Is this thing on?

Random Ramblings about stuff I see going on in biotech, internet and the stuff I read.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Overseas experience?

From two posts back, asking about overseas experience, in the comments - got this

My department is getting changed about and there is an opportunity for someone to run all of Europe as Product Manager or stay in the US at the headquarters for the same role. Which lends itself to more advanced career advancement? Autonomy at HQ, close to the Big Cheeses or responsibility separate but isolated in Europe?

I have been traveling a lot, and unable to update the blog, but that isn't the reason I have been slow to answer this question. The truth of the matter is that I have waffled very hard on the answer. I have argued (to myself) both sides of this. SO - please take that in to account that I don't even agree with myself.

Here are the issues as I see them.
  • Going over seas just for the sake of being overseas (strictly speaking work wise here, not general life experience) is probably not worth it.
  • What will you learn? If there is an expansion of opportunity (i.e. you will get responsibility that you won't get in the US) then it is likely a good thing? You say "same role" in your comment, but I don't ever think that is 100% true.
  • Does the company have a good track record of bringing people back from overseas? or is that where people get sent to die? If it is the metaphorical version of being sent to Siberia - then don't do it. If all of the senior people in your company have been overseas for a posting, and you think you will be staying at that company for awhile - get your butt on an airplane.
  • Are you traveling overseas for work a lot right now? if yes, that can give you a flavor. Make sure you "know" the rest of the world exists at all times or you are likely to be very surprised when something happens. If you aren't getting that opportunity right now, then an overseas posting is probably a good idea.
  • Living overseas has a lot of benefits as far as expanding your mind. There are annoyances and upsides, but overall you will be a more rounded person (outside of work).
  • You will expand your network in ways that US only based people will NOT be able to. You will, therefore, get information and have contacts that purely US based people will never have.
SO - I have absolutely no good answer for you. For me, I haven't and don't have plans to work overseas. Others around me have. I don't think they have a big advantage over me, but I spend a lot of time overseas anyway. Our CEO was based overseas for awhile early in his career, but those around him haven't been.

Kind of a toss up. If you have no family/life issues preventing you from doing it - that likely means you are early in your career, and I would likely do it. That is when I would have done it and am actually a little bummed I didn't get the chance then.

Sales experience for an app Scientist job

From my previous post, there were some questions in the comments. Will deal with them in two seperate posts.

I am less than a month away from submitting my PhD, and am frustrated with bench work. I am very interested in begining a career in industry, and specifically looking at applicaiton scientist roles.

As you yourself have said, you always hire through recruiters, however, all the ones I've spoken to keep telling me that I'll have real trouble getting a position straight out of my PhD. One of them has refused to put me forward to any of the companies she has as clients. Another one has done so, as my experience matches exactly what the client needs, but told me in effect not to hold my breath. Apparently I have to go through sales first. I don't beleive that is so, but perhaps I am misguided.

I should point out that I am in the UK, so the market here is probably different from the US, but what are your thoughts about this?

I couldn't disagree with what you are being told any more strongly than I do. "go through sales first".... ummm.. NO - I wouldn't hire you in to an app scientist role if you had been through sales first. At that point you have been taken too far away from the bench.

"not right"is very odd. In looking at our app scientists, they are all straight from Ph.D. At other companies I know of, that is mostly true as well. Several have done post docs, but far from a majority. Several don't have a Ph.D. - so that is pretty much the opposite of what you are being told.

I am looking world wide when I say this. I have full visibility in to Europe, China, and India - so this is certainly not a US only issue. I would say ex-US that it is critical that you have a Ph.D. as I don't currently see any non-Ph.D's. In the US it seems to be a lot less of an issue.

Straight out of the Ph.D. it WILL TAKE A LONG TIME to get a job. You don't know anyone, you have nothing in your favor with regards to work experience etc.... It took me 4 months, and I got VERY lucky. Others have taken 5/6/7 months.

Hang in there... you will be told NO an awful lot. I hated bench work as much as it sounds like you did - it gets better!

Monday, July 07, 2008

Random questions I remember being asked...

People have asked a couple of other questions, and I tried to save them, but they are all buried in comments on old posts. SO - some random answers that I think are linked to comments that are posted that I can't immediately find... AND - some commentary on some other things going on.

