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

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

off topic...but really funny

This is good stuff.

Read the ingredients when you get down to that part....

pretty much off topic, but funny none the less.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Someone actually reads an "A list" blogger and tries to decipher it...

There are many posts that I read by "pundits" that make me wonder how I can have back that time I wasted. So many that I stopped reading them as they thought they were telling me the future. The problem being that they are so busy talking about it that they aren't really helping it happen. I long ago got the feeling that they weren't actually saying anything and were just writing for the sake of seeing their words on the screen. I would imagine they check how many people read on an hourly basis. The fact that I didn't totally "get it" was also a bit annoying. I didn't want to spend the time to understand...

SO - Joel went and used the secret decoder ring on one article and after he wasted a bunch of time he shows that my hunch was right. Now any lingering doubt I had has been erased.... I am sorry Joel had to waste that hour (more than an hour he says...) , but better him than me!

Washington Post on working X-mas...

In grad school, I didn't get a Washington Post article about going to work on a Holiday. I got some flak from my now wife, but no article. I would rank this under the things that they trot out once a year to say "look at the weirdo's" and "aren't these people great slaving away to keep you healthy". Good to get some press, but I am a little too jaded to think it actually means anything other than it was a slow news day.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Some random links...

To a really old dudes blog (he is 93).... Life lessons learned.

To the new google patents site. This brings patent search to the way the patent office should do it. When dealing with the patent office, you would be amazed at them. From the notice of allowance (that tells your patent is done, accepted, and will issue) to you acutally getting the patent is 6 months. In that time it moves from office A to office B. You pay a small fee. It issues. Their web site is horrid. Google has done the right thing and made it more searchable. Oh yeah - google went back to before 1976 and made all of that searchable as well (meaning the google site is more searchable than the patent office...go figure). Now all they need to do is add patent applications to it and it will really be useful.

Bad time of year

Those of you not in a sales/quarterly based world (hello academia) probably enjoy this time of year. For me, this is horrid. Our fiscal year wraps up at the end of the year, so any money I can earn before Dec 31 goes in to this year and all of the financial implications that has for both the company and for myself. There is a great incentive to close deals before Dec 31. Sleep is unneccesary.

For me to close deals, Airplanes are involved. Airplanes at this time of year are full of the "non professional" traveller. Many of you would call these people "families" or "students". I look at them as road blocks in security lines and people who fill in the middle seats on airplanes. They also get in the way at check in counters.

SO - to sum up this time of year for myself and many in similar positions....

High stress to close deals, which requires travel that is itself made more stressfull by the large number of people who don't travel that much.

... to top it all off, many people start going on vacation so stuff has to be done even more quickly. Those that are still at work are really about 50% gone.

Every year I get crabby about this...

Monday, December 11, 2006

Positive about your work....

Over on YoungFemaleScientist she has a post about liking what you do. A couple of points.

1. I can't imagine doing something I didn't like. I invest too much, be they hours, thought, interruption of my personal life...whatever... to not like what I am working on.

2. She points to a difference between men and woman that I don't know what I think of.

She states.
This phrase, "I don't think I can" is something I hear all the time from women, but not so often from men.

That's not to say the men don't feel the same way. But more often what I hear from men who leave academia is that they think the system sucks, not that they wouldn't be good enough, if they wanted to be a professor.
...when it comes to the discussion of men vs. woman who have come over to the dark side. She is pointing out something that she hears woman say about academia and use as a justification of why they left.

My initial response was to call BS, because I am argumentative that way... but I don't know. I know why I left, and I know why some others left, but in speaking with the folks who are on the dark side (small n, but mix of both men and woman) none of them say "I don't think I would have made it". I get a lot of "I don't know why you would try" and that comes from both men and woman. BUT => we are all saying that to each other after we have moved. Sample bias and eleborate self justification all rolled in to one.

So, I don't know. Part of me thinks I could have made it if I wanted to, but since I didn't want to I didn't even try. This is true for me -> if I am not in to it, I will be bad at it. SO, the justification is that I "wasn't in to it" and thus punted to avoid being unhappy.

3. Random note about self flaggelation, discussing one of her friends.
She misses the bench (sound familiar? I've heard this from young PIs before)
Why would these people not flee to industry where you can, if you choose, stay at the bench for a long time and make a really good living doing it? This I will never understand.

News flash: a PhD degree by itself doesn't have magical powers.

Oh yeah. Totally true. Don't know you need to add much to this. A Ph.D. should, if done properly, teach you how to analyze stuff and think for yourself. The rest is up to you.

5. LOVE the competitivness

Statements like
And part of me says, Move over sister, soon it will be my turn!

At the end of the day, I feel we should all like what we are doing. Really love it. I feel that I am worth quite a bit of money per year and that someone should pay me that because I am smart enough to make it pay off for them. I feel that I should be allowed to set priorities for a lot of reasearch groups, and that you should pay me for that. But- most of all- This is what I like doing. I think I am good at all of those things becuase that is what I like doing. I am not doing it becuase someone has set a bar out there that says "this is how you are successful" or "do this to get ahead" -> becuase I think if you are doing it becuase someone else has set a bar that you will be miserable at it and it will haul you down.

If you don't like what you are doing. Change.

sounds so simple....

Sunday, December 10, 2006


In looking through the comments on Derek's post about his site shutting, there was a link to here, talking about recruiters. WOW> I didn't really think it was that bad. My jobs have all come via recruiters. In my current role, I have moved to exclusivly using them to fill spots. They bring me higher quality people than I am getting via monster/biospace/craigs list. HR makes me post and advertise to places, but I try and limit it to what I have to in order to keep them happy. It just drains my budget to do that.

I get an unsoliciated call/email a day for new positions. I am pretty good about writing back to people saying "thanks, but no thanks for right now". You can sort of smell the useless ones that don't know what they are talking about. Those, I am still polite to. I got my current job becuase a recruiter sent me in for the "wrong" job, but the hiring person recognized that I would be useful for what I am currently doing.

So - I pretty much disagree with the poster at the medicine vault pretty completly. To get a senior position I think they are the ONLY way to get the job. For entry level positions, I am a lot less sure. Would guess that you get a lower quality recruiter at that level, so the posting might be accurate or reflective of that - but that is buried in a little sentance at the end of the post.

Holiday gifts

It is the time of year that I have to give gifts to the folks who report to me. Always stressful. What to get them? The standard gift seems to be a good bottle of wine. It is what I gave last year and is likely what I will give this year.

However, due to some turnover, I have some "newer" employees, who have only been working for me for a breif while. Don't know them that well. Is wine acceptable? Hope so, as that is whay I bought this weekend...Hope none of them are recovering alcoholics (or practicing one for that matter) as that would be a kick in the teeth.

....more stuff I didn't think about in grad school.

The other side of a shut down...

A while ago Derek reported that his site (place of work, not Blog) was shutting down. I am sympatheitc to that as that isn't fun, but didn't think too much more about it. Then we started getting the termination of agreement letters and the sales rep in that territory is reporting that there will be a hole. We had a couple of licenses with the site that were lucrative for us. Termination means they won't be paying us that money next year. This means I have a hole that I have to dig out of in my department if I want to show growth and get a bonus. Nothing like what Derek is going through, but I have to say I didn't think of it. Little stupid on my part, as there is pretty much no pharma site around from which I don't derive some part of my yearly income.

