Research Careers
Options Beyond Academia

Career Profiles

This site is a collection of profiles of people who have made the transition from academia to industry. Our aim is to show the wide variety of options available - and why employers value people with academic experience.

If you’re a DPhil student or member of research staff at the University of Oxford, you can join the editorial team! Please contact us to find out more.

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Laura Molway

PGCE Curriculum Tutor

MSc in Learning and Teaching, University of Oxford (2013). Currently a part-time DPhil Candidate in Education.

Year entered into industry: 2010

Job highlight: Inspiring future A Level German students by designing trips away to Berlin!

My research training has set me up to develop research-informed strategies to implement in the classroom and rationally defend my teaching practices.

 

What’s your background?

I loved learning languages at school and had an inspirational German teacher – Frau Wiltshire. I completed my BA in French and German at the University of Oxford in 2009, followed by a PGCE and I began my career teaching languages at secondary schools. I began to move back towards academia when I realised the value of engaging with educational theory in moving my teaching practice forward and this led me to complete a part-time MSc in Learning and Teaching.

 

The MSc gave me renewed confidence in my teaching practice at school. I began to work as a mentor to new entrants to the teaching profession and realised I loved this aspect. When a position as a part-time PGCE Curriculum tutor came up I combined this with my school teaching. I became involved in the education research projects of my colleagues, who conducted research into fascinating questions about teaching and learning in England’s classrooms with real relevance for teachers. Eventually, I left the school classroom to continue working on the PGCE and begin a DPhil of my own, researching ways in which languages teachers continue to improve and develop their practice throughout their careers. This academic work feeds back into my day to day practice with beginning teachers.

 

I adore my current job but must admit that I miss the joy of classroom teaching in secondary school! Once I have completed my DPhil I hope to return to the classroom and combine part-time teaching of secondary students with ongoing research projects and PGCE work with beginning teachers.

 

Can you describe a typical day in your job?

The wonderful thing about my job is that there is no typical day! On Monday I might spend all day reading research articles and thinking about how they can be made relevant to teachers. On Tuesday I might interview a set of practicing teachers about their recent professional development and transcribe the interview data to analyse later. On Wednesday I might read and mark a set of assignments from practicing teachers who are systematically investigating their classrooms as part of their MSc. Thursday might involve visiting beginning teachers in their schools, observing lessons and assisting them in analyses of the complex web of factors which affect the learning of a group of students. Then on Friday I might teach a 3-hour session about lesson-planning with a group of 25-30 trainee teachers!

 

Which transferable skills are most important to your job?

The self-discipline that you learn when managing your time during self-directed study has been invaluable in the varied role I have today. Also, critical reading skills developed during my PGCE, MSc and DPhil continue to be very useful as my work with beginning teachers requires constant updating of my knowledge about the latest research in second language acquisition.

 

Do you have any advice for current postgraduate students and postdocs considering a career outside of academia?

My own career development has been one that interweaves academia with work in the industry of education. Completing the PGCE was the best decision I have ever made: beyond enabling me to become an effective classroom teacher the PGCE has opened innumerable doors within the broader field of education. I would highly recommend considering part-time study alongside work in industry as this enables cross-fertilisation of knowledge and skills across two domains in a way that enriches both.

 

Would you be able to highlight any relevant resources, industry bodies or key websites that might help someone entering the sector familiarize themselves with it?

I can’t recommend the PGCE at Oxford highly enough (http://www.education.ox.ac.uk/programmes/pgce/ ). It kick-started my career in education by giving me the skills to develop situated methodologies for my classroom, drawing on practical understandings as well as education research.

 

For those who have a DPhil and who are considering getting involved in primary or secondary education, but haven’t yet made up their minds, there is a great set of resources here – https://researchersinschools.org/

 

Published: November 2018

University of Oxford, Department of Education

Andrea Louise Harris

Teacher

PhD in History, University of Winchester (2009)

Year entered into industry: 2015

Job highlight: Working with 6th Formers on independent research for A level coursework.

My research training has set me up to… meet lots of different challenges.

 

What’s your background?

I have a first class degree in History, and a distinction at Masters. I won a scholarship with the Eric Hobsbawn’s Balzan Project at Birkbeck College in 2005 but due to domestic issues which stopped me traveling abroad to conduct my research, I transferred to the University of Winchester where there was academic expertise in my field. I was also awarded a 3 year full studentship. After I achieved my PhD I worked as a lecturer until 2014 when I began my PGCE at Oxford University. I have a chapter published in a book and have written several book reviews.

 

What skills do you feel a PhD has given you?

Working on a PhD is a long-term commitment to a project and during this process you become meticulous, patient and develop a certain amount of resilience because not all avenues of enquiry are fruitful. It also throws up new areas of thinking and unexpected paths that demand a certain amount of wrestling with ideas: this process has helped me become a better problem solver and has helped me approach new challenges with an open mindset. As a research student you become accustomed to having your work critiqued either by your supervisors or by publication panels and this has helped me to take on board constructive criticism and develop a mind that is willing to continue to grow and learn. Teaching in an undergraduate setting has also made me very aware of what school students do not know, especially in terms of technique and perspective rather than just subject knowledge and this has meant I work very hard to tackle these issues: I constantly try to find imaginative ways to help pupils develop their skills. Teaching undergraduates on a range of topics at every level at university, beyond the realms of my own research area, means that my knowledge of the historiography and the debates in history is probably broader than most teachers. This has been really helpful for supervising independent research especially in a school that offers students free choice for their A level coursework topic.  Finally, I think for GCSE and A level students they have confidence in someone that has a PhD and at this level, confidence in their teacher is half the battle.

 

Can you describe a typical day in your job?

I arrive at work around 7.30 and use the time to prepare for the day. I am a Sixth Form Tutor so I go to registration at 8.30 and accompany my class to assembly. My teaching day starts at 9.10. Several lunchtimes are used to meet with A level and IB students to discuss coursework or Extended Essays (IB) and I run an Amnesty International Club and have a duty.

 

What’s the workplace culture like?

The culture is friendly, positive, supportive and pacey. Everyone works really hard to support the academic and emotional needs of our students.

 

Which transferable skills are most important to your job?

Organisation, resilience, communication.

 

What are your favourite parts of your job?

Relationships with students and colleagues.

 

Is there anything you miss about academia?

I miss the time for reflection that a busy school doesn’t really allow for.

 

Was there anything that surprised you about your current job?

I am surprised by how appreciated we are by senior leadership and by each other.

 

Why did you choose to do your PGCE at Oxford?

I felt it would be rigorous and of a high standard.

 

What are the biggest misconceptions about teaching?

That you get the holidays so it must be a cushy job.

 

In what way has your PhD shaped your current job?

I have been given the responsibility for A level coursework and for supporting older students in their applications for university.

 

In what way has your PGCE shaped your current job?

It has given me a sound foundation for pedagogical practice.

 

Do you have any advice for someone thinking about applying to Oxford’s PGCE?

I found the course to be interesting, informative and hard work. The staff in the Education department are extremely supportive and I always felt that they fought my corner when I needed it, which was amazing.

 

Would you be able to highlight any relevant resources, industry bodies or key websites that might help someone entering the sector familiarise themselves with it?

For historians, History Today is an excellent teaching resource. I have always found the IHR website to be really useful for research. And the Historical Association offers some excellent CPD courses – I did one at Oxford University on ‘Doing History at Uni’ which really helped me support university (not just Oxbridge) applications for my subject.

 

Published: November 2018 

 

 

 

 

 

The Abbey School, Reading : PGCE at the University of Oxford

Heike Wobst

Principal Scientist

DPhil in Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics, University of Oxford

Year entered into a non-academic position: 2017

Job highlight: Working to improve patients’ lives

My academic training set me up with… Being able to multi-task

 

What’s your background?

I did my DPhil in Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics at the University on Oxford, working on mouse models of neurodegeneration. Prior to that, I did a Master’s degree in Molecular Medicine and worked on protein aggregation, a hallmark of many neurodegenerative diseases, at the Max-Delbrück-Center in Berlin. After my DPhil, I joined the AstraZeneca-Tufts Lab for Basic and Translational Neuroscience in Boston for a three-year postdoc.

 

Why did you move away from academia?

While basic research will always be fascinating to me, it is the translational aspect of science that I want to dedicate my career to.

 

Is there anything you miss about academia?

I think that’s too early to say. I think that, despite the constraints that come with having to constantly secure funding, there is much more leeway to take on questions or problems that are seemingly too complex to answer. It’s working on those questions, however, that often lead to the biggest breakthroughs.

 

How did you get this job?

The postdoc position I had – which by the way, I found via linkedin – was based in the AstraZeneca-Tufts lab in downtown Boston. At the end of my postdoc I applied for a position at AstraZeneca and luckily got the job.

 

Did you think you had all the skills required for your current position before you started? Were you right?

I don’t think anyone should ever think that they have all the skills they need in any new position. If that’s what they think, they are a) wrong or b) didn’t challenge themselves enough when choosing the position.

 

How did your PhD prepare you for your current job?

The technical skills I acquired during my PhD as well as my postdoc are the bedrock of what I do now in the lab. Multi-tasking is another skill that I, like most PhD students, honed during my PhD.

 

Can you describe a typical week in your job?

In many ways, it’s not that different from a typical week in an academic setting. I perform experiments, write abstracts and give presentations, go to lab meetings, read papers and supervise other scientists. In addition, as a team leader for an early stage discovery program, I oversee the scientific progress of the project, work with CROs and internal collaborators and organise the essentials of any drug discovery, or indeed any project, from team meetings to service agreements to internal communication.

 

Can you recommend any relevant resources, organisations or events that might help somebody new to the sector find out more about it?

Reach out to people who work in jobs you are interested in – most of them will be happy to chat and give you an idea of what their role entails. Be specific in your introduction though – it is not enough to send an invite to connect on a social media platform.

 

Published: September 2018

AstraZenaca

Deepak Mahtani

Community Manager & Data Scientist

PhD in Astrophysics, Keele University

Year entered into non-academic position: 2016

Job highlight: Being able help graduates of Masters and PhDs see the incredible opportunities within data science.

Postgraduate take-away: Communication is key! As a data scientist, your stakeholders could be from a technical or non-technical background. Being able to explain the work you are doing in a clear and easy to understand way is really important. So, when you apply for roles outside academia make sure to highlight this skill.

 

What’s your background?

I did my undergraduate degree in mathematics and astronomy at the University of Sheffield. From there I went on to get my PhD in astrophysics from Keele University.

 

Why did you move away from academia?

At the end of my PhD I was at a crossroads of whether to continue in academia or pursue other avenues. I did apply for both and decided the security, progression, and opportunity to use my skills within data science was the right choice for me. Even better, I don’t have to move around every few years, I don’t have to worry about applying for grants and I have a good work-life balance.

 

How did you prepare for the work involved in your job?

When I finished my PhD, I participated in the data science boot camp run by Pivigo, called Science to Data Science (S2DS). It gave me the real-world project experience I needed to get on the data science career path.

 

Can you describe a typical week in your job?

My role is very diverse and I get to work with many different sides of the company. As such my typical week may consist of the following: –

  • Mentoring students on the Science to Data Science program to foster their communication skills, ensure that they are communicating well within their team, and to the company they are working with.
  • Meeting with the company representatives of the Science to Data Science projects to ensure that they are happy with the progress of the projects.
  • Giving university talks, webinars and conference talks about careers outside of academia to postgraduates.
  • Producing content such as YouTube videos and blogs to help the global community of aspiring data scientists get started on the road to becoming a data scientist.
  • Working as part of the data science team where we are working on internal data science projects to help the business grow and scale up.

 

What’s the workplace culture like?

Fantastic! When we are all together in the office there is a great atmosphere. Teamwork is at the heart of what we do, and this really helps move projects forward and makes sure they are completed to a high standard. We also socialise as a group and have had some great company meals that strengthen the bond we have.

 

Which transferable skills are most important to your job?

Communication is the number one transferable skill that we learn from academia. Of course, the technical skills are also important but communicating the results of your work in a clear and easy to understand way is core to being a good data scientist.

 

What’s the best part of your job?

For me, the most rewarding part is mentoring the participants through S2DS and seeing them go on to get really great jobs.

 

What would you like to achieve in the future?

I want to be able to inform postgraduate students all over the world about the opportunities available to them if they are considering a career outside of academia and to show them that the careers in data science are numerous, varied and interesting.

 

Do you have any advice for current graduate students and postdocs considering a career outside of academia?

Your skills are in high demand in many career choices outside of academia. Your blend of programming, mathematics, statistics and curiosity are a great foundation for a career in data science, and your ability to communicate complex concepts to technical and non-technical audiences alike is a powerful skill. There are three topics I would suggest you have a working knowledge of, Python or R, Machine Learning and SQL, to help you get started on the road to being a data scientist. There are loads of great courses out there to help you pick up these skills and if you register with www.pivigo.com you will find an extensive repository of resources to help you learn and upskill. I would also highly recommend reading “Just Listen” by Mark Goulston and “Crucial Conversations” by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron Mcmillan and Al Switzler. These two books are useful to help improve your communications skills.

