Career Pathways in Biotech and Pharma: Launch your Career in Industry: Become the Standout Candidate

Recently, I attended a panel Q&A discussion at the American Biomedical Research Conference for Minority students (#ABRCMS2017) with speakers from several biopharmaceutical organisations (Biodesix, Genentech and Novartis) sharing their personal experiences as candidates and recruiters and offering advice on how applicants can be standout candidates.

The discussion was aimed at delegates from all aspects of the bio and medical sciences and included undergraduate, postgraduate, post-doctoral candidates and faculty members.

According to the speakers, there is no one size fits all approach to recruitment and attraction of candidates by employers in the biotech sector however, these employers generally are attracted to stand-out attributes and skills.

The panelists included –

Dr Alex Gaither (Novartis),

Dr Garry Pestano (Biodesix),

Jonathan Zarzar ‎(Genentech) and

Pam Leung (Genentech)

The range of the questions were on CV/resume, culture fit, personal branding and interviews. I have collated some of the questions asked in the session and included some of the responses from the panel.  

For advice on writing a great CV, do read our previous post here

ABRCMS
Image source – E. Adukwu

 

Question – Should I provide CV or resume and is there any need for the covering letter?

The employers generally advised that it is important to provide the #CV and #coveringletter when contacting an employer. One of the employers mentioned that if it is relating to an application, the employers would normally indicate what you as a candidate would need to provide e.g. CV and covering letter or completion of an application process.

One bit of advice offered was for candidates to “Build your CV as early as you can” as this should be an ongoing process to remember the activities you have taken part in and a record of the skills gained

Differences between with academia and industry. Are the skills required similar or different?

This is a very common question asked by students and according to the panel, they look at it differently.

“Obviously your record of accomplishment is important but what we really want to know is how much more can you do?”…”When we hire, in our thinking, we are looking for the person a year or two in advance”…”We also want to know that you can last for the years ahead” – Alex

” if you are determined, you can pick whichever path you want to follow and go for it.”- Garry

Can you expand on culture-fit and what it means?

This question was asked because one of the employers had mentioned that sometimes there is a hidden conversation around “culture-fit” in some organisations he had encountered.

“I have worked with some brilliant scientists that are unable to work well in a team”….we really cannot have such people. You need to be able to fit our culture of teamwork, be a team player and be excited about developing the science and pushing the industry/organisation forward….What we want to know is how well you are going to react and move the company mission forward” – Alex

“You get to work with people in other areas and sometimes you might be the only scientist in your team so the skills you need to have are; how to negotiate, get data from others, communication etc… sometimes we do bring in consultants to help transition our culture and help us create values to shape our culture. Culture allows you the opportunity to have a safe space to excel” – Garry

A short presentation about the importance of branding was delivered by Jonathan (Genentech). He talked about the “elevator pitch” but also mentioned the importance of defining the concept of YOUR personal brand and highlight how it can benefit you at the job or workplace.

For articles on elevator pitch and how to use the elevator pitch to land a job, the Forbes article by Nancy Collamer  is a good place to start.

Anything you do not recommend someone talks about with regard to his or her personal brand?

the idea of a personal brand is about “messaging”, “getting yourself through the door…..think about it in terms of aligning yourself to what the company or your contact is looking for” – Jonathan

“we all have a brand; how we dress, how we carry ourselves and how we engage, these are all parts of that brand. It is something you need to pay attention to; it is the eye contact, level of voice, tone etc. Like it or not, we are constantly being watched and assessed by someone.” – Garry

“every single interaction in a professional space is a part of your brand” – Alex

How do you know it is too much information (TMI) in terms of branding?

“don’t talk about money; don’t continuously talk about what you did in the past; do not always revisit where you were especially if you are at an interview – recognise why you are there!” – Alex

“there is a fine boundary on what you should be sharing and maybe what you should not” – Garry

Should I be applying to a company where there is a lot of competition and many applicants?

“if you did not choose not to apply to university or a specific programme even though it was competitive, you should not shy away from applying for a competitive position.” – Garry

“actually attending a meeting or conference already puts you in a competitive space, you are likely to be recognised, and you can make a good impression, which can go a long way” – Alex

Phone and/or video interviews. Any advice?

One of the key suggestions given here was the importance of preparing like you would if you were going to a face-to-face interview.

Also, speak slowly, it is easier to talk on the phone. Also, make sure you do research the company. (Pretty simple!!) – Jonathan

Interviewers tend to ask, what your biggest weakness is. How do you advise applicants to answer this question?

According to the employers, this is a question that can often trip a lot of applicants and candidates however they remarked that it is a question that candidates can be smart about and be creative.

“it is about recognising what you need to work on and telling the employer what you are planning to do to” – Jonathan

“there is no right answer. What I am impressed by is the creativity in those responses. This question can show how you think, your behaviour and also create interesting conversations or further discussions at the interview.” – Garry

How should students explain gaps in work history when applying for jobs?

biotech is looking for more people at the moment so sometimes we do not look at these when we recruit – Jonathan

The other speakers suggested that it is dependent on the circumstances!

