharmacist who's open to working with one as well. So I'd really like to learn about how to liaise with patients, how to liaise with GPs as well. And so all to ensure that we're working together for the patient's health. And on the other hand, as a student, I would really like to— something that a lot of the platforms are doing these days is like showing different aspects of pharmacy, the different pathways that you can take. It's not just hospital, and community, which is what, you know, we learn traditionally coming into pharmacy. And I find that it's also important that we're made aware of how to get there. So taking the steps, which organization to apply to. And I know that everyone has a different story, but it would be nice to know where to start, what to look for, what courses I need to have to keep under my belt, and things I need to do to prepare myself. For example, I’d really like to get into hospital pharmacy. So what are the steps that I can take to kind of seize that opportunity? And I know it's different for everyone, and it differs a lot. But it would be nice to also know about how to get into working overseas with world health organizations, volunteering, that's something I've always wanted to do, as I mentioned. And yeah, just those different aspects of pharmacy and how to seize the opportunities. Yeah, I think that's, that's what I’d like to learn.

[Allie Xu] That's wonderful. So I’ve spoken to a lot of students who are not sure what they want to be or what they want to do when they finish pharmacy school. I know you have a strong sense, you want to get into community hospital. So how did you come to conclusion that you have that desire, you have that purpose of becoming hospital pharmacist.

[Mahek Shah] So it started off with the placements that we have. And I, when I was working alongside the pharmacist, I was just shadowing the pharmacist as a first year. And I found that the amount of knowledge that they have and how much they work with the health professionals, what's what intrigued me, and, you know, drew me to hospital. And as the years went by, we had longer placements. So we were able to do more things. For example, just recently, I was able to do discharge counseling with a patient and conduct a medication history, and just realizing how crucial those things are to other health professionals in the hospital. That's another thing that drew me and I was like, I knew I wanted this hospital kind of experience. The other thing was, I was hearing from, you know, other colleagues and other peers as well that now there's a lot more room for the pharmacist to actually be there upon prescribing. So it's kind of like a shared decision, you're working with the doctor, the nurse, and it's happening all there — instead of being prescribed a medication, then the pharmacist reviewing it much later — which saves a lot of time. So it was really nice to be there when decisions were being made. So I think that's what drew me to hospital, yeah.

[Allie Xu] Yeah. So now we know you’re the president for VPSA, Victoria pharmacy Society of Australia. How did you get into that position? And what's the journey of being a leader in the pharmacy student space?

[Mahek Shah] Yeah, so, another great question, Allie. And I think, as of like, in primary school, throughout high school, I always knew that I wanted to have a leadership role. So for example, in primary school, I was the captain of my house. And I find that being in those roles kind of gave me—it gave me an opportunity to learn, you know, to liaise with others, communicate, to realize what was working, what didn't work. So as high school went by, I also had numerous leadership roles, and they aligned with my interests. So for example, sports captain, I'm really into sports. I took that role, met a range of people, gained a new set of skills, moved on to the next role. And that was— one of them included being the captain of a student voice first committee held at my high school, and we kind of— we were the voice of our peers in terms of education. So we made a few changes to the English curriculum, the humanities curriculum. It’s quite empowering. We had a few interviews with the Victorian Student Voice Organization as well. And it was kind of knowing that I would be able to be there for my peers. That's what drew me to that. So, in a sense, that leadership journey, it was made up of a lot of— of little roles that kind of taught me a few things. And then I guess one of the main roles is obtaining the presidency for the Victorian Pharmacy Students Association. And it's— I'm just so glad to have this role. And it's a great opportunity and I've had so much support behind me, as well. And I think for anyone who wants to get into leadership, it's important to have a drive. It's important to have, like, a reason as well to, like, “Why do you want this role?” as well. And I think, if you want to get into a leadership role, just keep a lookout on all your university courses and groups and everything. Join a group that you're passionate about, for example, the Victorian Pharmacy Students Association, they have ties with NAPSA, and I was really interested in that. Even in International Pharmacy Students Federation, they have their own ties to that. They offer education sessions, so that's what drew me to them as well. They have partnerships with different education and companies in the pharmacy world. And I started off in the group as a social media and publications officer, and enjoyed that role because I love designing posters, I love that creative aspect of it. And I personally also love managing social social media, I do have my own sort of social media platform as well. And so that kind of started off with my enjoyment, my passion for designing. And then it got to the elections, and I did apply to become the president, we delivered our speeches. And yeah, it just worked out really well. And, of course, I've had people to look up to, I've had a lot of support from that. Yeah, I'm not sure if I deviated from the question, Allie.