 

Published: August 2018

Pivigo

Pivigo is the data science hub and offers data science on demand, making it possible for organisations of all sizes and in all sectors to benefit from the power of data. It’s global marketplace – the first of its kind launched in Europe – connects organisations to an exceptional pool of passionate data scientists from all over the world, allowing them to outsource projects on a freelance basis. The diverse and growing community of data scientists that Pivigo has created is supplemented by its Science to Data Science (S2DS) training programme – Europe’s largest data science boot camp. The programme trains 140 academics a year to become fully-rounded data scientists in just five weeks.

Through its global hub and S2DS programme, Pivigo is building the world’s largest community of data scientists, giving them the opportunity to use their talent to help businesses, government organisations and not-for-profits unlock opportunities within data.

To find out more please visit www.pivigo.com, or to find out more about our Science to Data Science Bootcamp email our community manager, Deepak, deepak.mahtani@pivigo.com.

Velicia Bachtiar

Senior Biomedical Scientist

D.Phil. Clinical Neuroscience, University of Oxford (2014)

Year entered into a non-academic position: 2015

Job highlight: Working in a dynamic and fast-paced environment to build innovative technologies for healthcare.

Postgraduate take-away: Creative problem-solving and being able to multi-task.

 

What’s your background?

I did a DPhil in Clinical Neuroscience at the Functional MRI of the Brain (FMRIB) Centre, University of Oxford. I applied neuroimaging techniques to investigate how motor learning and non-invasive brain stimulation changed the level of certain neurotransmitters in the human brain, and how this could be applied to rehabilitation of motor function after chronic stroke. Prior to this I did a BSc in Psychology at UCL and an MSc in Neuroscience at Oxford.

 

Why did you move away from academia?

I chose to leave academia because I wanted to do science in an environment where results could be achieved quickly and translated into products that would benefit healthcare.

 

Is there anything you miss about academia?

Perhaps the freedom to be able to investigate research questions purely out of interest. In industry, scientific activities have a commercial underpinning to them so the questions you work on and the work you do will usually need to have a business case for it.

 

How did your PhD prepare you for your current job? 

During my DPhil I conducted imaging studies to quantify different neurotransmitters in the human brain and now a part of my job is to conduct imaging studies to quantify tissue characteristics in the liver. Although this is a smaller part of my job, the technical skills were transferrable and helpful in this case. I’ve found that the most useful skills however, have been the less technical ones such as experiences in working with multi-disciplinary collaborations with scientists and clinicians in complex projects.

 

Can you describe a typical week in your job?

As a senior scientist in the innovation team I am involved in a variety of projects. This ranges from conducting performance testing validation experiments for medical device regulatory submissions, to being responsible for grant-funded projects that are developing prototypes in the innovation pipeline, to developing programmes of work for new product opportunities. I also write papers and conference abstracts, manage relationships with external collaborators, attend conferences and give presentations about our technology.

 

What are your favourite parts of your job?

I like the fast-paced nature of a growing company. The opportunities for growth and the variety of the work is great. I like how results can be achieved quickly as the environment is such that everyone has a common goal.

 

Do you have any advice for current graduate students and postdocs considering a career outside of academia?

Don’t be afraid to reach out to people that have made the move and to ask them questions. There is a whole world outside of academia and the options are endless, you just have to look!

 

Published: July 2018

Perspectum Diagnostics

Perspectum Diagnostics’ strengths lie in translating biomedical engineering and medical imaging expertise into high-performing medical devices, to develop solutions for major unmet needs in liver disease. We have a proven track record of producing US and European regulatory-approved medical devices to develop and commercialise in clinical markets worldwide. Perspectum’s first product, LiverMultiScan (LMS), is a software application based on MRI-technology that aids clinicians in the diagnosis of early liver disease and has gained FDA 510(k) clearance and CE marking. LMS uses proprietary technology to measure parameters of liver disease, including the first scalable imaging metric of liver inflammation. This technology was based on IP generated by founders (Sir Michael Brady, Dr Rajarshi Banerjee, Prof Matthew Robson and Prof Stefan Neubauer) as part of their work at the University of Oxford.

Philippa Christoforou

Licensing and Ventures Manager

PhD Bionanotechnology, Imperial College London (2015)

Job highlight: Working with world-leading researchers to help them realise the potential and impact of their work through spinout companies or licensing worldwide.  

Postgraduate take-away: In my role, I am always learning something new, which is great fun! The communication skills that I developed during my PhD come in really handy; I use them every day to help me to form good relationships with researchers and external customers.

 

 

What’s your background?

I started off my academic career at the University of St Andrews in Scotland, studying Physics. I was the only woman studying for a “pure” Physics degree in my year group and there were only three other women who were studying Astrophysics. It was a tough degree and even though I loved Physics (and still do), I decided when I finished that I didn’t want to do pure science anymore.

After about 9 months out of academia, I applied to the Institute of Chemical Biology at Imperial College, which is a Doctoral Training Centre (DTC) where students complete a Masters of Research degree, and then go on to do a three-year PhD. My PhD was at the interface between chemistry, biology and physics. I worked mostly on solid-state nanopores, which are widely used for sequencing DNA but can also be used to look at interactions between proteins, DNA, and much more. I loved the interdisciplinary nature of my PhD and I learnt so much about biology, which I had not studied since Standard Grade Level at age 15.

 

Why move away from academia?

I had a great time during my PhD and really enjoyed the field I worked in. However, I started to realise that I wasn’t going to achieve the impact that I had, rather naively, expected with my project and I needed something that had more interaction with people. The lab was just not the place for me.

 

What is the work like?

There is no standard day at OUI. The work varies wildly and that makes it more enjoyable!

I started at OUI as an Assistant Licensing and Ventures Manager, which was a training role to learn all about technology transfer when I had no significant prior business experience. Over a year and a half I learnt how to negotiate effectively, what IP, patents, and copyright are, how to evaluate an invention or idea to determine if there is a potential commercial market for it, and to determine if something similar exists elsewhere that restricts its commercial potential. I have learnt how to create a spinout company, write a business plan and to pitch for investment. In this role I worked alongside my colleagues, supporting their work and learning so much from them.

I am now a Licensing and Ventures Manger, which means I have my own projects with researchers and help them to realise impact from their ideas, regardless of the form the idea takes. Although I am in the Digital Health team, and also focus on medical devices, I have worked on spinouts from Archaeology and the Humanities Division, and help to run our crowdfunding platform, so it really is a very varied job!

 

What is the company culture?

OUI is a great place to work. Everyone is very friendly, open to helping each other through a problem, answering questions and sharing knowledge on best practice or a particular market. My colleagues in the Licensing and Ventures team have mostly come to OUI with some commercial background, so I always learn new things from them, and when I have trained interns, I have had the chance to pass on my knowledge too.

We are encouraged not to work too late, often being told to go home on a Friday evening if we stay past 6pm. The importance that the company places on the staff having quality time with their family, and not taking work home with them, really means that OUI is an enjoyable place to work. Everyone arrives at work to get things done, and the collaborative environment means that we try to deliver the highest quality results for each project.

 

Which transferable skills from your PhD are most important for your current role?

Since I carried out my PhD at a DTC, I was fortunate to receive a lot of transferable skills training. We went on a three-day residential course to learn about presenting skills, how to deal with job interviews, and participated in team-building activities. We also did a course about learning how to write in different situations, whether it be for a news article or a press release. These courses were so valuable for the job I do now, but are likely to be important for any other job too. Being able to effectively communicate an idea to a researcher, technical staff at a company, a CEO, an investor, or a member of the general public is a key part of my job, and I learnt a lot of that through the DTC.

Oxford University Innovation

Elizabeth Irvine-Cadman

Senior Associate Consultant

PhD in Management, University of St Andrews

Year entered non-academic position: 2016

Job highlight: The diversity of strategy consulting means you are always learning.

Postgraduate take-away: Being able to interpret lots of information to quickly get to grips with a new context, attending to both the big picture and salient detail.

 

What’s your background?

I joined boutique strategy consultancy Credo shortly after completing my PhD at the University of St Andrews. Credo was acquired by Teneo Holdings, a global CEO advisory firm, in 2017. I also hold a MA (Hons) and a MRes in Management from the University of St Andrews. During my PhD I also worked as a tutor of undergraduates for the School of Management.

 

Why did you move away from academia?

Whilst I greatly enjoyed both research and teaching, I felt that in the longer-term I would enjoy the team-work and the fast-paced environment provided by consultancy. Strategy consulting offered the varied and intellectually stimulating career that I was looking for, and Teneo appealed as a supportive organisation through which to foster ongoing professional and personal development.

 

How did you prepare for the work involved in your job?

Teneo don’t expect you to arrive with a set of specific skills. We have a strong focus on on-the-job learning, supported by working within small teams and having a clearly defined career structure.

 

Can you describe a typical week in your job?

Our ‘day-to-day’ activities are very project specific and also depend on the role within the case team. As an ‘Associate Consultant’, work is likely to be focused on analysis (e.g. building excel models, primary and secondary research to support issue identification or drawing out implications for the client) and also working to create client-ready outputs summarising our work. As you move towards becoming a Senior Associate, and then Consultant, you start to take a much more active role is shaping the project and conclusions, and usually manage more junior colleagues.

Outside of project work, consulting staff are also involved in the running of the firm through our internal teams, which offer opportunities to get involved in a range of activities (e.g. Recruitment, Engagement, etc.).

 

What’s the workplace culture like?

This is a real strength of Teneo Consulting and was a strong aspect that drew me to the firm – everyone is very smart, switched on and engaged. The culture is friendly and challenging, dynamic and supportive. Relative to other consultancies, we also have a great commitment to having a sensible work/life balance and providing strong development and support structures. For instance, we have a mentoring system, a coach, a Mental Wellbeing Team, and we track individual workloads to ensure people are working sustainably. Outside of project work, we also have a strong social team who produce a calendar of organised and impromptu events (e.g. overseas weekends, summer parties, and ad hoc social events in our local offices).

 

Which transferable skills are most important to your job?

Analysis (especially being able to draw out the salient points from a large volume of information), critical thinking, problem solving, written communication skills.

 

What’s the best part of your job?

The project-based nature of the role and the diverse work of the firm foster a sense of constant and ongoing discovery and learning. Given my background, this is important to me and something that I prioritised when making the transition from academia to consulting. Secondly, the staffing cohort are very invested in both our work and in cultivating a friendly and supportive culture, which I think helps us to feel engaged with the firm as a meaningful place of work.

 

Do you have any advice for current graduate students and postdocs considering a career outside of academia?

1) Be confident in the value of the transferable skills that you have developed/honed during your PhD research.

2) Ahead of the recruitment process, ensure that you have a clear explanation as to why you are considering a career outside of academia and why your chosen field is of interest.

3) Make sure you find out as much as you can about the work culture and the typical new joiner cohort. Teneo has a relatively large proportion of consulting staff with PhDs and I liked the people that I met during the recruitment process, meaning I felt a lot more confident that I would enjoy working here.

 

Published June 2018

Teneo Consulting (prev. Credo Business Consulting)

Teneo Consulting is the business consulting arm of Teneo Holdings, the global CEO advisory firm. In 2017, Credo Business Consulting in London and Dubai became part of Teneo Consulting. The global Teneo Consulting team brings a powerful mix of senior experience and rigorous analysis, as well as expertise from across Teneo, to develop pragmatic, tailored, high quality solutions to the many challenging situations facing business and public sector leaders. Read more about the Teneo Way here.

We have an exceptional team, and are constantly looking for new talent. Every year, we seek exceptional graduates, advanced degree holders and experienced hires from all backgrounds to join us. In order to take on the role as a key project team member from day one, a successful candidate will be a logical thinker with strong numerical and communication skills. They will also be enthusiastic and entrepreneurial, having demonstrated leadership, ambition, and teamwork throughout their academic, professional, or extra-curricular activities. From day one, our new hires are required to contribute fully in all aspects of case delivery as well as participate in business development activities. Teneo’s strong growth provides outstanding career opportunities. Our six-monthly promotion cycle allows people to move up through the company as fast as they are able, while Teneo’s extensive internal and external training enables them to quickly develop the skills required to progress. See here for more information about our careers and see here for reviews on The Job Crowd website.

Jane Alfred

Director & Co-founder

PhD in Developmental Genetics, University of Edinburgh

Job highlight: Working closely with the research and publishing community on issues that have an impact on the reporting, performance and integrity of science, supporting the academic community in their efforts to perform and report robust research, and learning about new and interesting science nearly every day.

Postgraduate take-away: If you are interested in a career in science publishing and communication, seek out opportunities to improve and demonstrate your science communication, critical thinking and writing skills. These skills will all stand you in good stead when you come to apply for editorial, science writing or science communication positions.

 

What’s your background?

