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first transition from academia to industry..

PostPosted: Wed Apr 19, 2006 6:41 pm
by Melanie

I have a career question for those that are currently in industry.

Just curious how tough the transition was from academia to industry for those that switched over? If you can include your background (what your PhD was in..pharmacology vs. molecular biology, postdoc or not, etc) that would be helpful too. How long did it take for you to really feel acclimated?

Also, what advice can you offer to those transitioning?

first transition from academia to industry..

PostPosted: Thu Apr 20, 2006 8:08 am
by Rich Lemert
Melanie - Officially you could say I've made the transition - going from a tenure-track position to industry, but I'm not sure how much use my experience will be to you. First, I'm an engineer, not a life science person. Second, I went through four years of industry before going to grad school.

If you think you'd still like to hear a little bit about what happened to me, contact me off-line. (I've gone ahead and activated my email.)

first transition from academia to industry..

PostPosted: Thu Apr 20, 2006 12:40 pm
by Kevin Foley
Just reposting something I wrote in answer to a similar question a couple of months ago:

"Figure out what is going to contribute the most to helping the company reach its goals, and focus your efforts on those experiments or projects. Admittedly, particularly at the start of your career, you’ll be assigned things to work on. But even then you can often influence those assignments, or perform them in a more focused way.

In every company there are individuals or groups that are more "academic" in their approach (particularly in Discovery). They waste a lot of time not contributing to the bottom line. As a recent ex-academic, you will feel a lot more at home doing the same. But in the long run, the people who get ahead in industry are the ones who contribute the most to helping meet the company goals (discovering a new drug target, figuring out a more efficient HTS screen, solving a formulation problem, whatever…).

So try to break out of that academic mold. Ask yourself before you do anything "Is this the single most important thing I can be doing right now to help my company?" (as opposed to "Is this the most interesting scientific problem, or the project most likely to result in a publication?").

In other words, focus on the drugs, not the Cell papers!

I’m sure someone will bring up the Genentech model (where scientists are encouraged to spend some of their time working on whatever interests them), but unfortunately that is not how the real world works, despite Art Levinson’s claims to the contrary."


Cheers,
Kevin

first transition from academia to industry..

PostPosted: Thu Apr 20, 2006 12:55 pm
by Kevin Foley
By the way, my PhD/postdoc background is molecular/cell biology and Tg/KO mice. I pretty much did the same thing in my first job (1/2 in vitro, 1/2 in vivo). I joined a US discovery unit for a European large pharma, and it was a pretty academic place. So the transition was fairly easy. But, no matter what, it still takes 6 months to get used to things in industry. If you haven’t settled down moderately well by 6 months, then something is wrong somewhere (you or your new job).

But that doesn’t mean you will know everything and feel totally at home by 6 months. Industry is so different from academia that I’m still learning “how to do it” after 8 years on the job!

The most important thing is not to keep saying (to yourself, or worse, out loud), "we didn't do it that way when I was a grad student/postdoc," and then trying to change everything. Every industry job is different from each other and from academia.

Instead of assuming they are idiots for doing things differently, try to figure out why they are doing it that way. They may actually know what they are talking about, and they have probably got a lot more experience than you. But occasionally you will be right!

There is also a big difference between big and small companies. In general, the latter are more “academic” and I would recommend starting out in a small company before moving to a place like Merck. The transition will be less traumatic.

Cheers,
Kevin

first transition from academia to industry..

PostPosted: Thu Apr 20, 2006 2:55 pm
by Melanie
thanks everyone!

Kevin--would you be willing to email me offline so we can discuss this further? I think you would be very helpful to hear your comments and advice.


first transition from academia to industry..

PostPosted: Thu Apr 20, 2006 4:37 pm
by James1
I am going through this transition now at a big company. People there have a different mindset. You have to get used to business lingo such a CTQs and other abbreviations. Also, punching a time clock.

first transition from academia to industry..

PostPosted: Thu Apr 20, 2006 8:08 pm
by Melanie

Yes, I am well aware of the abbreviations :) That in itself is a challenge! I am just finding it very difficult right now transitioning and was wondering what the usual adjustment period is--I am glad Kevin said 6 months (I am at one month now). For me, it's not tough because I have a certain mindset or critical way of doing things--it's just that I don't have a pharmacology background, never worked in industry (or any other job for that matter), and just trying to LEARN as much as I can because it's all new to me. I'm okay with that (and struggling for now), but just don't want the people that hired me to be kicking themselves!




first transition from academia to industry..

PostPosted: Tue Apr 25, 2006 9:03 pm
by Rob
Ask, ask, ask. Whenever you start a new job - especially changing areas like this - your direct supervisor should understand and either have someone to help you get accustomed to the new job or help you themselves. If you don't ask, you won't learn, and will never be able to do it right.

Just don't be annoying :).

first transition from academia to industry..

PostPosted: Wed May 24, 2006 10:10 am
by Rose
This is a test post to follow the thread and determine movement.

AAAS