Spotlight on careers in finance for researchers – 23rd November 2016

Our speakers were:

Andy Round

PhD (Title) – Biochemistry ‘Yeast as a Delivery Vehicle for labile actives’ – University of Leeds

Use of yeast as a microbial delivery vehicle. Using and engineering different yeast types via process and growth control factors to change the physical and biochemical properties to enhance its ability to deliver a range of different chemistries / molecules in different environments (example small molecules delivered to the GI tract, flavour molecules delivered to the tongue etc). Andy is now investment director at Spark Impact, where he invests in new businesses.

Suren Sorathia

Suren has a PhD in Quantum Physics and is now a manager at d-fine.

Ryan Warnes

In 2010, Ryan obtained a PhD in Astrophysics from Princeton University, USA and the University of Natal, SA. During his PhD he worked on an international project to detect galaxy clusters using the Sunyaev-Zel’dovich effect. From there he moved into the world of consulting with d-fine. Working for such a company and within the consulting space, allowed Ryan to combine his passion for travel along with his love of analytical thinking, in collaboration with like-minded individuals to solve challenging real-world problems. During his 6 years at d-fine, Ryan has worked with a number of financial institutions ranging from small hedge funds and retail banks through to large international investment banks and national regulators.

Ryan – chose a career outside academia because, although he enjoyed research, he was looking for something with more stability that allowed time for family life and avoided some of the downsides of working in Higher Education. He wanted to continue using his analytical and problem solving skills while working with likeminded people. He was very interested in risk as a concept and finding novel solutions to address it. He’s now worked successfully in finance for six years and has progressed into management. He says his current job is a constant balancing act between perfectionism and cost/effectiveness.

Suren – initially chose his PhD partly because of his desire to travel. He located a Professor who was willing to supervise him at a University in Mexico, where he had to learn Spanish from scratch. He took a post-doctoral job in the USA but wanted to move on from academia for the same reasons at Ryan, although he has always considered he could return to academic research if he chose to. He has also been promoted and now leads a team. Suren found the problem solving and analytic aspects of his role the most interesting and is very happy to be working alongside many scientists who have made similar career moves to his.

Andy Round – began his academic life with a sponsored PhD during which he started a business and has worked continuously since then helping business be more innovative both in large and small businesses. This led him to many different roles including working in North Eastern England on regeneration schemes and working for and with venture capitalists. Andy has always been willing to move to find new opportunities and says, for him, five years in one role is enough to complete its natural cycle. He has recently become owner of his own business raising money for small businesses. He says the skills and qualities gained during his PhD in analysis, flexibility, resilience, enthusiasm, independence and responsibility have been called on throughout his career so far.  Andy identified the ability to work well with a range of different people as critical to success as an entrepreneur.

Spotlight Series – Patent Law, October 12th 2016

Our speakers were:

Nicholas Noble

Title:      Patent Attorney at Kilburn Strode

PhD:      Medical Image Analysis at King’s College London

Following the completion of his PhD studies, Nick initially pursued an academic research career at both King’s and UCL. In 2006, he made the transition into becoming a trainee patent attorney and has remained in the industry since this date. He continues to involve himself in academic life, regularly lecturing at universities including Queen Mary’s and Imperial College London.

Anna Leathley

Title:      Associate at Carpmaels & Ransford LLP

PhD:      Cell Biology and Cell Signalling at King’s College London

Anna began her pursuit to become a Patent Attorney immediately after her studies at King’s, and spent over ten years at Dehns law firm. More recently, she has been working at Carpmaels & Ransford, where she specialises in helping clients to develop and execute their IP strategies.

Nick’s route into patent law began with choosing not to pursue an academic career as he wanted more variety and scope. He did take one post-doc role before (after some advice from a careers consultant) applying to many companies before securing his first position.