I did an undergraduate degree in Pharmacology at King’s College London, but realized as the course progressed that I was much more interested in molecular biology and genetics. Luckily, I had contacts in research, who introduced me to the wonders of developmental biology. This in turn led me to apply to do a PhD in Developmental Genetics at the MRC Human Genetics Unit in Edinburgh. I feel extremely fortunate to this day that the institute took a punt on me as a PhD student coming from another field. It was a steep learning curve but worth it.

 

Why did you move away from academia?

As a student and postdoc, I loved lab life, learning about science, and being at the bench. But I also liked to have a broader view of biology, to write and to read widely. As my research career progressed, I worried that I lacked the focus to apply myself to research projects for 3-5 years at a time. However, I also came to realise that my other interests were also my strengths, so I started to explore other career options that would play to these strengths. I initially looked into a career in science journalism after successfully applying to be a British Science Association media fellow at the Guardian. This was a fun and challenging experience, and one that strengthened my writing skills. Importantly, it also gave me first-hand experience at being a science journalist, and I found it wasn’t for me. I wanted to stay much closer to science and to continue to interact closely with the research community, which is how I came to apply for my first editorial position.

 

How did you prepare for the work involved in your job?

As a postdoc and student, I took every possible opportunity that came my way to write. In addition to applying for the media fellowship, I also wrote summaries of research papers for Trends in Genetics and for a mouse knockout database in my spare time. All of this experience helped me to gain my first position as an editor of a Trends journal, and from there, my editorial career progressed pretty rapidly, to the point where I was managing journals and journal teams. The experience, knowledge and contacts I gained from over 15 years of working in science publishing provided the foundation for my setting up my own editorial consultancy company a few years ago. Running my own company has entailed another steep learning curve, but I love having the freedom to work on the things that really interest me.

 

Can you describe a typical week in your job?

My job is currently hugely varied. I can be travelling to or presenting a training workshop on research integrity or peer review one day, then helping an academic to prepare a grant proposal on another, while providing freelance editorial support to a journal in between. I also attend conferences on research integrity and publishing, and keep my science knowledge up to date by attending biology research conferences when I can.

  

Which transferable skills are most important to your job?

Good critical thinking skills, strong interpersonal and communication skills, the ability to write clearly and coherently, good time management, a passion for research and how it’s done, and a never ending curiosity about biology. And the ability to get quickly up to speed with some of the complexities of running a business!

 

What’s the best part of your job?

I particularly enjoy running training workshops for early career researchers. I like interacting with them, and hearing about their views and experience of research, supporting them in their career goals, and equipping them with some of the skills they need. They are also the next generation of research leaders, so it is incredibly important to get them thinking about research integrity, good research practice, open science and the kind of culture they want to work in.

 

Do you have any advice for current graduate students and postdocs considering a career outside of academia?

Carefully consider where your strengths lie and don’t be afraid to pursue what interests you most, even if that means leaving academia or changing fields. You have a lifetime of working ahead of you, so it’s important that your career not only earns you a living but gives you a sense of satisfaction and fulfilment as well. You also don’t need to have your whole career mapped out. Mine evolved holistically each time I took an active step towards something I enjoyed or was interested in. With respect to editorial roles, these positions can be highly sought after so do everything you can to ensure your CV demonstrates you have the skills needed for the job (see transferable skills above), and be willing to take internships and temporary positions to develop those skills.

 

Published: June 2018

 

Catalyst Editorial, Ltd.

Through Catalyst Editorial, Jane Alfred offers a range of training services to the research community on research integrity, publishing ethics, science communication, and peer review. In developing these workshops, Jane collaborates with research managers and institute leaders to tailor training programs to meet the training needs of an institute or department. Training can consist of seminars or interactive workshops, and can be tailored to suit different audiences – from institute and group leaders, to early career researchers and PhD students. At Catalyst Editorial, we also provide a range of editorial services to authors. We use our editorial expertise to work with researchers from the biological and biomedical research community on their research and review manuscripts, grant proposals, reports, policy documents, commentaries and book chapters to ensure their research and ideas are communicated clearly, appropriately and effectively. We also provide freelance editorial support to publishers and editorial agencies.

Steve Wells

Director of Product Management

PhD in Neuroscience, University College London

Job highlight: Bringing 3D medical imaging to the bedside

Postgraduate take-away (i.e. something in particular from your experience as a researcher that has helped you in your new career): Systematic approach to research and data analysis.

 

What’s your background?

I did Natural Sciences at Cambridge, then an MSc in Medical Physics at Aberdeen, then a PhD in Neuroscience in London.  I then moved into science software before moving into medical imaging products.

 

Why did you move away from academia?

More jobs, more job security and more flexible career options in software than in my niche of research (which didn’t have many industrial applications).

 

Can you describe a typical week in your job?

Meeting a customer to discuss current limitations and how new technology could help them.  Checking the latest academic and industrial research. Planning the development of new products.  Creating some test images in the lab. Discussing with global companies about how they could use our components in their products.  

 

How do people work together in your organisation??

It’s a start-up company so everybody knows everybody, and things move quickly and flexibly, with everyone focused on getting our first product to market.

 

Which transferable skills are most important to your job?

Knowledge of the medical industry and medical device development.

 

What’s the best part of your job?

Enabling something new to be achieved that can help save lives.

 

What are your reflections on your career path?

I mainly did what I enjoyed and was good at. Working in medical devices was a good fit as that built on my physics, biology, and software background.

 

Do you have any advice for current graduate students and postdocs considering a career outside of academia?

Industry and academia have different drivers so a mix of both during a career is good. Industry always has the reality check of whether somebody will pay for your work which forces you to be efficient and scope your work so that some results are regularly delivered. These are good skills for anybody returning to academia.

 

Published: May 2018

Adaptix Imaging

 

Adaptix is revolutionising the way 3D images are obtained.  We aim to help patients and health care professionals to get the best possible diagnostic information, wherever and whenever it is needed.  For patients, this means a quicker and more accurate diagnosis at the bedside and less exposure to radiation; and for healthcare professionals it means, in addition, saving costs and time. To do this our technology fires X-rays from different positions across a flat panel array of small X-ray emitters.  Using an innovative reconstruction, a 3D Digital Tomosynthesis (DT) image set will be produced. These results provide more diagnostic accuracy than 2D imaging at a fraction of the dose received from a CT scan in a mobile device that can be brought to the patient.

Charlotte Taylor

Senior Analyst

DPhil in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Oxford

Job highlight: The variety! My role is incredibly diverse with no two days ever being the same. I am constantly facing new challenges, trying out novel approaches and learning new skills, which keeps me motivated and engaged.

Postgraduate take-away: Multitasking and problem solving.

 

What’s your background?
Before joining Costello Medical, I graduated from Cardiff University with a BSc in Biochemistry. As part of my undergraduate studies, I spent an industrial year at GlaxoSmithKline working in the Centre of Excellence for Drug Discovery in Stevenage. Following this, I completed a DPhil in Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Oxford, where I was based at the Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine (WIMM) at the John Radcliffe Hospital.

 

Why did you move away from academia?
As I came to the end of my DPhil, I realised that although I loved the day-to-day laboratory work, I did not strive to run my own research group. This led me to look for other career paths. I knew that I was passionate about healthcare and wanted to use the skills that I had gained from my time in scientific research, so the medical communications sector seemed like a good option. After researching the sector and speaking to a number of medical communications agencies at the University of Oxford Careers Fair, Costello Medical really stood out as an exciting company to work for, so this is where I applied and now work!

 

How did you prepare for the work involved in your job?
During my time as a DPhil student, I became very adept at managing multiple projects at once, problem-solving, and reading and critiquing scientific literature; all of which are very valuable skills for my current role at Costello Medical. In addition, liaising with other collaborators and scientists on a day-to-day basis and attending and presenting at national and international conferences were also great opportunities to enhance my interpersonal and presentation skills, which I feel are qualities that will always be beneficial in the medical communications sector.

 

Can you describe a typical week in your job?
As a Senior Analyst, I am part of a few different project teams, some of which I project-manage and others in which I am more focused on the everyday project work. Day-to-day, most of my time is spent summarising clinical trials in visually appealing slidesets to support our client’s medical affairs teams, creating online learning modules, preparing materials for scientific symposia or educational events, and liaising with clients. The projects span multiple therapeutic areas; I have recently completed work in the fields of haemophilia and rheumatology. The role is incredibly varied so no two days are ever the same; I am constantly trying out different approaches and learning new skills.

 

What’s the workplace culture like?
Costello Medical really invests in and nurtures everyone in the team. From the day you start at the company your voice is heard and you feel like you can really make a difference. The company is also full of motivated, passionate and friendly people, which makes it an enjoyable and supportive working environment.

 

Which transferable skills are most important to your job?
Efficient time management, self-sufficiency, proactivity, and the ability to prioritise and problem-solve effectively.

 

What’s the best part of your job?
The variety of the job is great – you are constantly learning new skills and taking on new challenges, which means that every day is interesting. The company is also very open to new ideas and suggestions, and makes it easy for these to be shared with others.

 

What would you like to achieve in the future?
This is a really difficult question! I would like to feel that I have had a positive impact on those I work with, my clients and patients globally – the ability to support projects that help to improve patient outcomes is particularly exciting. I would also like to be involved with the development of new service offerings and initiatives within the Medical Affairs division, as well as contribute to the success and growth of Costello Medical.

The opportunities in medical communications and at Costello Medical are varied and I am excited for where this career will take me.

 

Do you have any advice for current graduate students and postdocs considering a career outside of academia?
I would advise doing as much research as you can about your options; attend careers fairs, speak to the careers service, get advice from those who are in the roles you are interested in, use LinkedIn, speak to recruitment agencies – anything! There are so many roles out there that you might not be aware of.

 

Published: April 2018

Costello Medical

Company Profile
Costello Medical is a vibrant, welcoming and rapidly growing medical communications and health economics agency based in Cambridge, London and Singapore. We work with a wide range of clients, including the world’s leading pharmaceutical and medical device companies, on projects in the areas of health technology assessment and health economics, medical affairs, market access, statistics, literature reviewing and publications. We provide strategic advice and technical expertise to our clients, preparing high-quality written and visual scientific documents that communicate the clinical, economic and patient-focused benefits of pharmaceutical products to various key stakeholders in the healthcare sector. Our work has a direct and measurable impact on the successful launch of novel therapies across a wide range of disease areas.

We are proud to have been listed in the UK’s The Sunday Times 100 Best Small Companies to Work For list in both 2017 and 2018. Please visit our website (http://www.costellomedical.com/careers/vacancies/) to find out more information about our roles.

Diana Di Paolo

Associate Consultant

DPhil in Biophysics

Year entered into non-academic position: 2017

Job highlight: At CHR, my work was valued from day 1. I really like the variety of projects, the level of transparency and direct interaction both with colleagues and partners, and the fact that roles are not set in stone.

Postgraduate take-away:

1) Go to as many career events as you can, talk to employers and University advisors, these are invaluable tools to understand what you want to do in your life as well as to help you making it become a reality.

2) If you do leave academia, don’t see it as a failure. An academic background is useful in such a wide variety of sectors and we can feel rewarded and socially impactful in a range of roles other than academic.

 

What is your background?

Prior to CHR, I adapted a novel technique for internalization and imaging of dye-labelled proteins in live bacteria, worked as a student consultant for Nominet UK and served several leading roles in University Societies. I hold a BSc and an MSc in Physics from the University of Pisa, Italy, and a DPhil in Biophysics from the University of Oxford. I have also held a one-year postdoc role with a shared grant from the BBSRC between the departments of Physics and Biochemistry at Oxford.

 

Why did you move away from academia?

As much as I enjoyed my PhD, towards the end of it I started hearing a little voice in my head that made me doubt if my long-term career was going to be in academia. Mostly because I wanted to have a bigger impact on society than I could have had from the lab, interact with people more and most importantly, have economic stability for the future – which is quite difficult to find in science.

 

What is your current role like?

As an Associate Consultant at CHR, my role is to provide strategic decision support and action planning to global leaders in the life-sciences and healthcare spaces. Since I started at CHR a year ago, I have been exposed to several types of projects, from medical devices to rare diseases and generics, but I especially deep-dove into the oncology arm of CHR, gaining a thorough understanding of this therapeutic area, including drugs on the market and in development, as well as recent changes in the competitive landscape.

 

What is the work like?

In many cases people like me starting their first job do not have much commercial background straight out of academia, so the learning curve in consulting is obviously steep in the beginning. However, at CHR everyone is very friendly and willing to help, and you are given all the tools and the chance to learn. It sometimes happens that, especially when deadlines approach, hours can be long, but working in a team and coordinating tasks and timelines really helps share the workload and ensure that everybody gets a good work-life balance.

 

What is the company culture?

CHR was a great place for me to start my career straight out of academia. Since the very first day, the partners have invested in my capabilities and helped me developing a solid skill-set for the job despite my lack of previous experience in consultancy. There is clearly attention given to employees’ welfare and the management is very transparent and open to constructive comments and suggestions. The company structure is flat, with no imposing hierarchy, and if you show that you have the right capabilities you can progress and get great first-hand exposure to clients quite early on.

