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