Tales from the Trenches: Career Growth in Biotechnology

Building a successful career in the biotechnology industry is really just a series of transitions from one role to another. But the devil is in the details—when to make a change, how to create opportunities and who can be your champion as you pivot. So how do you navigate these factors to keep your career goals on course?

Bob Weiland answers a question posed by Michele Smith at the MS Biotech Alumni Symposium.

I recently attended a symposium (presented by the University of Wisconsin Master of Science in Biotechnology Program, of which I’m an alum) that addressed this topic through the lens of one individual with a storied career in the industry. Bob Weiland currently serves on the Board of Directors for CymaBay Therapeutics. He has held various roles, from sales and marketing to operations and strategy, within large, established companies (Abbot, Baxter, Takeda) and smaller ones (Pacira Pharmacueticals). He drew on this wide-ranging experience to provide advice to professionals at all career stages.

Bob began the talk by declaring that there will be points in your career when you reach a “hard spot” and will need to transition, whether to a new role, company or even industry, to meet your career goals. He suggested a good starting point is simply to be thinking about making a change. But in the same breath he emphasized, “What are you doing about it?” He identified four distinct actions that you can take to ensure role changes and career transitions support your professional growth and development.

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Pop Quiz: What Scientific Job is Right for You?

Word Quiz on yellow backgroundI used to love taking magazine quizzes to learn more about myself. I thought it would be fun to create a quiz to help you find out what scientific career path may be the best fit for you. Be open-minded while taking the quiz and remember that this is just for fun!

1. My greatest strength is:

a)      My artistry
b)      My perseverance
c)      My attention to detail
d)      My problem solving skills
e)      My personality- I get along with everyone

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A Conscious Decision to Change Careers Should Not Be Mistaken for Failure

A recent PNAS article tracked the careers of scientists in three different fields based on research paper authorship. They found that, over a 50-year span, there was a dramatic reduction in how long scientists remained in each field, which they termed “survivability.” More than half of the scientists that started out in the 1960s published in their field for an average of 35 years, while about half of scientists starting in the 2010s published in their field for an average of 5 years1. Tracked academic researchers were classified into three categories: transients (authors who had only one publication during their career), dropouts (authors who stopped publishing at various career levels), and full-career scientists (authors who continue to publish in the field). Overall, the data showed that there are an increasing number of transients that contribute to scientific papers. Thus, the authors of the PNAS article concluded that the demographics in those academic fields are shifting toward scientists who leave the field quickly. The observed increase in the number of scientists who are temporarily in academia makes sense, given the number of PhDs relative to the limited number of faculty positions and permanent staff scientist roles. However, the terms “survivability,” “transients,” and “dropouts” give the impression that leaving academia means that these scientists have ended their career or failed.

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Culture Rules- Investigating Company Cultures

iStock_000025830858SmallWhen searching for a job it’s important to consider the job duties as well as the company and the company’s culture. Two companies have become famous for their cultures—Google and Zappos. Google is known as a company where you work hard in an amazing environment. Oh, and the food is free! Zappos is known as a place where employees are valued, and customer service is the first priority. Here at Promega, science rules, employee well-being is extremely important, and you can make a big impact regardless of your job title.

If you are able to find a company with an appealing culture and similar values to your own, it is a win-win situation. You will likely be happier in your job and therefore a better performer.

Here are some questions that you can ask to learn about the company culture and figure out if it is a fit with your personality and needs. These questions can be asked in an interview or in an informational conversation with someone in your network before you apply for a job. Keep in mind that there is no right answer to these questions. Some people thrive in government jobs while others have more of an entrepreneurial spirit; you need to figure out what type of culture will work best for you. Continue reading “Culture Rules- Investigating Company Cultures”

Compensation 101: What You Need to Know Now

money in the handsCompensation is a bit of a mystery to most people outside of HR. We go to work to make money and receive benefits, but aren’t always sure how our salaries and benefits packages are decided. In order to understand if we are being paid fairly, negotiate an offer, or counsel a friend on a career change, we need to have some understanding of compensation. Interestingly, in most cases, the more people know about how they are being compensated, the better they feel about their pay and benefits.  I’m going to let you in on some secrets to help demystify compensation. Continue reading “Compensation 101: What You Need to Know Now”