 

What were your transferable skills?

Presentation skills gained when speaking at conferences and scientific meetings (even internally to the department); synthesis and writing skills gained while writing my PhD thesis and science papers; communication to a specialist as well as to a non-specialist audience; time management; organization; analytical, logical and critical thinking; problem solving; leadership skills gained by covering several leading roles in University societies, as student representative and as demonstrator/supervisor of younger students.

 

Published: April 2018

Cambridge Healthcare Research

Lydia Harriss

Physical Sciences Adviser

DPhil, Biophysics, University of Oxford

Job highlight: Helping MPs and Peers to make better-informed decisions on topics ranging from artificial intelligence to fire safety.

Postgraduate take-away: Being able to learn quickly about an unfamiliar area of science, and understanding the research process and scientific method.

 

What’s your background?

I studied physics as an undergraduate at the University of Bristol, and then went on to do a doctorate at Oxford. After graduating, I joined the Wellcome Trust (a biomedical research foundation) as a graduate trainee. I had a fantastic couple of years in which I took on four very different roles that gave me experience of science writing, project and events management, and insight into the management of a £16bn investment portfolio. I now work in Parliament as a science adviser – providing MPs and Peers with information and analysis on topics across the physical sciences and computing.

 

Can you describe a typical week in your job?

That’s a tough one, as work can vary quite a lot during the year. This week I am focusing on our written briefings. This has included looking at the review comments that external experts have made about one of our briefings and deciding what edits to make before publication, plus reviewing drafts of briefings that other members of my team have produced. I manage another physical sciences adviser and am currently supervising a PhD student who’s with us for a 3-month secondment (one of our POST Fellows), so I’ve had meetings with them to discuss their work. I also attended a meeting of the POST Board, a group of MPs, Peers, external academics and Parliamentary staff, which directs our work programme. I presented a selection of potential topics for future briefings and they decided on the one they want us to work on next – an overview of the security of the UK’s telecommunications networks.

At other times, my role includes: recruiting POST Fellows; organising or attending science policy events; supporting Parliamentary Select Committees with their inquiries; and giving presentations to policy makers, academics and others about POST and our work.

 

What’s the workplace culture like?

Parliament is a unique organisation, where people work in hugely diverse roles to support the debates, law-making and scrutiny work that happens there. There’s always something exciting going on and it does feel like you’re pretty close to the action.

I have a lot of autonomy, which makes good use of the independence that I developed as a doctoral researcher. I’ve also found that the organisation has been very supportive of staff who have wanted to work flexibly (e.g. working compressed hours or working from home), or needed to take parental leave or leave to care for sick relatives.

 

Which transferable skills are most important to your job?

Being able to write clearly and concisely for a non-specialist audience is a key requirement, as much of the role involves producing and supervising written briefings. Verbal communication skills are also important. I often represent POST at meetings and conferences, which can involve giving presentations, and I give verbal briefings to Parliamentarians and Parliamentary staff. Networking and relationship management skills are also important; I’ve developed a network of contacts with external experts that I can draw upon when I need to learn about a new subject area. Good organisation and project management skills are also key, for helping to keep track of multiple projects and ensuring that everything happens when it needs to.

 

What’s the best part of your job?

I’ve been able to meet some amazing people. While researching briefings, I’ve interviewed some very senior academics and business leaders. It’s a real privilege to be able to discuss areas of science with some of the leading thinkers in their fields. I’ve also been lucky enough to travel to a number of different countries for conferences and other projects. A real career highlight has been representing POST at a meeting with senior politicians and the UK Ambassador in Argentina.

 

Do you have any advice for current graduate students and postdocs considering a career outside of academia?

Take the opportunity to develop your transferable skills and to gain as much relevant experience as possible alongside your research, for example through volunteering, secondments or work shadowing. However, don’t overlook all of the great transferable skills that you have gained through your research. Be ready to articulate these skills to potential employers who may not be familiar with academic research and won’t necessarily appreciate all of the fantastic experience and qualities that researchers develop.

 

Published: April 2018

Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology

The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) is Parliament’s in-house source of scientific advice. POST is an office of both Houses of Parliament, overseen by a Board of MPs, Peers, leading experts from the science and technology community, and Parliamentary staff.

POST’s work includes:

  • Providing balanced and accessible briefings on research from across the natural and social sciences, engineering and technology
  • Convening events and seminars to connect Parliamentarians with leading experts from academia, industry, Government and the third sector
  • Supporting the use of research evidence across Parliament
  • Connecting Parliament with the research community
  • Supporting the development of science advice services in legislatures in other countries.

Jeroen Bakker

Associate

PhD Immunology, Academic Medical Centre Amsterdam (2014)

Year entered into non-academic position: 2015

Job highlight: The ability to work with smart, engaged and highly motivated founders of biotech companies that use cutting-edge science

Postgraduate take-away: Think early about your next step and try to prepare yourself for that, and equally important, create a coherent story about why you want to do this!

 

What’s your background?

I’m trained in Biotechnology through my BSc at the Technical University of Delft. Subsequently, I took an MSc in Biomedical Sciences to focus on human disease and better understand its pathological mechanisms. During my MSc, I investigated a cure for type 1 diabetes at the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology (San Diego) and worked in biotech at Syntaxin Ltd (Oxford, UK). I specialized through a PhD in immunology at the AMC Amsterdam focusing on the role of innate immunity in sterile inflammatory disease. After my PhD, I left academia to work as a consultant and subsequently joined M Ventures.

 

Why did you move away from academia?

Academia typically has long timelines where projects can take up to 3-5 years. Since progress is sometimes slow, I felt a need to work in a more fast-paced environment. Additionally, the application of research and the impact it has on patients is quite important to me. Since this was lacking during my PhD, I decided to make an impact through venture capital (VC), which would allow me to interact with multiple companies that develop drugs.

 

How did you prepare for the work involved in your job?

I took courses, read up on the topic and tried to get to know the field by talking to peers who also recently made the transition.

 

Can you describe a typical week in your job?

Typically, we start the week with deal flow discussion where we discuss all the new opportunities that have come in and decide which ones we want to take forward, based on commercial potential and novelty of the concept. Midweek is mostly occupied with more detailed research into companies, taking calls with experts to better understand the field and drafting investment proposals. Friday is usually the day when I prepare new deals to be discussed the following Monday.

 

What’s the workplace culture like?

Very dynamic with lots of freedom. That also comes with the responsibility to finish tasks when they need to be finished.

 

Which transferable skills are most important to your job?

Relationship management, project management and scientific review.

 

What’s the best part of your job?

To engage with smart, motivated scientists and CEOs who want to change the world by developing a drug that can save lives. If we can help them in their journey by supporting them with financing and know-how, that would be enough.

 

What would you like to achieve in the future?

Bring a company from inception all the way to clinical proof of concept.

 

Do you have any advice for current graduate students and postdocs considering a career outside of academia?

Talk to a lot of people and do a good deal of thinking around your next step. Make sure you set yourself apart from the rest by taking courses, doing extracurricular activities, etc.

 

Published: April 2018

M Ventures

Michalis Papadakis

Co-founder & CEO

PhD in Molecular Neuroscience, UCL School of Pharmacy

What’s your background?

I am a healthcare entrepreneur who started as a basic scientist driven by a fascination with the complexity of the brain. I have a BSc Honours in Biochemistry from Imperial College, London, and PhD in Molecular Neuroscience from the UCL School of Pharmacy. In 2005, I joined and set up the preclinical Stroke Lab at the University of Oxford as a post-doctoral Research Fellow where I subsequently became the Scientific Director. It was during my time there, whilst researching biomarkers for stroke, that I founded Brainomix and led the development and commercialization of the e-ASPECTS stroke imaging software. Brainomix now operates across 15 countries worldwide.

 

Why did you move away from academia?

I always had an entrepreneurial flair to develop innovative technologies that can impact and transform patient treatment and outcome. Through my research in academia I had discovered a new target for stroke, however I realized to translate this to a therapy I had to invest many years of further research with very low success rate. With Brainomix, I had the opportunity to fulfill my aspiration to develop, in a much shorter time frame, a groundbreaking artificial intelligence-based software, which supports the selection of the right stroke patient for the right treatment.

 

How did you prepare for the work involved in your job?

There wasn’t much preparation but rather a lot of learning on the job and listening to the advice of mentors and colleagues who had the track record and expertise that I lacked at the time.

 

Can you describe a typical week in your job?

I rarely have a typical week. This is one of the exciting aspects of the job. Every week varies and involves a lot of international travel to meet physicians, attend conferences and discuss projects with partners. I spend the rest of my time with our team in Oxford, planning our strategy and ensuring everyone has the support and resources they need to grow our company.  

 

What’s the workplace culture like?

It is a busy, extremely ambitious, fast-paced environment. Our staff adapt quickly to the ever-changing needs of the business. Everyone has a voice and a valued opinion, so it is a fantastic opportunity for someone who is really ambitious to make a difference. I always try to ensure that everyone in the team shares our vision and feels they are part of our mission to improve stroke care.

 

Which transferable skills are most important to your job?

Solving problems is a core skill for my job and my academic background has taught me how to troubleshoot and find solutions. Importantly, softer skills such as being resilient and understanding people’s needs are essential for building a successful business.

 

What’s the best part of your job?

Being the driving force of change in a field that affects people’s lives, whilst building a business and a team to enable this change.

 

What would you like to achieve in the future?

To build a profitable and sustainable business that provides both healthcare benefits to patients and significant returns to our shareholders.

 

Do you have any advice for current graduate students and postdocs considering a career outside of academia?

If you want to make this leap, don’t think short-term. Be prepared for a rough ride that is full of excitement and will take you to new places that you, and even the world, has never seen.

 

Published: April 2018

Brainomix Limited

Brainomix Limited (www.brainomix.com) started as an University of Oxford medical imaging spin-out, developing state of the art software to improve the treatment of patients with neurological and cerebrovascular disorders. We are building world-class medical imaging software products, which can be sold in multiple international markets, and to accomplish this, we believe in creating a first-class working environment for the whole team.

We offer a wide range of career paths from Software Developers to Marketing Associates. To see our current vacancies, please check our careers page: https://www.brainomix.com/careers 

Jessica Hardy

Associate Medical Writer

DPhil Molecular Biology, University of Oxford

Job highlights: I’m enthusiastic about the opportunities to come, including the prospect of travelling to congresses and working on new types of communication materials, and I’m excited to see how my career here will develop!

Postgraduate takeaway:  Writing, presentation and communication.

 

What is your background and why did you move away from academia?

As I approached the end of my degree in biochemistry, a PhD seemed the obvious next step, and I was keen to start out on an academic career path. However, while I’m definitely glad I did my PhD, I soon realized that I couldn’t see myself as an academic in the long run. I was concerned by the limited job stability, lack of permanent positions, irregular working hours and stress associated with regular grant applications. What’s more, while I still had a keen passion for science, I was already a bit tired of laboratory work and fed up of feeling disheartened by failed experiments.

 

What did you consider when you start looking for jobs outside of the academia?

I started thinking about alternative careers, and, when a friend pointed out a local medical communications networking event, I realized that medical writing might be the ideal option for me. It was great to hear that there was a career path that really values the rigorous scientific training and communication skills gained while performing doctoral research, but provides job stability, clear career progression and an opportunity to work on projects close to the interface with pioneering medical treatments. The writing, presentation and communication aspects of my PhD had always been my favourite parts, and getting involved in a few writing projects outside of my own research confirmed my desire to make the move into a writing career.

 

What was the application process like?

Having spoken at length with several people working at Oxford PharmaGenesis, they were my first-choice company, and I actually sent my application 8 months before the end of my PhD! The process was very efficient, and, after completing a writing test, I was invited for an interview. I met several people at different career stages in the company and enjoyed the fact that it was very much a two-way discussion with ample opportunity to ask questions. When I was offered the position, I was given the flexibility to suggest a start date after the completion of my PhD, and the company didn’t mind waiting. It was great to be able to focus on writing my thesis, knowing that I had my position secured.

 

What kinds of projects have you been on?

I love the diversity of my work and have already developed congress materials from scratch, worked on several manuscripts, prepared slide decks and minutes for publication meetings, and even led a conference call, which is something I would not have been able to do a couple of months ago! I’m still very much using my scientific training, working with data every day, and it’s been stimulating to learn about new therapy areas completely unrelated to my PhD topic.

 

What is the company culture?

I was apprehensive about the culture change, moving from working independently on a self-driven project to working in a team-based, client-facing service role, but I’ve received excellent training and support, and have quickly gained confidence. I was made to feel welcome from the start and have found that the sociable and people-centred atmosphere makes this a great place to work.

 

Published: March 2018

Oxford PharmaGenesis

Simon Harold

Senior Editor

PhD Ecology and Evolution, University of Leeds

Job highlight: Being among the first to see results at the forefront of research, and having a hand in shaping them into the final piece that enters the scientific literature.