Anna’s route was more direct, via Biochemistry. She liked lab research but thought she wanted more intellectual stimulation, building on her research skills. She looked outside because of appeal of using scientific knowledge without having to be in a lab. Anna made use of her professional networks to get advice and applied.

How does patent law work?

Nick and Anna are patent attorneys. They help to draft patents, file them at the patent office and help refine the application. They can sometimes appear in court. They’re trained to help people get patents and both specialise in acquisition of rights. An education in science is an essential requirement and you must have a degree that European courts recognise. Patent lawyers help with assertion of rights in court and IP solicitors deal much more widely.

What is your company is like and how does it fit into the sector?

Anna – Cartmels is quite large and one of the oldest firms in the sector, all on one site. There are about 200 staff and 8 to 10 new trainees each year. They also have solicitors and trademark attorneys litigating. It’s different to other firms because of size and scope of activity. Anna advised applicants to look at the client base, the strengths of particular firms and to think about your own ambitions.

Nick – noted big contrasts between his first and second firms, although standards are high everywhere. In his first firm, things were very income and time focussed. His current firm is single site, with 150 staff. The ethos and attitude distinguish them with short, business like communication, very client focussed. There’s lots of fun and social life.

Nick recommends applying to as many firms as possible as it’s a small profession, but to tailor applications. He advises – do your research, be ready to answer why you want to work there. Be honest on applications but positive. Applications should be perfect on attention to detail, which is an essential skill. Interviews often include reading tests for this. Having a PhD and post doc experience is very valuable and helps build confidence.

He also say to research market, for example at the moment there is a shortage of electronics specialists but markets change. Adaptability and willingness to are learn important and your science background can matter. You need an eye for detail, pedantry, and your ability to write is very important. PhDs have better writing skills.

Non-native English speakers are welcome as their languages are useful but good confidence in English matters. The application season is usually one year ahead for an Autumn start like most graduate schemes.  Interviews by Skype and then there are selection days. There are vacation schemes for penultimate year PhDs. Work experience is good as always as a way of making you stand out.

What do you do day to day?

Drafting, searching, reading documents, moving application through stages. Lots of communication. Advising clients on patents and other people’s intellectual property. Lodging appeals against grants of patents on behalf of clients. Very desk based, thinking, reading, and writing. You need to enjoy problem solving and meeting client’s needs and there’s lots of variety and challenge.

There are some opportunities to work at home and flexible working is possible. You need a real interest in helping a business develop and must learn to see the difference between academic and commercial interests. Orientation into the business can be steep learning curve and the training is demanding and quite long.

Professional Futures, 16 November 2016 – Think you don’t need to network? Here’s why you do.

network-586177_640Our speaker:

Dr Triona Bolger, whose PhD was in Craniofacial Developmental Biology, is now a Managing Consultant in the Life Science Practice at Navigant Consulting with a strong interest in EU/Emerging Market commercial strategy for both speciality and big pharma.

Here are Triona’s top thoughts about networking and how to be a successful networker:

  1. Words that come to mind when thinking about networking:
  • Elevator pitch
  • Selling yourself
  • Awkward forced conversation
  • Schmoozing
  • Working a room
  • Speed dating.
  1. All of these things can seem like barriers to a useful conversation.
  2. Networking is nothing more than making connections with people – be interested, be present and be honest. Talk openly about the things that you are passionate about, ask engaging questions and truly listen to the answers. People seek connections and respond well to honest and open conversations.
  3. Networking shouldn’t mean that you are false or behave in a manner that isn’t yourself – this comes across as fake and people will close off .
  4. The purpose of networking varies so try and be open to opportunities – you may be looking for a new flat mate, funding, a job, inspiration, a collaborator and many other things.
  5. You can network anywhere – the residents lounge of your building, at parties, sports, on-line, on a flight.
  6. Generally, I don’t network with purpose, I just try to pay attention to who people are and chat, but this is my approach. Others need to be more studied and others are more gregarious.
  7. Be true to yourself – if you aren’t outgoing and able to introduce yourself, then don’t go to events where you have to put yourself out there. Work out a networking style that works for you.
  8. Identify your ‘party personality’ – are you the centre of the party? Are you holding up the wall, are you chatting in the kitchen in a smaller group, are you making yourself useful clearing up after other? Know yourself and find ways to talk to people that work for you
  9. What do you want to be known for? What do you need / want to know about others? Try to work out your answers to the following:
  • Do you have to be purposeful vs. passive?
  • What is your story?
  • Who is the other person?
  1. Keep in touch with the connections you make through messages, emails or personal contact.

