Developing language skills to work in an international environment and discover new health solutions. - Sónia Guerra

11/11/2021 | Sónia Guerra

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrust the pharmaceuticals industry into the spotlight. Now, we understand better than ever the impact that this sector has on the lives and well-being of millions. Equally, we’ve seen the industry demonstrate that it’s at the cutting edge of innovation, developing effective medicines and vaccines at a never-before-seen pace.

It’s this world-changing capacity that attracted Sónia Guerra to pharmaceuticals. At present, she is a pharmacist with an MSc. in Pharmaceutical Sciences from the University of Porto and she is doing a PhD as part of a partnership between the University of Porto and Université Paris-Saclay, supported by the international program EUGLOH - European University Alliance for Global Health

Sónia has worked in the pharmaceutical industry as a Quality and Project Specialist and, throughout her career, she has had the opportunity to collaborate on social responsibility and entrepreneurship projects, which has cultivated her passion for health innovation and its application in patients' lives. In fact, one of her goals is to improve lives all over the world. 

To achieve this, she knew she needed to have international skills to operate in an international market. That’s why she applied for a Santander Course, in collaboration with the University of Pennsylvania, to hone her English skills, enrollment for which is now open. In this interview, she explains how this experience has helped her to take a step forward and work in a global context.  

Do you believe that the pharmaceuticals industry is supported and has enough visibility?

I chose the pharmaceutical industry because of the role it plays in improving people’s health, and therefore, their lives. I believe, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, society has become more receptive to scientific innovation and the importance of discovering new health solutions, and at the same time, the importance of having strong healthcare systems to support the population’s needs.

How do you see its future?

In this context, I think the pharmaceutical industry has a bright future. Talent is attracted to the industry because of its purpose: working to build a better tomorrow without disease. By creating solutions for a whole host of health problems we can improve the quality of life for people all over the world. That’s one thing that makes the industry so unique: we don't just work for our local community, we work for the world.

Sónia Guerra Sónia Guerra during her collaboration with Santander Open Academy

Why did you pursue further training?

I am an enthusiastic learner, so I am always looking for ways to accelerate my growth to overcome obstacles and, if possible, make a difference in the world. In addition, I believe that to excel in our careers, in my case in the medical-scientific area, we need to master technical-scientific skills as well as other hard skills such as languages. 

This is particularly important in the context of pharmaceuticals’ global perspective, which makes mastering languages crucial to reaching your full potential. Therefore, the Santander Language Course at the University of Pennsylvania was ideal to support me in my professional career.

To what extent has this experience helped you in your career?

To give just one example, it helped me to orientate my goals and to know how I could attract the attention of recruiters, in part thanks to networking not only between students but also with teachers via sharing of knowledge and experience. Furthermore, the advantage of the programme being so international allowed me to develop multicultural competencies and create meaningful relationships with people from distinct backgrounds.

“I want to emphasize the excellent and always available assistance from the teachers and the positive relations created between the fellow students”.

Sónia Guerra

From a language perspective, the improvement of my communication skills has been invaluable. I have not only broadened my vocabulary but also become more expressive and assertive in English. Now, I am confident at international functions and working in a diverse environment.

Finally, the programme also benefited my organisational skills. For instance, a challenging aspect of the course is that you need to self-manage to follow the progress of the course modules. Sometimes, it takes some agility to reconcile professional life with study. At first, this can be a little difficult, but I improved substantially over time.

Sónia Guerra Sónia Guerra during the Upenn's course celebration.

So what is next in your career?

Right now I am starting my PhD in Pharmaceutical Sciences in the subfield of immunology. My studies will focus on the immunological mechanisms of vaccines. So, my plan for the next four years is to carry out a doctorate and take advantage of all the associated opportunities.

However, after taking part in this course, I have defined both my personal and career goals and learned that if you are comfortable, you are not growing. In this regard, it showed me that studying or working abroad is an opportunity to seize, since I can learn and bring knowledge to my own country, so during my PhD, I will have the opportunity to spend almost two years in another country and now I feel more confident in taking this step.

Hone your skills to operate in an international environment

Santander Open Academy, in collaboration with the University of Pennsylvania, represented for Sonia a unique opportunity for personal and professional growth at all levels as well as the chance to get out of her comfort zone to boost her development with outstanding teachers and a dynamic methodology.

Aimed at helping you improve your language skills to grow personally and professionally, Banco Santander is launching another English course, but this time in collaboration with the British Council.

In this sense, with the goal of enhancing English language skills and thus facilitating access to opportunities on the international market, Banco Santander, via Santander Universities and together with British Council, is launching 8,000 seats on the Santander Course | English Online 2024 - British Council - 2nd Call. 

You will have access to a 100% online English course on which, at your own pace and through lessons, interactive activities and seminars, you will improve your English language skills to efficiently communicate in different professional scenarios. Additionally, you will be prepared to tackle new job challenges.

To participate, you don't need any university degree or to be a Banco Santander customer. Regardless of your starting point, whether you are a beginner (A1) or advanced (C1), you can access the British Council's online English training platform, which provides 144 hours of self-learning material. Moreover, after 8 weeks of training, the 2,000 best-performing students will be eligible for an additional 18 weeks of complementary training provided by British Council tutors.


Are you over 18 and looking to boost your level of English for better job prospects? Sign up for the Santander Course | English Online 2024 - British Council - 2nd Call and don't let language be a barrier for you.


sonia guerra

Sónia Guerra, pharmacist currently doing a PhD as part of a partnership between the University of Porto and Université Paris-Saclay.

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