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