[Allie Xu] No, that's great. I think it's the journey I want to hear.

[Mahek Shah] Mhm.

[Allie Xu] You know, think about it, right now you're helping a pharmacy student in first and second year, wanting to launch themselves and wanting to become a better version of themselves. And I think, you know, it's so valuable to hear from you, and not just someone in the leadership they never dare or dream to become. I think your journey is so real and relevant to their experience and their journey. So, you know, thank you so much for sharing that. I think what I really want to know is, what have you gained, you know, from being on this board position, you know, on on these leadership positions? What have you gained as a student?

[Mahek Shah] Yeah, there's so much to gain from even being in such a position within my committee. I have a range of great people I work with, they're so supportive, and just that little community, you meet different people outside your friend group, and they kind of look up to you. So as a president, everyone kind of reports back to me, I make sure and I check in, everything's going okay. And that's something I'm getting better at as well, knowing who to check in on, who needs help, when to do that. It's really nice when people look to you for advice. You know, it feels really good. For example, within my year level, and I'm often, you know, getting messages from a lot of students who are international as well that are unsure what to do, they need some advice about general things. And I'm always open to have a good chat with anyone. So I think I've gained that ability to be looked up to by a range of my students. And also communication, I think that's quite important. Especially this year, we've— I learned to communicate with 18 people in my committee. Everyone's different, everyone has their own way of communicating. Some communicate more than others, some like to talk into face to face with others. So it's been nice learning about, you know, the different people that you will have to work with. In addition to that, I've also been able to become more effective at time management. I'd often have like, you know, more than five meetings a week, and it goes up to 10 sometimes. And these are all with different companies who we've reached out to, who we'd love to work with, have education sessions with. And I think that speaking virtually, presenting yourself virtually, is a skill within itself, especially in this day and age. So I've been able to learn time management through that, public speaking via zoom calls. And I think just like learning how to network, I think that's so important in the pharmacy world, knowing about people, knowing who they are, learning about their backstory. Yeah, just networking. I think that's also the main thing that I've gotten out of this role and meeting with different people that I had not even, you know, imagined I would be talking to you. For example, yourself, Allie. And I just think it's great that I'm able to, as a student, be immersed in such a community. And you know, it's really given me that sense of motivation and inspiration that, “Hey, I really want to get, you know, my career set. I know what I want, I want to reach for it.” And it's just it's a nice push. It keeps me on my feet. Yeah, it does get busy at times and it gets a little bit much but I think that's another thing you learn, like you learn how to manage yourself and take care of yourself whilst doing it. 

[Allie Xu] Well, congratulations, you're doing really well. Look at, you know, by stepping out of your comfort zone, you’ll be able to access the better picture of the professional— or access to all these leaders in the profession and really learn, help you to equip for you to build a successful pharmacy career. So congratulations, and I want to know, how did you decide, how did you do it? I know it's— when we experience fear, it's hard to step out of that comfort zone. How did you transition from being a student, you know, studying, then to this leader in the pharmacy student society?