I went to the BIO trade show in San Diego. It is unlike any other show I have ever been to. For example - lunches were served and the speakers were governors of states (Mass. and CA. for example). For the night time parties, they rented out several city blocks (the gas lamp distict) or an aircraft carrier (state of Georgia did that...) UNREAL. The freebies were absurd. In between all of that party stuff was serious business. I met with approximately 12 billion people. All of your major countries and universities and companies were there with business development people. An unbelievable business environment. There was a good talk track as well - but I have to say the reason to be there was for the meetings and not for the talks.

Salary questions
I have realized I can't really answer these. I have given some guidance in the past, but it is such a location dependent, year dependent thing that I don't really think it is helpful. Industry pays better than academia in the US - not sure what else can be said about that. Look for more on salaries in my next post.

"Can I do this...."
Yes. Don't remember the exact questions being asked, but it is likely you can do it. IF you can make a convincing story about why you will be able to do it and how you are qualified. The question really is how long you want to wait and how hard you will push and where you can move to. Someone is, if it is a good idea, likely to let you do it. Answering these questions is really hard, as there are so many other factors that come in to play. The post previous to this one answers one of them, and you see that it is very detail specific.

Bachelors + 3yrs experience vs. Ph.D.

from way back here, on my original post about being an application scientist, I got asked a question about.... well read below here.

I am working for an Australian biotech company based in Brisbane. I graduated from my research honours program 3 years ago now, originally with the intention of going back and doing a PhD after I got some industry experience and some ideas/direction under my belt.

I took a lab level job in the genetics field and have been promoted a few times through the product development team for a year and have now spent a year managing key customers in what is essentially an applications scientist position in a company that sells services/information.

I feel that I will end up stuck in this position forever as the structure is very flat and there is essentially 1-2 middle aged guys above me and then the vice president above them, no where for me to go really. Also I keep getting pulled in to other areas to solve internal operations problems etc, as I am still in touch with what the lab is doing, but I don't want to do this anymore.

I have been looking at some of the advertised applications scientist, field applications specialist etc and feel that I could do these jobs as I have extensive experience with all of the platforms listed and have proven my ability to learn new things in my current/previous positions.

Some of these positions require a PhD OR a Masters with 3 years experience. Do you think someone with an honours degree and 3 years biotech experience in a similar role has a chance? Any advice on how you think I could improve my chances would be greatly appreciated. Ideally I would like to end up in a business development or marketing role.
I cut out the beginning stuff about how great I am...

But to answer the questions. If they are willing to take a masters + 3yrs experience, then I think you are as qualified. Many masters degrees just require a bunch of classes and no bench work (and many require bench work). As a hiring manager, I have no idea if your masters required bench work, and will only know if asked. If I am looking for a position that requires a bunch of bench work + analytical thinking + some years - I am very likely to put "Ph.D. preferred" in the job description. Personally, when I write that, I kind of screen for it automatically. I will fully agree with you that I am missing good people that way, but I have to put some filter on there and that is as good as any.

Back to your question... Do I think you are qualified. Yes. 3 years in a small organization has likely forced you to learn a bunch of random things. Your description says as much. Make sure you play that up.

I think your next role is in product management/marketing. Take your ability to work in a lab - add in field experience - and you should be able to tell a good story to anyone looking for entry level marketing.

Go Lakers...


Way late on that. Boston handed them their rears....

Been buried in work. Now a flurry of comments and updates.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

New Technology? - failing in scouting...

I have spent very large chunks of the last two weeks at two meetings here in San Diego. FASEB and AACR. My goal was the same as always... find new stuff and talk to people. I should say I haven't been to conferences in awhile, as I got caught up in a bunch of M+A stuff and this part of my job got deprecated. Went to these two just to see new stuff. Don't want to miss the "new".


Total disappointment.

Nothing new.

In fact. Really nothing new. I did not, in all of the posters I looked at (and I think I looked at, quickly mind you, every poster at AACR and FASEB). I am good at looking at posters quickly and recognizing what techniques were used. Read every title to see what questions were asked. Scan figure legends if it doesn't immediately register as to what they are doing...