Professional Futures: Industry v. Academia – Comparing Research Opportunities, 9th November 2016

Our speaker was Dr Terry Parlett – Head of IP & Commercial Research at Guy’s and St. Thomas’s NHS Foundation Trust. Terry’s PhD is in Immunology.

Terry completed his studies at King’s in 2004 and has since held professional roles in molecular biology, health innovation and delivering medical technology.

At present, he leads the development and commercialisation of NHS intellectual property assets to create new products and services for patients.

This involves both protecting the intellectual property generated by research in the NHS and setting up new ventures to exploit it commercially for the benefit of the Service.

Terry’s career has been varied. He decided that although he enjoyed academic science research he wanted more control over his professional life and wondered if he was likely to make a full career in this field. This helped him to decide to move outside academic research.

He began his current career while still writing his PhD, taking a job in media sales which led to working for a King’s College London spin-off company. The progression from there to his current role has been a series of natural developments, using his research and commercial skills.

Terry identifies several differences between academic research and his current role:

  • Team dynamics are different, being less collegiate and more shaply business focussed
  • He’s often asked to work outside your comfort zone and expected to respond professionally. Terry commented that he has come to enjoy this aspect of his work.
  • Terry says there are no typical days (which is an advantage) although his work now benefits from well worked out processes and systems which he has developed.

For this kind of career, Terry recommends gaining some experience through internships or work shadowing. It can be a real benefit if you have patents from your research already and a science background is essential to the job. Terry also emphasised the necessity of growing and maintaining a useful professional network.

Terry recommends:

  • You need to be resilient and flexible
  • Learn how to manage upwards with senior colleagues
  • Thoroughly understand the role and accept what comes along
  • Seek coaching and mentoring as soon as you can
  • Be confident in your skills and knowledge – Terry rejected several career possibilities before settling on his current path

 

Spotlight on Research outside Academia – notes from the panel event

If you weren’t able to come to the recent event about working in scientific research outside academia, here are some top tips from the session:

Our speakers were:

Sunish Patel

  • Title:      Senior Analytical Scientist at GSK
  • PhD:      Pharmaceutics and Drug Design from UCL

Sunish’s PhD was a combination of drug discovery and drug delivery. During his PhD he developed new hydrophobic peptides and investigated their oral and SC delivery using polymeric nano particles.

Ruth Mokgogong

  • Title: Health Outcomes Research Manager – Pfizer
  • PhD: Neuropharmacology at University of Cambridge

Ruth is part of the Health & Value Outcomes team at Pfizer, where she now focuses more upon public health than she did during her academic studies. Her work includes conducting research and analyses on clinical trials and observational studies. In addition she is also involved in health economics research.

1) Each of our speakers had not gone directly into these roles: Sunish worked as a community pharmacist directly after his MPharm, and Ruth worked as a life science consultant first.  Sunish made 60 applications before eventually going through a GSK recruitment agency (PPD) to get the role.

2) Sunish indicated that PhD entrants are likely to get selected for more complex projects because of their prior experience, which would lead to potentially more interesting internal moves.  You’re likely to be able to, for example, add extra value to a department through cutting time on SOPs, which is helpful at appraisal time.

3) The lab environment in industry is broadly similar to a university lab; there may be more safety management procedures in place but otherwise the daily routine of experiments in the morning and then analysing data in the afternoons is pretty much the same.  You are more likely to have access to your own set of equipment rather than having to book and share it with other groups.

