Propel Careers

Blog from Nov 20th Futures in Life Sciences Event: Finance, Legal, and Operations Career Paths 

December 6, 2012 
by Ana Bozas 

Blog Writeup from the Nov 20th Futures in Life Sciences Event covering the Finance, Legal, and Operations Career Paths by BY Ana Bozas, Ph.D.

Roughly once a month Propel Careers, MassBio, and the MassBioEd organize a networking and panel event highlighting various careers in the life sciences sectors. See link for details of the series: If you're undecided about your career path, curious about others' or just want to meet interesting people, these series of events are worthwhile to attend.

The Nov 20th event focused on the Legal, Operational and Financial aspects of the biosciences world. The moderator was John Hession, J.D., Partner at Cooley LLP, and panel speakers were: Tony Martignetti, Corporate Controller at Sarepta Therapeutics, Drew Lowery, Biotechnology Group Leader at Global Prior Art, Joanne Kamens, Executive Director at Addgene, and Stephen Garbacz, Sr. Director of Finance at Epizyme. A picture video from the evening is here:

This event's panel was a colorful gathering: they had not only wildly differing expertises (law, finance and biotech), but also various degree backgrounds (JD, MBA, PhD) and even differing amounts of experience climbing the career ladder (from five years in the business to twenty-plus.) Some had experience working with mammoth companies, while other had focused on the start-up and small biotech/non-profit world.

Despite the large variety of background and experience, all panelists had one major point to highlight for people interested in either learning about the industry or wanting to join the industry: network, network, network. They shared tips about how to network effectively: network with people you like, concentrate on quality not quantity and don't forget to follow up.

When asked about the defining moment in their career that brought them to their current position, the panelists were unanimous in saying there was no "Aha!" moment, but rather it's important to be open to new experiences. Some have had a more varied career path than others, but they have taken care to enjoy their jobs, however different they might be. They have also enjoyed the relationships with their co-workers and bosses. Another common theme for the panelists at the FILS8 event is their reason for doing their current job: all panelists derive great satisfaction from working for a greater good and for genuinely helping people. This, it turns out, is a theme on most panels in the FILS series, not just this one.

How do you get that first job? Panelists recommend that you follow the industry news through sites like Fiercebiotech, Biospace, or Xconomy, join professional societies, network and differentiate yourself when applying or giving your elevator pitch. Be sure to think about and distill what YOUR special skill-set is, i.e. what differentiates you from the pack. Finally, learn to speak the target audience's language if you want them to be interested in you or your ideas. Interact with the industry before you NEED to join them.

How has the job field changed? What should the incoming generation know about joining the workforce? Many of the panelists reflected that people are more mobile nowadays: they became experts in a narrow field and move from company to company troubleshooting in their expertise area. Also people are expected to change careers at least 3-4 times during their lifetime (and every 3-5 years switch between companies), so a person is no longer bound to a company as was the case 30-50 years ago.

Finally, the two most important points of this meeting and discussions following it to build your Career are, (1) it is crucial to network and (2) to research the field. Now that you have learned how to start and build your career, go forth and conquer!

To see details for the 2013 Future in Life Science Series click here: Full registration details will be available shortly.


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