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MBA after a PhD in organic chemistry?

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MBA after a PhD in organic chemistry?

Postby Vinze » Sun Feb 04, 2018 12:10 pm

Hello,

I know that this topic has been answered a few times, but I take a chance to get your view since every situation may be a little different.

I am hesitant in joining an MBA program and I seek advice here.

Here is my background:

- PhD in organic chemistry from an elite school
- 3 years as a postdoc in a top american school
- 4 years as a synthetic chemist in a pharma company
- 37 years old
In my current position, I work in drug discovery (medicinal chemistry) as an individual contributor with no direct reports, although I have had opportunities to supervise small teams on various projects.
I do not see myself undertaking a life-long career in this field even though I like science, and I am increasingly interested in the business development/alliances/licensing/search and evaluation arena in the pharma industry. I think there is a way for me to move into this without an MBA since I see job adverts that mention: "PhD or/and MBA (prefered)" and it seems that having an experience with a PhD is still valued for these positions (to some extent). Still, it does seem to be a great challenge with no prior experience in business. My rational here is that getting an MBA would not solve my lack of experience in business, but it would at least maximize my chances of transitioning successfully by getting a solid basic business acumen, an additional alumni network, some credibility, and the possibility of doing internships (and I think that can help). On the other hand, I am very skeptical on the return on investment of an MBA at this point since my current salary is approximately $105k (without bonus). The program would cost me about $120k (including everything - it is a cheaper European program), and if I count the money that I am not earning in that timeframe, this goes up to $230k and more. My salary post-MBA is likely to be an entry-level salary (is that right? not sure what the number would be for a position in licensing in pharma, maybe $110k without bonus, any thoughts here?).
I don't know how my salary in BD with an MBA would evolve after 5-10 years as opposed to not having that degree. Will the MBA open doors to more senior positions in BD after 5-10 years compare to just having a PhD without the MBA? In other words, is there a benefit of having the MBA on the long run?

I am currently having interviews for a European MBA program (top 5 worldwide based on the FT ranking). I selected a European program even though I want to come back to the US because the program is cheaper, much shorter, and with an older average age than American programs. I plan to leverage my current network in pharma to maximize my chances of coming back.

Any thoughts on my situation?

Thanks in advance for your advice
Vinze
 
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Re: MBA after a PhD in organic chemistry?

Postby Dave Jensen » Sun Feb 04, 2018 4:19 pm

I've always doubted that value proposition for the MBA -- particularly those very expensive MBA programs, such as the one you are apparently considering. Yes -- they can be effective "change agents" for your CV, sending you off into a different kind of job market. But in reality, as you've noted yourself, that's not always necessary and in fact 75-80% of the time where we're doing an "MBA REQUIRED" search, the client will bypass that requirement in favor of the person with the best and most relevant experience.

Experience is worth far more than more degrees, generally.

Dave Jensen, moderator
PS - As an aside, we don't do "salary discussions" on this forum, so I deleted that request.
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Re: MBA after a PhD in organic chemistry?

Postby Vinze » Sun Feb 04, 2018 5:07 pm

Dave Jensen wrote:I've always doubted that value proposition for the MBA -- particularly those very expensive MBA programs, such as the one you are apparently considering. Yes -- they can be effective "change agents" for your CV, sending you off into a different kind of job market. But in reality, as you've noted yourself, that's not always necessary and in fact 75-80% of the time where we're doing an "MBA REQUIRED" search, the client will bypass that requirement in favor of the person with the best and most relevant experience.

Experience is worth far more than more degrees, generally.

Dave Jensen, moderator
PS - As an aside, we don't do "salary discussions" on this forum, so I deleted that request.



Thanks Dave.
I hear you; part of me thinks in a similar way. Somehow, I have doubts (or fears) of not being able to make that transition without the MBA. I guess, going through the MBA path feels like a 'safer' path to me (not necesserily a 'smarter' move) to operate my career change.
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Re: MBA after a PhD in organic chemistry?

Postby D.X. » Mon Feb 05, 2018 5:24 am

Hi Vinze,

I agree with Dave, an MBA is not worth your time investment now. Why? Well by the time you go for an MBA, assuming full-time or even part-time then say at a minimum you are carving out 3 to 4 years of your life. Considering time spent applying, enrolling, course completion, and job identification.

So at best when you finish you'll have a MBA and years of Medicinal Chemistry experience but no business experience beyond a class room textbook and some case-studies you can talk about done in a class room setting.

Usually people who are in business development and alliance management (which I will call now BD&L - for Business Development and Licensing, and Partner Management for Alliance Management) - they in general have a commercial/marketing experience first, be it a Product Manager, and or Brand Manager who have served as Commercial Brand Team Leads with some form of P&L responsibility especially with BD&L and on the Partner Management side, many have had some commercial role where they may have been a general manager of a country affiliate, or a business unit head, or some form of Regional Commericial director role, where partnering and/or partner management was part of their activities. In some circumstances I've seen a Medical Affairs person transition to BD&L due to some interest and cross-functional exposure but this is rarer.

All of the above have in common that they put either BD&L or Partner Management into their development plan and have made these moves internally at some point in their career to get that into that field.

If you do get into BD&L for example, with a MBA, that will NOT be a predictor of if you move up the ranks. The KPI for success usually in those roles is the number of licensing opportunities that you've assessed/vetted/ and cleared for presentation to say, the Executive Committee of a company for decision making. And ultimately, having a opportunity confirmed for commercial action, the latter is say the carrot everyone in BD&L wants it's what seals you value both internally and...externally.

So I would say start investigating inside your company and spend your time doing that.