4) Ruth’s role, managing clinical trials on rare ‘orphan diseases’, reminds us that ethical approvals are difficult to come by in industry as well as academia.  The technical skills she uses, of observational study, desk-based statistical research and systematic reviews, are those many academics regularly use.

5) While companies such as Pfizer are based in the US, the UK offices are valued by them because of the rigour involved in getting approvals for market access, essentially to sell drugs to the NHS.  Companies reason that they need UK know-how to get access to this market and in doing so, get themselves into the European market too.

6) One big change from academia is having to have a corporate outlook.  You have to learn to manage up and down, and to be good at project management.

7) Ruth indicated that in her world (health economics), employers liked people with business knowledge and that it is easier to get into life science consulting than it is into business.

8) Work/life balance seemed pretty good for both speakers.  Ruth indicated that the hours in consulting were longer than in her current role.  Travel may well be involved, specially if the company is headquartered overseas.  GSK operates a flexi-time approach.

9) There are vacancies currently in specialist areas such as statisticians or health technologists.  GSK uses a lot of ‘contingency’ staff (essentially contractors) and this is a good way to see the internal vacancy list, for example.

10) When asked how they decided to get into their particular roles, both speakers talked about taking a chance, taking a risk and not necessarily having ALL information available to them.  ‘It looked interesting’ said Ruth!

Spotlight on Management Consultancy – notes from the panel events

Ten Top Tips from the Spotlight on Management Consultancy

Read on if you weren’t able to come to the very successful event recently around Management Consultancy careers for PhDs and research staff!

Speaker profiles:

Grant Repshire

Consultant at Capco

Grant completed a PhD in English Literature at Exeter University, having formerly completed an MA in History at Exeter, and a Bachelors in History at the University of Kansas. His research focused on the rediscovered papers of the First World War soldier-poet F.W. Harvey, resulting in the first academic biographical study of Harvey’s life and work. He is currently a Consultant at Capco, joining through their Armed Forces to Capco programme, having been a military officer prior to my MA/PhD.

Philip Livingstone
Manager, KPMG Management Consulting Healthcare Team
Philip’s PhD at Bath Spa focused on the interactions between reward pathways and attention pathways in the brain and how they are affected by nicotine in order to find new therapeutic targets for disorders such as schizophrenia. He took a particular interest in how dopamine levels in the brain would change in this pathways as a result of increasing the effects of nicotinic signalling.

He is now a Manager in the KPMG Management Consulting Healthcare Team. He specialises in redesigning healthcare services across whole care systems, involving the NHS, local government and not-for-profit sectors.

Nick Faull

Nick Faull is a Principal in Oliver Wyman’s London Office within the Financial Services practice. He has nine years of experience in consulting to Financial Services institutions across Europe with a focus on strategic IT and operations topics. He joined the firm after completing an atmospheric physics DPhil and a 2-year postdoc at the University of Oxford, working on the largest climate modelling experiment in the world.