I talked to some of the people I work with saying "i got nothing, have been out of the loop for a year - am i totally missing?" and the general response was "no- thats the way it is right now". It seems, and this is the really big view, that new techniques aren't really being pushed right now. There is a lot of incremental improvement, ways to make things faster, etc... but I am not seeing discontinuous innovation. I know it is out there, I just can't find it and it annoys me. OR its not there at all right now. Everyone is catching up with the technology they have. They can answer a ton of questions that was unlocked by the last round of things and are still really figuring out how to use that technology- SO - they don't need new.

My bet is on the "just figuring out the old" for right now (and note - my definition of old in this context is like 4 years ago). There is a lot of making instruments cheaper going on, which drives the measurements possible in to more and more labs (good thing, but doesn't help with my "new" problem).

Overall, a bit of a disappointment.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

..some more travel

I was surveyed by United Airlines recently. They were happy with my travel for this year. Last year I flew 35K miles on them and I am just over 70k already this year. They were thanking me and asking what they can do etc... I told them. I think I surprised the woman as she kept coming back to "you are one of our most loyal customers" etc... I tried to explain, but don't think she ever got it, that I fly you because I have to not because I want to. My company gets good rates from you and you go where I need. As you can see from my recent post, I fly Virgin America whenever I can.

My two favorite airlines are Virgin America and Jet Blue. Unfortunatly they don't go international and they don't go, directly, where I need them to. I would rather be a bit uncomfortable (although now I am in upgrade a lot territory) than take an extra hop.

The loyalty program itself didn't do much for me until recently they added the ability to buy things. Now, using miles, I got a new GPS for the car for my wife and am getting a Wii. This is, I think, the best use of airmiles yet, as the last thing I really want to do is get on a plane for vacation.

Tough economic times

The recent headlines all over the papers are about how the economy is crashing, dogs and cats living together, and how we are all doomed.

Many corporations are looking at this and taking big steps to deal. Affy decided to move it's manufacturing to Singapore (although, it just guided down for the year and got it's stock smacked by 35% today). You see, in far less obvious ways, most of the other companies doing this as well.

Against that backdrop, I don't see the weakness in the pharma and biotech companies. They are still buying and still looking for stuff. In the smaller companies, I still see them out there and trying to get stuff together. They are still asking for a bazillion dollars to be acquired.

Just a weird disconnect that I am seeing. Not sure whether the sky is really falling or whether it just hasn't yet fallen on the companies I am looking at. At some point, hopefully they are aligned.

learning outside of your box

Today over at Derek's blog, he is writing about learning outside of your field. He talks about chemists learning biology etc... I had talked here awhile ago about "learning others languages" in a post that I can't find. My basic idea was that lawyers have their own vocabulary. Chemists have theirs, and biologists have theirs. Learning the "new" vocabulary lets you talk to those people more quickly. In order to learn their vocabulary, you have to learn what they do. It is totally invaluable. It leads to promotions. It leads everywhere upwards. I just recently got given more stuff. The reason I was given the group was because we need them to operate across some silo's we have. I speak both am one of the few who can break that wall down.

There are some people who just won't or can't do this. They have their little area of expertise and won't expand out. You need those folks, as frequently they are really good at what they do. However, they won't be moving up the chain.

The further up you get, the more different groups report in to you. The more "languages" you speak, the better/quicker you will understand what they are talking about (and when they are full of it). In addition, you more rapidly can solve the problems if you understand what is normal for an area, what they expect, how they think, and what they are trying to do.

SO... for those thinking it is just good for your science... it is also really good for your career.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

....and yes, my travel has ramped way back up!

My travel had fallen for awhile but has no ramped way way way way back up. I am over 40K miles flown this year already. This means I am writing less and, as seen by the last two posts, am back focussed on the things that make my life easier on the road.

I have read a couple of the comments recently with people getting jobs and joining in this fun. Welcome to the dark side! As you can read here, it has it's ups and downs.

Virgin America

....will be trying them out in a week or two. Heard good reports - stay tuned!

TripIt rules


I was directed here by Joel Spolsky's blog, and he was right. It is great. It is now how I print out, track, organize, and share with my wife my itinerary's. It is, possibly, the only way she knows where I am.

