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Alumni Stories

How a failed subject pushed Jeyda to succeed in the pharmacy industry

For UC alumna and pharmacy operations manager Jeyda Shiaxiates, failing made her realise how much she wanted to succeed.

Jeyda’s interest in pharmacy began when she was a little girl who loved stickers – she was fascinated by pharmacists labelling medications. Her first job as a 15-year-old was in a pharmacy.

“I looked up to the pharmacists and loved that they would wear a white coat and have an identity, and a sense of belonging,” she says.

When she finished high school, Jeyda completed a Bachelor of Science at University of Wollongong.

Soon after, she was accepted into the University of Canberra’s Master of Pharmacy program. The first hurdle on her journey was convincing her parents to let her move from Wollongong to Canberra.

“I come from an ethnic family, where you don't move out of home unless you're married,” Jeyda says.

“My Dad said no several times and then my mum and I got together and finally convinced him that I was moving away for education, so it was ok.”

Jeyda relocated to Canberra, committing to the two-year, full-time course. When she failed a unit, Jeyda had to decide whether to re-enrol and try again – which also meant finding new accommodation and convincing her parents that she could get through it a second time around.

“You get to a point where you think, do I leave, or do I stick it out? I think a lot of students don't sit in the failure for long enough to really feel and experience it,” Jeyda says.

“I was very upset and heartbroken, but you’ve got to re-energise and use that energy to keep going.”

It’s an experience she believes has made her a better pharmacist and has helped her get to where she is today, in a national management role with Priceline, where she is supporting over 1400 pharmacists.

“When I finished my masters, I did an internship and then moved into a regional Priceline pharmacy, where I was the pharmacist in charge,” Jeyda says.

After two years of positive feedback from customers – Jeyda caught the attention of the organisation’s NSW head office, and she landed the role of state dispensary business manager.

“I travelled around New South Wales training staff and then COVID-19 came along, and I was promoted to a national pharmacy operations role,” Jeyda says.

“I provided remote support to pharmacists around the country, encouraging them to keep going during the COVID-19 pandemic and I became the pharmacist to call, which for me being a people person, I really enjoyed.”

In January 2023 Jeyda returned to UC for the 2023 National Australian Pharmacy Students' Association (NAPSA) Congress, where she delivered a presentation and connected with 140 Pharmacy students from around Australia and New Zealand, academics, and industry colleagues.

The visit coincided with Jeyda launching Priceline's first pharmacist internship program – a hands-on experience where interns co-check prescriptions and build connections within the store. She also moved into her most recent position with the organisation as Pharmacy Operations People and Programs Manager.

“I'm back to working with students, which I love. The program isn't like anything on the market,” she says.

“I looked at the big banks and tech companies, and I created a program that our industry hasn't seen yet – with a focus on career progression and on-the-job support, as interning at a pharmacy is busy!”

Having been with Priceline for more than eight and a half years now, Jeyda is eager to transform an industry she describes as “quite traditional”.  She says there are a wealth of opportunities for pharmacists from upskilling in a community pharmacy, specialising in a clinical strain such as dermatology, working in the corporate side of the industry, or simply focusing on the main principle of pharmacists as medication specialists.

“We want to make people want to be pharmacists and feel supported. We don't want people to go - ‘oh, I got into pharmacy because I couldn't get another health career’ - that breaks my heart,” she says.

“It's a worthwhile career in its own right.”

Jeyda’s career progression in pharmacy has been a bit more unconventional rather than traditional, spending most of her time in the company’s head office, working between Sydney and Melbourne.

“I love the travel, but I generally work from home in Wollongong now, so I can spend more time with my husband and two kids,” she says.

Reflecting on her time at UC, Jeyda believes the challenges she faced were what truly motivated her to push through.

“I don't think people realise how hard pharmacy is and I just want to inspire students who do fail and reassure them that they can be successful.”

Words by Emma Larouche, photo supplied.

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