Frances Fernando, MPH, completed her postbac research fellowship in the NICHD Contraceptive Development Program under the mentorship of Dr. Diana Blithe from 2019–2021. With Dr. Blithe, she worked on projects analyzing the hormonal profiles and user experience of novel contraceptives in Phase II clinical trials. Simultaneously, Frances detailed at the NIH Fogarty International Center and conducted implementation science research for HIV/AIDS in adolescents living in Sub-Saharan Africa. She currently works as a strategy and analytics consultant for Deloitte, where she supports development of COVID-19 strategy and responses as part of the trans-NIH COVID account.
Check out our Q&A with Frances to learn more about her career path in public health strategy:
What does a strategy and analytics consultant do?
Strategy and analytics consultants help improve processes, identify risks, and develop strategic responses to client concerns. We view problems from a macro-level perspective to identify roadblocks and develop strategic roadmaps to best advance our NIH clients’ goals and their missions.
Each day varies but generally consists of client and internal team calls, developing materials for our clients’ needs, and strategizing the next best steps. We sync with our internal team members multiple times a week to stay up to date on cross-workstream activities and maintain an organized approach.
At what point did you decide that you wanted to pursue this career field?
During my last few months at the NIH, I decided I wanted to approach public health problems from a higher level and to develop strategic responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.
You successfully navigated a challenging experience during the pandemic and landed an exciting position. What steps did you take to get there, and what was helpful along the way?
I conducted many informational interviews in order to hear what public health officials’ and practitioners’ jobs entailed and their journeys. Informational interviews are a great way to develop a broad-scope understanding of what jobs exist in a field. Don’t be afraid of cold-calling, emailing or sending a LinkedIn message!
What was the application/hiring process at your current company like?
The hiring process varies at my firm, depending if someone applies through open job positions or if the position is created for them. Luckily, I spoke with a senior manager who saw my potential and was hired within a week.
How important do you think it is to have scientific publications before applying to a position like this?
Scientific publications are not necessary but certainly enhance a resume. They are primarily an indicator of capability to drive a project to the final result. Being published shows perseverance in the sometimes-uncertain scientific process and is a testament to high quality work.
Can you talk about being a Fogarty International fellow while at NICHD and what you did?
I loved working with Fogarty. During my time at NIH, I was searching for an opportunity to practice my research skills, learn about topical areas in global health, and contribute to a publication. I found all of these at Fogarty and am grateful to the team for taking me in an unprecedented way. I worked on an implementation science scoping review of Fogarty’s Adolescent HIV Implementation Science Alliance for adolescents living with HIV in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Where do you currently seek out mentorship?
Currently, I seek mentorship from my manager and senior manager. They help guide my development in the firm and enable me to grow into my interests.
Were there any workshops or programs at NIH that helped you prepare for your current position?
I believe the fellowship was most helpful because of the standard of excellence expected in work quality, and the exposure to NIH researchers and research culture.
Do you have any final tips for fellows who are thinking about pursuing a similar career track?
Finding a job takes time—don’t be discouraged, and keep persevering! Be bold and advocate for yourself. Research the organization well and practice for your case interview!
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