Yes, I am totally digital and have a blackberry - but while driving down the freeway or in a foreign country, it is just easier to have worked it all out ahead of time when you weren't sleep messed up and stressed out and hungry.

Heavily recommended to any who travel quite a bit.

You couple that with Skype, and the fact that I carry a small webcam, and it is almost like being a little bit home. I do manage to see my daughter for bedtime almost every night. The fact that she enjoys turning on the special effects and making me in to a sheep/vampire/snowstorm/etc... is secondary...

Saturday, February 02, 2008

What is after application scientist?

From comments in the last post...
I was just reading up on all your comments about Application Scientist positions. I have just joined a company in Boston as an Application Scientist after a 2yr post doc in NYC. I like my job so far, but I am at a loss as to what is the next step in the career of an Application Scientist... Is there anyone out there who has successfully transitioned into a better position from being an Application Scientist? I would be very interested in knowing since I am looking to start a family in about a couple of years or so and would like to spend a lot less time travelling

I talked a little bit about this way back here, but worth talking about again.

You do a lot of things. I went from App scientist, quickly through marketing, and in to business development. A LOT of people go to marketing next and stay there for quite a while. I would say marketing is the number 1 destination really. I have seen some go back to the lab (uncommon but not unheard of), seen 2 leave science completly (the travel made them hate the whole concept of science and I would agree that was odd), and a couple of others go to sales.

In really thinking through the previous paragraph, Sales and Marketing are really the top choices, with marketing having a sizable lead there. The others are just random things that occur.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

So Cal Salary...

From a comment

Hello.. I'm the originator of the big Application Scientist offer in L.A.

Turns out I didn't accept their offer. They needed someone pronto to run an installation overseas and I couldn't meet their start deadline. However, I wasn't too upset because I still think their final salary offer of $72500 with no bonus program and no commission was too low for the SoCal area.

Which leads me to a dilemma... the company has recently gotten back in touch with me and wants me to interview again for the position. I am not in desperate need of the job (I have several interviews lined up) but I am curious on my leverage with them. I would assume salary negotiations are back open. How far can I push?? I am fairly sure that commission isn't going to be apart of it, and vacation at 2 wks/yr will be standard. I would need a 5K relo or starting bonus. Any ballpark guesses for base salary for L.A. on a app sci position with ~50% international travel?

Thanks for the support. The company obviously wants me but I don't want to blow a deal.

I don't have a good answer for this, and put off answering (bad bad me...). I think at this point you have to decide what you want. Ask for that. See what happens. Worst case - they say no. Then you are right back where you started.

Realize this isn't great advice, but its the best I've got right now...

Go pats...

Getting Raises....

I have, over time, heard of all of the strategies for getting raises. I have always been a bit skeptical of them, as they seemed to involve some sort of trickery or having to sell or something. Never used them but do think I have been very succesful in moving forward. Recently, I got to see another person go for a raise. I will talk about him...

He is an above average person who works "near" me. Doesn't work for me, but his boss and I work closely together and are friends. We were on the road travelling and having a few beers at night and he really started to ask questions about where the company is headed, where his group is headed, and where he was headed. Interesting. Filed away in head (and questions were answered as best could be). Next day, talking while sitting in an airport, he mentioned that he had an offer on the table from one of our competitors and asked what I thought he should do. We went through the +'s and -'s of the two positions. When asked about this I am, generally, very blunt in the assessment. I will not talk you in to staying.

He heard me. When spelt out it was pretty clear staying was better than leaving. SO - next day he went in to his boss's office, told her the whole thing (knowing I had already briefed her, as I told him I would and you as the worker should expect to happen anyway) and said "now I know my market rate and worth. If you can match, I will stay. It isn't really about the money, but I do now have a sense of what I am worth".

We matched. Gave him 10 minutes to accept. He accepted. Done. insta-raise.

Couple of points to make.
1. You have to be good. If your boss doesn't respect you and think you are great, this likely won't work.
2. You have to be real about leaving. He was. He didn't say anything to that effect, but his reputation is one of keeping his word (which really leads to point 1 above....). If we hadn't matched, I fully expect him to have walked. He didn't say it. He didn't threaten it. He did none of that. Just stated "this is my market rate, please match".
3. Playing games doesn't work. He didn't and he got a decent raise out of it.