These things ripple outward in ways I should have thought about but didn't. In thinking about it, my previous company had a pretty big license in there as well. No idea if they kept it alive for the last few years (no reason to think they wouldn't...) and to them as a smaller company this shut down could be a pretty big deal.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Transition help: BioCom in San Diego for postdocs to industry

I don't think they had this when I was doing this, but here is something for the San Diego folks. I am sure such things exist elsewhere.... I have been to several BioCom events and they have all been good so I don't know of any reason this wouldn't be as well.

"Transition to Industry" Career Symposium for Graduate students and Postdocs

Discover what San Diego's life science industry has to offer and how to get there...

When: Saturday October 28, 2006

Where: Biogen Idec

5200 Research Place
San Diego, CA

Registration Time: 8:00-9:00 AM

Symposium Program: 9:00AM-5:00 PM
Networking Happy Hour: 5:00-7:00 PM
Registration Fee: $20.00

Join other local graduate students and post-docs to learn about:
The local life sciences industry,
What it takes to transition from academia to industry,
How to market oneself to industry, and.
Have the opportunity to interact with and seek out information from local companies.

Click here to register.
For more information email biotech@workforce.org

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Grumbling post docs, industry, and options

So last post I put my words in Bills mouth.

Bill was good enough to reply and put his own words in his own mouth in the comments.
Yeah, that's a pretty good interpretation of what I was saying. To be fair to some grumbling postdocs, though, it isn't necessarily simply a matter of knowing one's options, as there are lots of experienced postdocs who would love to work in industry (at least from what I hear). But they are trapped because they can't get a job there either. So I can understand their anguish.
He had previously asked, offline and when he was asking if this site was me (CAUGHT!) about this same subject. Essentially "how do I get in to industry bench". Many do an academic post doc knowing they don't want to be there, is essentially Bill's point (and...his dilemma).

Way back at the beginning of this blog, I talked a bit about this. Now, I have actually asked a bunch of people stuff and have a 1/2 way coherent thing to say on the matter.

Much to my surprise, ALL of our directors at the R+D level did academic post docs. About 1/2 of them did 2. All of the people right below the directors did at least 1 (and sometimes 2, although many fewer of them). I was, bluntly, blown away. This has taken awhile, as I started asking people at other companies. N kept increasing but the percentages didn't change. They all do academic post docs.

On the business side, I found that for those with Ph.D.'s the number of postdocs was many fewer. No 2's that I ran in to, and maybe 1/3 of the folks with even 1. Most of us, myself included, totally skipped that step.

We have one friend who did an industry post doc, so I don't really know how you score her. She essentially was working in industry, but becuase she called herself (and was in a program that called her this) a postdoc -> she got paid less. I didn't really understand how that worked for her. Totally understand how it works for the company!!!

SO - To stay at the bench you have to do postdocs. Who knew? (well a lot of people....)

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Disruptive Tech and the Post Doc grind

In my previous post, I mentioned that I thought disruptive technologies would tend to come from academic groups.

Then I got to thinking about it. Two examples come to mind.

RNAi - which started academic ( and they just got Nobel prizes for it)
PCR - Came from the commercial side. Kary Mullis worked for industry.
miRNA's - academia, and I don't know how disruptive they will be yet. Much smoke any fire?
Tumor supressors - academia, but from a long time ago when there was no industry.

PCR came from the time of not much industry as well, so it is an even bigger anomoly.

The tools companies have a bunch of stuff that no one thinks of as creative, but on the other hand they didn't come up with it either. Promega has all the TnT stuff. Stratagene has QuickChange. Invitrogen has TA cloning. All of these required a massive amount of basic biology research to be done. It is hidden by deceptivly simple ideas and kits, but at the end of the day is very creative stuff.

I don't claim to have any knowledge of "who is more creative", nor do I actually think that is a question with an answer. No idea how to measure that. No real idea of why you would try. My point is that there are really bright people doing really cool stuff in all corners of research. There are really dumb people in both academia and in industry. There are great projects in both as well.

When folks feel they are trapped, as FemaleScientist does right now, then they get depressed. When, in that depression, they throw out huge numbers of options with little to no knowledge about those options, I get annoyed. I probably shouldn't as I don't know her or what she works on, but all the same.....

One of my other friends (hi Bill!) who figured out who I am after reading her site said, and I paraphase, "She is just like all the other old timer post docs around here. Bitter at being stuck but not able to take a break and figure out what she wants to do". By not able to take a break he meant "she couldn't see a way NOT to go to lab and stop and look at the world around her". I have put a few words in his mouth, but not too many. The second half, stopping and getting away and reassessing, is the critical part. When you are in it and doing what she is doing right now there is no way for you to come up with a plan of how to move forward. Everything is lab lab lab lab lab lab lab. It is not "what do I want to do in a few years and what choices exist?" I would also add that I think you are doing crap science right then. You don't have the ability to actually think about what you are doing. There is no analysis and you make stupid errors. Just my experience from watching...

Graduate school has to be done in academia. Everything after that is your own path. Choose from knowledge of choices not from what you can wedge in between two gels. Regardless of what you think, you do have the ability to take a couple of days off and clear your mind enough to make a plan.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Industry Science, and why we aren't all morons.

This post is partly in response to this post over on YoungFemaleScientist, but is mostly driven by several conversations I have had with several of my friends individually that that posting started. They are all still post-docs, most in the boston area, and are looking at their next steps. Industry or academia? Can I have a family and become a PI? What if I actually want to see my partner? Kids?

The major question is "what is it like to work in industry?"

YoungFemaleScientist does a very good job of showing the stereotypes of what academics who don't know anyone on the industry side think goes on in industry. She makes it pretty obvious that she doesn't actually know. I don't know how she would know, so that isn't really her fault. People in industry can talk about it, as I have done here, and 1-1 can tell people stuff. Occasionally, as happened with at least two folks previously here (Phd Dropout and Dapi) they can ask someone questions and get some answers. They were focussed on the career path I have chosen, so that was relativly easy for me to answer. As I have fled the bench, those questions are harder to answer.

....so I asked the R+D directors.

They are roughly equivelant to PI's in academia, in that they head up groups that range in size from 5 to 40 people and are focussed on larger or smaller areas of our business. In addition, I spend a lot of time looking at what we know and what we don't know, and what is going on in academia to compare against.

Some summary thoughts:
1. In area's we are active in we are years ahead of academia.
2. Scientists work as hard or not as hard (depending on the person) in industry as they do in academia. Depends on the person.

