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11/02/07
Postdoctoral conversation. 4 Industrial position in Pharma
Filed under: Position Searching, Networking, First Year on Job, Post-docs
Posted by: site admin @ 6:51 am

This is a fourth in a series of case
histories to help professionals see
paths they may take to develop their
careers.  This is a subject that has
so many variables that learning
people’s options and decisions to
achieve their goals can be helpful.

TL was awarded her doctorate in
computational chemistry and wished
to expand her background.  She “wanted
the area worked to be new to her…” and
“highliy valued by pharma and biotech
companies…”  


Dan> What are the main things one
should consider when thinking about
whether or not to do a post doc and/or
about where to do a post doc?

TL> The main thing to think about is how
the post-doc will make (you) [them] more
employable.  You need to grow as a
person and as a scientist in the post
doc role.  Post-docs do earn less so
that has to be financially feasible for your
family life, as well.  You really need to do
what is best for you and your family.

I was actually told by some people not
to accept a post-doc and that getting a
permanent position was more prestigious
.

That might be true in some cases, but at
the end of the day, you have to make your
decisions.  I do not regret my post-doc, it
was the right decision for me
.  

Dan> Were there differences between
your expectations and reality in the
post-doc role?


TL> My post doc was in industry and I
did not really know what to expect. 
Working in industry is different from
academia and I knew that would be
the case, I just was not sure in what
areas.  The main things to get used to
are(:)

- using the Outlook calendar,
- figuring out the corporate culture, and
- if or how much politics plays a role in
your department.


Dan> Did your thesis adviser provide
key help in finding your position?


TL> No, my thesis advisor did not help
me in getting this role.  Actually, my
current post-doc boss called me up on
the phone and described the position to
me.

I had never met him before but someone
I had met at the previous AS meeting told
him about me.  He said the post-doc position
was mine if I wanted it.

DAN>  When you choose to apply for
an industrial post-doc, did you choose a
company and they
choose the mentor/supervisor? 
What happens here?  Do you apply for whatever
they are offering?
  Do you have a choice
of supervisor?

TL>  My experience was unique in that
they called me, not the other way around. 
Reputation, consistency, and networking
played a huge role in large pharma
seeking me out.

I was not even aware of the job posting
until my current post-doc adviser called me
.

 

Dan> Where does your research/work
direction come from?

TL> Almost entirely from my current boss
.
 
Dan>  Did you choose an area different
from your thesis to broaden your
background?

TL> Yes.  This was my main motivation.  I
was able to work in a completely different
research area than my thesis work, which
made me more employable.

Dan> What was the most useful tool
you used to obtain the post-doc?

TL>  Networking

Dan> Have you developed mentors
in this role?


TL>  I have developed many mentors
in my current post doc role.
  My
presentation style, organization, and
research skills were noticed by my
boss’s boss and then he had me
speak to our department deputy.  My
department deputy has become a
mentor and has given me career
advice and his outlook on life. 
 

Dan> Did you choose a mentor who
has a strong research and pub
record with a view to growing your
record?  Did you choose your mentor
with the thought that he would
help you attain a position when you
are complete?


TL> I accepted this position based
on growing as a scientist.  The area
of research was new to me but highly
valued by all the pharmaceutical and
biotech companies [as well].  I wanted
to be sure that I did something that
complimented my graduate work, not
repeat it.

Dan> If you were to do it over, would
you work as a post-doc or choose to
find a permanent position?

TL> I would work as a post-doc.  I was
able to peer into the inner workings of
the pharmaceutical industry without any
long-te commitment.  Also,… after all
those linear years of schooling it is nice
to have a moment to figure out what
you want in life. 

So much time and energy is spent on
obtaining your PhD that you sometimes
forget what you love doing most. 

A post doc gives you the opportunity
to work (and pay back some of those
student loans) and explore not only
your career options but also what
you personally want from life.


 

One Response to “Postdoctoral conversation. 4 Industrial position in Pharma”

  1. site admin Says:
    Peter Gwynne authored an
    information-filled article in Science
    Careers about industrial post-docs.

    Some items that complement TL’s
    interview are noted:

    * TL noted the uses of Outlook. Mr.
    Gwynne expressed the notion as a
    more structured culture“.

    * Along the same theme, your goals
    are linked to company focus. “Time
    management [can be] the greatest
    challenge.” Where one spends their
    time is more constrained, although it
    might be less so for post-docs.

    * Focusing on the success of teams
    of people with different agendas and
    expertise, it can be a challenge but
    also an exciting advantage, to figure
    out a post-doc’s contributing role and
    learn from others at the same time.

    * Publishing policy is often different
    especially in patentable areas. More
    often, post-docs can be assigned to
    areas that are less proprietary.

    * There is no better place to learn
    about drug discovery than in a pharma
    company, or battery/ fuel cell research
    than in an energy storage firm, or
    catalysis than in a chemical catalysis
    application firm.

    * Your sense of community will change
    since you will be mixed in with quite
    different groups of people. Different
    mind-sets, common grounds,
    backgrounds.

    * Look for a place with a mentoring
    program or plan to assist
    all the different issues.

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