Do you accept international applicants for internships? 

“Genentech does accept international interns. We have about 500 interns and constantly looking for the best” – Pam

Quite a fascinating session and lots of great advice I wish I had as a student. The #ABRCMS2017 is a great four-day conference which had over 4000 student delegates from over 350 colleges and presenting in twelve STEM disciplines. You can find out more and see information about the conference, organisers and sponsors by visiting their website here

Hope you enjoyed reading this article. If you would like to discuss any aspects of this article or have any questions, do not hesitate to contact us at info@aspiringprofessionalshub.com.

EAdukwu

About the writer – Emmanuel Adukwu, Ph.D. is an academic, scientist innovator and content writer and co-owner of the aspiring professionals Hub . He has a PhD in Microbiology and is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (UK). For more about Emmanuel, visit the about us page here.

#CareerChat – 4 Ways to Kickstart your Productivity in 2017!

productivityHappy New Year! It’s the second week of January and we are;
on our detox diets, #wholefoodchallenge, cringing when we look at our credit card statement, waiting for a treadmill at the gym (give it a few weeks) etc. We are also being bombarded by a plethora of adverts about the latest books, articles, podcasts etc. teaching us how we can lose weight, get a better job, find love etc. in 2017!
In the spirit of our tradition in the Hub of starting every year on a reflective note, I started thinking about how I would like 1 January 2018 to look like. Then I worked back to what I would need to get done in 2017 to ensure I hit my target(s). This ‘Beginning with the end in mind’ exercise was a great reminder that to have different outcomes in 2017, I would need to do things differently. In the words of Maya Angelou, ‘Do the best you can until you know better, then when you know better, do better.‘ In this article, I’ll share four things I am determined to do differently in 2017.
1-computernotepad‘Not resolutions but determinations!‘ – I have no problems with making resolutions at the beginning of the New Year because it indicates at least an exercise in reflection! I didn’t make any resolutions this year because sometimes my list of resolutions ends up looking like a wish list. I decided to change my verb from ‘resolve’ to ‘determine.’ If you have a list of resolutions, try adding ‘I am determined to…’ in front of every action. Making it personal is a reminder that we have an important responsibility in ensuring we get the outcomes we want.
How many people start each year with a resolution to find another job? If January 3 was a tough day for you because it took everything to drag yourself out of bed to a job you hate, why not make 2017 the ‘I am determined to get a new job’ year. There is a way using the word ‘determined’ forces one to set realistic goals. Make a list of 3 things you are determined to do this year and set at least two Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound goals underneath them.
For example, for someone determined to start a new job in 2017, some goals could be,
a. Update CV and LinkedIn profile by January 31 2017.
b. Upskill by attending x number of training workshops.
c. Send x number of job applications off each month.

#MyPhDStory – ‘It takes resilience.’

StrengthWhy do we love stories so much? Could it be because of that powerful space it creates where our personal experiences  connects with someone else? We love stories in The Hub and in today’s article, Dr Yewande Pearse shares her triumps and challenges enroute to the qualification called a PhD! Amara got to learn about Yewande through her campaign and was (and remains) inspired by her journey. Enjoy!

APH: Please can you share your academic and professional background?

YP: I completed my BSc in Human Sciences at King’s College London in 2006. I then returned to King’s in 2009 to complete a Masters in Neuroscience with a Distinction. After my Masters, I worked as a Research Assistant for two years before taking up a PhD studentship at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience. I have just completed my PhD in Neuroscience, which aimed to explore the potential for gene therapy in multiple forms of Batten Disease, a childhood brain disorder.

In layman’s terms, can you share what your research study/area is about?

Batten Disease is a group of inherited disorders that cause profound neurodegeneration and predominantly affect children. The symptoms are progressively debilitating and include blindness, seizures, intellectual decline and disability, dementia, loss of speech and motor impairment, with many children eventually becoming wheelchair-bound. Currently, there are no effective treatments available for any form of Batten Disease. My research is about finding innovative ways to treat this group of diseases with a focus on gene therapy.

So what is your PhD story? When did you realise that you wanted to undertake a PhD and how did you get into one? Why did you choose your topic?

#MyUniStory – Developing a Career in Creative Product Design

e7cde70c-4ade-4aa7-b352-4c2de31180aa.jpgWe do not often get to hear about the experiences and challenges of undergraduate students and new graduates. In #GraduateStories, we share the ‘behind the scenes’ stories of recent graduates and hoping their journeys and experiences are beneficial and to motivational to current students. In the first of  our #GraduateStories, Robert Sampays, recent  graduate (class of 2016) from the UWE Bristol, UK shares the motivations and journey to success. Enjoy reading!

