Bench to Business: The Transition to Industry
In August we hosted an exciting event to introduce our audience to careers in industry that need scientific expertise, but not at the bench. We covered questions like “What is a product manager?” and “What are the biggest misconceptions about marketing roles in Biotech?” However, we weren’t able to answer all the questions we received. So, in this blog we are following up with a couple of our panelists for answers to help you learn more about non-bench roles in Biotech/Biopharma, and whether these types of roles are right for you.
Answering your questions are two of our esteemed panelists:
Tianli Chen (US Regional Marketing Manager at GenScript)
Ned Jastromb (Director of Project Management at Xcell Biosciences)
1. On knowing when to leave the bench behind:
Scismic: Tianli, you mentioned after getting your Masters you interned at the NIH and that contributed to your decision to leave the bench and begin a career in Marketing with Origene. How long at the bench did you give yourself to realize that wasn’t the career path you were interested in science wise?
Tianli: I worked in NICHD for 3 years as an intern researching neuronal connectivity. It was after 3 years that I decided the bench wasn’t a good fit for me personally. I think as a bench scientist, it requires a lot of patience. Science often is about trial and error. What’s perfect on paper doesn’t also translate in actual research. I think some people enjoy that aspect of being a bench scientist, but I wanted something that shows immediate results, which led me to marketing in Biotech.
2. On the difference between academia and industry:
Scismic: Ned, you spoke to the concept that being a product manager is about helping other coworkers succeed by working with product developers and driving commercial timelines. Can you speak to other key differences between your work now and your experience in academic labs?
Ned: I can speculate that what this question is really asking is how do you influence differently in these two dramatically different settings? For product managers, there are a multitude of different career paths to choose from - so I look at this from the angle of "what do I want to do in 5 years?" What I can also say is that promoting ideas in industry requires a larger network of allies then it does in academia. Deadlines are tighter too.
3. On standing out as a candidate for non-bench roles:
Scismic: Tianli, when it comes to applying to roles without industry experience you mentioned as a manager you also look at character and a true desire to do the work in evaluating candidates. Can you expand a little on what makes a candidate stand out to you?
Tianli: I think you can display your character and traits that match the role you are applying for, or use other examples to show that you are a good match. I often like candidates that are open-minded, have the willingness to learn and improve rather than those with experience, but who are very rigid when it comes to work. I also like candidates that embrace teamwork and work well with others.
4. On making the jump from academia to industry:
Scismic: Ned, you had many years of bench experience before moving to industry. You said during the panel that you noticed innovations in industry labs eclipsing what you were able to do in your academic labs. Can you describe a little bit about how you came to make the jump to industry and how specialized techniques and mentorship assisted?
Ned: I worked in the lab for 5 years before returning to Hopkins for graduate school where I only stayed in the program to finish the coursework after which I stayed in the lab where I had rotated. Fortunately, that lab was Dr. John Gearhart's - a pioneer and discoverer of human embryonic stem cells. I continued there for 2 more years, before making the jump to Cell Signaling Technology - my first role where I was both "doing" the science and "marketing" the products to customers. In total, and excluding grad school coursework, it was 7 years in academic science. I'm lucky to have had such strong mentors throughout my scientific career.
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Scismic helps scientists and engineers find jobs where they can make the most impact. Our specialized algorithm accurately matches you to jobs that fit your skill set. If you are a scientist looking for industry jobs, start your free profile here.