In order, some more thoughts.
I am going to talk about an area that is of general interest to biotech/pharma and compare it to academia. Kinases. Academics are still doing stuff that looks at cellular localization, binding partners, and knockouts. Pharma has already patented the whole lot and are looking at drugs to interfere, but the academics don't even know that the pathways are worked out. Why am I so certain of this? Look at the drugs they produce. Read the patents that are published at the USPTO. If you look at what is in the published patent applications, and compare to the literature, you will find that more is known and locked up in the companies than they let on about. One, from a "information wants to be free" point of view can get mad about this. BUT, lets look at why this is, and at the area where academics are ahead. Industry can, and does, buy databases that are manually curated from the literature of all the pathways know in the free and open science worlds (Ingenuity and GeneGo are big on this, but there are others). So - take it as a given that they have access to a lot of data academics can't easily look at (licenses to those tools aren't cheap). NOW - if they are interested in a pathway becuase it has in some way been implicated in disease, they throw a lot of people and equipment at that. As opposed to a couple of academic groups randomly throwing grad students at this, PI level people, senior postdocs, and an army of technicians who are trained and motivated attack it. You will get the brute force effects of solving the problem but you will also get their brain power. Most in academia seem to assume that everyone who went to industry got a lobotomy and will never have another creative thought in their lives, but that isn't quite true. Industry scientists are just as good as academic scientists in this regard. Industry is looking for the angle...they want to convert to product. The way you do this is learn something that no one else knows before they learn it. THEN figure out what to do with that knowledge such that you can make a product out of it. In some ways this is harder than academia. There, you can just write a paper about what you have learned and move on. For Industry, just knowing a fact doesn't help you that much. You actually have to do something with that fact.

Where academia does well is on the things that no one can see a use for in the next few (10) years. RNAi was a good example. Not many in Pharma are really looking at gene control in nematodes ( I think Novartis looks at fly's, but that is old knowledge so maybe they don't any more). The fact that the work in nematodes eventually leads to a huge industry push is not foreseeable, so mostly they don't fund it. Academia does this work and does a supurb job of it.

Once the initial discovery is made, and published, and realized that it is usefull, then industry runs with it. Academia can't hope to keep up at that point and is soon left behind.

This is, I think, only really true for disruptive findings. When one is talking about general control or the basic biology of enzyme classes, I think that the academics are behind.

I can't really point at the example, but there was a recent nature paper that shows an effect that we have already released product based on and have a patent on. They are 6 years behind us. We don't publish though. The paper got put up on the board at work and the internal scientists are smiling.

As far as working hours go...People work a bit less than in graduate school. That is, I think,healthy. You can not keep up that pace for the rest of your life. You might think you can, but you won't be productive and in the industry setting you will end up unemployed. Derek Lowe said it best (also has a great heading of industry vs academia where he spells things out well for chemists. I would agree with everything that he says for biologists as well though)

Overall - what I would say to Post-Docs who are slogging through the years trying to figure out what to do - ASK people. Read blogs. Send questions to folks. Talk the uncommunicative industry folks at meetings.

DONT base your decisions on old stereotypes. You don't know what we do on this side of the fence, but we all came from your side so we do know what you are going through.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

academia vs. industry (bench work)

Over here there is a good discussion of academia vs industry. I pop up in the comments section... My take home point is that industry and academia aren't that totally different at the end of the day (when it comes to bench work). You can be happy/unhappy in either place. Overall, I think you might be better paid in industry, but that doesn't neccesarily make people happy. Anyway - go read it over there.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Nature Peer Review

I will freely admit I had no idea this was going on until I read about it over here. Seems like a cool idea, but as Coranted notes, there is nothing there yet. Many articles, some I even care about, but no real comments. He sums up the feedback pretty well so I won't repeat.

I asked around my own company to see if people knew about this. Nope. Not one did. Stealth launch? -OR- do biologist just not seem to read journals on line. I still get paper versions of several journals. We get them free as we advertise so much that they throw in subscriptions on the side as a bonus. That triggers me to read them. I don't seem to ever go to the science or nature sites? Not like I am computer phobic (working, and programming, in the bioinformatics field covers that...). My entire life is on computers - why not journal reading. When I want to share articles for discussion, I go to the web site and get the pdf to share/discuss around that one. BUT - I don't start there to find/read it. Go there in a directed manner to get 1 article.

In asking around, this was the same behavior that many others had. This wasn't age biased, as there were several new post docs amongst the directors I asked. Wide range of people.

Why don't we find the articles on line? I am just programmed to read the paper version.

When do I start on line? When I find the article in PubMed. Then it is direct to the electronic version. That is directed searching. The reading of a journal is "browsing". I look at the table of contents of every issue of science and nature and generally browse the "news" sections.

Don't think I am weird, but it is weird given that I get the entire rest of my news online.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Life Science Tools of the Trade

I read this site pretty regularly. They whine a fair bit, and in general are normal academic researchers. They hold, quite rightly, their sales reps to task for things. They are not huge fans of Quiagen and Stratagene (haven't totally figured out what Stratagene did wrong, but Quiagen seems have PO'd them with quality)(Stratagene's sales rep may have annoyed them, but I might have missed some posts there and am too lazy to totally sort it out).

This post talks about what is in the QuickChange kit.

This post here could be labeled inducement to infringe on Stratagene's mutagenesis patents. Would guess, based on the previous postings, that Hal doesn't care or doesn't know. Likely doesn't even think about that. It is in the gray zone, as he doesn't tell you what to do with the components, which would be clear inducement. BUT - he does tell you to go do the method. Stratagene has kept that market to itself because of it's patent protection, so I am curious as to what they will do about this. Everyone, well apparently except Hal, knew this to be true. No one ever put it out in quite so public a way before. (On a side note, a person in Australia welcomes Hal to the club...)

Would guess, although stupidity could break out, that we won't ever see anything happen. A post deletion fire war and lawyers would be excellent theatre. Probably not productive, but still good theatre!

Friday, August 18, 2006

T.W. andrews

MBA, and where you get it. I don't think it matters. I don't know where any of the people around me who have them got theirs. For networking, it matters - but for me looking at you I don't notice. I might be a fruitcake of some flavor though and others might care.

Bioinformatics as a label - I would break this as soon as possible. It is not a huge market and there are a lot of dead companies on this road. I used to work at one... you say you see the HTS side of things and know a lot about lead identification. I know minimal amounts over on that side of the world, but think a chemistry background is more suited. I know people on that side regarded me with a bit of suscpicion becuase I was a biologist and not a chemist.

Initial move in to marketing would be as a product manager or associate product manager. You have to start at the bottom and learn the marketing side of things that you aren't currently picking up. I would do that sooner and not later!

Marketing is all about "what do we do next" at the upper levels. At the lower levels, there is a lot of booth duty, making flyers, getting copy on the web site, and getting banner ad's designed. Tactical marketing. More of what are we doing this and next quarter as opposed to next year. The top level people are more "what are we doing next year".

If you want to control products, and launch products, then marketing is the place for you. Bus Dev and top level marketing work pretty/very closely together on things as the line between them can be a bit hazy.


For all of my getting used to travel, this blog pretty much doesn't get updated when I am in heavy travel mode...which I have been for the last while here.

The only thing I would say about travel in this day and age is that it is fast becoming very environmentally unfriendly. I shifted towns every night for about the last two weeks. Every night since they outlawed liquid on planes, I have purchased/acquired new toothpaste. Shaving cream as well (not every night, as I am not quite that manly). Every morning, I have left them behind in the hotel as they can't travel onward with me. I rarly, in one night, come anywhere close to using the entire tube/canister etc... so off to the trash it goes.

Buying stock in toothpaste companies might not be a bad idea, as their volume is going to go up a bit.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Paper Catalogs?

We are going through a process of getting the next catalog together. While I am not involved in actually doing anything (that would be marketing people tearing hair out) - I am fascinated that we still do this. So do all of our competitors....

I have to admit I don't use paper anything any more (to the extent possible) and really don't understand why we (or anyone else) still do.