Postgraduate take-away: Reading broadly—not only in the scientific literature, but also ‘pop science’—has been enormously useful as an editor getting to grips with the broader significance of new research, and how it can be most effectively communicated.

 

What’s your background?

I studied Zoology at Cardiff University as an undergraduate, which included a fascinating year working on a research project at the NERC Centre for Population Biology. Following a year at the University of Manchester, I then completed a PhD on host-parasite-pathogen ecology at the University of Leeds before spending the next four years as an editor for various journals at the open access publisher BioMed Central. In 2014 I joined Nature Communications as their ecology editor, and in early 2016 moved to the launch team for one of Nature’s newest research journals, Nature Ecology and Evolution.

 

Why did you move away from academia?

A number of threads converged on this decision. I briefly toyed with the idea of doing a postdoc, but eventually came to the conclusion that my interests were broader than a more narrowly-focused project would allow. Although my passion for ecology as a science remained intact after my PhD, it was also my general impression that in the long-term, a career in academia probably wasn’t for me, and it would be a more positive move if I were to seek out new opportunities outside of academia. My partner was also finishing her PhD at the same time at a different university, so we made the collective decision that we would try to find somewhere to stay put for a while, where we might actually be able to spend some weekdays together! Perhaps inevitably, we ended up in London, and I was fortunate enough to find a job that matched my academic background, and interests in science communication.

 

How did you prepare for the work involved in your job?

I’ve always read broadly around my subject, and that has really helped in assessing manuscripts that fall outside of my immediate research background. Aside from this, much of the training on peer-review, time management, publication ethics and so on, are all provided in-house by the publishers, so there wasn’t a huge amount of preparation needed beforehand. Prior to my interviews for each position, I would always make sure I knew as much about the role and the employer as I could find, and have a clear idea in my mind about what positive things I could usefully add to the job. One piece of advice I would pass on is to definitely make sure you check on the job’s dress code before you start your first day! Overdressing probably isn’t as bad as underdressing, but as I’ve found out, turning up to work in a suit when everyone else is in trainers isn’t a great look either…

 

Can you describe a typical week in your job?

It involves a lot of reading! Each editor on our team will typically read around a dozen new manuscripts a week, and make a case to the rest of the team for why they think it should, or should not, be sent out for external review. This discussion is all done through an online portal, and the same process applies to manuscripts once they’ve returned from the review process. Assessing whether any manuscript should be accepted, rejected, or sent back for further revisions, involves weighing up each referee’s detailed comments, whether they are based on technical concerns or their own opinions, the expertise of each referee, and your own judgement of the study. Needless to say, this can often be a complex process, so it’s incredibly useful to have other experienced editors weigh in on the discussion. We also spend a lot of time ensuring that those manuscripts that eventually make it to publication adhere to the journals’ policies, are clearly and concisely written and presented, and receive a signal boost from our press team or social media accounts once they make it online. As well as this, we spend time discussing opinion and comment articles that we plan to commission, as well as any ongoing projects or meetings that we’ve recently attended. It’s both an intellectually and organisationally challenging role, but also a hugely stimulating one.

 

What’s the workplace culture like?

Similar to academia in many ways, but with the bonus of working regular hours and still leaving the office guilt-free at the end of the day! The workplace culture clearly reflects the fact that the job is still so closely aligned with academia, with most day-to-day tasks involving communicating with academics from across the world. It’s a relaxed and friendly office in which you can regularly rub shoulders with editors from across the natural and physical sciences. Each month, editors from across all the journals get together in small discussion groups (we call them ‘communities’), which is a really nice way of promoting an interdisciplinary and sociable atmosphere across the many different journals published in the Nature family.

 

Which transferable skills are most important to your job?

I’m very lucky to have a job that’s so directly related to my research background in ecology, since assessing the scientific quality and significance of each manuscript is really the essential part of this role. However, the skills you learn in research around project and time management, as well as collaboration and networking, are equally important. Aside from this, a general understanding of the workings of academia is certainly very useful, especially as we work so closely with academic authors and referees.

 

What’s the best part of your job?

There’s a lot of scope for influencing the direction of the journal according to your own interests, which is great. We publish Reviews and Perspectives, as well as opinion and comment pieces, meaning that you can solicit viewpoints on the topics that you feel are most urgent. For example, one of the first Reviews I commissioned was on microplastics in the ocean, and another of my favourites was a Q&A with an inspirational young ornithologist and environmental activist called Mya-Rose Craig. We also commissioned a fantastic cover image from a talented natural history illustrator, Rosemary Moscoe, for our one-year anniversary. Editors get to travel to a number of conferences each year, which is a great chance to hear about research from dedicated scientists working at the coal face.

 

Do you have any advice for current graduate students and postdocs considering a career outside of academia?

My main piece of advice would simply be to get that first job, and not worry too much about whether it’s your dream job or not. I don’t think any editor at Nature ever set out for a career in editing when they started their PhD, but most will tell you how happy they are that this is the where they’ve ended up. My first job as an editor was a short-term, low-paid internship, but there are a lot of opportunities for promotion if you are able to get just a little bit of experience to start you off. A lot of people probably don’t realize that many jobs will go to internal candidates, so simply getting a foot in the door is a huge advantage. And of course, you don’t have to stay if you don’t like it – I’ve known a number of people who went back into academia after a short spell in publishing. It can often feel disheartening for PhDs to start on a low career rung after graduating, but it’s worth remembering that unless a job specifically requires a PhD, having one won’t necessarily give you any advantages in securing that first job – however, once you’re there, the variety of skills and independence you’ve learned will most likely mean you’ll rise much faster.

 

Published: March 2018

Nature Ecology and Evolution

Springer Nature is a large and diverse company. There are many opportunities to expand your knowledge and to learn new skills. We can offer flexible working arrangements for fully trained editors and we have opportunities across the globe. Visit our editorial and publishing careers website for more information on our editorial and publishing roles: www.springernature.com/editorial-and-publishing-jobs. Information on all of our roles can be found here https://group.springernature.com/it/group/careers.

 

About Springer Nature

We are a global publisher dedicated to providing the best possible service to the whole research community. We help authors to share their discoveries; enable researchers to find, access and understand the work of others and support librarians and institutions with innovations in technology and data.

 

We use our position and our influence to champion the issues that matter to the research community – standing up for science; taking a leading role in open research and being powerful advocates for the highest quality and ethical standards in research.

Christian Lang

Product Marketing Director

DPhil Materials Science, University of Oxford

What is my background?

After my first degree in Physics from the University of Vienna, Austria, and a Masters focused on electron microscopy, that included a year working in the US, I came to Oxford to get a DPhil in Materials Science in Prof. David Cockayne’s group. Having been part of one of the leading groups in electron microscopy helped me build a worldwide network of contacts and friends which I still value greatly.

Wanting to pursue my research interest further after my DPhil, I took up a post-doc position in the same group. For my research I collaborated closely with scientists at IBM in the US and the Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology in Korea. I liked the energy and focus on applying the outcome of fundamental research that drove these industrial collaborations. I therefore decided that I wanted to continue my research career in industry with Sharp Laboratories of Europe where I worked as a Senior Scientist, leading research projects into Nanoelectronics and Photovoltaics. From there I moved on the Oxford Instruments where I originally started as a Product Manager for detectors for electron microscopes and now work as the Product Marketing Director.

Why move away from academia?

I thoroughly enjoyed the intellectual challenge of research, however, I felt that after several years in the lab doing fundamental research, I wanted to be involved in work that had a wider impact, outside a relatively narrow scientific community. I also enjoyed the energy that came with working in a team and pursuing a shared goal as I had experienced in my collaborations with industrial groups. Having worked first in industrial research and then moved into management I still enjoy spending time with academics to think through scientific problems but find great satisfaction in bringing the outcomes of such intellectual exercises to a broader audience in the form of products that are being used by scientists around the world.

What is the work like?

Leading the product marketing department at Oxford Instruments Nanoanalysis is an extremely varied and interesting job. I am fortunate to work with a group of highly intelligent and motivated people. Our customers are at the leading edge of science and innovation in their field and I particularly enjoy meeting with customers to understand how we can better help them solve their problems. As Oxford Instruments operates globally, a significant amount of my time is spent travelling to different parts of the world which has given me a good understanding of how interconnected our world has become. A new idea in Silicon Valley can have important repercussions for the analysis requirements of a chip manufacturer in Taiwan or a display manufacturer in Japan or Korea.

What is the company culture?

Oxford Instruments is a company that is build around constant innovation and growth, both business and personal. As can be expected from a scientific instrumentation business with a large customer share in academic research, there is a very cerebral approach to work at all levels of the company. While the company has a global reach it is small enough so that outstanding performance gets recognized and individual contributions are valued. Employees are usually encouraged to think as ‘Owners’ rather than just followers. However, there is always more plenty of work around and one quickly learns to prioritise. The team at Oxford Instruments is very international and many of the jobs involve international travel or even secondments abroad and the prevailing attitude of most people is one of openness and interest in other cultures.

What were my transferable skills?

In addition to the skills in electron microscopy and nanotechnology I learned during my time in academia how to give engaging presentations on complex subjects. Whether pitching an idea for a new product line to the CTO or explaining the fundamentals of X-ray detector to a director of a mining company, learning how to pitch your expert knowledge to suite your audience is a very valuable skill. Also, working in an international environment within international collaborations at Oxford University was a good preparation for working with clients and colleagues from all over the world. However, probably the most valuable skills were the persistence necessary to finish a DPhil and the analytical attitude to problem solving that I developed during my time in academic research. If I can guarantee one thing, it is that you will never run out of problems to solve when working in a commercial environment.

 

Published: January 2018

Oxford Instruments Nanoanalysis

Georgina Kerr

Research Facilitator for Immunology

PhD in Genetics, University of Cambridge

Job highlight: Working with researchers across the University to facilitate collaboration, communication and securing funding.

Postgraduate take-away: You don’t have to be a Principal Investigator (PI)! There are many arenas where your knowledge and skills will be valuable.

 

What’s your background? Why did you move away from academia?

I was a postdoc at the University of Oxford for twelve years before starting this position. I enjoyed working in the lab and had always known I didn’t want to be a PI. There came a point where I felt I needed a new challenge and I started looking at other career options. I wanted to be able to use my science knowledge and knew what my strengths were (organized, good at communicating, self-motivated) and the role of Research Facilitator for Immunology, working across the University, sounded really appealing.

 

How did you prepare for the work involved in your job?

My role is a newly created position that aims to facilitate communication and collaboration for immunology researchers across the University. The specifics of how I achieve these aims have been left mostly to me! I have made a concerted effort to meet as many researchers in the immunology field at the University as possible, and identify areas where I can have the most useful input. Meeting other people in similar roles has also been extremely helpful.

 

Can you describe a typical week in your job?

There isn’t a typical week. My role is very varied and that keeps it interesting. Keeping abreast of the various projects and deadlines is very important. I juggle organizing termly science meetings, submitting grant applications to support the immunology community, keeping up-to-date with research highlights, developing a strategy for immunology research and developing an immunology website.

 

What’s the workplace culture like?

The University of Oxford is a fantastically stimulating place to work. I don’t miss working in the lab at all and think that’s mostly because I’m still constantly exposed to the amazing world-class science being produced here.

 

Which transferable skills are most important to your job?

Being organized, running multiple projects side by side, networking, being self-motivated, understanding how the University works, understanding the science.

 

What’s the best part of your job?

I enjoy the responsibility of managing the immunology theme and developing the Immunology Network. I am learning a huge amount about the administration of research, including pre- and post-award management, recruitment, project management, finance, ethics, and so on. I feel very privileged to be meeting researchers from diverse disciplines and hearing about their latest research. Developing a website for the theme has also been very enjoyable (www.immunology.ox.ac.uk).

 

What would you like to achieve in the future?

I hope that the Immunology Network at the University of Oxford grows further and develops into an invaluable tool both for researchers within the University and outside who are looking for new collaborators, expertise or equipment. I feel that there are career options ahead of me and that makes me excited for the future.

 

Do you have any advice for current graduate students and postdocs considering a career outside of academia?

Think about your strengths and what you can envisage yourself doing on a daily basis. Take advantage of your careers service, talk to your peers and mentors and look at jobs pages to find out what’s out there. Also, if you do decide to leave academia, it isn’t a one-way street. More and more funders are offering grants for people returning to academia.

 

Published: January 2018

University of Oxford

Katie Ridd

Global Editorial Talent Manager

PhD in in vitro Toxicology, Liverpool John Moores University

Job highlight: Helping recruit our talented editors who aid in disseminating important scientific discoveries.

Postgraduate take-away: Reading has always been a passion of mine. What I really liked doing as a postdoc was reading about exciting discoveries; as an editor this is a large part of the role. It is important to think about what you enjoy about your current role and seek a career that will allow you to explore this further.

