Career Inspiration: Project Management after a post-doc

A guest post from Dr Catie Rousset, now an Associate Consultant at Prescient Healthcare Group.

What were you doing here at King’s, and why did you decide to move out of academia?

I was doing research on perinatal brain injury, investigating mechanisms of injury which could be targets for potential treatments. I decided to leave academia for various reasons. I became disappointed in the system, realizing that you cannot go forward by yourself without good support despite your greatest efforts, integrity and qualities as a researcher. It led me to wonder whether I was interested in becoming a PI myself with the huge pressure of quick publications in high impact factor journals, the need for funding (good funding) and the competition between post-docs to get a position. Finally, I grew tired of being in the lab repeating the same experiments: I felt that, at the end of the day, it is always the same things you are doing, just the name of the target that changes.

How did you decide what to do next?

After I took the decision to leave academia, the big question was what next? I started to talk to a lot of people that had a PhD but left academia to know their background, challenges, what are they doing now. I was trying to figure out what was interesting to me. I didn’t want to find a new job for the sake of it, I wanted to find something I liked doing. Project management came up naturally as this is what I have been doing ever since starting research in another context.  After coming to London, I had the great opportunity to be part of a huge project: setting up a group which I took care of with my PI. I loved that part of the job and I am great at it: I am a great organizer, manager and admin doesn’t scare me.

How did you find your current role?

Finding my current position was not easy.  The first step for me was to prepare an adequate CV leaving behind academia and tailoring it to the standards of a ‘normal’ job. Finding the right jobs to apply to was not easy either; from my point of view, there’s no need to send CVs to companies for the sake of it. You are losing your time, you are losing their time. I started to update my LinkedIn profile, network, and let the right people know I was looking for a new position. I applied for a lot of positions in academia, all unsuccessful despite a couple of interviews. One day a friend told me they were recruiting in her company. That’s a private industry and I was quite prejudiced against it, but after discussing with friends who worked in the private sector I decided to give it a go. After a couple of interviews, I got the job. It all went very quickly: 6 weeks later I started here, my PI agreeing to reduce my notice.

What work do you now do, and how is it different from your post-doc?

This is a pharmaceutical consulting company. We basically do research for companies, researching information that we analyse and compile into documents and send or present to the clients. It is very diverse. I am losing the expertise I had in my domain but immensely broadening my scientific, medical and pharmacological knowledge as I am working on a huge range of projects. It is fast paced, you meet a lot of people, there is always something happening and I am learning a lot of things which I find deeply stimulating. I kept the research, analysis and presentation part from my job as a scientist which I love, although there are different standards. There is still pressure but good pressure. I find the environment much healthier too; since we are a client oriented company, there is no point in having ‘politics’ between us, not to the extent I have seen in academia at least, there is a real cohesion and group effort. We are all in the same boat.

Overall from the moment I decided to leave academia, it took me 18 months to find a new job.

What would your top tips be, to anyone looking to leave academia?

Finally my top tips would be to network, tailor your CV for the job, pinpointing the right experience, look for extra things you can do on the side to improve further your CV and be brave and confident in contacting the companies.  Be patient.