Showcasing careers beyond academia
Charlotte Barthen

Charlotte Barthen

PhD in Cell and Molecular Biology, Imperial College London (2016)
Senior Life Sciences Specialist
L.E.K. Consulting LLP

Year entered into industry: 2016

My research training enabled me to… get this job! L.E.K. Consulting’s Life Sciences practice actively recruits graduates with a medical background or a PhD in the life sciences.

What’s your background?

My background is very much in life sciences research. I hold a BSc and MRes in Biochemistry from Imperial College London. Prior to joining L.E.K., I also completed a PhD, during which I investigated the nanoscale organisation of immune cell proteins using cutting-edge super-resolution microscopy technology.

Why did you move away from academia?

I realised relatively early on during my PhD that a long-term career in academic research just wasn’t for me. I wanted to broaden my horizons and move away from focusing on a very specific subject area. In particular, I was keen to learn more about the pharmaceutical industry and to understand how businesses are run. A job in strategy consulting within the life sciences sector was the perfect opportunity to achieve these goals.

How did you hear about/get this job?

I knew several people from my undergraduate course who worked at L.E.K. Consulting, and when I started looking at consulting companies, L.E.K. quickly stood out for me as a large consulting firm offering the possibility to specialise in the Life Sciences sector from entry-level.

Can you describe a typical day in your job?

No day is the same! I typically start my day by catching up with my current case team to align on our goals for the day ahead, but the rest of the day can involve anything from attending client meetings to conducting secondary research, leading interviews with physicians and market experts, reviewing team output, attending internal training sessions or having a meeting with my L.E.K. mentor.

What’s the workplace culture like?

Hardworking, friendly, collaborative and supportive.

Which transferable skills are most important to your job?

Communication, analytical skills, teamwork, leadership, time management and technical knowledge.

What are your favourite parts of your job?

The people – everyone at the firm is incredibly talented and always ready to help out no matter how busy they are. The senior life sciences team is also very supportive and invests a lot of time in the coaching and professional development of junior team members.

Was there anything that surprised you about moving into consulting?

The technical knowledge acquired during my research career has proved a lot more transferrable than I originally thought – I have worked on several projects where scientific expertise has helped the team better understand our client’s product and its strategic positioning.

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

Researchers are highly valued by industry, so don’t be afraid to explore the opportunities that are available outside of academia. An academic path can provide a wealth of professional experience relevant to many industries. Analytical capabilities, organisational skills, coaching experience and strong communication skills are just some of relevant skill sets many researchers have and that are highly valued by consulting firms.

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?

FiercePharma, FierceBiotech, and FierceCRO’s daily digests are a great way to keep tabs on the pharmaceutical industry and to familiarise yourself with key issues and trends in the sector.

L.E.K. Consulting is a global management consulting firm that uses deep industry expertise and rigorous analysis to help business leaders achieve practical results with real impact. We are uncompromising in our approach to helping clients consistently make better decisions, deliver improved business performance, and create greater shareholder returns. The firm advises and supports global companies that are leaders in their industries — including the largest private and public-sector organizations, private equity firms and emerging entrepreneurial businesses. Founded in 1983, L.E.K. employs more than 1,400 professionals across the Americas, Asia-Pacific and Europe.