  • Talk to your careers service! Both Grant and Phil used the careers events at their university to help with career inspiration and choice, as well as application feedback.
  • Choose a consultancy based either on your interest area (eg finance, life science) or because it has a very broad base and will expose you to multiple sector areas
  • Consulting is a good profession for allowing you to find out more about what other roles are possible in the world; consultants often move into the industries they have been supporting through their consultancy work, or become more senior and specialist in their particular consultancy practice.
  • There are many transferable skills from PhD or other research work; researching data or interviewing client employees is similar to many people’s research methodology; drawing conclusions from your own data; report writing; tender writing is very similar to applying for grants; and making presentations. Consulting is about understanding a problem and solving it, much like writing a PhD.
  • The main differences are the fast pace – clients will often want work produced at very short notice – and the number of projects on the go at one time. The stress is often higher and there is less time to sit and reflect.  You rarely use the academic knowledge that you have in a particular research field, though Phil did get to work on data for the ABPI.
  • Travel is a given, unless you choose a consultancy (such as CapCo, for example) that focuses on a particular geographical area (financial services technology). As you become more senior, you would be better able to choose the kind of clients you work with and therefore the travel you have to undertake.  Consultants can usually choose to be available for emails etc during their leave and many firms actively discourage this practice.
  • PhDs and other researchers are usually very positively viewed by consultancy firms. Be clear about what the reason is you are being pulled towards consultancy as they are likely to ask you at interview why you don’t want to continue in academia.  Reasons given by the panel include the opportunity to work on a variety of projects at once, and seeing a more immediate impact.
  • The kind of work varies enormously. Phil was a tutor on some NHS management training recently; Grant got to advise a charity during his induction period; Nick works within financial services advising regulators.
  • Different companies will have different ways of managing recruitment and subsequent progression within a company. All three entered via a graduate training scheme, though Grant came from a specific Armed Forces scheme and hence started perhaps slightly higher grade than a standard graduate.  Oliver Wyman has no timeline for promotion and works with individuals to help them develop; CapCo you are finding your own project and almost applying for each new piece of work; KPMG you may well find yourself studying for an accountancy qualification.
  • Areas likely to remain buoyant within consulting include IT, data, technology; leadership development and organisational conduct and culture. And strategy will never go away!

 

Kate Murray

Oct 2016

Spotlight Series: Careers in Policy – notes from the discussion on 26th October 2016

city-hall-719963_640Our speakers were:

Lila Caballero-Sosa

Title:      Policy Adviser at ActionAid

PhD:      Government; focusing on the Mexican Chamber of Deputies, at LSE

Lila has extensive experience in policy research, advice and management. As part of the policy team at ActionAid UK, she carries out research and develop policy analysis and strategies on aid and development finance. Although she has never formally studied at King’s, Lila has strong affiliations with the college and is currently carrying out a collaborative research project with the King’s International Development Institute.

George Windsor

Title:      Senior Policy Researcher at Nesta

PhD:      Political Science and Government; Highly skilled migration and the promotion of entrepreneurship in the UK at Loughborough University

At Nesta, George focuses upon carrying out research relating to the creative and digital economies here in the UK. This includes analysis of policy documentation such as the revised ‘Creative Industries Council’ strategy, as well as exploring concepts such as ‘The Fusion Effect’ which explores the utility of businesses combining knowledge from both the arts and sciences.

Ben Whitham

 Title:      Policy Research at Citizens Advice

PhD:      International Politics – University of Reading

Recently a Policy Researcher at Citizens Advice, a part-time Lecturer in International Politics at the University of East London, and a (voluntary) member of the Board of Directors at the Nuclear Information Service, Ben has many years’ experience of professional research and teaching in both Higher Education and policy roles. Ben is now a lecturer at Loughborough University. At present his work focuses upon the public services complaint landscape and he is utilising innovative social media research and big data analysis.

 Here are some of the questions and tips provided by our speakers:

Some common features of policy work:

  • Organisations are often small and run on tight budgets – multitasking and flexibility is needed
  • Work is often politically sensitive and discretion is frequently needed
  • Small organisations often mean opportunities to try new areas of work and take responsibility quickly
  • There are often benefits such as international travel or the chance to work with government departments and ministers and have impact nationally

Does your PhD have to be relevant to policy work?

All three panellists agreed that this was not necessary and that transferable skills from your PHD were more important.

How can you become more employable in policy?

Take internships if you can but also take less formal approaches, be willing to collaborate on writing blogs, approach someone who is already working in the field and suggest working together. Be imaginative it’s often easier than you think to approach and work with someone.

You can try getting an administrative role in an organisation you want to work for and wait for a good opportunity to come up. It’s usually easier to move within and organisation than it is to enter from the outside.

How can you prepare for this type of work?

