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Glass ceiling in biotech

PostPosted: Sat Jan 08, 2005 1:59 pm
by Brian
Hi! After reading Michael's posting on BD+Law, I was struck by the reality of glass ceilings in the biotech industry. Is it true that one has to have a PhD or JD to reach top management?

I am completing a dual MBA and MS in medical sciences from a reputable institution. My MS thesis is on improving a gene therapy technique. My business experience (7 years) has mostly been in marketing, sales and operations in healthcare (2.5 years) and in a different industry (4.5 years). I rose up the ladder quickly until I hit the ceiling as a manager. So I decided to go back to school for my MBA.

I am interested in a product development or product management career in biotech. In the long run, I'd like to do business development work. I am realistic about the difficulty of breaking into the biotech industry but I am willing to start somewhere and climb as I did before. I'm not too inclined to get a PhD at this point in time. So, in my situation, is there a way to get around this next glass ceiling in higher management without a PhD? Would appreciate any advice from anyone. Thanks!

Glass ceiling in biotech

PostPosted: Sat Jan 08, 2005 4:23 pm
by Emil Chuck
I am not an expert in the area, but I would first do a small search of comparable companies and see what degrees the higher-level management has. I would suspect that your MBA would be more important in product development. If that's not clear, then my next suggestion is to actually search for job descriptions of the jobs you want and see whether they state PhD degrees are required.

Now in some instances JD's or PhD's would be really useful, but I would also say in the world of business, experience and your successful track record would be more an indicator of your value to the company and potential as an upper-level manager.

So basically, just read up and see what people do. As it is in the world of business, there's usually no single correct answer.

Another suggestion: I'd check the website (Career Development website for the WSJ)... they may have something about this.

Glass ceiling in biotech

PostPosted: Sat Jan 08, 2005 4:44 pm
by Dave Jensen
Hi Brian,

Some of those comments to Michael were unique to his situation. These kinds of things are different with every scenario; in his case, he was looking for an IP job. Your interest in "Product Development" or "Product Management" is a bit fuzzier.

First off, there are few "product development" jobs in biotechnology that aren't managed by PhDs. It's hard to say exactly what you mean by this . . . PhD scientists discover a new therapeutic potential, and then it is "developed" by the staff in the scaleup and process development team. They don't need MBAs for this. It is generally a very technical position and one that requires a strong interface between the research team and the manufacturing team.

But in any product development effort there is someone who has some business sense who is developing the early strategy to differentiate the product from others, get the early marketing program in place, etc. I'm sure that your MS/MBA would be quite suitable for this function, which would report to the head of marketing. But - you'd find a serious glass ceiling if you went into true product "development" which is a technical job run by biochemical engineers and process biologists.

Product Management is another marketing function, and you should be suited for that kind of role as well. However, it is very difficult to start as a Product Manager. There will be a series of positions, such as Associate Product Manager, that you need to be in for awhile before you get the move up.

Dave Jensen, Moderator