Translating Your Pharmacy Skills to Non-Traditional Career Paths - Ashlee Klevens Hayes

Guest: Ashlee Klevens Hayes

In this episode, you’ll hear about the importance of identifying your strengths and pursuing your passion.  Ashlee Klevens Hayes utilizes her experience as a hospital operations pharmacist to help in her consulting role for venture capital groups.  She uses her natural networking and connecting skills to help coach pharmacists into inspiring work at The Happy PharmD.   


HB: In this episode, you’ll hear about the importance of identifying your strengths and pursuing your passion. Ashlee Klevens Hayes utilizes her experience as a hospital operations pharmacist to help in her consulting role for venture capital groups. And in her role at The Happy PhamD, she uses her natural networking and connecting skills to help coach pharmacists into inspiring work. Today, we have a special guest on the Talk to Your Pharmacist podcast. Our guest, Ashlee Klevens Hayes is an experienced leader in hospital operations and a pharmacist career coach. Ashlee received her pharmacy degree from the University of Southern California, then spent time at the University of Kentucky pursuing a PGY1 and PGY2 residency before assuming a position there in operations. She’s now on to some other exciting things and will tell us more about that in a bit. Ashlee, welcome to the Talk to Your Pharmacist podcast!

AKH: Hi, Hillary. Thank you for having me. This is awesome.

HB: Great, thanks for being here. And now that our listeners have heard a little bit about your background, maybe you can fill in any gaps from that intro and tell us a bit about your personal life.

AKH: Sure. Well, there’s a lot there. But basically, I grew up in southern California, went out to college in New York, went back to southern California for my pharmacy school. And then my husband’s career took us to Kentucky, where I was fortunate that I got the PGY1/PGY2 pharmacy admin program. I was the first person to do that program there. So which was an experience in itself. Then I finished the program and then they gave me an opportunity to sign on as the associate director of central operations, which was super fun. I was primarily over sterile products and (inaudible) services there. More on the sterile products side, I was the project manager in implementation of some automation or some technology to our pharmacy, and I was working with a specific company and kind of long story short, I developed a relationship with them. And I ended up leaving the hospital side and going to work for this software company called MedKeeper, which was a really cool, unique opportunity. I worked for them for awhile as like an internal consultant for product development. And then I left the company, and I kind of started my own thing, and that’s where I am today. So where I am today pretty much 50 percent of my time is spent as a pharmacy operations consultant for venture capitalist companies or kind of healthcare technology, health IT, software development companies. And the other 50 percent of my time is spent doing career coaching for pharmacists. I coach not only pharmacists, but since I’m a pharmacist, I identify with pharmacists. I kind of understand the lingo, and I have a good background in pharmacy. Pharmacists are who I love to coach. And that’s kind of what leads me to talking with you today, Hillary.

HB: Yeah, that’s amazing. And I love that you’re able to use all of your skill sets now, so your background in operations and your strength in connecting with others, and you’re really encouraging, I can definitely hear that. So that’s really important to also have, I’m sure, as a coach.

AKH: Yeah, pretty cool. I love it.

HB: Yeah. So Ashlee, how did you take that leap of faith and get into your own kind of business? That’s really impressive.

AKH: Thank you. I mean, first and foremost, when I was working in the hospital or even backing up, I kind of knew going into pharmacy school, I had like an entrepreneurial spirit. And also, I kind of always knew I wanted to do something different. I didn’t really know what that looked like until I was more or less in the field, in operations, kind of doing the legwork, and then I got offered an opportunity to go work for a small company, essentially a startup company. That was really my first Aha! moment of, I think I’ve got something going on here. And I took a leap of faith, I talked about it with my husband, I talked about it with my family. And I went for it. And that was really the first step of me doing something different outside of the traditional pharmacy setting. Once I was in that position, it was just a great foundation for me to realize that there’s so much more out there than we can even imagine. In pharmacy school, it’s very traditional. Most places are very traditional in that we teach a very clinical knowledge, get the residency or get the fellowship, and then there’s not a lot of conversations about what else we can do out there. And so it really took me kind of diving in and getting my feet wet and kind of taking some, I guess in hindsight, big risks. I didn’t really look at it at the time as risk because I was so excited about it. Kind of my first step, and that’s kind of led me to after, I guess, working for that company, I gained the skill set of kind of learning what else is out there for pharmacists and just getting some insight as to what companies are looking for led me to where I am today.