[Mahek Shah] Yeah. So I admit the transition was hard and when I was applying for the presidency role, I had so many— you know, I was a bit hesitant. And as a student, you often think that, “Oh, you know, university is such a big society. There's so many other leaders,” like, “Why do I want to be a leader? I don’t think I'd be anyone important, I don’t think I'd be able to, you know, be as important, for example, as those committee positions that people hold on the university board as a student. And I think, coming into university, I had this mentality that I'm just going to slide by uni, be that silent person, just go to my classes, make good grades. But I always had that drive to kind of, you know, do something important, be a leader. And it's always been within me. Like, I can't just sit there and study throughout my whole university life, I want to be social. And so I think— I took the jump to presidency, and I knew that it would be a lot of work. I didn't realize Corona would be, you know, as prominent as it was. And I admit it has made it hard, but I don't have any regrets. And so that journey is about challenging yourself. And I think, as a student, you're often, in a way, in university, you feel so small, because there's a range of other students. But if you don't make the jump, and if you don't kind of single yourself out as an individual, and do what you want, I think that university experience is not gonna be that rewarding. I think university is a time for you to explore your interests, do what you want to do. Because think about it, when you're working, when are you going to be able to have enough time to, you know, kind of channel all that energy to something that you're passionate about?

[Allie Xu] Yeah. So did you have that fear, the initial, when you put up your hand, saying I want to be part of the leadership role?

[Mahek Shah] Yeah.

[Allie Xu] How was that, that feeling, that journey? How did you overcome that fear?

[Mahek Shah] Yeah, that fear was— it was quite ingrained. And I think I've always had fear when going for leadership positions. It's about, “Oh, will people enjoy what I do for them as a leader? Will people look up to me? Will people think of this and that?” And then I realized, you know, “Who cares what people think? I'm doing what I'm passionate about.” And it's about that fear, I'm just gonna describe that feeling: it's that pit in your stomach that if you take this jump, then it's gonna fall back on you later on. You're going to have major regrets. And before I jumped for this role, I was like, “It's going to interfere with my studies, it's going to, you know, it's going to deviate me from anything else that I can do with my friends. I'm going to be so busy. I'm not going to have time to myself. I'm doing a range of other things. I'm working, I'm on this other committee. It's just going to be too much.” But I think once you're in it, it forces you to adapt. And you realize, “Oh, what was I scared about?” I've had like, I've got this range of people who can support me. And that fear is completely normal beforehand. Like I can tell you a million times, that everything I've applied for, I've always had that pit in my stomach. And I'm still nervous when I go for interviews, still nervous when I put in an application. And I'm not sure if anyone else is like me, but I often draft out my application like weeks before it's due, but then I submit it the night before the deadline ends, because I'll read through it, I'll make sure everything's okay. And it's always been the same, I've never changed. And I'm always like, “I'm going to change. I'm going to submit my application before.” But it just, that's not the way I am. I'm just a bit more cautious. And I'm a bit more scared all the time when I apply for things. And it's completely normal, I've realized. Yeah, and so there was that fear. And there's always going to be that fear for me. And I'm sure others can relate. But it's about— the fact is that you've overcome that fear. So it feels really good to know that. The fact is, you've had that fear, but you've made the decision to dive into the deep end, no matter what the consequences. And it just feels so good when it pays off in the end. And you're like, “I'm so glad I took this opportunity. I don't know why I was, you know, so iffy about it. I'm managing fine.”

[Allie Xu] You survived. So, you know, out there, there's so much personal development, a lot of coaches and everybody was— even successful people will say, “Feel the fear.” The most successful people in the world, they still feel that feeling that pit in the gut before they get on stage or before they start doing, you know, what they achieve. It’s completely normal. And I think you hit the nail. Like for students, don't feel that we don't know anything. Don't feel that we can’t’ do anything because, “I'm just a student.”

[Mahek Shah] Exactly.

[Allie Xu] It’s all starting from now. Leadership can— it’s the perfect timing to train ourselves develop those skills, So when we're out, when we’ve finished pharmacy school, we're ready to launch ourselves into the profession.

[Mahek Shah] Yeah.

[Allie Xu] So yeah, thank you so much for sharing that.

[Mahek Shah] Right. And I'm still learning as well. And I will never stop learning about leadership. It's a journey. And I think that if there were no people in the world for anything that you're applying for, it would be so much easier, for interviews and everything. So it's always— people are always gonna be there. And so I think you just have to be true to yourself and just make the jump.