Do people in labs still use paper or do you go direct to the web page? A link on Life Science tools of the trade seems to support the paper catalog thing, so I guess it still works. But wow... You got to know the thing is out of date before you get it. Its out of date before we even print it. Why use it?

I don't get it - but wouldn't be advocating that we be the first company not to print. Big risk - little upside - why be first?

Sunday, July 30, 2006

...More Job advice. (TW Andrews)

More questions about Career path to Bus Dev. Here another person sets the stage. Excerpted it basically summed up is :
  • Has BA in math
  • Worked 5 years as at a bioinformatics company, although it's a start up so has expanded duties.
  • Started as programmer but moved more to pre sales side over the last while.
questions are
  • Can they do it?
  • Should they get another degree?
  • Should they do it?
Where "it" is defined as the jump to business development.

If you have read my posts about travel, and are OK with that, then that is a start. You likely travel quite a bit in the role you are in, so that should be under control.

If you REALLY are driven by talking to people, then this is good. The programmer background is good, as is the fact that you got out of it and in to the field. If that was driven by you wanting it as opposed to the company needing it, then BusDev would be a good fit for you. If you really wished you were back being a programmer, then do not under any circumstances try to make the jump.

What I would worry about, and I had to make decisions where I wrestled with this myself, would be the bioinformatics lable. In the big picture of things, the bioinformatic marketplace isn't that big. I don't know the total market size, but it isn't as big as reagents or any of the other steps that are in research. You, by having the math background + the computer background = stuck in that area. I wouldn't be able to look at you, as you have described yourself, and see you in anything but a bioinformatics company. You don't present yourself as having the eductation or experience to leap out of that. Granted - I don't have a complete resume and have to work with what you wrote in a brief comment.

Against the previous paragraph I would put - So what. The bioinformatics marketplace is big enough and there are many companies within it to go work at. There are, however, a limited number of busdev positions at them and a pretty limited numer of companies.

You are more likely to be able to move in to marketing at one of those firms. That would be, based on little to no information, my suggestion to you. From there, you will be on the inside and able to make the jump. Once there, start talking to those folks. Stay close to them and, after knowing them for awhile, ask if there are openings etc...

Alternativly, get to know these folks at trade shows. They are there somewhere - so just work to meet them.

On the MBA or other degree front. For you - getting a further degree in the bioinformatics just further locks you in to that area. I think it would be a waste of your time. You have programmer chops - not degree chops. That counts. The MBA might help get you up the ladder, but you have to get in the door first. I would advocate for MBA later while working (you didn't need a social life anyway did you?).

Just my $0.02 - with limited knowledge. If you want to tell me more, I will refine my statements a bit more.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Carreer Path for Bus Dev person

Way back here, a question was asked... Here it is. I hadn't heard the term "necro post" before, so that in and of itself was good reading.

What is the traditional career track for someone in business development? (If indeed one exists.) Clearly, one can work up to a title of 'Director of Business Development', but what comes after that? Admittedly the answer depends on the org. structure of the company in question. Generally speaking though, what jobs are those that hold the title of "Director of Business Development" looking for? CEO? Chief Science Officer / Director of R&D? CFO? Vice President of Sales & Marketing? It seems like business development may not be considered true ‘science’ work, nor true ‘sales’ work, nor true ‘finance’ work, yet it certainly may be a combination of the three, depending on the company. As a business development careerist, if you’re not considered a specialist in any of these areas you may not be qualified to lead these groups.

So - where do I want to go and what is possible? I am looking to move up the Bus Dev side of things and then go the CEO post. I look at Bus Dev as having to have your fingers in everything. I have to understand sales. I have to understand manufacturing. I have to understand the direction of the company. I, as you point out, am not a master of any of them. I am, however, familiiar with all of them. COO would be another position that would be possible, depending on you focussed yourself. CSO is unlikly as you have strayed too far from the research side of things. The basic thing that Bus Dev does is understand how the company works and then try and take it to the next level. If you bring in things that you can't manufacture, don't fit with your R+D team, or aren't aligned with what your sales reps can sell -> you haven't done your job. You won't be doing the basic thing of "take company to next level". You will have accomplished "burden people with stuff they can't deal with" which is not what you are supposed to be doing!

You then state

I'm looking at Business Development as an alternative to the research track, but I'd like to have a better idea of what my career options will look like in twenty years. On the science side of the house there is a clear progression as one becomes group leader, then rising to lead ever larger numbers of researchers. Eventually one can head the entire company’s R&D, then theoretically on to CEO. Less clear to me is the progression in Biz.Dev. – unless of course it’s common to make the jump directly from Director of Business Development to CEO.
I don't agree with the CEO part from climbing the research side. I do NOT agree that CEO's should (or do) come fromthe R+D side of the house. It is a mistake (in my opionion) if they have been over there the whole time. A pure R+D focus will NOT prepare you to run the company. You know, if you have been over there the whole time, nothing about sales, manufacturing, marketing, or any of the other bits of the companies. I don't see the heads of any of the big companies (or any of the quickly growing smaller companies) as coming from the pure R+D side.
I think a good CEO is as I describe (and I am biased here as it is what I want to become) - well rounded. They HAVE to know the tech side of things cold. They can not be like John Scully at Apple - Pepsi guy trying to sell computers. Didn't work... Joel on Software has a lot more to say about that and says it a lot better than I do (you have to search his archives, as I am too lazy right now) but his basic point is "how can a CEO lead if he doesn't even understand what his company sells/makes/develops or the market they operate in. The cult of MBA has this illusiong that all companies are the same and that you just "have people for that" and they take care of things. I, and I think Joel, would pretty firmly disagree with that.

SO - they have to know tech, but that can't be it. There is also this sales and marketing thing. If you don't know about that you won't do it right and you will make errors. Operations (making sure the lights stay on, people have what they need, and the bills get paid) is a whole other thing that has to work. Basically - My view of the CEO has them knowing a bit about all of these things. In a pinch they can do them, but as the company gets bigger they just have to know enough to call BS when someone else lies to them.

SO = I have strayed off topic. BUT - I look at Bus Dev as having my finger in everything. This is, I think, good training for the step up. I look at Manager -> Director -> VP -> CEO as the progression. The names change along the way in that you may not be called business development and may get labled as "Corporate Development" or some such. Some Bus Dev jobs have a much bigger sales component than mine does, so your milage may vary.

Answer the question?

Friday, July 21, 2006

Semantic Web, User Stupidity, and why I think we can beat the machines after all

Every now and then I see posts like this one where someone says they are going to "Tag" the post with a tag and that this will be useful in some way. I never understand it. I don't think it works, and here is why.

Users make up the Tags


Users are stupid.

I include myself in the above defined users. In the example at that page, Fred Wilson is saying that he will tag all posts about stocks with the tag "Stocks". This seems simple, but here is the problem. Somone else might be more granular than Fred and tag things as "biotech stocks" or "industrial stock" or they might use the singular and say "stock". And so - when I go to a site or go to run a search I have absolutly no idea what tag people used and so I fail and then I get negative reinforcement and I don't get back to it ever.

You can see this on Flickr - where you can't just look at one stream and get everything that is pictures of something. You have to look at a couple of tags. If your lucky you will see a post with some way of also tagging that always you to wander on (a rosetta stone if you will).

Why does this matter to me so much? Transgenic Mice and my thesis. AND the notion of this Semantic Web thing that keeps getting batted about. You can see Scoble talk about it to sometimes.