I have received two pretty decent raises in the last year. Neither of them have I really asked for. I just work my butt off. It seems easier than playing a game to get them.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Succesful job search - someone else... CONGRATS!

From the comments two posts back, comes a successful job search and some advise of their own.


Dr. yes--

I first posted on your blog sometime in July, asking for advice for my job search. I have posted off and on since then (I am the "anonymous" who kept getting pretty far along before things fell through). As of this past friday, my search is over, and i am very happy with the result. I will be in Boston working as a capital-salesperson for a large diagnostics company. The technology fits very well with my dissertation, and i will be working with a variety of industries throughout new england. (it's a field position). I just wanted you to know I found your blog extremely helpful, and probably wouldn't have considered a sales position until i read your descriptions and opinions.

If I may supplement your advice with some of my own:

1. Don't limit your job search to any function or technology...I interviewed with consulting firms, a variety of biotech, drug, and research tool companies...I pretty much looked for anything that was at least tangetially related. As far as function: apply for consulting, field applications, sales, marketing, etc...anything that will get you out of lab. Try any and every company you can think of or that pops up in a google search.

2. BE PERSISTANT AND BELIEVE IN YOURSELF...This took me 6.5 months and 10 interviews, each with multiple rounds and stretched out over weeks...some of the best advice you gave was to decide what you want to do and keep trying until you get there.

3. It's very difficult, but if at all possible, having an offer (even one you won't take) in hand when you defend your thesis seems to help grease the wheels considerably. I had a pretty average BME thesis, but the offer letter seemed to help sway the committee (this was another offer that i didn't take...i got the sales offer 1 week after my defense). Just be aware this means you need to work very hard on both the disseratation and the job search process in the last few months of grad school.

4. Know what to expect. I would say my callback rate per submitted application was on the order of 7-8%. That is, for every 100 full applications i would fill out online, i'd get 7 chats with recruiters. And that was after carefully choosing each job i applied for and putting some effort into the cover letter/application. From others i've talked to, i think 7-8% was on the high end.

5. If you are later in the phd program and know you want a businessy role, try to take any business/mgt/entrepreneur classes you can. Get a certificate, if possible...attend seminars, and try to get something on the resume that shows your inclinations and motivation for the business side.

6. GET THE RESUME IN GREAT SHAPE. Mine was 1 page of descriptions and 1 page of publications/posters/business plan competitions/etc...worked really well. Format the sh*t out of it, and get many other people to look at it. Also, ask to look at others' resumes who have been successful at leaving the bench.

7. Network yourself as much as a wh*re. Talk to your school's alumni association...mine has a databse of alumni that have expressed interest in helping people....try to collect at least one business card/contact at every conference, meeting, semniar, etc you attend your last year of school. Call them all. Repeatedly.

OK, that's all...I just wanted to let the other readers know that it is possible, it is very difficult, and that Dr. Yes's blog is filled with valuable insights.

Thanks again,
Happy PhD Sales Guy

(BTW--from looking at various offers, i think this particular position will provide more $$$, benefits, and contacts with fewer hours/week and more flexibility than just about anything i'd endorse sales jobs to anyone looking for an in on the business side)

What to do with your Ph.D. -> Patent Attorney / Examiner

In a comment WAY back... I was asked about being a patent attorney. The commenter noticed that there are some firms that pay for you to go to law school etc... and wondered what was up with that.

I think you make a lot of money.

I know I value GOOD patent attorneys a lot.

We pay them a lot.

I don't want to be one.

That was the short version. A little more description on what they do (from my point of view not being one). These people listen to the inventors, the business people, and assorted by standers and then write up the invention as a patent. They translate the hard core technical in to the hard core legal, which are completely seperate languages. In addition, the good ones write the patent in such a way as to be maximally useful for the business. Translated loosly that means that people like me can take it and enforce it against other people and either exclude them from the market or derived some license revenue.

I think almost anyone could write claims that cover ONLY the invention. The good attorneys have enough of a technical background that they understand enough, poke enough, and write well enough in order to make sure that you get coverage on what was really invented.