 

What’s your background?

During my undergraduate degree I was fascinated by the intricate workings of gene regulation. I decided to undertake a PhD at Liverpool John Moores University where I looked at using gene regulation as a readout for measuring toxicity. I continued with this theme in my first postdoc but used the skin as a model system. My final postdoc at The UCSF Cancer Center focused on understanding skin cancer in humans.

 

Why did you move away from academia?

I didn’t really plan to move away from academia. I was trying to apply for my own funding in the UK and write papers. I had a six-month window to fill so applied for a locum position at Nature Protocols. Whilst I didn’t get my own funding, I had already decided that the editorial role was something that I really enjoyed. I could work really hard every day and see the fruits of my labour. I was reading and learning about new methods, expanding my scientific knowledge, and I was also helping researchers to disseminate their protocols; further advancing discovery. There are always many editorial opportunities at Springer Nature; when a permanent position became available at Nature Communications, I jumped at the chance to join the editorial team of a new journal. At the moment, I am on a secondment from Nature Communications; I am working with our Human Resources department on strategies to recruit and train our editorial and publishing staff. I also focus on the career development of our employees.

 

What is the work like?

As an editor at Nature Communications looking after primary research papers, my job was to read papers and decide whether I thought they met the editorial threshold of the journal. I’d use my knowledge of the field and the journal to reach my editorial decision. For suitable papers, I’d organise the peer review process, interpret the reviewer’s comments and communicate with the authors. Editors also commission review articles, both at our research journals and our dedicated reviews journals. Editors travel to conferences to keep up to date with the latest advances in their field and visit institutes to meet with potential authors,encouraging them to submit their work to us, or commissioning content. Our editors find that this is a really rewarding way to use their knowledge, stay close to science and further expand their network within their community.

 

What’s the best part of your work?

Aside from having access to the most exciting discoveries in my research field, the best part of my work has been helping other people. I have always really enjoyed assisting authors in publishing their work, helping them to make the most of their papers. In my current job, it’s great to try and match candidates to their perfect role and I’m always happy to provide advice to students and researchers on editorial and publishing careers.

 

How did you prepare for the work at Springer Nature?

People ask me how they can prepare for an editorial career at our journals. I always suggest that researchers get involved in the submission and peer review of their own papers. Help write the cover letter, use the submission system and read the letters you receive from the journal, whether the outcome is positive or not. If your supervisor peer reviews papers for a journal, ask if you can get involved (they would need to ask permission from the editor). Being really familiar with the peer review process can help understand what it is that we do as editors. This is with the caveat that our job as an editor is different to that of a reviewer.

 

Do you have any advice for current graduate students and postdocs?

Essential for an editorial career is your passion for your field of expertise. Great communication skills, time management and organization are also a must to become successful. As an editor, you will also be building a network with authors, reviewers and experts in your field. When applying for a job, it’s great if you can use your existing network or start to create a new one. Reach out to the Chief Editor of the journal to ask any questions you might have about the role and make sure you are familiar with the journal’s content and publishing model before applying.

 

Published: November 2017

Springer Nature

Company Information

Springer Nature is a large and diverse company. There are many opportunities to expand your knowledge and to learn new skills. We can offer flexible working arrangements for fully trained editors and we have opportunities across the globe. Visit our editorial and publishing careers website for more information on our editorial and publishing roles: www.springernature.com/editorial-and-publishing-jobs. Information on all of our roles can be found here: group.springernature.com/it/group/careers.

 

About Springer Nature

We are a global publisher dedicated to providing the best possible service to the whole research community. We help authors to share their discoveries; enable researchers to find, access and understand the work of others and support librarians and institutions with innovations in technology and data.

We use our position and our influence to champion the issues that matter to the research community – standing up for science, taking a leading role in open research and being powerful advocates for the highest quality and ethical standards in research.

Neil Harrison

Scientific Projects Leader

PhD Biochemistry, University of Sheffield

Job highlights: Getting to combine my passion for science and teamwork, in an environment that promotes both

Postgraduate takeaway: There are careers in science beyond the lab! If you enjoy learning and communicating about science then Medical Writing is certainly an option to consider.  

 

What is your background and why did you move away from academia?

Before joining Adelphi I spent six years as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Sheffield. Although the work was stimulating it was frequently frustrating, and a career spent in the lab was not an enticing prospect. However, I was keen to find a job in which I could utilise my scientific background, which led me to the healthcare industry. Within this sector the Adelphi Group are amongst the key players, with an excellent reputation. I was keen to grasp the opportunity when offered the chance to join Adelphi Communications as an Associate Medical Writer, and have since progressed to Scientific Projects Leader.

 

What is the work like?

The mainstay of work for Adelphi Communications is communicating highly complex scientific and medical concepts. We have clients in the pharmaceutical, diagnostic and medical devices industries, across a huge range of therapy areas. This involves supporting a wide range of activities from publications through to innovative digital medical education activities, and as such describing a typical day is actually quite challenging! Irrespective of what the day contains, the involvement required in managing my various projects and their mutable deadlines keeps me on my toes.

During the time I have spent at Adelphi, I have worked on a range of pharmaceutical products, and have consequently developed a broader scientific knowledge. The need to develop expertise across a number of disease areas remains one of the most challenging and enjoyable aspects of my role. My work across a variety of projects has involved liaising with different clients and key experts to understand their needs and how we can address them, which is a tremendously stimulating aspect of the job. In some cases, these interactions have required me to travel worldwide for face-to-face meetings. Another interesting part of my role is in business development, which requires additional insight into both the therapy area and client needs. Through these activities, and the training provided within Adelphi, I have learnt more about the healthcare industry in general.

 

What is the company culture?

An aspect of Adelphi life that I particularly enjoy is the emphasis placed on teamwork. Each project has a dedicated team, with all members working together to ensure delivery targets are met. As part of the standard working practice at Adelphi, all work is reviewed by another team member. This provides an opportunity for constructive feedback for continuous improvement and the development of relationships within the team.

Outside the office I like to stay active, which is easy to achieve at Adelphi with a gym on site and regular lunchtime classes. I have recently taken up triathlon, completing my first Olympic distance race last year, and so am trying to fit in swimming, cycling and running wherever possible. My main form of exercise, however, is keeping up with my nine-year-old daughter! My time at Adelphi has thus kept me active in body and mind, and I would suggest that for individuals with an enjoyment of science, and an aptitude for writing, medical communications is an avenue worth considering.

 

Published: October 2017

Adelphi Communications

Hannah Hare

Consultant / Physicist

DPhil in Medical Physics, University of Oxford

Job highlight: Doing interesting science as part of real, commercial projects

Postgraduate take-away: Working independently; communication skills

 

What is your background?

I studied for an undergraduate degree in physics, which I followed up with a DPhil in medical physics. My DPhil focused on developing new imaging methods using MRI scanners.

 

Why did you move away from academia?

What I really enjoyed in academia was the feeling of being involved in brand new research which nobody had done before, and being able to choose the direction of research myself. What I disliked was the lack of job security and the disconnect between ongoing research and ‘real-world’ applications. I was looking for a job which would allow me to continue doing scientific research but with commercial applications in mind, and TTP allows me to do just that.

 

What does the company do?

TTP is a technology consulting company that carries out R&D and product engineering for other companies. In practice, this means we are often asked to help in the design, manufacture, or troubleshooting involved in getting from an initial concept to a product that’s on the market. The company is primarily made up of engineers and physicists who enjoy problem solving and responding to the commercial pressures that our clients face. The work involves tackling a wide variety of technical problems ranging from understanding the fundamental physics behind a new sensor, to managing the scaling-up of a production process in a cost-effective manner.

 

What is the work like?

The work is incredibly varied! One day I could be running experiments in the lab, the next writing a proposal for a potential new client. TTP encourages all its employees to get involved in all aspects of the business – not just working on project teams, but also leading them and finding new business opportunities. Not many companies give you this range of opportunities so early on in your career.

 

What is the company culture?

If I had to describe TTP’s company culture in a single word, it would be ‘freedom’. Of course, this comes with a certain amount of responsibility too. TTP tries hard to minimize unnecessary bureaucracy, allowing consultants to spend more time on the interesting aspects! You are given the freedom to manage your own time (e.g. how many projects to work on), the freedom to develop new business areas, and, most importantly, the freedom to keep learning. Your opinions will be taken seriously from day one, and you will be able to make a real contribution to getting products on the market.

 

What were your transferable skills?

I was surprised at how many of the skills that I developed during my postgraduate years really helped me in my job. During my DPhil I learned to work independently and manage my own time, choosing my own path of study and recognising that there is always more than one way of approaching a problem. I also discovered the importance of communication: sharing knowledge and coming up with new ideas is so much easier if you pitch your research at the right level for your audience, and persuading a friendly post-doc to help you with a problem can save a huge amount of time.

During my DPhil I also found more time to get involved in extracurricular activities compared with my undergraduate degree. Helping to run social events in my college and acting as manager of a university orchestra definitely helped my communication and organizational skills.

 

Advice for job applications

Take time over writing your cover letter – it is the first thing a hiring manager will see, and is often used as a starting point for conversations in the interviews. I would suggest focusing on your motivations for applying to this particular job, supporting your statements with any relevant experience that you have.

When you start getting interviews, treat them as a two-way process: the company is trying to assess whether you are a suitable candidate, but equally important is that you should be working out whether you really want to work for them. You can learn a lot more from an interview than you can from a company website or a short chat at a careers fair.

 

Published: October 2017

TTP plc (The Technology Partnership)

As a technology and product development company, we work closely with our clients to create disruptive products based on advances in technology and engineering. Our innovation lies behind many well-known products and works in areas as diverse as healthcare, life sciences, communication, printing, security and industry.

From medical devices to outer space, you’ll have the opportunity to create new technologies, develop commercial propositions, explore new markets and opportunities and, if you have a great idea, create completely new business – TTP has a successful model of creating spin-out businesses.

You will discover we are different from most companies. We are unorthodox, independently minded and constantly challenge the ordinary, particularly when it comes to technology.

We believe good ideas are always worth exploring and we operate in an environment that encourages freedom and autonomy. At TTP, structures and hierarchy are kept to a minimum. That’s why at TTP a career is a personal journey. Our multi-disciplinary teams and the varied work we do will provide you with plenty of opportunities to create your own path.

Because TTP is employee-owned, we all have a stake but also share the rewards. We take calculated risks, make long-term investments, and have the time and freedom to build the technology of the future.

Oliver Nash

Quantitative Researcher

DPhil in Mathematics, University of Oxford

Job highlight: Applying cutting-edge technology; working with talented colleagues; high impact of decisions I make; continuous learning necessary

Postgraduate take-away: Confidence to attack difficult problems and persist

 

What is your background?

I am a mathematician. In my opinion, mathematics is the purest art form, by far the most beautiful, and the deepest. I have loved mathematics for as long as I can remember, and for most of my formative years I expected to pursue a career in academic mathematics. Even after having chosen a different path, I remain helplessly, and joyfully, addicted to mathematics.

I did my doctorate in geometry at Oxford. Though the experience was challenging, it was magnificent to witness, and even to participate in, the birth of new mathematics for the first time in my life.

Having said all that, I have long had a keen parallel interest: technology. I think I got hooked more or less immediately after I hacked out my first scraps of code in my mid-teens. Though a pure mathematician, I enjoy applications.

 

Why did you move away from academia?

Deciding not to pursue a career in academia was hard. It was a decision I came to gradually over at least a year. Ultimately, I decided that academia required compromise on too many fronts simultaneously. I had in mind: financial security, job security, and the freedom to choose the city in which I would live. Considering the academic path, I expected to have to wait perhaps a decade before I had any of these.

Another influence was a friend pointing out that there exist research-based roles in industry, and that quant roles tend to blend this in a satisfying way with technology. The idea that my research might be applied in impactful ways was appealing. With these thoughts in mind, I started to learn the basics of how financial markets operate. I recall that it felt like peeking behind the curtain! An entire world, previously unknown to me, suddenly came into view. I entered it.

 

What is the work like?

The work is varied and draws on a range of skills, e.g., statistics, data analysis, market understanding, software engineering, and mathematical intuition. The relevance or importance of a particular skill varies substantially over time and from project to project.

I find that the common theme is extreme attention to detail. Before I took the job, somebody described it to me by means of the following analogy, which I think still applies: many other market participants might calculate the price of an instrument they observe to, say, four decimal places. These are often good approximations, but not perfect. By means of (sometimes extraordinary) additional effort, we calculate the fifth and sixth decimal places and so are able to spot very subtle market inefficiencies.

A challenging but ultimately appealing aspect of the job is the fact that competitors are usually quite highly skilled. We survive only by continuously innovating, and by staying up to date with everything from the latest exchange features, to new software frameworks or hardware possibilities. There is even room for one’s own taste to play a role. For example, a person especially interested in, say, signals analysis or neural nets might find a way to nurture their interest, while simultaneously helping their team stay up-to-date.

 

What is the company culture?