Learn (or re-learn) to write specifically for a non-academic audience. This may be harder than you realised. Your new employers, however, will probably appreciate your academic skills and draw on them for example in gathering and analysing data.

Policy work is often quite different to academia – results are required more quickly and the methods used to research are often different to the ones you’ve used up to now. It’s a good idea to get familiar with quantative methods and software like SPSS, if you aren’t already.

Can you re-enter academia after a period working in a non-academic role?

Yes, and this can be a strength, bringing skills and experience that you might not have otherwise. You can also mix further study or academic work with a policy role. Two of our speakers had direct experience of this. Your connection with and understanding of academia can also be very useful.

Top tip for policy job application:

Read job description carefully, show you have the essentials, trust yourself – have confidence in yourself! You’ve done and achieved a lot. Be succinct and plain in your answers to questions. Use evidence and tangible examples.

Many thanks to our speakers who gave up their time so generously and our audience for their excellent questions.

Save the date(s)… meet employers interested in your research experience

We know many of you are focussed on a research career.  We also know that research can take many forms and is valued by many employers.  That’s why we’ve created an incredible series of events where PhDs and research staff at King’s can come and meet employers to find out more about what research means in different contexts.

See below for our Save the Date list: the events will take place at different campuses and usually late afternoon.  We’ll update this list when rooms are booked, and will let you know the exciting range of employers as soon as we can!

Find out more about your possible future

Find out more about your possible future

Spotlight Series

This series is for you as a PhD or member of research staff if:

  • You’re eager to explore careers in different industries…
  • You’ve been thinking about pursuing a career in a field, but would like to know more about the ‘day-to-day’…
  • You’re unsure about how to break into a sector…
  • You’d like some advice on how to craft job applications for industries that interest you…

Each event in the series will put the ‘spotlight’ on a sector, and a panel of practitioners will shed light on the questions above as well as your other queries about career development. Having all spent time in academic research, panellists will be well equipped to speak about professionals experiences in and out the university setting.

Professional Futures

This series is for you as a PhD or member of research staff if you have ever asked yourself:

  • Should I remain in academia or consider a career in industry?
  • How can I market myself outside of academia?
  • Which organisations appreciate the skillset of academic researchers like me?
  • What’s the best way to communicate my skills and experience with non-academic employers?

Come along to the sessions that speak most to your career needs, where you can engage with professionals who have already spent a lot of time figuring out answers to these kind of questions! Our guest speakers will chat briefly about their own experiences and then be on hand to address any questions you have about your own professional development and future.

Event Date
SS: Patent Law Wed 12th Oct
SS: Management Consultancy Wed 19th Oct
SS: Policy Wed 26th Oct
SS: Research outside of Academia Wed 2nd Nov
PF: Industry vs. Academia: Comparing research opportunities in both sectors (Sciences) Wed 9th Nov
PF: Don’t think you need to network? Megan Rossi explains why you do Wed 16th Nov
SS: Finance Wed 23rd Nov
PF: Thinking beyond your discipline Wed 30th Nov
PF: Internationalising your PhD Wed 18th Jan
PF: Finding your fit: PhD-friendly organisations Wed 1st Feb
SS: Entrepreneurship Wed 8th Feb
PF: Industry vs. Academia: Comparing research opportunities in both sectors (Social studies) Wed 15th Feb
PF: Informational Interview (link in with promotion of work shadowing opportunities) Wed 1st Mar
PF: Beyond the Bench: Nail the PhD Elevator Pitch Wed 8th Mar
SS: Behavioural Consultancy (IoPPN) Wed 15th Mar
SS: Education Wed 22nd Mar
SS: Arts Administration Wed 19th Apr
SS: Security & Intelligence Wed 26th Apr
SS: Science Beyond Academia (to include Science Comms, Tech Transfer, & Pharmaceuticals) Wed May 3rd

Case Studies: Working in Pharmaceutical Companies

Guest post by Tom Davies, Careers Information Officer, King’s Careers & Employability

In this post we’ll aim to summarise some of the main points and advice given by each of the four speakers, all of whom are King’s alumni, at the recent event.