One area you can try where a scientific background will be valued and you'll get your hands wet in business is Portfolio Management. Find this group in your company. If you're in a reasonable sized pharma that invests in pre-clinical R&D internally then you should have a Porfolio Management function. These are the folks who assess where the company should invest Porfolio wise and consider assets not only in development phase but also say late discovery - they will confirm the disease states/areas the company should invest even down to candidate molecules at early stages. They get to what's called a Net Present Value or NPV and they use some fancy propability models to get to those assessments. They are looking at the deep science, at the market, at the business, and the company strategy, considering risk and opportunities etc. So I think you should look to find those folks.

Because they are looking at early phase assets and due to the still high science, Porfolio Management could be a spot for you to investigate.

Another area you can look at is Project Management say from a Partner Management perspective. If you're in Medicinal Chemistry you might be able to see if there is a role say in Technical Operations that would say expose you to Drug Supply - Drug Supply is a nice spot and when it comes to working with Partners, Drug Supply chain management is key to relationship here.

While looking at Porfolio Management and Project Management, why don'you look at Medical Affairs as also a pit stop. BD&L and Partner Management, internally is highly cross-functional. I have been involved in making BD&L assessments from a medical point of view and have worked with Partners directly as part of my cross-functional activities, I was serving in roles such a Medical Advisor and Medical Lead with final medical responsibility/sign-off for my products and portfolio assets. See what you can find there, depending on the company and portfolio you may get exposed to BD&L and Alliance Management activities via say a Medical Advisor role..in addition to your traditional medical activities. Who knows you may like medical.

So in summary, look towards developing internally to your goal. MBA..eh, not worth the investment and no, MBA does not predict future growth, experience, exposure and performance does!

DX
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Re: MBA after a PhD in organic chemistry?

Postby Dick Woodward » Mon Feb 05, 2018 2:04 pm

Vinze:

DX's advice is right on target. Getting an MBA does not give you business experience; it just gives you an advanced degree, and you already have one of those. Find a way to move from the lab into a business area such as BD&L - your technical understanding will be useful there. Other that, please reread DX's post - he says everything that I would tell you.

Good luck.

Dick
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Re: MBA after a PhD in organic chemistry?

Postby Vinze » Mon Feb 05, 2018 5:43 pm

Thank you DX and Dick for your replies.

DX, your view makes a lot of sense. Also, I never thought of portfolio management, this is a good suggestion.

Thanks again
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Re: MBA after a PhD in organic chemistry?

Postby M.W.S. » Sat Apr 07, 2018 8:50 am

Hi all,

Does it change your opinion on this topic if you continue to work for your company while getting an MBA part-time and the company reimburses you for the educational expenses? Usually, this involves a few years of work commitment after degree completion.

Thanks,

MWS
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Re: MBA after a PhD in organic chemistry?

Postby D.X. » Sun Apr 08, 2018 6:26 am

Hi MWS,

A little bit because before you get a company to pay for your MBA you will have to have experience and have had to agree with your line management that the MBA is a meaningful part of your development plan worth the investment. In other word you have to earn it internally.

Keeping in mind that you will have to work while you pursue that degree. Yes you will have to work to pay off that MBA - each company will differ in time horizon and forgiveness milestones - as well as when the clock starts ticking for loan forgiveness- usually it starts after you get the diploma.

If you are on a good development path then great and if you are seeing the benefits of that degree as part of your development then even better. If not, I.e. you don’t get the position or develope how u want then the “payback” time can be grueling - if you can’t afford to payback in full the tuition amount AND the time you took to get the degree, if the company agreed to paid time off during the course.

There is still no solid bet you’ll get the job or promotion you want (things change in a company) but at least you can possible get degree paid for while having already achieved some experience while still getting work experience - that’s where the MBA could make sense.

Just keep in mind it may help you get to your next step internally but still the best predictor for advancement is performance linked to how you are perceived in an organization.

If in time you get the MBA, payoff the time and move on - still it will be your experience that will get you the job not the degree per se. but still a nice plus to say you had a company pay for your degree (provided you paid back your time).

I have a degree ( a specialist degree) my company paid for, so I know a bit about the topic - let me know if you have any more questions.

DX
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Re: MBA after a PhD in organic chemistry?

Postby Dave Jensen » Mon Apr 09, 2018 11:13 am

MWS:

Great question -- My opinion is that this will be a valuable MBA. And, it didn't cost a thing. That's a great way to take a company benefit and have it pay for itself.

The days of company paid MBA's are going away because so many people leave and get a new job after the MBA is paid off. They are starting to learn that this expense literally sends employees out the door.

Dave
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Re: MBA after a PhD in organic chemistry?

Postby D.X. » Mon Apr 09, 2018 12:15 pm

MWS,

Dave is absolutely correct here as well.

It's harder and harder to get such training paid for - usually what it looks like is if the company does pay for an MBA, its reserved for folks who are in talent pools (the high performers) AND with a good amount of tenure and fairly high seniority and.or crediblity in the organization - they're probaly not flight risks.

Plus the value of an MBA today as per knowledged gained is more and more questionable these days.

However, speciaist training and specialist degrees/certification have then become more accessible for company investment in term of development. For example once you're intergrated say in a Project Management function and are performing well, a company may invest in say some form of externally reputable and recognized training such as PMP, say as a development opportunity to embark in more organizationally complex Project Management. Or can even be specific cources that will give you what you need.


My point is these days development is not just MBA, i would recommend that if in the point of your career you need external training, the reality is that the training you need may be say more narrowed in scope vs. broad based than say an MBA.

So my recommendation, first know where you're aiming once you have experience and understand what you really need to take you there. You may often find its not really about external education, rather it may be more about getting hands on experience (via a rotation or an FTE spend as a project lead in an area of your interest) that will get you to where you want to be.

Focus on performing and delivering first and foremost.

Best,

Dx
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