Really good attorneys are also able to read the patent landscape and see options about where things can be invented, or where coverage of your competitors are weak. This requires both the deep legal understanding and the deep technical understanding to see the holes in coverage. These people are worth their weight in gold.

Legal, at most places, works closely with the business really as a support function. For those attorneys that I don't think are that good, they are treated really as support people. For those that are good, they are brought fully in to the strategic teams and are part of setting direction. They are incredibly rare and highly compensated.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Fires, acquisitions, and Flexibility in jobs

So we had a bunch of fires in San Diego - got evacuated - House totally OK. I solved the problem by going to Germany as it got me very far away from the fires. I married a saint, as she looked after everything after that...I helped wash the soot off the windows when I got back.

...then I did an acquisition. I took it from idea to announcement. I was the one who stood up in front of the company and did the announcement to them. Oh my god... it was a whole lot of fun actually. Way nervous, but a lot of fun. They are a great company and we are treating them really well and giving everyone there a bright future. Enjoying being involved in that.

....Then I had to fire a guy and move another guy around. NOT FUN. The moving the guy was fun, as now he is doing something he wanted to do. The firing.. NOT FUN. He wasn't actually fired, he was given a package and sent on his way. He was given a great package and sent on his way. Still - he has a family and he has to support them. I was not psyched to do it, but it had to be done. He wasn't right for the job and was kind of sucking at it. I can't even imagine what he had to go home to that day and how he explained that. My only consolation is that we gave him a great package. Sucks though.

The guy I moved in to the position, after a scramble as we moved the guy out without any plan as to what I was going to do, is working out really well. He is bright, very flexible, and motivated. It really demonstrates again for me that the specific things you know aren't overwhelmingly relevant to me. He has done a whole bunch of stuff in the past, some of which is relevant, but for the most part has not done what I need done. He showed that he can do different stuff though, and learned it quickly, so I have faith that he will learn to do this as well. Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

the glamourous side of travel....

A couple of random notes:

  • I am doing a top secret thing, so am stuck somewhere in a hotel room banging away on things. This means I am anti-social and just looked around at what I have been eating. There are 4 empty bags of beef jerky and 10+ empty Gatorade things. This came to my attention because I was hunting for more beef jerky and there wasn't any. I don't think I ate breakfast today. I also thought I should have grown out of this behavior in grad school. The fact that I *can* order room service means nothing. I still eat like crap
  • I finally rewarded myself with a car. I turned in the Saturn SL1 that my wife and I bought when I was a 3rd year grad student for $6000 and bought a used BMW540. I can heavily recommend this as a life step. However, whereas I used to look at rental cars as a big step up vs. what I was driving, I now miss my car. This is massively materialistic and I love it.
  • I am good at big company far.

Monday, September 24, 2007

A comment stream on an Application Science applicant

This comment stream was back here, but I thought it was worthy of moving to a post of it's own as it is a good conversation. Also, this is by far the laziest way to make a new post, and it has been a very long week.

App Sci applicant said...

I don't have a post doc and I am CLEARLY in the running for a field application scientist position. In fact, the interviewers were more concerned about how much and quickly I can learn in-house than how much I knew already.

Which leads me to my question about salary:
The company I have interviewed for sells biotech/medical equipment at pieces in the range of $750K-1.5M to start. The position requires 50% or more travel, international at that, and the rest being in-house demos and some technical writing assistance.
My background works well with their product (I have 4 yrs drug development and animal handling exp. as a research assistant) and if all goes well I will join their company immediately after completion of my PhD this fall. The company is based in Southern California and has under 100 employees but expects to double in growth over the next five years.
That's the overview as best as I can give it. I haven't been offered anything yet but what should I expect for a salary offer? Would 85K be too unreasonable? Thanks!

9/14/2007 8:43 AM

Anonymous said...

Thank you for answering the question I posted in that old blog. My plan was to post it in your newest blog if I didn’t get a response. You are very kind and provide information that is very difficult to find for graduate students.

New question anyone can feel free to comment on:

If a given App Scientist job has more than 50% travel, does it matter where you live? I mean, if you are covering all of the Southeast territory, do you have to live in Miami or can you live in Atlanta? I guess it depends in the company, but since I have a significant other with a non-traveling job, I would like to know if that would be an issue during interviews. Right now she makes three times as I do as a graduate student, so I wouldn’t want to relocate her just yet.