Mesh headings are a bit related to tags, in that you can search for things that fall in a Mesh heading on Medline. They seem to be more hidden these days than they used to be, but they are still there lurking uselessly in the background. They are assigned by editors to put papers in categories so that one could browse down a hierarchy and end up with only papers talking about, say, "Transgenic mice".

Now the problem. Papers are assigned to the hierarchy by people. They read and make judgements about where things should go, and the papers are assigned.

When Transgenics first came out, people used all kinds of words for them (and the free text search engines were slow anyway) AND then, to cap it off, the editors at the National Library of Medicine decided to put them in at least 5 different MESH headings. SO - if you were doing transgenic work close to the time that transgenics were a new thing (that would date me a bit...) then you had a problem of being able to find all of the literature on the subject. Eventually, after a couple of years, they got it together and solved this problem.....only to have it again when knockout mice came on the scene. By this time, I was only doing full text searches anyway, so didn't care as much. BUT - the point is - Tagging, when done by humans, is useless.

Humans have opinions about things (for the most part) and not all of them are enlightened enough to just full agree with me. This means that when you lable something, I may not agree with the label you put on it.

A further problem crept in to this when, a few years ago, I was working with some people at GSK who were putting in a system to manually categorize every bit of paper they had at the site they were at, put it in a computer, and then have this mass repository of stuff that would somehow magically produce drugs faster. They were just starting to run in to the problem that if you gave the same bit of paper to a couple of people, they wouldn't categorize it all the same way. There would be subtle differences that would cause them to read it just a bit differently, and thus they would file it differently.

Another similar problem creeps in when you try to file paper in files by company name (say, all of your legal files). How do you deal with University of Southern California vs. University of California at Los Angeles? + all the other University of.... 's --- You can use the full name of every university and spend a lot of time typing and have very long file names. Or you can always shorten to U.S.C. or USC or U SC (but then what do you do with South Carolina?). Given this problem, people will pick a different system that to them makes all the sense in the world. Others will look at the system and be like "what were they thinking" and then they will make statements like I did at the beginning of "users are stupid". Outsiders would look at my filing system and (I think) would understand it. BUT they would be unlikely to have duplicated it without peeking as the shortcuts I use are based on my background and my perception of the world. I have just had to teach this to the woman I hired, as we have to share the filing system back and forth and she admits it makes sense. I have clear conventions etc... but she also said it was totally different from what she had done at her previous job. They had different conventions. Neither of us is "right" but it just goes to show that from the computers point of view - users are stupid.

I think they are going to build massive engines and interpreters and other confabulators to deal with this, and they may even do it = but I will be real surprised if they pull it off becuase even if you do - if it is dependent on the user doing anything then it won't get done. I could tag these posts, but I don't. Why? because I am lazy. I think most people are lazy and they won't do this tagging stuff becuase they don't reall care that much about it and they have better things to do with their life.

So - In summary - Users are both stupid and lazy.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

To Ph.D. Drop out, answer of questions....

Back here, Ph.D. dropout asks some more questions. She is responding to both my and Dapi's comments on making sure she really wants to do this. She has some new questions.

Taking the second one first
2- they mention 3k bonus. i read that bonuses are based on performance... so, what exactly does that mean? if they say i didnt do quite as good, i may get like $300.00 or something instead??
and how often are bonuses paid? quarterly? yearly?

Bonus's are awarded for so many reasons and with so many strings and on so many different schedules that I would be hard pressed to give a over reaching answer to this. I would get the bonus expressed as a % not a fixed number, as you will be hoping to get raises in future years and thus you would expect the bonus to go up not remain fixed. I would also make sure I got clarity on why bonus, when bonus, and under what conditions bonus would be given. No way I can answer here, as pretty much every company and job position are different.

Now, the harder question.

1 - would it be wise to let my prospective employer know that "look, i thought i'd be getting my MS just by completing the thesis and submitting my almost-ready manuscript, but now the department says about that 1 course requirement..." and ask them "WILL U LET ME TAKE THE 10 WEEKS OFF COMPLETELY?" to go to another city while subletting my place, and then come back and return to my job duties.
if they say yes, i KNOW i can do it and get my MS within 1 school year!
or should i just tell them closer to 1.5 yrs before i have to take that course? and then if they say "NO, we will have to get someone new then," i'd quit, and find a new job while taking that 1 course????
i hate conceiling anything.. i am a very open and honest person, but i fear that telling them now may make them change their minds on hiring me (isnt it still possible despite the signed offer letter?). ALTHOUGH! DONT U THINK THE PROCESS OF HIRING AND TRAINING A NEW EMPLOYEE WOULD TAKE THE SAME 10 WEEKS AT LEAST ANYWAY?! so maybe telling it straight out is not so bad at all..?
You are, by asking to take 10 weeks off, really asking them to stall the hire by 3 1/2 months (or so). I, as a hiring person, would be pretty unlikely to accept that. I moved on from hireing a guy this summer becuase he asked to stall 2 months. I got, I now beleive, a better person because I moved on. I can't conceive of taking the risk of waiting 3 1/2 months and then you bailing on me. I am not saying that becuase you are you, I am saying that because anyone who has been through hiring people knows that some of them flake on you. Given the time that would transpire, I would be thinking that the "flake factor" would be really high and that I would be sitting there not looking for someone to come on board and then you wouldn't show up and I just would have wasted a whole lot of time. Not something a sane person would do I don't think.

Why do you have to quit to take the 1 course? Why can't you work and do the course at the same time? Why do you want to get out so bad you can't just take the course and then look for a job?

Personally, I think getting the masters will help you in the future a whole lot. Is is, and this is stupid I will admit, letters after your name that some other people won't have. Yes, others have different letters, but your letters are more than a bachelors. I would be totally focussed on getting that degree since it is so close.

I have problems with the quitting after 1 1/2 years as well. I know you said you worked for 4 years previously, but honestly I wouldn't even see that when I looked to hire you after that 1 1/2. It is further back in the resume and I probably wouldn't get there. You can call me shallow if you want, but you have to keep in mind that even for my little entry level position I had to dig through a whole lot of resumes. Any red flag meant I could chuck and get to the next one. I wouldn't be trying to put red flags on my resume.

I fully realize you are in a jam, in that you have a job possibly lined up and you have a course you have to take, but I don't know what to say. I would just try and find a way to do both at the same time. If that isn't possible, then I would finish the course and then look for a job. If you found 1 then you can find another.

a Change in Tech Transfer Offices?

I have to admit that over the last few months I have been pretty impressed by the folks I am dealing with in Tech transfer offices. Almost 100% of them (can't think of an exception right now, but I am sure there is one) have been really good. Today I was talking to a guy at a Boston area university and we talked for about 1 1/2 hours about the technology they have going on, our needs, some ideas he had based on talking to researchers, etc... It was a great conversation. Granted both of us are "lapsed" scientists, in that we both elected to bail out of the lab, but it was still a great conversation. I would like to think he learned something about what our business wants, and I can conclusivly say that I learned a lot about what they are doing and where they are headed with a bunch of stuff.

He was a bit odd, in that he works in a translation research setting and not a classic tech transfer office, so that may be the difference. BUT - it doesn't change that it was a great conversation. I am used to really only getting that level of science from the business people when I am dealing with industry folks.