[Allie Xu] Yeah, love that. Be true to yourself. So seeing everything you've seen now, being a student leader, what would you advise the first and second year student?

[Mahek Shah] Oh, alright, I have a long list. But I'll go for the most important in terms of advocacy and like student leadership. I think that university is the best time to set up your platform to find out what you're passionate about within your career. Because most— what you're studying is what you'd like to do, what you'd want to end up in, what work field and employment that you will end up in. So universities are a great place to build your grounds, to set up that platform for you to advocate for your career, be involved in the innovation of your career. So whether it be through community groups in an organization that advocate for pharmacists, pharmacist’s voice. For example, I'm on the PSA’s ECP group, the early career pharmacists group. And there I can channel my voice as an early career student pharmacist, and give input on behalf of like my university students. Whereas as a vice president, I'm involved in, you know, offering opportunities to the peers already at Monash University. So I think, find out what you're passionate about within your career, you don't have to know where you want to end up, because I don't think anyone's ever sure unless you know, you've really wanted it. That's completely fine. And I'm, you know, I've changed so many times as well. But I think university is the best time to explore, to join anything you can. And obviously, people would be thinking about time management, you know, working with your studies, but I think once you're in the role, you learn how to manage effectively. And I think that it would be a waste to go through your university without engaging in at least one group that, you know, pushes you outside of your comfort zone, gets you to take on a new set of skills. For example, if you don't enjoy public speaking too much, or it's something that you've not usually done, I urge you to join, perhaps like a volunteering group, or even just a committee as a member. And just perhaps give a speech at one assembly or lecture, you know, when you're asked to. Kind of take those small steps, because they're going to pay off in your career. And you'll feel like a sense of gratitude as well. And I think that comes in university life, like you won't have time later on to explore what you like, what you don't like, what your strengths are, things like that.

[Allie Xu] Yeah. So if you can restart again, your pharmacy student life again, what would you do differently?

[Mahek Shah] Oh, that's an interesting question. I would definitely, before I started the course, I would find out about all the clubs within the university that were related to pharmacy, I would look into pharmacy organizations, I would learn about the field of pharmacy much more about the big names and pharmacy advocacy for pharmacy and what the situation is now. Because I learned that through working, and I guess some things you have to learn through working as well, but I found out about groups later on in the year, and I wish I'd known about them before so that I could, you know, plan out what I'd like to do. But as well, things don't always work out as you planned them to be. But yeah, I think I would have studied a bit more about the profession before I started the course. And I would have also contributed like towards my hospital career by seeking hospital opportunities outside placements. I would like, as a first year I would, you know, approach to hospitals and ask to see if there were any opportunities for me to kind of shadow a pharmacist because I'm a pharmacy student. Because as a first year, you're just you barely— haven't even started the course.

[Allie Xu] Wow, thank you. I'm like really amazed how mature you are, to be honest, as a pharmacy student, I'm just really excited to see you shine. You're only a third year right now, so you still have one more year to go of pharmacy school. So I guess, what are you wishing, what are the support you want from other pharmacists? How can we help you better, to develop? I know that you have this desire of, you know, growth and desire of becoming the best pharmacist you can be, have a successful pharmacy career. And I really want to support and I think a lot of pharmacists want to support you. But what's the best way to do so?