Culture is hard to capture in a few words.

I hesitate to use a cliché, but must emphasise that there is a good work-life balance at SIG. I work hard but I do not work long hours, and I always work at a sustainable pace. This is not guaranteed in this sector, and is something I value highly.

There is a competitive streak running through the office, which is essentially an expression of the nature of our work. A concrete manifestation of this is the high rate of participation in the annual company poker tournament. I still attend each year and usually get knocked out just as I begin to believe I’m going to do well for once!

We also take pride in what we do. There is satisfaction in knowing that we’re one of the top providers of certain financial services.

 

What were your transferable skills?

At the nuts and bolts level, literacy in basic mathematics, coding, and basic statistics, were my directly transferable skills.

My doctorate, though its subject matter is of no direct relevance, was nevertheless the single most important experience. It taught me how to attack open-ended problems which may start out imprecisely-defined, as opposed to exercises from a book or exam. In other words, it taught me how to research.

Almost all the skills I now use were developed while I was at SIG. I believe the most important attributes are rather down to earth: attention to detail, diligence, persistence, and curiosity.

 

Published: October 2017

Susquehanna International Group, Ltd

SIG is a global quantitative trading firm founded with an entrepreneurial mindset and a rigorous analytical approach to decision making. We commit our own capital to trade financial products around the world. Our Quantitative Researchers (quants) solve mathematical puzzles found in the financial markets and process vast amounts of data, both formidable and computational, to identify profitable trading opportunities. Our traders, quants, developers, and systems engineers work side by side to develop and implement our trading strategies. Each individual brings their unique expertise every day to help us make optimal decisions in the global financial markets.

Lisa Gallacher

Senior Medical Writer

PhD in Chemistry, University of St Andrews

Job highlight: I love working in a challenging, diverse and fast-paced environment with a great team of people who make work fun and enjoyable.

Postgraduate take-away: If you enjoy communicating science and are looking for a fulfilling, challenging, and rewarding career outside of academia, then look no further than medical communications!

 

What is your background?

After graduating in 2003 with a degree in chemistry from the University of St Andrews, I followed the majority of my peers and started a PhD. Having no idea what I wanted to do as a career, a PhD seemed like the sensible choice; I enjoyed learning, liked being in the lab and loved living in the beautiful coast town of St Andrews. After completing my PhD and publishing several papers on my results, I continued on my academic track and pursued a 2-year postdoctoral position in Helsinki, Finland.

 

Why move away from academia?

There were many things I really enjoyed about academia: working at the cutting edge of science, the flexibility that it offered, the collaborative work environment, and the feeling of success when the experiment you had been working on for months finally produced the results you were hoping for! However, towards the end of my postdoctoral position, I found that the writing of publications and grants, and the communication of my research, was more enjoyable than the lab work itself. I began researching various career options that encompassed the areas of my work that I enjoyed most. I considered publishing, consultancy, and grants administration until I stumbled onto the website FirstMedCommsJob.com and discovered the exciting world of medical communications. The more I read about the industry, the more I was convinced a medical writing role was exactly what I was looking for.

 

What would be a typical day for you?

Since starting at Porterhouse, no two days have been the same. One day I might be working on a slide deck for presentation at a congress, and the next I might be developing a resource on pipeline therapies for a pharmaceutical company. Despite coming from a chemistry background, I have been able to pick up medical terminology and grasp varied biological fields with ease due to the support structure and vast knowledge base of the Porterhouse team.

 

Which transferable skills were most important for your transition out of academia?

Because the majority of my time is spent considering how best to interpret, display and accurately convey data, as well as creating compelling narratives for publications or presentations, I am using a lot of the skills I developed during my academic career. Life in a medical communications agency is incredibly fast-paced and dynamic, and I feel like I use my problem-solving skills more today than I did when troubleshooting failed experiments in the lab! Even more importantly, I am still learning and developing my skills as a writer and communicator.

 

What would you like to achieve in the future?

Having been at Porterhouse for more than two years, I have worked on a number of intellectually demanding projects and have been promoted to the role of Senior Medical Writer. I have found medical communications to be an incredibly fulfilling, challenging, and rewarding career that fully utilises my scientific skills and expertise. I’m looking forward to progressing further within the medical communications industry and applying my skills to new projects and challenges.

 

Published: October 2017

Porterhouse Medical

Established in 2002, Porterhouse Medical is an award-winning medical communications agency with a reputation for excellence. Our in-house teams of carefully-selected account managers, medical writers and designers work hard to deliver creative and intelligent medical communications programmes for a growing number of UK, European, and global pharmaceutical partners. In recognition of our achievements we have recently been awarded a Queen’s Award for Enterprise 2016 in the category of International Trade – the UK’s highest accolade for outstanding achievement in business.

At Porterhouse, we believe our people are our greatest asset. Our employees, made up of medical writers, account managers, creatives and events managers work closely together to provide truly outstanding client service. We are looking for the very best life sciences graduates, postgraduates and postdocs in order to maintain our reputation as a first-class medical communications agency delivering scientific programmes of the highest quality. We are always interested in hearing from intelligent, personable, motivated individuals who are interested in joining our team, and we are dedicated to training enthusiastic candidates who are keen to embark upon an exciting career in medical communications. If you think you have what it takes to work in a challenging and rewarding agency environment, producing materials of the very highest quality and exceeding the expectations of your clients on a regular basis, please email: careers@porterhouse.biz

Erica Cave

Senior Medical Writer

PhD in Pharmacology

Job highlight: Distilling complex information down to form an interesting narrative for your audience.

Postgraduate take-away: Read plenty of scientific articles so you can get to grips with writing effectively and presenting data clearly.

 

What is your background?

As a senior medical writer at Porterhouse I have been very fortunate to experience the transformation of the company over recent years. When I joined, it was a small and bustling agency where we each performed several roles as writers, account managers and even graphic artists. Now, seven years later, the company has grown considerably and we have a large dedicated team that specialises not only in their job type, but also according to therapy areas.

I was a bright-eyed graduate many moons ago and ended up staying in academia to complete an industry-funded research master’s, followed by a PhD in pharmacology, in which I was tasked with elucidating the mechanism of action of a novel anti-tumour agent. I really loved being involved in drug discovery, so after my PhD I made the move into industry to continue working in this field for a biotech company in Abingdon. However, after a few years, I was unfortunately facing redundancy and I had to reassess my career.

 

Why did you choose a career in medical communications?

Scanning countless job search websites, I saw a few medical writing jobs in my area and so I started to look into the role. Having never even heard of medical communications before, I quickly realised that it sounded like a fun and varied career that would make good use of my skills and knowledge. Luckily, I was already living in one of the main medical communications hubs in the UK, and it wasn’t too long before Porterhouse took a chance on me. I haven’t looked back since!

 

What is a typical day for you?

I was initially hired as an Associate Medical Writer, but with expert guidance from everyone at Porterhouse I was able to hone my skills and develop as a writer. Now I am a Senior Medical Writer, I can help encourage newer writers to reach their full potential. As well as writing all manner of materials for a host of large pharmaceutical companies, I also review and edit work from junior writers, providing feedback and support to help them progress.

A typical day for me at Porterhouse might involve reviewing slides produced by a medical writer for an upcoming conference, checking an advisory board meeting report, or even helping to put together internal training materials for our editorial team. The job is extremely varied and the therapy areas range from oncology and haemophilia, to retinal diseases and more.

 

Which transferable skills were most important for your transition out of academia?

The skills I acquired from the years spent in academia have been invaluable in this role and I am very grateful that I can continue to put them to good use. One of the main aspects of being a writer is researching and collating a lot of information, picking out the best bits to tell your story. Having a PhD means that you are already accustomed to sifting through facts and data. You can find papers with ease and familiarise yourself with them quickly. In fact, plenty of other typical postgraduate activities also feature heavily in this job, such as putting together slide decks, deciding how best to display data, liaising with academics and planning your time.

 

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Medical writing is an amazing career that enables you to keep abreast of advances in healthcare and gives you interesting insights into the inner workings of pharmaceutical companies. Moreover, it offers great flexibility, as I now work part-time, from a fancy shed at the bottom of my garden in the Midlands. A lab-based job just can’t match the fantastic work–life balance that medical writing offers.

 

Published: October 2017

Porterhouse Medical

Established in 2002, Porterhouse Medical is an award-winning medical communications agency with a reputation for excellence. Our in-house teams of carefully-selected account managers, medical writers and designers work hard to deliver creative and intelligent medical communications programmes for a growing number of UK, European and global pharmaceutical partners. In recognition of our achievements we have recently been awarded a Queen’s Award for Enterprise 2016 in the category of International Trade – the UK’s highest accolade for outstanding achievement in business.

At Porterhouse, we believe our people are our greatest asset. Our employees, made up of medical writers, account managers, creatives and events managers work closely together to provide truly outstanding client service. We are looking for the very best life sciences graduates, postgraduates and postdocs in order to maintain our reputation as a first-class medical communications agency delivering scientific programmes of the highest quality. We are always interested in hearing from intelligent, personable, motivated individuals who are interested in joining our team, and we are dedicated to training enthusiastic candidates who are keen to embark upon an exciting career in medical communications. If you think you have what it takes to work in a challenging and rewarding agency environment, producing materials of the very highest quality and exceeding the expectations of your clients on a regular basis, please email: careers@porterhouse.biz

Robert Fordham

Associate Consultant

MEng Engineering Science, University of Oxford

Job highlight:  No two projects are the same; looking forward to being part of this business as it grows further, meeting new people, and tackling stimulating problems

 

What is your background?

I have a background in science and maths as I pursued an undergraduate degree in Engineering Science with a Masters in Chemical Engineering. During my research project, I studied the pre-ignition in internal combustion engines.

 

Why did you move away from academia?

When looking for jobs in my final year at Oxford, I wanted to find a position where I could both utilise my Engineering degree and work with talented people to solve complex problems. I also knew that I did not want to be sat at a desk all day. I picked Chartwell as it could offer me all those things and give me the chance to be part of a small, rapidly growing, and exciting company.

 

What is the work like?

Chartwell Consulting is a recently established firm, specialising in the delivery of breakthrough improvement in operational performance. Within my first year, I have been involved in a variety of projects both in the UK and overseas, from fabricating armoured cars to producing e-cigarette liquid in a small chemical plant. No two projects are the same, and this means you are exposed to a range of experiences and challenging opportunities.

A typical project requires us to travel to the client site on Monday before returning home on Thursday. We are away from home 3 nights a week, but Chartwell places emphasis on a healthy work-life balance, with weekends off-limits for work. Projects are mainly in Europe, but my last project was in an automotive factory located in Canada. This experience not only helped me develop a new set of work-related skills, but also acted as an excellent platform to travel as I opted to remain in Canada for the duration of the project. Whether it was skiing, visiting Niagara Falls or socialising in Toronto, there was always something to keep me occupied whilst I was away from home.

 

Tell us about a typical day?

On a day-to-day basis I spend my time working as part of an active and engaged Chartwell team. We work very closely with our clients at all levels of the company. I might spend my morning working with an operator to find solutions to the company’s most valuable and irritating problems, whereas I could be giving a presentation to the senior client, reviewing the progress so far and aligning on the next steps of the project in the afternoon. The work is challenging, but helping people to solve their most valuable problems and giving them a fresh insight into how the opportunities we discover can help move the company forward is hugely rewarding.

My evenings on site usually involve dinner with my Chartwell colleagues where we can discuss our projects in an open and relaxed environment. I spend the rest of my time in the evenings either in the gym, catching up on a TV series or completing tasks. With every day being different, the job remains interesting. Projects are also of a good length, with a typical duration of 3-6 months, which allows enough time to become fully immersed in the industry, while making sure we are kept exposed to fresh challenges and opportunities throughout the year.

The intensity of Monday to Thursday on site is balanced by the more relaxed atmosphere of the London office on Fridays, which act as a great opportunity to mix with different intakes and learn about other people’s projects.

 

What is the company culture?

Chartwell is a young company with a warm and supportive culture where all individuals share a passion for improvement. To enable this personal improvement, there is a well-structured training and appraisal process to accelerate and guide your development. Fridays are an opportunity for training and personal development as Chartwell has an extensive methodology that is applicable across a variety of industries, and two Fridays each month are dedicated to learning this methodology. Training is based around real-life case studies, and the training is often given by the consultant who solved the problem on site. This structure allows people at all levels of the company to contribute to our ever-growing methodology, using their own thoughts and experiences.

As a small company, there is a chance to have a real impact on the development of the business in whatever areas that interest you, be it website development or planning social activities. In addition to these fantastic opportunities for personal development, there is a range of social activities throughout the year, from major events such as a ski trip and Christmas party, to more casual activities on Friday afternoons such as archery tag and escape rooms.

 

Sum up the best part of your work?

My time so far at Chartwell has been an overwhelmingly positive experience and I look forward to being part of this business as it grows further, while meeting new people and tackling stimulating problems.

 

What were your transferable skills?

