Career Spotlight: Working in Scientific Industries

With many thanks indeed to Dr Lorena Benedetti for hosting this event, and writing up these notes.

Our speakers included Dr Hilary Sandig, from Medimmune; and Rhahul Dhorijawala from Amco Ltd.

Dr Lea Lahnstein was unable to attend the event but sent these notes about her transition to working at GE Healthcare. Lea Lahnstein Career Spotlight 29.04.2015


Hilary moved to industry mainly to have secure job and to have the opportunity to work in applied science. Her role includes reproducing data from the literature and although most of her projects are applied, she does some basic research about targets. She doesn’t agree with the misconception that the quality of the science in industry is not very good!

She enjoys the fact that industry feels much more of more team environment and everybody wants to help you.

The things she doesn’t like that much are that there’s a lot of bureaucracy and training and that she spends a lot of time in meeting (sometimes twice a day).

Summary of the good things about working in industry:

  • Work as part of a team
  • Generate new therapies
  • Negative data is always appreciated because it stops a project that doesn’t work (and saves a lot of money!)
  • Job security and benefits. Sometimes the salary is a bit higher that the one you may get in academia but you have more befits (bonuses, health insurance, gym memberships).
  • Having a defined goal (the work is much more organised)
  • You get to interact with a lot of people
  • You get more recognition

Summary of bad things about working in industry:

  • Less freedom in what you can do, but you still get opportunities to publish.
  • Sometimes you end up working in sth you don’t like that much but have to finish it
  • You have less freedom to discuss the science with friends (which is sth we all do a lot in academia)
  • It’s extremely hierarchically and it’s not that easy to get a promotion
  • In some ways it’s less sociable (she doesn’t go to pub with her colleagues on Fridays)
  • You get a lot done in a day; you never have an easy day (as you sometimes may have in academia).

She found the job from an email a friend that was subscribed to the flow citometry mailing list forwarded her. So her advice is to subscribe to mailing lists.

How did she prepare for the interview? She practiced with King’s Careers.

Useful tips: If you are applying for job consider applying to cover maternity leave positions, they will allow you to be known at the company and if you did a good job, they will probably try to get the money to offer you a permanent position. When applying to a job spend some time trying to find out who is the person that will receive the cvs and contact that person for an informal conversation.

In your cv and during the interview emphasize that you enjoy working in teams.

Interesting data: Astra Zeneca is moving to Cambridge in 2016 and probably a lot of people won’t move so there will be a lot of job opportunities.


He’s never been in academia but he very much appreciates the soft skills that we develop in academia. If you are transitioning form academia to industry it’s better to start at a lower lever level and learn the specific skills required for the new job.

He’s never done a real job interview; he got all his jobs from networking. For him the key to get a job is to know somebody, you have to get exposed and don’t be afraid of asking! Show your personality.

He started working at Glaxo, it’s a big company with 5000 employees. To get a promotion working in such a big company is not easy: instead, he moved to a role as a product developer with a contact who had just started a generics company. He didn’t have a business background but he learned about it by talking to people. The more you get to know somebody the more that person will tell you so again the key is interact with people!

Useful tips: Try to avoid recruiting agencies but if there’s no other option make sure they don’t modify your cv and if they do so make sure they send you the version they are sending to the companies.

Advice for the cv and interview: Keep your cv short (no more than 2 pages); speaking more than one language is very much appreciated (it makes it easier for the company to contact new clients from different markets). During the interview take the time to listen to question and think about the answer, don’t be afraid of silence!