Since a young age I have always been fascinated with products and the way they work, it was this inquisitiveness that stemmed my passion for design. I find inspiration in the work I produce knowing I have the chance to help people and make their lives easier. It was the notion of being able to make this a reality that made me study Product Design and is still the reason behind my work ethic today.

I was taught to draw by my aunt during family visits to her house in South Wales; being an artist she had both the patience and the skill to teach me various techniques that would later serve as one of my main attributes as a designer. I furthered my interests at school where I studied art alongside graphic design and resistant materials. Product design at A-Level allowed me to bring all 3 of these disciplines together, I was sold in an instant and made this one of my main subjects to study at college.

Completing college with 4 A-Levels dawned the start of my university degree of which I chose to study a BSc in Creative Product Design at UWE Bristol. I chose to study at UWE due to the nature of the course and the freedom students seemed to have of which was evident of design projects from first to final year. This in conjunction with the quality of teaching, engaging modules and friends made along the way made for an enjoyable learning experience from start to finish.

During my degree, I embarked on a placement year; six months spent at Steele & Stovell in Herefordshire, UK, where I worked with designers on a diverse range of projects consisting of branding, layout for print, web design and marketing. This placement developed my graphical skills enhancing my knowledge and understanding of what makes good design; something I can apply on a multidisciplinary level throughout my career. The second placement was for another six months at Simbars; a design engineering company specialising in street furniture in Bristol. In this role, I worked both in the studio and the workshop understanding key fundamentals of design for manufacture. Having close contact with the manufacturers gave me a great insight into the design process where I could learn directly from staff in the workshop; particularly how certain manufacturing techniques directly implemented the scope for design opportunity.

#CareerFocus – Neurosurgery

1. NeurosurgeryIn today’s #MyCareerStory, the APH had the opportunity to interview Dr Douglas Okor.  Douglas is a brain surgeon in the UK and Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (the oldest Surgical College in the World).. In this insightful interview Douglas offers his perspective about life as a neurosurgeon and demystifies this pathway for aspiring surgeons. Enjoy!

APH: Can you tell us a little more about yourself?

I am Douglas Emeka Okor, Nigerian born, in Benin City in Nigeria. I am a brain surgeon and a passionate Nigerian health sector advocate and an entrepreneur. I grew up in Nigeria and had my education in Nigeria. I saw there was a significant gap in the healthcare space in Nigeria hence my decision to become a brain surgeon.

APH: Can you tell us about the different stages of your educational career to date?

Douglas: I had my nursery, primary and secondary education in Nigeria. I went to a grammar school in Benin City and the University of Benin where I graduated in 2002. I worked for a couple of years in Nigeria then left for the UK where I spent 8-9 years training to become a brain surgeon. In the last year I started my sub-specialist training in two areas – skull based and vascular neurosurgery.

APH: When did you decide you wanted to become a medical doctor?

#MyCareerStory -Science Policy

Career2In today’s #MyCareerStory, Amara had the opportunity to interview Gabriele Butkute. Gabriele currently works as a Science Policy Assistant at the Royal Society of Biology and the Biochemical Society and in this insightful interview helps to demystify an often overlooked pathway for science graduates. Enjoy!

APH: Can you tell us about your educational background and career progression to date?

GB – I’m originally from Lithuania, which is where I completed my high school diploma cum laude. Soon after my graduation I came to London, had a gap year working in the hospitality business – which is really what people say when they worked as a waitress/waiter! I then embarked on a BSc Biomedical Science degree at London Met, from where I graduated almost two years ago now. Right after my graduation I got a fixed term job as an Events and Administrative Assistant at the Royal Society of Biology where I was tasked with organising three national Life Science Careers Conferences. Looking back, it seems ironic that I got this job when I didn’t have a clear career plan for myself! My next job was a Student Enterprise and Marketing internship at London Met where I spent seven months developing and integrating  enterprise into the science curriculum and encouraging students to develop softer skills and business awareness which are key for a successful career nowadays. Finally, a year ago I started my first science policy job at the Royal Society of Biology and the Biochemical Society, which is where I am now. I believe in internships and placements because I undertook two between completing my degree and starting my current job. My experiences  made me feel more comfortable with the career decision I have made.

You obtained a first class degree in Biomedical Science. Did you ever consider a career as a biomedical scientist in the NHS?

#CareerAdvice – Developing your resilience gap!

In our journey as aspiring professionals, we will face a lot of challenging situations. How do you deal with the pressure that comes with achieving your personal as well as professional goals?  Do you react impulsively or respond resiliently. We stumbled across this article by Uche Ezichi and he has graciously given us permission to share it here. I believe this is an important lesson to us all.

When I left my investment banking career, I was thrilled to join the Goldman Sachs (GS) HR team. Considering their performance, what better place to start my new career of developing leaders. So what went wrong? Nothing really changed with GS. My team remained the same, 100% dedicated to their job and willing to give 120%. The issue was with me.

Isn’t it funny how when we are not happy about our situation, we sometimes complain and expect our organisation or team we joined to change for us?