The Pistoia Alliance’s UX in Life Sciences Conference brings together a passionate community of UX, product and technology folks to share learnings, challenges, and progress made in what is a voyage of discovery for many teams given the complexity of the sector.

We’ve seen a lot of growth and digital innovation in Pharmaceutical and Life Sciences is a space, so we were delighted to support this event. Here are my takeaways.

There’s a huge opportunity to make an impact

There’s some amazing work going on in this space, from improving clinical trials and making it easier for patients to participate, to delivering cutting-edge technology to enable the ‘laboratory of the future’.

UX design is gaining some real traction in the space, but it’s a relatively new approach for most in the industry, so there’s a real chance to take advantage of challenges & new opportunities to change lives of patients around the world for the better – good for the soul, right?

Taste for complexity & variety

The finance world often boasts about how complex their world is (and rightly so), but I think life sciences is an equal, maybe even greater, challenge for the old grey matter.

Lots of the products and services in this space require tackling a range of regulatory, data and operational challenges all whilst dealing with a huge variety of stakeholders, languages, cultures, emerging technologies and, often distributed teams.

The integration of techniques like machine learning and deep learning are enabling organisations to dive into data in new ways, covering everything from genetic and clinical data through to operational insights.

You also have connected devices and VR creating new experiences for users, and improvements in internal tooling that enable better employee collaboration.

There are also some challenges around security and distribution, and the sheer variety of users. While of course, this is a challenge for every industry, balancing between scientists and users feels like a particularly interesting dynamic to straddle.

Was it a change and transformation conference?

A LOT of the underlying themes and challenges are the same experienced in any change and transformation scenario. Given UX/design is still a maturing capability in most businesses we heard from, then UXers in this market need one eye on developing their change management skills.

Patient and user-centred approaches seem well understood but implementing them at scale within organisations who are aspiring to be agile is the hard bit.

The good news is that there’s a lot of opportunities. As well as investing in UX education, investing in professionals who can beef up the soft skills needed to sell in new ideas, build momentum and bring people with you, align ideas and goals across complex stakeholders – you can layer the UX nous on top of that.

Teams: small but mighty

Digital teams seem relatively small given the scale of organisations they’re working in. There was a lot of conversation about how to do a lot with little. We talked about how to build internal communities & champions, plus hiring the right talent for the right part of the business given the variety of challenges life sciences throws at teams.

Is progressing your career within Life Sciences for you?

If you have these drivers, then yes:

  • You should love complexity – most of the products & their respective challenges we heard about will make your brain hurt.
  • You need a change mindset /to be genuinely solutions focused.
    • Most of the employers in this space have been around for a long time, so you’ll need to focus on the long-term vision and impact you could make, and celebrate small wins and steps along the way. It’s for the resilient and determined.
    • Digital is fast-paced and we see permanent candidates move every 1-2 years to keep fresh or because the excitement of the opportunity fades. I think this sector suits those who think about a move every 3-5 years. You’d need time to make an impact, get any significant wins and learn from your losses.

It won’t be for everyone, but if this sounds like fun, working in this space could see you deliver hugely meaningful work for people globally.

If you are interested in expanding your team or your career in this market, please get in touch at, we’re always happy to talk through the market in more detail.


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