Dr Sarah Collington, Novartis

First up was Sarah, who works as a Medical Science Liaison for Novartis. Sarah’s first experience of working in the pharmaceutical industry came during her studies at King’s, where she spent her extramural year conducting research at GSK. While studying for her PhD Sarah realised that while still interested in science, she wanted a role that didn’t focus purely on this. In anticipation of this, and wanting to improve her commercial acumen, she also got involved in a couple of business related societies, an experience that was recommended to anyone potentially interested in a career path in this area. After some research and a couple of years working in different roles, she started working as a Medical Science Liaison, a role she’s been in for around two years.

A Medical Science Liaison sits between the research and commercial branches of a pharma company, and Sarah’s main tasks include assisting sales reps with medical or technical questions, and helping to resolve operational matters relating to medical trials, although she was keen to stress the flexible nature of the work she does. In summarising, Sarah said that she was really enjoying her role; she will always feel like a scientist in her heart, and while the role isn’t lab-based, it still allows her to think and feel like one.

Dr Steve Ludbrook, GSK

Steve decided he wanted to work at GSK as a result of doing an industrial placement year there during his BSc Biochemistry degree. Though he enjoyed his year working at GSK, it also reaffirmed the value of doing a PhD, after seeing that almost everyone working in the areas he was interested in possessed one. After returning to King’s to complete his PhD, Steve’s now worked at GSK for 20 years, with 15 of those spent in his current role as Group Leader in Technology Platforms and & Capability Screening. His main responsibilities are to manage lab-based projects, as well as line managing other members of staff working on these. It’s this collaborative working that Steve cited as one of the main positive elements of the role – working on projects with other talented people who have similar goals an aims in mind is something that he finds very rewarding.

There’s definite challenges though. This area of work is not particularly stable, with Steve citing the fact that the Research and Development arm of GSK has been cut to a third of the size it was when he started as evidence of this. Your everyday work can also be quite turbulent, with projects you’ve been working on for years not safe from being cut at a moment’s notice. Great amounts of resilience are necessary to deal with these testing situations. New starters, particularly those coming in from PhD or postdoc level, can also find the move from working individually to an insistence upon collaborative management of projects challenging.

Dr Fatos Bejta, Otsuka Pharmaceuticals

Fatos’ association with the pharmaceutical industry goes back to his days as a student, when he completed an industrial placement with GSK, who also part-funded his PhD. Despite this link, and unlike the first two panellists, Fatos’ career didn’t begin in the industry, but with the MHRA, a branch of the Civil Service who act as the regulator for new medicines, devices and more.

He moved over to an industry role after he was headhunted and offered a substantial pay rise. His time at this organisation ended when he lost his job after massive cuts were made, and this was also how his second role in industry ended. As Fatos said, this is an unfortunate reality of working in pharma, and you should be aware of it before you begin. He now works as a Senior Clinical Quality Management Specialist for Otsuka Pharmaceuticals, which largely consists of auditing the firm’s sites across the world for things such as drug safety and clinical data amongst other things.

Dr Parastoo Karoon, Amgen

Parastoo completed a BSc in Pharmacology and a PhD in Neuroscience, but realised during her studies that she found lab work repetitive and unfulfilling, so started looking for alternatives. Like Fatos she begun in the MHRA, where she worked on attempting to influence policy surrounding the issuing of child dosages, an issue she felt passionately about. She then moved to an even more policy-focused role, which led to her being part of a team who successfully lobbied the EU parliament for a change in regulations.

Typical roles in this line of work include assessors and pharmaceutical advisors, but Parastoo was keen to advise students not to get too hung up on applying only for their perfect role. Competition for vacancies is strong, but once you’ve got your foot in the door you’ll find that new positions will tend to favour internal applicants, giving you the opportunity to move into a role or policy area more matched to your interests.