On other fronts, I have become more impressed with the general tech transfer people. It seems, and who knows if this is conscios effort on their part or not, that they are focussed on some things they think will work and for those selected ones they are very focussed on moving things ahead.

There are still some, and the one that leaps to mind is at a top top tier school, who are a bit dense at valuing technology. I will still not pay $1M for a research reagent technology that I have to develop if you won't give me an exclusive. It just won't happen. I am uncertain as to why you even think you will be taken seriously when you propose that. Please don't get mad at you when my counter proposal sheds, essentially, all the zero's.

However, the web sites. They still are horrid messes. I continue not to understand why people don't put effort in to this. I imagine I will be wondering this to the end of my days. This is a low effort way to find people that you don't even know are interested. I guess, given the rest you do, that I don't understand why you WOULDNT do it. If all else fails, just start a free blog here on blogger and post them as they come in. Even that would be better than your regional sites, your hidden university sites, and you confusing mish-mash of sites linking together institutes that I have never heard of but aren't included in the university site in whose buildings you are located and to whom you link yourselves (in other ways) as closely as you can.

So - Summary - People Good, web sites - Bad.

Web sites are cheaper than people, so I don't understand!

Friday, July 14, 2006

Interviewing lawyers - An experience in someone who prepared for the interview

So I am in the process (along with senior management) of hiring some sort of lawyer to work with me on deals. The person, obviously, has to know something about the biotech space. Needs to know M&A, in-licensing, out-licencing, and all the other little stuff I do. Oh yeah - they will have a bunch of other little jobs that I don't know anything about or have anything to do with.

It was the most interesting interview ever.

The guy had read ALL of our wall street filings, and knew the informatino in them cold. He asked specific questions about a lot of little stuff that we normally don't talk about but have to reveal to the street. A complete tour de force and made a very positive impression.

I don't know that most of us can do what he did. He has a lot of years of experience in this business so the background part was easy, but it is something henceforth that I will aspire too.

He is still a lawyer, so I am not entirely certain that he doesn't bite the heads of bats at midnight in a graveyard, but if you have to pick a lawyer to associate with you might as well pick an incredibly well prepared one that makes sure not to miss the details.

welcome pipeline people...

From here. Welcome!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Dapi - Update?

Inquiring minds, or at least me, want to know!

Hope well. Fear not so good.

...and this is why I got out

I was digging around reading other science blogs today, so a bit of a link run...

This post is about why academic science is kind of beat...and really sums up why I left.

Actually you can probably boil my reason down to one thing....$$$$ The other reasons factored in, but this was probably the number one reason.

I like toys. Toys need to be purchased. Purchasing things requires $$. Therfore, need to get job with $$$.

Oh yeah -> happiness requires science, therefore must stay in science. Thus, here I am.

A good description of Graduate school

This guy may be a chemist, a fact I won't hold against him, but I have to say this is probably the best description of graduate school I have read. Short and sweet.

I was pretty crabby during grad school. I have pretty much no idea how I convinced my now wife to date me, move in, and get engaged. I am not entirely sure she knows either...

I worked more than 1 christmas day. I thought it was a badge of honor at the time (everyone else was there...) but now I know better. At that time, it is what you have to do. If you don't think that is OK, then you likely aren't cut out to make it through. Having a "real life" is not part of the deal for most. Some pulled it off, but I don't know how. I think they were smarter than me.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

How long to be an Application Scientist

Last post, Ph.D. dropout asked, in essence, how long she has to stay in a job before she can move on. She phrased it as:
what do you think is the minimum reasonable time I should spend at one job before looking for something new?
and if the time frame that I wil be able to handle is a year or a little less, what kind of jobs can I look at applying to move into the more business sector of biotech?

I would say 2 years. Any less than that, and I will be asking you what happened. At two years, in a travel job, you are fine. It won't raise eyebrows to move on. If you last less than a year, it will raise big red flags. I wouldn't take a risk on you after that, as at that point you have left a Ph.D. at less than 2 years. You have left a job at less than 1. What makes me, as a hiring person, think that you will stay with my job? You will, at that point, have shown no ability to stick with anything. I would be looking at you as someone who would come in and leave. Since hiring people is a real pain in the butt, I am very biased against doing it more frequently than I have to. Part of what I take in to account is how long I think you will last. Less than 2 years = bad. More than 2 = fine. I don't think I can tell if you will last 3 years or 10 years, but don't really care.

My personal rule is not to move more often than every 3 years. Others set the bar at 2 years. I don't know of anyone who sets it below 2 years, and whose career I would be trying to emulate.

Your statements:
I think you were absolutely right about suspecting that 30% travel sounds too good for AS. THe other person I interviewed with already stated 25-50%, which leaves me concerned that it will go up over 50 rather fast. :(
I am excited as hell to travel, but I need the travel time to be shorter than the time spent at home, I think... to retain my sanity.
play to something I have said before. You have no idea about how you will handle travel. I would expect, with an FAS job, to spending more than 50% of the time on the road during some periods. The end of a fiscal year / quarter would be a time when I would expect you out constantly. Early in the quarter, not AS much, but still.... I can't help with this part, but if you make this jump I think you have to be willing to stick it out for at least 2 years, or you should expect to have problems getting the next job.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

More about salary - PhD dropout

PhD dropout, whom I answered a question for last post, asked what I thought her salary should be in the comments way back.... She says

SO.. I have been checking out career newsletter, job listings, advice boards, etc... and seems like App Scientis jobs go from 50-80k. 80k being = PhD + experience.
but, seems like the 50k range is not exactly for the postition I was interviewing for, because it seems like there is a difference between job responsibilities of App Sci and FIELD App Sci (FAS). FAS'es seem to travel over 50% of the time at least and not really engage in other data mining or paper-writing projects. Sounds like the job I am 'hoping for' is not like the FAS, more like AS, with, as they say, 30% travel not more.
The range with Ph.D. being about what I had guessed in my post on the matter. I haven't seen too much of the less travel version of an FAS. I guess I don't really understand the difference between and FAS that doesn't travel and a lab worker. I don't know how the 30% travel would work out, and would guess that pretty rapidly you get hauled well above that number. Just a guess though.

I would have to have a better understanding of what the job was, and how it created value for the company, to give a guess about how the salary levels line up. At a guess, and based on the n=1 of me and another guy in a similar position, I would say a Ph.D. was worth between $15K-$30K / year. There is a lower limit of what they will pay someone who is in the sales process and travels a lot, so at the lower levels the split will be less. At the higher levels the split will increase until you get to the highest levels where I think it closes up again. the Ph.D. I think really only helps get you more money in the mid levels. You always get a bit more, but it is closer at the top and the bottom.

Someone can probably pull some statistical jujitsu on my head now and show that this is false in some way, but I am starting with a flawed n=1 anyway so I wouldn't hang my hat on this.

SO - long way of me saying I don't really know what you are worth but there is some long rambling.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

A new career advice asking person....

Back on the comments page for my Application Scientist posting (what is an app scientist and what do they do anyway?) there is a new person asking carreer type questions, and so I will address those here. I am going to sum up her background and questions and then got on with it.

Summary of her comment:

1. General buttering up of me. Greatly appreciated and inflates my head further. My wife does not appreciate this but she is not typing here....

