Industrial postdoc position at [a major employer]

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Re: Industrial postdoc position at [a major employer]

Postby M. N. S. » Sun Aug 30, 2015 4:24 pm

A.I.C. wrote:Hi MNS,

Congratulations on getting the offer!

I'm a postdoc in a large high profile pharmaceutical company with a large international postdoc program.

My simple answer to your question would be similar to what was previously written, think of it as your ticket into the industrial world regardless of what they are trying to get from you. As far as I can tell, all PhD hires require at least one postdoc in industry. Why not skip another academic postdoc and take this exciting introduction into industry? You will learn so much more than you would in an academic lab.

First off, these postdoc positions are rare compared to academic postdocs and are therefore highly competitive. I have been part of a couple postdoc hiring processes. There are sometimes >200 applications for an industrial postdoc position. It's great that you were able to secure an offer.

Industrial postdoc programs vary in salaries. People with a previous postdoc will tend to have higher salaries. Having been in a company for more than 2 years, I would say that even if they offer less money than you expected, you'll still be benefiting greatly from a postdoc in industry. There's so much that academia doesn't prepare us for in the industrial world and having that experience as an industrial postdoc is a great asset. As far as I know, all postdocs in the program have gone on to jobs in industry. Few chose the venture capital or government route. In general, they seem to be highly attractive to smaller biotech companies.

Honestly, with the turmoil that is going on in industry right now in terms of shifting priorities, layoffs, and a drive for higher and higher productivity, being a postdoc will, to some extent, shield you from many of the uncertainties and negativities of being a permanent employee. It will be a smoother transition where you get to learn how to operate in this environment and earn some more skills without worrying about competing with others, depending on the productivity of others (or lack thereof), or being fired. Companies tend to help their postdocs in case of a major transition (layoffs). Meanwhile, you will also build a network in industry due to an increased exposure to other industrial scientists, personal efforts to meet people, and the fact that many of the people you will work with will have moved to bigger roles in other companies by the time you finish.

Why do companies hire postdocs? I have been to some networking events for industrial postdocs where I met people from multiple large companies (Pfizer, Novartis, Biogen, Merck, AZ, Sanofi, BMS...). The consensus seems to be that the postdocs are hired for publication purposes only. The postdocs will mostly have projects that are well separated from intellectual property-related work. If your work does end up being patentable, if you're interested in staying in industry, that's even better than a publication. At least that's how we industrial postdocs see it. And some of us wish they could stop going after high impact publications and join a project team where they can feel more useful.

I will mention though that I met one postdoc in a very small biotech startup who said she feels unsure what the intentions of the company were for hiring her. She felt that the company was too small and ill-equipped to support her publication-seeking work. I would be careful if the company is small. However, it's still a learning experience that is more aligned with industry than an academic postdoc would be.

It all depends on what you are looking for and where you are at. Do you think such an offer is likely to happen again? Are you in a famous lab? in a high ranking university? Do you have high impact publications that secure your future? Does your research make you particularly attractive to pharma companies? If your objective is to be in a research team in a pharmaceutical or biotech company, you should very seriously consider this offer. Again, there will be hundreds that you will be competing with the next time you apply.

Your last sentence confuses me. You're not in the life sciences? Are you a chemist? I have a couple chemist postdoc friends at my company who moved to biotech companies (medicinal and chem-bio). Similarly to biologists, having the company name on their CV gave them visibility and grabbed the hiring managers' attention.

Thank you very much. That is a great answer. Yes. The company I have offer from is a multi-national conglomerate in Life Sciences. Also I am bioengineer.
M. N. S.
Posts: 2
Joined: Sun Aug 23, 2015 1:50 am

Re: Industrial postdoc position at [a major employer]

Postby SRD » Fri Sep 04, 2015 11:31 am

I am a postdoc at a major healthcare company and maybe sharing some of my experience could help you out.
This is my second postdoc. I did not accept this position because I wanted to do a second postdoc. I primarily wanted to get out of academia (my first postdoc), and this was the only option I had at a time. I was trying for years to get a "real job" in industry. But out of countless applications I only had one on-site interview and 0 offers. I guess out of despair I applied for one industrial postdoc (this one) and got invited for an interview. While I was on-site I talked to a bunch of people who started off as postdocs and transitioned into permanent positions. It looked like a promising "one foot in" situation, so when I got an offer (~$80k) I decided to take it.
My experience went from initial "great" to "can't wait to get the hell out of here" right now. Everything started great, I was given a project and things were going well between me and my manager and the rest of the group. However, about the same time I started a "reorg" kicked in. My manager left the company about one month after I started. Soon after my group got terminated. For about half a year I did not have a manager, was not part of any organizational unit, and had no clue what to do. Finally, I was given a manager and placed in a different group where I am nothing but a technician doing routine low-end bench science. During the reorg, technicians (mostly contractors) were laid of as an attempt to reduce and outsource research. But since the company still wants to do some routine bench work, postdocs are being rotated through these positions.
During my interview for the position I did talk to many people that started off as postdocs. However, what I failed to realize is that the last transition from postdoc to senior scientist in my org unit happened 5 years ago. With current strategy to do research externally, very few postdocs transition into senior scientists. Some groups are still better than others, but in general most of the postdocs end up leaving the company.
My biggest problem in this postdoc is that I have been regressing, not advancing and improving my self. I am stuck doing some routine things that do not require much skills. I just started my last (second) year and have been trying to find something else, but so far no luck.
My biggest advice: talk to people that started of as postdocs. Talk to current postdocs. Ask about former postdocs. Try to find out how many postdocs transition into permanent positions. This can be very different between different groups/managers, so ask about that.

Hope it helps,

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Joined: Tue Oct 15, 2013 10:09 am


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