Parastoo now works on the other side of the regulation floor, overseeing the research and evidence for new products for Amgen and advising them of any changes that need to be made before they go to regulation committee. Amgen has 8-10 internships/placements a year which are advertised here.

General advice from the Q&A

  • When writing your CV and cover letter for positions in industry, take care not to talk in too much detail about academia and specific technical skills unless they can clearly be tied into an aspect of the job/person specification. Unlike academic positions, where academics might have time to wade through pages and pages of information, recruiters in industry are likely to be very busy, so try to catch their eye and not make them work too hard to understand why you can be an asset. Your CV should be no more than two pages.
  • If you’re invited to interview, you will normally be expected to deliver a presentation as part of it. Be prepared for this, and if you’re not confident in your presentation skills, start thinking about ways you can practice!
  • Make sure that you do your research on the companies that you’re applying to, and again when you’re invited to interview. Their Pipelines are a good place to start, and should be easily locatable on their website.
  • Linked to the last point, Parastoo also advised students to try and identify companies to apply to who are innovative and pushing the boundaries of research, as working for such organisations can often be more fulfilling and interesting.

Case Studies: Data Science careers

Dr Kim Nilsson, Pivigo:

Kim is an Astrophysics PhD turned Entrepreneur. She is the CEO of Pivigo, an organisation focused on supporting analytical MScs and PhDs in their career transitions into data science roles. She is passionate about people, data and connecting the two.

Kim realised that, despite being a Hubble astronomer, academia was not for her.  She undertook an MBA and worked briefly in financial services before setting up her own company.  Pivigo helps researchers gain commercial experience that will help them into a data science career.

On the day she spoke, there were 4003 jobs on LinkedIn with the title ‘data scientist’.  A starting salary will be £35-£50k.  The different sectors include commerce, operations, consumer marketing, local government and charities.

Key skills include Python, R and Java.  You need to have curiosity and scepticism, and ability to communicate and some business awareness.  Your CV needs to show HOW you apply your data skills to problems.

Check out MOOCs on Coursera, competitions on Kaggle or create your own data challenge!

Dr Ana Costa e Silva, TIBCO:

Ana has 15 years experience with data, undergraduate studies in Business and a PhD in computer science (AI) from the Edinburgh University. She has previously been a manager economic statistician for the Statistics department of the Portuguese Central Bank and a researcher of the inner workings of the global stock market for Edinburgh Partners.

Ana’s company helps businesses understand their data and start to respect their customers.  Her data analysis helps to optimise pricing, check for fraud, re-route transport (eg container ships avoiding storms and finding available docking).  She helps the engineers in the company make their products look better (eg in oil and gas, optimising engineering tools, and in healthcare, getting sensors to call nurses when there are changes in patient data).  One client was a casino company, MGM Resorts, and they looked at historic data to see which punters had not yet lost too much money: these people were texted with offers at other entertainment places and then encouraged back, as data demonstrated that people who had not lost too much were more likely to come back and spend more money.

Dr Zach Izham, Hewlett Packard Enterprise

Zach has a PhD in Mechanical Engineering and after several roles in aero-engineering, is now responsible for designing, implementing and testing solutions for data analytics and machine learning for clients in insurance/ banking/automotive industries and also governmental agencies from a ‘data science’ perspective.

He talked about why he left academia, citing the main reason as being that it would not be possible to earn enough money.  He works for HPE where he helps businesses leverage their data to run a more efficient business.  Issues he encounters are where servers don’t talk to each other and he has to find solutions to problems.  He encourage attendees to be picky about the business they choose to work in and consider starting their own business.

He says that AI becomes Machine Learning when it is mainstream, such as the self-driving car.

Interesting courses include Andrew Lung’s Coursera course and you should check out SiliconMilkRoundabout (jobs fair for tech people).