2. Background: She is dropping out of the Ph.D. program Less than ?2? years in before she takes her Quals, and thus won't leave with either a masters or a Ph.D. Before starting program worked in industry for 4 years after getting a B.S. but hates bench work.
Them: "You have a Ph.D."
Me: "Yes"
Them: "I worked in the lab for a bunch of years, and was going to go do but decided to do this instead. I know as much as you and didn't miss anything by not doing it"
Me" "OK"
Them: "It just wasn't the right time of my life, and there was a lot going on"
Me: "OK"
Them: ....more rambling and getting more defensive....
This is a horrible conversation, and I keep having it. I want to shout at them "I DONT CARE". So - my take home message of this is to make sure you are making the decision you want to make and then get on with it. Don't regret it later, and don't tell me about it when you are interviewing or when I/you start working together. When you sound guilty and defensive about it you don't make yourself look good.

The other quesions:
So, I got only a BS so far, not happy in my program, trying to get feedback on what is AVAILABLE and WHAT IS AT STAKE if I re-enter the field AS IS!
You can do this. You do answer your own question though. You point out that there are some non-Ph.D.'s at the higher levels of some companies, and that this proves it is possible. You are correct - there are. I have written about this on the blog several times, and I can't be bothered to look at whether I am being consistent in my opionion or not, but would guess NO - so when I write this please keep in mind this is todays opionion. I think Non-Ph.D.'s at biotech companies have a much harder time getting to the higher levels than Ph.D.'s. When two people act the same, speak the same, etc...the same - the Ph.D. will get the job every time. How much better does the Non-Ph.D. have to be? I don't know that you can quantify "better" but I would say that it is "quite a bit" better that is needed. SO - not impossible by any means, but definatly not stacking the deck in your own favor.
The question you didn't ask is "Is that time that I would spend in the lab worth it once I get to the working world" and to this - looking at where you are - I would (subject to much I don't know) say that I would quit as well. You are looking at several more years worth of work, for low pay, and doing something that you don't sound that psyched about. In that time, you can have gone to industry and piled up a pretty nice resume and be well on your way. As an App Scientist, you are still building technical credibility, so you have that going for you. You are going to have to, after a year or two or three, start looking to move towards marketing/sales/bus dev or some other role in the company as you will burn out and will also really be tapped out on what they will let you do without the degree.

I have totally lost track of your questions!

ah - are you nuts for quitting and how to explain your quitting.

I think you are quite sane for quitting. I have never understood people doing jobs that they don't like as I think it makes them all around miserable people that no one likes. No fun is being had and it takes them much longer to complete the task anyway. With your attitude you would be looking at a longer haul than someone who is fired up and motivated (me for the first few years...). To explain your quitting, just do it. I quit becuase I didn't want to do it. Business excited me more, and the lab was unappealing. All of your other stories didn't sound that good to me and sounded like cop outs. I am of the opionion that meeting it head on is the right answer, and if you were interviewing with me and try any of the other answers, I would drop you. Other people, with other personalities, will have other opinions.

BUT - you should note that everyone you will talking to, likely, will have made the decision to leave the lab as well. There is a reason they are interviewing you, and its not becuase they are still in the lab. On some level they made the same decision as well and didn't (go to /stay in) the the lab.

I realize I am a couple of hours too late, but real life gets in the way some times. Saw that you had posted the comment ( a blackberry is evil...) but didn't have time to write. Hope it went well.

Did I miss any questions?

**edited** would point you to this post to see what I have done recently.....

Monday, June 19, 2006

Dapi - more about expense reports.

Dapi, a couple of comments back said:

I would definitely be going home on the weekend but I wasnt sure if I could ask for them to pay for it but it totally makes sense to me!
and I sort of answered, but want to really spell things out for those not at companies right now. Everything you do when travelling for a company is reimburseable. I, now, automatically keep receipts even when travelling for personal travel. Then my wife makes fun of me, but it shows how deeply ingrained it is. Companies have travel policies that tell you what you can charge, eat, stay at etc... and you follow them and then they reimburse you for everything. Other companies have credit cards that you charge against so you don't even see the bill. This is totally non-negotiable. When you are travellling on company business, they pay the bill. End of discussion. If you trash their rules, they may choose not to pay for the stuff you did that violates the rules, but that was your bad not theirs!

This is a big change from academia where you are sort of committed to the lab and would maybe not get reimbursed for everything at a conference. In industry - get reimbursed. Keep every receipt. "I don't know if I can ask for that" - the way I look at this, they have to pay for your hotel and food and car to keep you there for the weekend. It's not that the weekend is free.

Just a different way of thinking, but wanted to make sure you thought of it.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Salary - Dapi Question

I guess I could answer in comments, but since I never look at those on other blogs I assume other people don't either.

Last post, Dapi Asked:
As for the $60K- pros would be it would provide me with experience in industry and I can always work damn hard and ask for a raise ...but I have a number in my head and I know what I am worth in relations to quality of life!

Can you give me an idea of the the base salary that a company like your company would offer to someone who has zero experience in industry? If this helps the company of interest has roughly 100 people..(rounded it up)!

I have a number in my head and i was want to know if its realistic!

I was paid $83K when I was employee #9 at a startup and as an application scientist. Start ups, in general, frequently have to pay better as you are taking risk to be there. OR they give you a lot of stock options. $80K is, I think, the high end.

After that, at the entry levels, salary falls the bigger a company gets.

For a product manager, with your credentials, we would be looking at $60-$70K with 10% bonus.

Bus Dev, with those qualifications, I probably wouldn't have hired you but if I had I would have gone $70 with minimal bonus.

App Scientist - $50-$80 is probably the range but that is far from the entire story. The app scientists at our company are closer to the upper end, but don't get a bonus/commission. They also don't get a car allowance. At the lower end, you have to get other things, like bonus's and car allowances etc... so you have to be careful not to fixate on the one number. The car allowance is $8K right there. The bonus could be $20K. SO - if you are at $60 you are making more than the guys at our company as your car + potential bonus gets you to $88K. This leaves out me even talking about health insurance and 401K matching etc... as you really have to look at the entire package. What is the out of pocket on the health insurance? Do they pay 100%? We don't unless you choose the absolute minimum HMO coverage (1 person, not family etc...)

A major consideration of this is understanding what kind of deal volume you will be involved with. Is each deal worth $1M? When I was an app scientist that is what I was looking at. A large instrument company would be looking at this. Smaller companies, where the deal size is in the $10K region will pay less.

It is important to get what you can, but make sure you keep the options in mind. What is plan B? Getting in to the business side is non-trivial. If you take this job, you are only really looking at 2 years before you can switch. I wouldn't get too hung up on the salary.

Stock options? (and do you think they are worth anything?)
Training? (i.e. will they send you to classes like sales training or negotiation?)

all of these things have to be taken at a totality to see if you are happy. If you fixate on the one number, and they won't get there, see if you can dump other stuff that you don't care about to get there, as the HR people will look at the total cost.

I realize I am all over the board here, but reading my past statements I see I am just as guilty as others in that I posted just 1 number (salary). As you seem to note, by mentioning the size of the company, the range differs by company size. It also differs by what you are involved in selling. It also differs by what else is in the package. The car allowance is huge. That is income right there that you may not have to pay income tax on (I don't think, but check that). That inflates your income in a disproportionate way.

At the end of the day, what it comes down to is whether or not you will be happy doing what they want for what they are willing to pay you. If not -> don't do it. If yes-> the ranges didn't matter.