Also, a question for the App Scientist Applicant’s comment: When did you start applying for the jobs? If you will be done this fall, when did you send the resumes or CV’s? When did they start paying attention to you? Did you have to write a date on your documents?


9/14/2007 10:01 AM

app sci applicant said...

In response to a second commenter:

I applied to this particular job in July with a very clear description that my PhD would not conclude until late October. Realistically, I think I lucked out. My background happened to fit their requirements and they had a so-far unsuccessful local search. I received a quick email perhaps a week after I applied asking about my availability (in regards to starting time), my specific background and my reception to the amount of travel.

That being said, a second application Scientist position at a different company showed promise for me but point-blank told me that it was too early for me to be taken seriously. I have an email address from an HR rep and was told to let her know when I was much closer to graduation. Originally I contacted them 3 months from graduating and they were hiring within 3 weeks. I've yet to follow that up.

If your background meshes well with the position then your application will definitely turn heads. Otherwise I think it has more to do with good timing and tenacity on your part. Good luck and keep posting (commenting). I've been reading this blog for the last 6 months and I find it VERY insightful.

9/14/2007 3:34 PM

yes said...

to the second commenter - I agree with the "app sci applicant" statements as to when and how HR will look at you. We never do what it sounds like he has lined up, but I can easily see how in a specialized example we would. We have thought about it in other contexts but then lucked in to an "available" person.

With regard to the travel question.


It doesn't really matter where you live. However, it helps a lot for your sanity if you live somewhere you will working a lot. By this I mean, If you are in New England and in BioTech, living in Boston will be a lot easier on you than living in Burlington Vermont. From Burlington you will ALWAYS be travelling. From Boston, much of your travel will be local and WAY easier.

Your example of Miami vs. Atlanta is fine (for me). You will need to travel to both of those cities (and in fact, I think Atlanta has more than Miami, so you are probably in the right one as far as reduction of travel is concerned).

I don't think, for the field questions, that I have ever worried about that unless someone was WAY out in the boonies. If they are so far out, it is a given that their travel will creep well over 50% just becuase there is nothing they can do without travel. It is normal as well that the middle of nowhere never has direct flights to anywhere, so they spend longer travelling than someone who lives in an actual real live city.

....and my wife supported me through grad school as well. She is getting the payback now (only took 10 years....)

9/14/2007 8:23 PM

app sci applicant said...

How strange is this: without even a face-to-face interview (we are on different continents at the moment), I was given a preliminary offer of $63K and relocation expenses. This, if you read my above comment, is much lower than I was anticipating. Anyone have insight on this offer and situation? How much further up can I push the salary, especially since I haven't even met anyone from the company and they STILL want me?

9/15/2007 2:39 AM

yes said...

"App Sci Applicant"

After I went to bed last night, I remembered I forgot to answer this. Oooppss...

There are other components of salary.

Is there a bonus program?
Is there commission for sales?
Is there Car reimbursement?
How much vacation?

Anything else?

If they aren't putting you in a major metro area, then $63 isn't that weird , as long as there is a bonus or commission in there. A 10% bonus for hitting targets would be expected.

If they are putting you in Southern California, I would push a bit on this salary and expect mid $70's with a bonus or commission on top of that.

For reasons that are unclear for me, the entry levels for salary's on app scientists haven't really been going up over time.

9/15/2007 7:49 AM

app sci applicant said...

Reply to yes:

Thanks for getting back to me. The location is just outside of LA, a suburb of it. Due to the location, amount of travel, price of sales I thought I would have a higher offer. The position has nothing to do with sales other than prospecting so there is no commission. I haven't discussed other benefits just yet but I am going to assume no company car and standard vacations (2-3 wks). The only immediate extra that was mentioned is relocation, and even then I don't have specifics just yet. My feeling is that the hiring manager wants to have a base salary to keep in mind while we talk about the other benefits. I'm not sure how the travel is handled as far as expenses paid; I'm not even sure what to expect.