Persistence during problem solving and the use of data analysis and interpretation to determine the next steps.

 

Published: August 2017

Chartwell Consulting

Chartwell Consulting helps leading manufacturing and support services businesses to deliver industry beating improvements in productivity, performance and profit.

Our team of consultants have many years’ experience delivering operational improvement for a wide range of companies. With offices in London, Berlin, Boston and Zurich, the growing team are led by five partners with over 60 years’ experience in industry between them.

We believe passionately in continuous improvement; our core expertise is the identification and delivery of large and often hidden potential. We repeatedly achieve 20% to 50% improvement in performance in 2 to 6 months. Client leaders testify that we have a hands-on approach that leaves lasting change in their organisations. We will not take on engagements that do not justify our fees and we back up our work with a “no result, no fee” guarantee.
For more information, visit www.chartwell-consulting.com or email Jenny Overton at careers.uk@chartwell-consulting.com.

Dominic Hall

Senior Consultant

MPhysPhil in Physics and Philosophy, University of Oxford

Job highlight: The partner’s decades of experience meant they knew how to guide me in the issues I faced and could make sure that when I was taking on new challenges, I had a solid foundation of support and advice to build on.

 

What is your background?

I graduated from the University of Oxford in 2012 with a degree in Physics and Philosophy. Following this, I worked for six months at a different operations consultancy, before taking a position as COO in a technology company. I then joined Chartwell as a Consultant at the start of 2014, before being promoted to Senior Consultant in the summer of 2015.

 

What is the work like?

Chartwell works principally with manufacturing industries, helping clients to realise much more potential than they thought possible in a very short space of time. Some of the most exciting projects are where a company is able to sell everything it can produce due to growth in demand, and so every product off the line really counts. An example might be if you owned a fidget spinner factory – right now you need every one you can get, but there isn’t the time or long-term demand to invest in more equipment. We could help them to get 20 to 50% more fidget spinners out the door to their customers in only a couple of months – it’s very exciting to be the driving force in a transformation like that!

 

What is unique about Chartwell?

One of the things that sets Chartwell apart is the philosophy behind the company and the development and training of our staff: each of the partners passionately wants to create the greatest possible impact in the shortest possible time and consequently, they exhibit an extremely high level of commitment to developing their staff as fast as possible. The opportunities you’re given to develop are well beyond anything else I’ve seen – since joining Chartwell, my learning has accelerated much more than at any other point in my career. I’ve gone from improving individually to leading a small team of 1-2 colleagues and fostering their ambitions to being responsible for a team of 6 Chartwell employees/colleagues, delivering a 2-year £25m savings programme.

I was only able to seize these opportunities due to the support offered by the senior team. Going well beyond the methodology I was familiar with, managing a change programme across a whole firm required an entirely new set of skills. The partner’s decades of experience meant they knew how to guide me in the issues I faced and could make sure that when I was taking on new challenges, I had a solid foundation of support and advice to build on. I know that their knowledge and experience will continue to be invaluable as I start to take on challenges of building our continental offices’ capabilities.

 

What were your transferable skills?

I use the skills from both sides of my degree every day in what I do. Physics teaches you to take an exceptionally complex system and boil it down to the main factors at play. Once you have those main factors, it teaches you how to use experimentally determined laws to generate an expectation of what the system will do – this skill is vital in encountering a new production environment and prioritising what is important to understand. However, this improved understanding of how the process operates is worth nothing if you can’t communicate fruitfully with the people currently involved with the process. Their paradigm of how the process works and should work will be different from yours, and the skills I gained in Philosophy to help reconcile different paradigms allow me to better understand others’ views and communicate my own.

 

Published: August 2017

Chartwell Consulting

Chartwell Consulting helps leading manufacturing and support services businesses to deliver industry beating improvements in productivity, performance and profit.

Our team of consultants have many years’ experience delivering operational improvement for a wide range of companies. With offices in London, Berlin, Boston and Zurich, the growing team are led by five partners with over 60 years’ experience in industry between them.

We believe passionately in continuous improvement; our core expertise is the identification and delivery of large and often hidden potential. We repeatedly achieve 20% to 50% improvement in performance in 2 to 6 months. Client leaders testify that we have a hands-on approach that leaves lasting change in their organisations. We will not take on engagements that do not justify our fees and we back up our work with a “no result, no fee” guarantee.
For more information, visit www.chartwell-consulting.com or email Jenny Overton at careers.uk@chartwell-consulting.com.

Christian Proctor

Consultant

MEng Engineering Science, University of Oxford

Job highlight:  If a fast-paced career where you are continually challenged, pushed to develop, and get to see behind the doors of a wide array of industries alongside some great people appeals to you, Chartwell is the place for you!

 

What is your background?

I completed an MEng in Engineering Science at the University of Oxford in 2013. Thereafter, I started a graduate scheme at a major oil and gas company before deciding that I wanted a new challenge, so I joined Chartwell in October 2016.

 

Why did you move away from academia?

I enjoyed writing my dissertation in fourth year, but I chose to leave academia in favour of industry because I wanted to work in an environment where results could be achieved quickly, which a DPhil could not offer me.

 

How did you prepare for the work at Chartwell?

Our first week was an intense course of classroom training where we were taught Chartwell’s core methodologies and the skills we would need for our first week on site. This included how to approach complex problem solving with data-driven approaches and how to record data while studying a process. Week two was spent in a chemical plant which processed water rather than chemicals to provide a safe environment for trainee operators and soon-to-be consultants to learn. Here, we applied our newly-learnt problem-solving skills to technical problems, like those that we would face on-site. We were joined by clients from Chartwell’s previous projects and got to experience working alongside clients for the first time. Before long, the training period was over and it was time to begin our first week on-site.

 

What is the work like?

The work at Chartwell is varied and the way I spend my time therefore varies week-by-week and project-by-project. So far, in my first nine months, my projects have ranged from increasing output in a metal fabrication workshop, to reducing waste in a fabric production factory. In any given week, I could be training a client team in our methodologies, studying a line to understand how it operates and to capture details previously unknown to the client, or solving a technical problem in a factory. What I do know for certain is that I will be working closely with a client team, that are often experts in their field, to deliver real, measurable and lasting change for the organisation I am working for.

 

Tell us about a typical week.

Monday to Thursday each week is spent at the client’s site. On Fridays, the UK-based team all work in our London office. Each month, two of the Fridays are dedicated to training. This is a great opportunity to practice a specific skill or part of the methodology through case studies which are written and delivered by other consultants in the firm.

 

What is the company culture?

Working at Chartwell pushes you to develop at the fastest possible rate. You are continually challenged, but in a supportive environment. I have developed more as a professional in nine months at Chartwell than in three years at my previous company. Feedback is part of the culture at Chartwell; everyone at all levels is expected to both provide and receive feedback, so we can all continue to learn. Since joining, I have learnt to approach problems using a more methodical and structured approach. My ability to succinctly convey a message in presentations has improved and my time management and organisation skills (which I remember quoting as a strength at interview) have been taken to a whole new level.

The small size of Chartwell was part of its appeal when I applied for a job. It provides junior members of the team with the opportunity to contribute to aspects of the business which they would otherwise not be involved in. For example, running recruitment campaigns and writing training materials. Despite only seeing most co-workers once a week, Chartwell is a close-knit group. After work each Friday we visit a local pub to catch-up in a more relaxed environment. As a group we have run sponsored 10k’s, played archery tag, and even have an annual skiing weekend.

 

What is your best memory so far?

I have been tremendously lucky in my first six months to have worked on a project in the super-yacht refurbishment industry, as well as working on Chartwell’s first American project. However, sunny places aside, my most satisfying moment so far was changing the mind of a night shift operator in a factory about an idea my team had developed. Over the course of a few hours, by listening to the operator’s issues and addressing each of them, I left with the operator seeing the benefit of what the team was trying to implement.

 

What were your transferable skills?

Time management and organisation skills.

 

Any advice for current students?

You will not know what you like (or dislike) until you have tried it. If you make choices that give you a broad range of experience and a strong foundation of skills which you can build upon in the future, then you can tweak the specific direction later. It was the broad range of topics studied which attracted me to the Oxford Engineering degree and why I am glad I chose it over more specialist courses at other universities, whilst Chartwell has provided many skills since university.

 

Publish: August 2017

Chartwell Consulting

Chartwell Consulting helps leading manufacturing and support services businesses to deliver industry beating improvements in productivity, performance and profit.

Our team of consultants have many years’ experience delivering operational improvement for a wide range of companies. With offices in London, Berlin, Boston and Zurich, the growing team are led by five partners with over 60 years’ experience in industry between them.

We believe passionately in continuous improvement; our core expertise is the identification and delivery of large and often hidden potential. We repeatedly achieve 20% to 50% improvement in performance in 2 to 6 months. Client leaders testify that we have a hands-on approach that leaves lasting change in their organisations. We will not take on engagements that do not justify our fees and we back up our work with a “no result, no fee” guarantee.
For more information, visit www.chartwell-consulting.com or email Jenny Overton at careers.uk@chartwell-consulting.com.

Peter Silcock

Partner - Patent Attorney

DPhil in Chemistry, University of Oxford

Job highlight: Meeting the firm’s clients’ needs and helping them to achieve their business aims

Postgraduate take-away: Deal with inventions based on creative science; understanding of the research environments in academia and industry

 

What is your background?

I studied Natural Sciences at Cambridge University and then for a DPhil in Organometallic Chemistry and Catalysis at the University of Oxford.  I entered the patent profession by way of a graduate trainee scheme and qualified as a patent attorney in 2005.

 

Why did you move away from academia?

As I completed my DPhil in Chemistry, I was looking for a career where my scientific training would be directly relevant. At first, a research and development (R&D) role in industry seemed like the logical choice and I gained a place as an R&D chemist in a large company. I enjoyed analysing and reporting our scientific results and meeting customers, but the lab work was less stimulating than my DPhil research had been. There was also no clear timetable for career progression. I did however learn about the patent profession and was attracted by:

  • The unique blend of science, intellectual property law and business skills involved in the patent attorney role;
  • The value of the professional qualifications, fast career progression and high employability;
  • The continual exposure to cutting-edge science;
  • The intellectually stimulating and rewarding work that I would be tackling.

Since becoming a trainee patent attorney in 2002, I have never looked back. I became fully qualified in 2005. At that point I joined the Chemistry and Pharmaceuticals Group at J A Kemp, and became a partner of the firm in 2012.

 

What is the work like?

I am based in J A Kemp’s Oxford office. A large proportion of my work is focused on university clients, spinout companies and local tech businesses at the frontiers of science.

The client work is hugely varied, not just the technologies I see and the clients I work with, but also the different kinds of work I cover as a patent attorney. On a given day, I could be drafting a new patent application, responding to a patent examiner’s report or advising a client on freedom to operate in view of third party patents. I could also be preparing an opposition against a client’s competitor’s European patent, or indeed helping to defend one of my client’s patents against someone else’s opposition.

A typical day will involve at least one meeting in addition to desk work. This could be a client meeting or an internal meeting about, say, our business development activities, changes in patent law, or an exam tutorial for our trainees. I may also fit in some networking that day, for example at a business breakfast or an evening seminar.

 

What is the company culture?

Meeting the firm’s clients’ needs and helping them to achieve their business aims! We manage many cases for our clients and often have a limited amount of time to unravel issues relating to patent law, complex technology and our clients’ commercial needs. It’s immensely satisfying to complete difficult jobs under time pressure and achieve great results for clients.

 

Which transferable skills are most important to your job?

Thanks to my background I am comfortable dealing with inventions based on creative science and have a strong understanding of the research environments in academia and industry. I can get to grips with clients’ new technologies quickly and connect with their scientists in a way that gives them confidence, because I understand their work.

 

What would you like to achieve in the future?

I wish to continue to help my existing clients, bring in new work for the firm, and handle interesting patent cases. I would like to continue to progress within the firm and help drive our future development.

 

Published: August 2017

J A Kemp

J A Kemp is one of the UK’s leading IP (intellectual property) firms by size and reputation, with 150 people based in London, 25 in Oxford and 7 in Cambridge. J A Kemp’s attorneys file and prosecute patent and trade mark applications in the UK, Europe and worldwide. They protect their clients’ interests through patent office appeals and oppositions and through litigation in the courts. Clients range from start-up businesses to world-renowned corporate clients and prestigious academic institutions. A career as a Patent Attorney represents an intellectually challenging and rewarding option, bringing together a unique blend of science, law and business skills. J A Kemp recruits up to six Trainee Patent Attorneys each year, typically offering places around the end of the calendar year to start the following autumn. Outstanding applications are considered at any time of the year. Our first class training programme combines personal mentoring, internal tutorials and external courses to achieve an exceptional first-time pass rate for the European and UK Chartered Patent Attorney qualifications. We have over 50 European and UK Chartered Patent Attorneys in the firm, including 15 with first degrees from Oxford and 5 Oxford DPhils. To find out more visit: www.jakemp.com/careers