by Paula Hernández.
How much do you know about the career possibilities after completing a PhD? Could you imagine that life after a research doctorate can continue and shine outside Academia? The second edition of Life after PhD organized by YEBN and IBMB brought us delighting examples of professionals making their path outside the lab and showing how this is not only possible but also rewarding.
Read below to discover the highlights!
On Wednesday 17th, the final session of the webinar series “Life after PhD.” took place after a set of three events in which professionals talked about their experience in the positions of Project Manager, Consultant and Medical/Regulatory Affairs. These job possibilities deviating from the most common and expected path after completion of a PhD, require additional skills and certifications that we may be doubtful about. Thanks to coordinated efforts from YEBN and IBMB organizers, the idea of an event series showcasing examples of experienced scientists came to life and reached its aim of providing attendees with guidance and insights in these fields.
With great success, the initiative allowed participants to hear valuable tips from the speakers, and they were able to make their questions about these job positions. It was not a surprise that the audience was mostly interested in knowing about their responsibilities, how the schedule and everyday worklife of these professionals were and also in which specific skills are needed. In the end, if you come from purely scientific studies, the business-oriented perspective of these jobs might be an unknown world!
Either if you attended the webinars or you missed them, find below the most important remarks from our speakers that may help you in taking your next career decision!
Session 1 | Project Management | 17th Feb
- Claudia Navarro | Scientific Project Manager, Roka Furadada (Spain).
- Joaquim Calbó | Scientific Project Manager, Center of Genomic Regulation (CRG) Spain.
In the first session, we learned about the life of a Scientific Project Manager from the experience of two professionals working in this position. Claudia Navarro told us about her role in a cosmetic company where she coordinates the scientific area and leads the translation of products into the market (idea validation). She explained how her tasks include managing regulatory approvals, writing emails in order to follow up with stakeholders, and writing project proposals for recruiting investments and funding.
The second speaker, Joaquim Calbó, took us through his professional career and explained the reasons why he moved into Project Management after a long and outstanding performance in Academia. He stressed the importance of understanding the science behind the project to unveil the full potential of the project , as well as explaining in detail the whole research project cycle from initiation and planning to execution and monitoring the steps. His tasks, as he mentioned, include many hours organizing activities, events and meetings but also sprints of proposal writing.
A Project Manager takes care of the coordination and completion of projects on time within budget and within scope. In the Scientific field, the PM is responsible for planning, overseeing and leading scientific projects from ideation through to completion. Apart from a scientific expertise, this role requires a high sense of organisation, time-management and a great systematic view; and involving a great deal of interaction with internal and external stakeholders, it also requires excellent communication skills. There are many internationally recognized courses and certifications that can help you in proving your PM skills (PMP, CAMP…), but the major and most important teacher will be experience.
Session 2 | Consultancy | 3rd March
- Inés María Martínez | LifeScience and Healthcare Consultant, Deloitte and Farma Leaders (Spain).
- Daniel Cavalli | Life Science Consultant, Catalyze Group (Netherlands).
In the second session of the series, the responsibilities and duties of being a consultant were broken down into pros and cons. The first speaker, María Martínez, talked about her experience as a Healthcare consultant explaining her tasks and giving great recommendations to build this career. She remarked the importance of building a network, working on our personal brand and developing our self-confidence and determination when facing recruiters, but also being optimistic and keeping in mind our work-life balance
Following up, Daniel Cavalli revealed how his transition from academy to the business world was, the way he took this decision and how he proceeded to achieve his position. He described the signals for knowing that you should find an alternative, most business-oriented path, and also the many options this path holds. The reasons why, in the end, this professional decision ended up being an ideal career step for him included the never-ending learning state on many topics and aspects, as well as the profound impact on the client’s success.
Being a Consultant, you use your scientific knowledge to offer advice and expertise to organisations and companies, helping them to improve their business performance in terms of operations, profitability, management, structure and strategy. For this, you need to be in constant lookout for new technologies and treatments and always aware of the new trends. Also, you should excel in strategic analysis and have a business-oriented mind. Your level of responsibility is high since you guide the client’s actions strategically, and you need to have excellent communication and networking skills in order to expand and improve your clients’ portfolio.
Session 3 | Medical and Regulatory Affairs | 17th March
- Domenica Sardone | EU Regulatory Program Manager, Oncology at Roche (UK).
- Miguel Rovira | Medical Affairs, Urticaria and Respiratory at Novartis.
The third and last session of the series hosted two speakers working for Regulatory and Medical Affairs of two important biotechnological companies, Roche and Novartis. Miguel Rovira spoke about his PhD background, where he was able to be in contact with startups and investors giving him the business perspective, and leading him to choose the regulatory side of pharmaceutical sciences. He explained how he is in charge of building both external and internal interactions with medical experts, societies, and health care personnel, apart from managing the marketing and legal sides of the company. One of the aspects he most enjoys is feeling a direct impact on the patient’s lives and constantly interacting with people. Finally, he stressed the importance of working on our LinkedIn profile and gave many tips for personal branding.
In a Medical Affairs position, you are in charge of providing scientific support to the late stage development of pharma-biotechnological products and post market support for drugs and devices. You are actively involved in marketing and in building and maintining relationships with medical experts and communities. For this, you need to deeply understand the science behind each product and being able to promote its benefits and assess its risks. Broad understanding of the scientific matter but also of the regulatory and safety aspects is needed, and an outstanding ability to inform stakeholders through interpersonal and communication skills will be key.
After him, the stage was given to Domenica Sardone, who spoke openly and thoroughly about the development of her career in Regulatory Affairs, explaining how she works as a link between regulatory agencies and companies. She pointed out that it is a demanding job to be always on track of the ever-changing legislation and keeping up with deadlines, but remarked the importance of being patient and letting our manager guide us through feedback. It is important to perform an honest self-assessment to explore our interests, being proactive and taking risks – she explained. Finally, some interesting information was the structure of her schedule, which includes mainly meetings, email writing for managing the projects and revising regulatory documents.
As Regulatory Affairs officer, you are responsible of ensuring that the products of a company comply with the regulations of the regions where it is distributed, and advising on legal and scientific requirements to other teams within the company. You are in contact with health and regulatory authorities to ensure that the product is placed into the market. The need of understanding the subject-matter is highly important and the level of precision on the indications given is a keystone. Negotiation skills, leadership and critical evaluation abilities are needed for this position.
Despite the different responsibilities in these three jobs, all require a common set of skills that is usually developed over the course of a PhD programme, and therefore it is recommended for entering these positions. However, specific certification or training might be needed, since changing to a business environment, it is necessary to reinforce those related to strategic thinking, problem-solving, negotiation and excellent communication skills. Even so, some of our speakers did not need to obtain a PhD to be recruited, but this needs additional efforts to rank up in salary and position. Overall, the common denominator of the talks and greatest tip was the importance of taking decisions based on a self assessment – that is, knowing what we really want – and working on building a personal brand and network upon recruitment.
We hope you enjoyed the series and that you found them useful! If you got inspired for your career in one of the events, remember, it will not be easy but neither impossible – as one of our speakers said, so work hard for it!