Tell us about your current role [00:05]
I currently work as a senior scientist at Evotec and I’m in the DMPK department which stands for Drug, Metabolism and Pharmacokinetics. So, we’re involved in the early drug discovery process.
My job at Evotec is split into, I’d say, 30 per cent lab work, so, some days I’m in the lab and I’m doing set assays that are routinely done. Weekly, as the bread and butter of the company, we screen compounds, and then for some part of it, I am in the lab developing new methods, so that is a bit more akin to academia, where I read literature and develop my own experiments.
Then another part might be being involved in integrated projects, drug discovery projects, so I offer DMPK knowledge and advice to that, so that includes more meetings and collaborative working and data interpretation with different teams.
Yes, so I’d say my work is very varied and interesting. I think my favourite part is the breadth of what we cover actually and it’s quite satisfying to see how the whole picture fits together. So, I think in academia, you can spend quite a lot of time working on quite a small thing that you don’t always get the breadth of the understanding. But I think being in DMPK, where we’re involved in quite a big aspect of drug discovery, we have oversight of everything, which I find really satisfying.
How did you get your current job? Did you use any resources or support to help you? [01:56]
When I first moved to my job in the University of Oxford, I actually got in contact with a friend there and she was a colleague back in Liverpool and she basically was in industry and she told me about the job and got me to apply. I guess I spoke to her more and more and I found out what the job’s about, what sort of knowledge and what sort of skills were entailed and I’d considered my suitability for the role.
I did quite a lot of research, I read around in the company, spoke to other people that I knew who were also in industry. What I found really helpful was reading around the breadth of knowledge, around the subject, and trying to, as well as the science, to just also find out the business side of things and how the company’s run. I just reached out to people that I knew, who were already in industry and I guess, even recruiters as well on LinkedIn.
In terms of the job searching process, you have to look for more avenues to be able to find these job posts because I find for academia, you can find everything, all the job listings, listed on jobs.ac.uk, but in industry it can be more difficult to find the advertised posts. So, I found myself looking into other avenues, such as LinkedIn or specific journal sites, where they listed careers, or even word of mouth and talking to people.
I do think knowing connections is a very good way of getting into industry. I think with academia jobs, it’s listing a load of, for example, specific scientific skills, whereas industry jobs can be quite broad. It could just be something, I don’t know, project management or something like that.
So, I think speaking to people that you know and having contacts to decipher what that means, and finding the examples where you can apply your academia experiences into fulfilling that criteria was really important and really helpful.
Basically, when I thought that yes, the job role sounded really interesting to me, I sent in my CV to my friend and from there, I got a call maybe three months later inviting me to interview. The interview was quite difficult actually, it was an over five-hour process and it had quite a lot of rounds. I had to do an hour’s presentation to a big team and then a technical interview round, and also lots of one-to-one specific interviews with different members of the team. Fortunately, the interview went quite well so I got an offer for a job about a week afterwards and here I am today.
What challenges did you face in the application process? [04:41]
The job specs often mentioned or looked for criteria or skills that you just wouldn’t acquire from academia, so I guess, the main challenge was applying your research skills in an academia setting into that industry setting and selling those points, such as team work, for example, and collaborations and all of that. Translating that to an industry setting, you have to get that across in your application. So, I think that was one of the challenging points.
How has your postdoctoral experience helped in your current role? [05:21]
I think you become very adaptable in your approaches in tackling a scientific question and also it gives you confidence in maybe doing things that you’ve not been trained before in, or doing new processes or new techniques that you might not have done before. But having that postdoc training, where you’re faced with that every day, I think that puts you in good stead in even research in industry.
Scientific writing and presentation skills is something that takes time to develop and I think that’s really, really one of the key things you develop as a postdoc, and straight in that sets you in very good stead in industry, when you’re presenting either within the team or to clients on collaborative working. So, definitely that’s a great thing.
In terms of more specific examples, I guess in a postdoc, you’re trained to follow a scientific research from start to end, apply every aspect of it, so you apply rigor in every single aspect. For example, when you’re in industry and you’re trying to develop a new method, you apply that same mindset and the same process. Just for example, you might use medical statistics in and out in validating and presenting your data in academia, but if you had come from just industry, you might not have come across that before, so I think it just allows you to, well, you have more tools in your box, if you like, to tackle scientific problems, I think.
What were your feelings when you first started in your new role? How have they changed? [07:02]
It was quite a steep learning curve and that is because I think everything compared to academia was very fast-paced. Also, it required adjusting your way of thinking and also just adjusting to the working environment and organisational set up. I mean, I’m sure it’s the same if you moved from jobs even within academia, but I found it even more so moving from academia to industry, just because the mindset is quite different.
For example, in academia, you might know everything about one compound, for example to the nth degree, and you look at an experiment for one compound a day. Whereas in industry, you might profile 100 compounds a day, but you might not know everything about it, so it’s changing that mindset and adapting to the industry way of working.
I did find it challenging to start and also, it’s more the production line I’d say in industry, where you have experts assigned at different parts of the production process, if you like, and you can go to each and every one. At least my experience of academia, it was you do the whole process by yourself, so yes, it was that kind of transition. I’d say from now, I’m much more confident and I’m also very grateful for having spent that time in academia to build up my scientific skills, which I can apply to what I do every day now.
How is working in industry different to being in academia? [08:37]
Yes, so I’d say we’re more collaborative in some sense. I mean, within the company and across departments. I think there’s more communication within the team because as I said, on some processes, we work almost as a production line so it requires cross-team communication so we all know what each other’s skills are and expertise, and we’re all very open to helping each other, if you like.
Generally, I think the work-life balance is much better in industry. We’re not expected to work beyond our time. Yes, so any over time is I wouldn’t say frowned upon, but it’s definitely not expected, and it’s having that job security and benefits I suppose. I think there is definitely less freedom to do that sort of cutting-edge science and leading ways you want the science to go because quite often the science is dictated by business leads, their needs, but I don’t think it’s any less rigor or quality.
What advice would you give to postdocs considering a career beyond academia? [09:49]
I think most importantly it’s research what it means to be in industry, speak to contacts that you have, ask them about their experiences and ask them what their everyday job is, because every industry or every pharmaceutical is going to have their different set ups and that may not suit you. So, I think it’s really important to reach out and speak to people and see if that’s something that you feel like, an environment you feel like you could fit in.