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How to Land and Succeed in an Industry Postdoc

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How to Land and Succeed in an Industry Postdoc

Postby Stacey » Wed May 04, 2005 1:02 pm

Hi Pam,

How nice of you to do this for us. Thank you for passing along your expertise.

I'm curious . . . when interviewing at an open-minded company like Genentech, is it OK to suggest that the company may be interested in carrying on the work that a person may have been doing previously? Or, even in a postdoc there, do you have to do work that is only of interest to the company? You see, I would like a place in industry (my ultimate goal) to continue the work I am doing now in a postdoc. At this point, there is a lot of steam left in what I can do with the niche I've chosen. I wonder if I'd have to drop that and take up a new field of interest if I went to a company like yours.

Stacey
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How to Land and Succeed in an Industry Postdoc

Postby H.G.R » Wed May 04, 2005 2:37 pm

Pam
My area of interest is Immunology. I know Genentech is doing cutting edge research in immunology. But the Genentech website does not provide details of the research profiles of Scientists and their projects working in the field of Immunology (except for two). Since you mentioned earlier that connecting our research interests to the Scientist who is an expert in a particular field is good when applying, i am just curious to know. Thanks.


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How to Land and Succeed in an Industry Postdoc

Postby Pam Maynard » Wed May 04, 2005 3:05 pm

Hi Stacey,

You're welcome - this has been a fun experience.

If your field of interest is relevant or gives reference to a therapeutic area that Genentech is focusing on, then yes, there is a good chance that you can continue to carry out the research that you have chosen in a postdoc or in a Scientist/independent researcher position. If this is not the case, then you might consider researching other companies that could use your expertise and the value of your research.

~Pam
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How to Land and Succeed in an Industry Postdoc

Postby Dave Jensen » Wed May 04, 2005 4:15 pm

Pam,

I was just sent a correction to one of my earlier comments, from a friend of mine who works for Amgen. He said that the company has terminated its postdoc program, and that many company scientists are not very happy about this. It seems that the firm had a fairly good program going there, as did Immunex, but when the two companies merged they decided to drop postdoctoral programs. There are a few people finishing up Amgen postdocs, but no new ones coming in (I didn't confirm this with Amgen management, but it sounded legitimate).

I don't expect you to know anything about this scenario, but I would like to ask you, in general, if you can comment on why industry postdoc programs don't seem to be catching on. In fact, they are retracting. Can you give us any hints as to how employers view these programs? Is it seen as a high-cost item, one that has no pay back for the corporation? It seems to me that it is a wonderful way to "give back" to the community of PhD's out there, plus I am sure that on occasion this research work has a corporate benefit as well.

Just how DO company managers view the postdoc program at Genentech, and why do you think this isn't "catching on" with other companies?

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How to Land and Succeed in an Industry Postdoc

Postby Pam Maynard » Wed May 04, 2005 4:52 pm

Hi Murali,

Genentech has more than 600 scientists who are publishing at a rate of 200+ papers a year. You might try searching for current immunology or general research publications to understand the projects and to get the PI's names. Our Scientists are also participating in important scientific conferences and this is also something you can research.

~Pam
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How to Land and Succeed in an Industry Postdoc

Postby Pam Maynard » Wed May 04, 2005 6:11 pm

Hi Dave,

We see the payback in that the program helps the postdoc mentors stay at the cutting edge of their field and also follow creative and/or speculative basic scientific ideas that otherwise wouldn't get tried. It also helps recruit some of the smartest scientists to Genentech, who might not come if all they could do was translational work.

It is possible that the Genentech postdoc program hasn't been copied much because (1) it's "expensive" to have a significant size program like ours, with protected headcount set aside for basic science; and (2) the payback isn't immediate in that postdoc science doesn't usually translate directly or immediately in products/product ideas. The program is an investment, but one that everyone benefits from ? most importantly our patients.

~Pam
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How to Land and Succeed in an Industry Postdoc

Postby Shawn Baker » Wed May 04, 2005 6:25 pm

I?d like to offer a counterpoint to some of the opinions I?ve heard expressed in this thread. It sounds like the Genentech program is wonderful and the way to go for companies that can afford to do it (and I've heard very nice things about it outside of this forum). However, I?m not so sure that the advice to avoid postdoc positions at smaller companies makes sense for everyone. I took a postdoc position at a very small company where I was certainly a very cheap source of labor. The likelihood of publishing was slim, but I wasn?t interested in going back to academia, so I didn?t consider that as too strong of a negative. I reasoned that the biotech experience I would pick up would be worth it even if the company or position flamed out. In the end, it worked out quite well for me. After a few months my position was converted to a permanent scientist position (at least as ?permanent? as any position is these days ;-)

The point is, taking the postdoc position provided me a tremendous amount of experience in a completely new area for me (both the research and the industrial setting) and it allowed me to get in on the ground floor of a growing company.

Shawn
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How to Land and Succeed in an Industry Postdoc

Postby Dave Jensen » Wed May 04, 2005 7:51 pm

Shawn,

Those were great comments, thanks. I don't think that anyone here said to never take a postdoc at a small company, however! I think the advice, frequently stated on this forum, is that you need to watch carefully to see that it is a REAL postdoc program, and that in some cases it is just an employer looking for a "cheap pair of hands."

If you feel that you were hired as a cheap pair of hands for the lab, but it worked out, that is great. It sounds like you knew what you were doing in advance, and you weren't hired under false pretenses. I think that is the key element here. In any job that is "underpaid," even doing volunteer work or some internship, you are getting your "ticket punched" and that has a huge value in itself! Thanks for pointing this out.

Dave
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How to Land and Succeed in an Industry Postdoc

Postby JJ » Thu May 05, 2005 5:16 am

I have a question for Pam.

I was interviewed at Genentech very recently over the phone. It was my first job interview. And I did not know what to expect. I did not do well. There were questions that I could not answer, like "Why do you want to work in Genentech?" I did not prepare for the interview. But the conversation was friendly and cordial. So, it was no surprise that Genentech did not pursue me any further.

My question is: Would this disaster "burn my bridge" with Genentech? Would the hiring manager leave any negative feedback on my record in HR, like "Person X did not prepare and did poorly in interview on date Y".

How can I recover from this? I have learned my lesson. I now know how to prepare for interview.
JJ
 

How to Land and Succeed in an Industry Postdoc

Postby Pam Maynard » Thu May 05, 2005 11:50 am

Dear JJ,

This is an excellent question - thank you for sharing this scenario for us all to learn by. First of all, it's wonderful that you have taken ownership of the situation and have learned the importance of being prepared for an interview at a moment's notice. I can not predict how the hiring manager assessed the phone interview and commented in the applicant tracking system. Depending on the circumstances, one hiring manager may feel as if this bridge has been burned because he/she felt that you were not prepared for the interview but another hiring manager may have thought that were nervous or distracted. The good news is that as interviewers, we try to gain a balanced picture of the candidate and it's up to the next hiring manager or staffing consultant to also seek out a balanced picture. So, as far as moving past this and recovering, I would recommend that you, (1) continue to apply for positions that you are interested in and qualified for (do not apply for multiple positions that you are not qualified for as this leaves a trail which often makes a candidate look un-focused and/or unrealistic), (2) draft a cover-letter which describes your interest for that particular position and highlight your strengths as a potential candidate for that position and (3) Keep in mind that we want to make the interviewee feel as comfortable as possible so that he/she is able to feel comfortable about sharing information. Knowing this, give yourself some time to think about and articulate your answers while in an interview.

~Pam
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