HB: Yeah. Well, that’s great that you’re a risk-taker and a lot of other…

AKH: It’s so funny. I went into pharmacy because it was relatively risk-adverse. But I figured out what I was good at, and then I just followed my heart. And that’s kind of what led me, again, to where I am today. I would say I’m really not a risk-taker at all. I’m pretty safe zone. But I guess, I guess, as it looks on the outside, I guess I am a risk-taker, which is cool, I guess. But I just go for what I like to do, and that’s the entrepreneurial spirit in me.

HB: Yes. Yeah, well that’s the important thing -- that you pursue your passion, and you’re pursuing your strengths. So yes. What are some of the skills that you would say really lend themselves well to your consulting and coaching role?

AKH: Great question. I would say awhile ago, I had no idea what my strengths were, what my skills were. I kind of was just chugging along, one foot in front of the other, just kind of some opportunities came up, and I took them. But after some really reflecting and hiring my own career coach, I really took the time to figure out what those strengths were. And I will say that I love the pursuit of finding a job. It’s so funny. People typically hate finding jobs. But I love it. I love networking, I love presenting, I love talking to people like you. I love hearing what people have to do, even outside of pharmacy. Like I always ask people, ‘So what do you do? What does that even mean?’ You know, ‘You have this cool title. What does that mean? What do you do on a day-to-day basis.’ I’ve always kind of been curious and from there, I realized people don’t necessarily love the pursuit of finding a job. So that’s kind of what I’ve been doing as a career coach is I help people navigate that whole system. So I guess some specific strengths are I love networking, I love sales process, I love communicating, I love talking to people like this, and I love interviewing. I mean, most people don’t like that. So that’s kind of what’s led me to coaching.

HB: Yeah, well that’s great. I’m sure that you’ve been able to help a lot of people in that sense because it is kind of things that you aren’t typically learning a lot in pharmacy school or a lot of those interpersonal skills and just learning to refine and develop those and the pursuit of networking. So kind of having a coach emphasize that and hone in on what your individual strengths are, and I think you mentioned that CV refinement and you all do a few other things. What are some of the other things that you and your colleague, Alex, at The Happy PharmD can provide for people looking for a coach?

AKH: We do a whole host of things. I will say our whole business is really focused on developing the pharmacist or the client into finding their strengths and what lights their heart on fire. So everything from CV development to cover letters to mastermind classes to podcasts like this, it’s all about figuring out what the pharmacist or what the healthcare professional, what are they excited about, and what’s their purpose? What are your strengths? What do people tell you you’re good at? And just building confidence in them, that’s our goal is to get people happy in their career course, in their careers. I mean, really, that’s what it’s about. And that’s where we’ve been able to have so much success with working with our pharmacist team, our pharmacist clients, is because at the end of the day, pharmacy school gives you the clinical foundation. But outside of that, a lot of people struggle, what’s next? What’s next for me? What is my purpose? What am I doing? What is my career path? How do I get into a role without any experience? That’s what we’ve been able to help people with.

HB: Yeah. I love that. You kind of came back to it a couple times, what’s your purpose? And you know, reading “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” that’s kind of one of the first things -- like what’s your personal mission statement? Or what’s your family mission statement?

AKH: Right.

HB: It’s so important because without kind of that purpose and kind of knowing those strengths, we used Strength Finders at our organization, just to better understand ourselves and to also understand how to better interact with our coworkers. So I think that you all have really hit on something that’s going to be really helpful to pharmacists out there. And how would they be able to go about contacting you all?

AKH: That’s a good question, thank you for asking. I mean, first and foremost, LinkedIn is probably the best way to go about it. We’re pretty active on LinkedIn, but we also have a website, The Happy PharmD, check that out. We have a blog, post a bunch of things on there and sign up for our newsletter. It’s the best way to get ahold of us kind of to see what we’re doing, what we’re up to.

HB: Great. Well, everyone be sure to check out The Happy PharmD and so you can learn some more about what Ashlee and Alex are doing over there. And so Ashlee, you’re clearly a very passionate individual and have a really unique skill set that you bring to the pharmacy profession. You’ve even been an international speaker on implementing technology and automated services.

AKH: Yeah, that was fun.

HB: Yeah. What’s been a lesson learned from your career?

AKH: That is a great question, Hillary. I think if people were less fearful of pursuing what actually they love to do, rather than what people tell them to do, I think that’s a big lesson for me. Sometimes, you know, as we mentioned in the beginning of this, I don’t have fear as a risk-taker, but that’s actually not true. I work with my career coach, and he pushes me and motivates me and makes sure that I’m confident enough to get to the next step. And I think that it’s a lot of fear of the unknown and scared of the embarrassment of failure, but you know, if you just take those two entities away, like the world is really your oyster. You could do whatever it is that you want to do if you’re not fearful.