[Mahek Shah] Well, I think there are already some great aspects out there. Like for example, the podcast. I think it's so insightful, and it's nice to have a listen to. I would really appreciate having a mentor, you know, someone solely set for myself that has a range of these different experiences that they've gone through. You know, they’ve learnt from them. And obviously everyone does have a different experience, they adapt to it differently, they react to it differently. But it would be nice to hear their version of it. Not saying that I would definitely take on that, you know, that persona, but I think it would be very valuable to learn from their experiences, what they did— what they felt that they did right, what they learnt from it. Yeah, a mentor would be really nice to have, and someone who's in the field that I would like to head into. For example, a hospital pharmacist, someone who's working with, you know, NGOs overseas, those are kind of my interests. Yeah, a mentor would be great. And I think learning more about different aspects and like different pathways into pharmacy. And I think that a supportive, like, head pharmacist, for example. So, you know, if you're doing your internship and your preceptor is very supportive, and like very inspirational, motivational about the pharmacy career, and they know there's so much more to do with the pharmacy career, I think that's so valuable. I did a placement once and one of the head pharmacists there, he was just amazing. He was like, “There’s so much room in pharmacy.” They were having education, you know, little sessions every week for their pharmacists. And I found that so valuable, because in some areas I have been too, often the pharmacists are telling me, “Oh, you know,” this and that about pharmacy, “The pay’s not great,” you know, “It's not worth it,” and, “There's no room for change.” And so it's kind of disheartening to hear that sometimes. So I really think that someone who's very passionate about it would definitely, you know, help me. And it's not like I'm going to jump out of this career, because I'm in it. And I can't— if someone tells me, “Get out of it now,” I'm not going to do that, and it's a bit disheartening to hear that, yeah.

[Allie Xu] Mmm. Yeah, no, thank you. I think it's, you know, from my pharmacist point of view, I really want to help a pharmacy student to succeed, and I want to hear from you how you want to be helped and supported in such a way, so thank you.

[Mahek Shah] And you're already doing so much Allie, like I followed you as well. And I find that, you know, you're one of the ones that I look up to. And I think it's just great, yeah.

[Allie Xu] Wow, thank you. Thank you so much. Yeah, I definitely learned from you as well, you know. That— you're so inspirational in a way as a student, you have this bright future in front of you. So yeah, I think it's great to have that energy exchange.

[Mahek Shah] Yeah.

[Allie Xu] What are pharmacy students looking for? 

[Mahek Shah] I think they're looking for, you know, that— everyone wants that one way to hack into their career, everyone wants that prescribed way that you will definitely be successful. But there's always a different set of ways you can be. I think people are looking for that one solution, but there is nothing like that. So I think what would help is shedding light into the different aspects of pharmacy, how different people have made themselves successful in pharmacy, and how people are advocating for that. I think that's what students want. And students also want to know that, you know, you don't have to be good in the academia side of things, to kind of hack into your career and, you know, make something out of yourself. You also— I think leadership skills are important. And it's not just about, you know, being— looking good on paper, it's about being able to talk, being able to present yourself well. And I think that it is hard for some people to do that, and that's totally understandable. It's just nerve racking sometimes. But I think that taking a step towards learning and like, you know, trying for yourself in that manner. I think that's great.

[Allie Xu] Wow, that's wonderful. Thank you. Thank you so much.

[Mahek Shah] Thanks, Allie.

[Allie Xu] I know you're also involved with PSA, Pharmaceutical Society of Australia, the early career pharmacy group.

[Mahek Shah] It’s a mouthful.

[Allie Xu] Tell us about that, yeah. What do you actually do in that group?

[Mahek Shah] Yeah, that's a great question. So it's composed of a range of early career pharmacists. So this could be someone who's, you know, within their intern year, or someone who's been working within their first year in hospital pharmacy, and then you have students like myself, from the universities as well. And so within this group, we kind of, we’re brought all these different, for example, policies. And so they kind of value our input as student pharmacists and early career pharmacists on that kind of a topic. And then that's taken to the national group, and then you know, our opinions and our thoughts, and everything's collated, and we kind of contribute to the policymaking and everything. And so I think it's valuable to be involved in that, because it's also advocating for my career as well. And I'm able to know how things work. Because as a student, you often aren't immersed in all these different policymaking aspects. You don't know about things that are passing, like for example, laws, documents, and everything like that. So it's nice to be immersed in that to have a knowledge about that. And then on the other hand, I'm also doing a side project with them, just a few of us. We're working on a virtual panel for advocacy, and this one's targeted for students. It's about advocating for students and how to set up your advocacy career in pharmacy. So we have a range of different speakers that we've asked to come and sit along and we'll be holding it later on. But I think one of the highlights of that group has been working on this with a range of other ECPs, because it's something that I find that students do need. Like how to advocate for your career, how to make a mark, and how to, you know, head into something that you love and you're passionate about and advocate for it. So yeah, that's basically what we do on the group. And it's just— it's nice to be with a range of people who are as passionate as you about your pharmacy career. And you know, they all bring a new set of experiences, a new set of opinions. And it's nice to hear a hospital pharmacies point of view. And then there's someone who's an intern, then there's another university student. So it's nice to hear about what's going on with them. Yeah, I think it's really rewarding for me, and I'm definitely sticking around.