My thinking is that I would have a bit of play with the salary and benefits because they want to hire without even a face-to-face meeting. It was disheartening to read $63K but if this is standard then maybe I'm overreaching. Thanks for your opinion.

My next move I'm contemplating an email back to the company saying that the salary was lower than I had expected and that I needed clarification with health insurance, benefits, travel expenses, etc. Then I'll have the full story to negotiate a higher value. What do you think? That's sounds reasonable, right?

But whatever I end up with, it'll be higher than a post-doc salary.

9/15/2007 8:32 AM

bill said...

I'm not surprised by the person getting a comment from HR about wanting people to have a postdoc. Basically its a question of the market. If you live in an area with a ton of postdocs (i.e. Boston) most companies will prefer to hire people with postdoc experience, just because they can. The market is saturated with postdocs looking to get out of academia, so they are in a better position to get a job than someone with less experience. On the other hand, as Yes points out, most positions (like field app scientist) don't require that you have a postdoc.

By the way, 63K in Southern California is pretty poor. Have you looked into cost of living there? Its astronomical.

9/15/2007 9:52 AM

yes said...

Good to see you Bill!

App Sci, As Bill points out $63K is poor for So. Cal. I live here, and it will be hard at that level.

BUT - you need to find out the rest of the package. Bonus/Commission and other stuff can make it up. i.e. if they pay you for your car or give you a free one, that goes a long way.

I would not negotiate salary first, then other stuff. You have to negotiate as a package.

I would most certainly ask for an increase, as they pretty obviously want you. I don't think you will get the base in to the $80's, but you should get to the $70's

For the travel - You should not pay a dime out of your own pocket. If you are travelling for them, they pay. The way mine works is that I put it on my credit card and get reimbursed within 2 weeks of submitting the expense report.

I use credit cards with frequent flyer points of some kind attached, and ended up with $200K worth of expenses flowing through my credit cards last year. This does wonders for your credit rating, but doesn't count as part of your compensation from the company.

SO - Ask for the TOTAL picture all at once. You can't negotiate one peice at a time.

If you want to ask more, once they give you an offer, just put it in the comments. I would definatly hold out to see the complete picture though.

9/15/2007 10:12 AM

Anonymous said...

It would be interesting to see how much "app sci applicant" was able to negotiate....any updates?

9/20/2007 3:04 PM

app sci applicant said...

Unfortunately, no response so far from the company. I had emailed them on the 16th to request more information about the offer (benefits, profit sharing, how travel is handled, commissions, etc) and here we are at the 22nd with no contact. It hasn't been a week; I won't call until the 26th. My expectations are for a higher base and inclusion of some bonus/profit sharing plan for total cash/yr being around 72-75K. Anything less and it would set off my instincts to walk.

I'd hate to pass on the opportunity. The company seems to be in a good niche that could put me into medical diagnostics sales after about 5 years. When I think of that possibility I just have $$ in my eyes. I'll update again when I have more information. Thanks all.

9/22/2007 12:00 PM

app sci applicant said...

The offer given to me today in more detail:

* base would be 65K/yr
* bonus was not emphasized, and worded as "all bonuses and raises are performed in summertime", so sounds like no bonus
* 2 weeks paid vacation
* travel is paid for by company-issued AmEX, no company car but gas is reimbursed if within town
* medical/dental/vision coverage
* some relocation money but not given specifics. They asked for more details on what I would need.

All in all not a stellar offer but I can't say that I'm surprised. Any suggestions or comments?

Oh, and the company is rushing a start date of late Nov. I probably will JUST be able to make that.

9/24/2007 3:57 PM

yes said...

all in all I would call that not a stellar offer.

No details on Bonus/commission etc... is worrisome. "will be paid in summer" is a very weird statement. Your assessment of "no bonus" would be my conclusion as well.

Any stock options?

Travel is normal.

"help us" with the relocation package is an odd thing to do.

I would suggest pushing back by asking for full pack and move, 3 months temp housing, and your cars moved. They won't (and at your level shouldn't) give that to you, but at least puts it back in their court. Worst case - they give it to you.

At the very least, their HR department is very weird. There are some red flags there, but entry in to business is a hard thing to do, so you may have to make some comprises to get your head in the door. Sort of a gut check for what you want to do.