HB: That is such a great piece of advice for people because, yeah, I think that with pharmacy, we’ve always got so many different options that we can -- there are a lot of options for pharmacists out there, whether it is in the retail setting or hospital or working for a health, just the sky’s the limit. And just pursuing your passion and your strengths and not letting fear hold you back is just really a valuable lesson. So thanks for that.

AKH: Yes.

HB: So what’s something that you are most excited about for the future of pharmacy?

AKH: Oh man, this is such a great time to be in healthcare. Although there’s a ton of changes going on, I mean, I really feel like pharmacists have so much untapped knowledge. You know, we’re engrained in pharmacy school the clinical aspect, but I mean there’s so much -- every pharmacist has such a different skill set, that if we just take a step back and enhance all those skill sets, I feel like there’s so much opportunity out there that, again, is untapped. And if we can just use our skills to be transferable skills outside the “typical, traditional setting,” I think we’re going to be like endless powerhouses. You know, I think we just need to not be fearful, again, of change, not be nervous to sell yourself and to just go out there and tell these folks, employers, or if you’re an entrepreneur yourself, tell people what you’re good at and go for it. That’s how we’re going to grow as a whole pharmacy profession.

HB: Yeah, absolutely. Finding, using your skills and kind of bringing that value because even what you’re doing with consulting for venture capitalist groups, I mean, that’s…

AKH: It’s so cool. I mean, people now are asking me for my -- they want me to explain to them how does a pharmacy work. And I have my background, and I explain to them, and they just eat it up. They love it. And they think they know, but they really don’t. They don’t know know. So when I explain it to them or I give them a presentation, they’re just flabbergasted. ‘We didn’t know pharmacists did that. We didn’t know supply chain pharmacy worked like that. We didn’t know what specialty pharmacy was before. We didn’t know what clinical pharmacists do with physicians.’ And these are not your typical healthcare folks. These are bankers, these are investors, these are engineers, totally outside the, again, true clinical setting. But they’re the developers. They’re the ones that are investing money in these companies, and I help them decide kind of is this the right path we need to go down.

HB: Yeah, that’s so helpful. And I think, you know, as we’re moving more and more into technology spaces too, having kind of that clinical background and knowledge and pairing that up with the business side that you mentioned or with technology side is going to be so key, so I think that that’s going to be a really important place for pharmacists.

AKH: Yeah, I totally agree.

HB: Yeah, definitely.

AKH: Again, as of now, I don’t practice as a traditional pharmacist, but I have this background, again, that foundation that laid this groundwork for me. I wouldn’t be where I am now without my background, so I never regret going to pharmacy school. I never regret doing my residency. It was tough, but it’s given me these skills that, again, used as transferable skills into this consulting position.

HB: Absolutely. So Ashlee, as our final question, what’s some advice that you would give your younger self or for other pharmacists out there who are just getting started in their career?

AKH: I love this question. Advice. I have a lot of advice. But I guess my biggest thing is find your purpose, be able to identify what your why is. Why are you doing this? Why did you go to pharmacy school? Why do you want the next job? Why do you want to have a career change? Be focused and strategic in your career. Don’t just do things just to say you put on your CV or just to have a cool title. Do the things that excite you. Take a career that is outside the box, that is untraditional because you’re good at it, not because you think it’s what other people want you to do. If someone would have told me that 10-15 years ago, I think -- again, I love my job -- but I think I would have been much more happy going through the whole process versus really just sticking it out just to do it, you know?

HB: Yeah, definitely. That’s really helpful. And it’s so great to be able to see what you’ve been able to do, and it’s really an inspiration for others out there to kind of take a risk -- you wouldn’t say take a risk, you’d just say following your passion and using your strengths.

AKH: I feel like it’s more risky to stay in a job that you hate because what kind of fun is that? It’s more risky for me for that advice is why would you do that? If you do something that you’re good at and do something that brings you happiness, the money will follow too. That’s really probably one of the biggest things too is like how do you get paid? Money comes.

HB: That’s so true. If you’re doing what you love, then you will definitely be rewarded. And it may take a little bit of time, but I think that there’s definitely value there. So yeah.

AKH: This was fun, Hillary, thanks for inviting me. I appreciate it. I look forward to hearing some more podcasts from you too.

HB: Thank you. So great to have you on a guest for the Talk to Your Pharmacist podcast.

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