[Allie Xu] I think, yeah, getting to, you know, hear or learn from these amazing people, is because you've put yourself out there, you stepped out of that comfort zone. So again, I really encourage everyone who's listening, or pharmacy students or early on in your career, step out of your comfort zone. So yeah, it's been an amazing journey. I do want to ask you about networking. We know how important networking is in this career, especially pharmacy. So did you have any mentors to help you walk you through this networking? How do you network currently?

[Mahek Shah] So when I started off as a pharmacy student, I didn't even know what networking was, I was like, “What is this?” You know, like, “Is it going to help me? Approach people without knowing them? That's a bit, Mmm.” But I think when I went to— we had an upset Congress. So they hold congresses annually. And I realized the importance of networking, because pharmacy, no matter how many students we have, it is a small world. And so learning about people's, for example, the initiatives and everything, I think that was quite important. So when I went to the Congress, they had like a little trade show, where different, you know, companies would have their little store set up. And you would meet the founders, for example. And you just learn about what they offer. And you'd be like, “Hey, I'm a pharmacist, I'm going to need this in the future.” So it started off, as, you know, following them on Instagram, following their story. When I would go to virtual— I would sign up for a lot of zoom education sessions through different companies like PSA, for example. And I would, after watching the presentation, I would look for that person. And you know, they would have theIR Instagram available for everyone to follow. So I would follow their story. And I think it's important, using social media platforms, especially now. And things like LinkedIn, I found LinkedIn was quite important for me. iT offers a range of, you know, networking opportunities. and you can find people who are passionate about the same thing as you are on LinkedIn. And also, I think being within a leadership role in itself allows you to network. I've met up with so many different people from different companies, and, you know, had meetings with them virtually, and just had a really good chat. And it was nice to network that way. And you can add them on LinkedIn afterwards, so. Just small things like that. And I think it's— it's a journey to network, putting yourself out there. Being able to speak to someone that you've never spoken to before. But it's something you learn slowly. And if you do it with a friend, that's even better. I think, grab like a friend to deal with and you can network together.

[Allie Xu] Yeah, and it's definitely a safe environment, you’re a pharmacy student, you have all your colleagues, friends that you already know. Half the people you’re networking with you already know, and the other half, they're your leaders or people in the industry. So I definitely encourage everyone to step out your comfort zone—

[Mahek Shah] Definitely.

[Allie Xu] —and to really embrace all these opportunities and get to know people. You never know, your next job might be offered by the person next to you. So, yeah. Thank you Mahek for this amazing, you know, time to explore your life as a student leader, as a third year pharmacy student, and your experience, your fears, and your inspiration, and your idea of the future of pharmacy. So thank you again for this time.

[Mahek Shah] Thanks, Allie.

[Allie Xu] So looking forward to seeing you shine on the stage out there in the pharmacy world.

[Mahek Shah] Thank you so much, Allie. I really enjoyed, and I hope everyone gained something from it. I could go on and on about everything. But yeah, thank you for listening

Thank you for listening to this episode of the Your Pharmacy Career Podcast, proudly brought to you by Raven’s Recruitment, Australia's leading specialist pharmacy recruitment agency. If you enjoyed this episode and know anyone else who you think would benefit from it, we would be grateful if you could share it with them. Together, we help even more pharmacists develop a career and life they love. If you have any questions or suggestions about future podcast episodes, please reach out to us via email,


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