I wouldn't fixate on the 70% travel -> we have all been there. It seems big, and it is big, but if you are going to go up the business side of things there will always be travel. I am down to about 50% this year, but I get on a plane tomarrow (fathers day....) as that is what has to be done.

Dapi does an interview, some follow on comments on salary

Dapi had her interview and it sounds like it went well. She talks about it here, but I want to life a few points from this.

Points 1-3 are all good. I, at the end of the day, go with my gut. You can analyze until face is blue, but for me the gut makes much of the call. Everytime (for the most part...) that I have gone against it - it hasn't worked out well.

2) I was coachable since I lacked industry experience

Exactly what I look for. For folks coming from academia, they essentially know nothing about this arena. They have some bogus ideas about sales reps, and maybe some inflated ideas about salary's, but beyond that they don't know a thing. The question, and it sounds like what they asked as well, is how coachable the person is. They will have to learn a lot quickly - will they be able to do it?

The bad - point 1 - Yeah...
point 2 - this is why we have HR. They are supposed to solve these problems.

Point 3 - quoted below
3) my STRONG academic record!!! They normally dont take on people who are so academic (normally fresh PhD's)-yes you are soo right! the postdoc hurt me!)...my resume was TOO good in that area...hahaha....scientists at that level become stuck in an academic mind set and they were worried about how i'd do in industry which is more detachable and fasted past...BUT they liked me and i proved to them that I'm not the typical academic! I worked hard to prove to them i was serious and ready for this job and this is what Ive wanted all along. Also said I was willing to learn and be trained!

Exactly. Well put. The more you have gone down the academic path, the more I think that is what you wanted to do and this "industry" thing is just an after thought. If you want to go to the bench in industry, that is fine, but if you want to make the jump away from the bench I start having the thoughts you outline above. I look at it as wasted time when you weren't learning what I need you to know, but this is an equally true way of looking at. This is where being trainable comes in. You have to overcome this.

The next point is HUGE in negotiation

4) I was TOO talkative- I agree! I was running on adrenaline plus i really wantd them to see that i was a people person...normally I am talkative but I have to admit I didnt want to create a void of silence...BUT again they said that they can help me with that and the VP of business development had the same problem (he was interviewing me) and he said he got a coach to help him not ramble!! haha I learnt a valuable lesson- in business...silence is good also! The talkativeness was however NOT a deal breaker!
The most important part of closing a sale/deal is knowing when to shut up. Say your bit and then shut up. People who are trying to ram a bad point down your throat will be uncomfortable about this and will babble to fill the void. They will end up giving away much more than they wanted. Sit there and smile while they keep talking. Me learning this lesson was huge, and it was pounded in to me very early on by a sales rep who talked a mile a minute - until we were negotiating at which point they shut up... I talk A LOT, but when in front of a customer it is far more important to listen. Listen to the questions they ask. See what they say to fill the void that you leave by not talking. They will bring up something of interest and you can sell them something else. Maybe they will talk about funding, in which case you learn budget and how much they can afford. Etc... you will learn much by being quite. If there is an uncomfortable silence DO NOT be the person who fills it. Let the customer fill it and see what they say.

The salary : Are you willing to walk over $60K? Is that a deal breaker for you? Make your mind up on that front now. Always strive for more, but make sure you know what the worst case scenario is. If they won't come up from $60 what will you do? Know that answer now. Don't tell anyone, but know.

The rest of the benefits are normal. I only get paid a yearly bonus, not quarterly, but I have heard of both so that isn't weird.

"will most likely fly me back to the US on weekend" ---- Ummmm this would, to me, be non-negotiable. I *AM* going home for weekends. Or, if you choose not to go home for weekends, know the stress this will put on your relationship. It is really exciting to travel, and the business world is wonderful, but I really really really really urge you to make sure you keep in contact with fiance and make sure he is on board with not seeing you for a month while you are in some other city eating at restaurants and staying in an OK/nice hotel. You will be doing exciting new, and he won't. I made this error and really want to make sure that others don't. This would be called a "tense" time in my marriage. Survived - made changes - but is certainly something that needs to acknowledged.

Good luck,


Wednesday, June 14, 2006

...forgot to answer a Dapi question... Know the company

Dapi pointed out that I didn't answer what I meant by "know the company". Quite right...

Umm.... know them!

Know the Press Releases they have put out so that you know what is going on to them as a business.
Know their technology/products so that you can speak to the technology.
Know the workflow that would be around their products. By this I mean know WHY people would use the product, WHAT questions the people are asking when they use the product, and what the next step in the experiments is that you do when you are asking those questions.

An example workflow might be.

Microarray -> Informatics -> QPCR -> Western

with the idea being that you find some genes your interested in, confirm them with QPCR, and then move to western blots to look at what the protein did. Simple workflow, and not totally complete, but I hope you get the idea. For whatever it is that you are interviewing on (and I have to admit to trying to guess based on where you are flying to, but you should NOT post the answer) you should be able to write/say some sort of workflow like this. Coupled to that, you should be able to talk a bit about how problems in 1 step can affect other steps etc...

Basically show that you know what a scientist would be doing with whatever it is that you are selling.

You can't know everything about the company, so don't try. You do, however, need to show that you bothered to look up as much as you could. Google the people you will be interviewing with. Google the company and read anything you find.

Knowledge is your friend in this case, and anything helps. Showing that you put in effort is what you want the outcome to be. Don't brag about it, just do it and trot the information out when it is needed.

I would NOT be too worried about being able to comment on something about every executive. I would, however, know their names and roles. i.e. Know who the CEO is, who the CFO is etc... You don't need to memorize where they went to grad school or what degrees they have, but you should know their names. I would spend more time making sure I had the tech under control than I would on this, but you need to know the names.

Dapi's continuing interview process

Last post we heard from Dapi in the comments about how her phone interview went, and I will excerpt some of that and comment a bit further below. Short version is that she is doing well....

Good summary of how to spin yourself on the interview. She is responding to my less than glowing summary of the interviewee questions she would ask. I hate doing this, and hate hearing them, and don't put a lot of value in them... Dapi's way of doing this is better written than mine, and I totally agree with it.

I reworded a few of them and asked the interviewer to talk more about the job, dynamics of the company and her history there. From there I asked direct questions which allowed me to highlight what my skills where. I also wanted to know what the personality of the people who i would be working with were.

Basically my weakness was my LACK of industry experience but I think i overcame it by emphasising that I have SKILLS needed for the job anyway. I outlined my presentation skills, the fact that I love to talk and I am a confident speaker...also i did have experience doing some PR work for our research foundation during my PhD years. I tried to push that i can speak to vendors and I made profits from the conferences, getting sponsorship etc...i'm apeople person and I learn fast!

and a question:

One more question- I'm ahh getting married this September and I would like to ask for 2 weeks off...1 because my family are coming from overseas and i havent seen them for 2 years and the other is for us to go on a short honeymoon...is this reasonable?

Yes - this is very reasonable. Raise it to the recruiter as they will position it with the company to get an initial read (this is how on the hireing side I am used to hearing about it). You should expect a YES. If you don't get a YES, do you want to work there? I wouldn't. They may or may not give you paid vacation across that. What I have done with the person I am hireing is put them in the hole on vacation. What I mean by that is that when she wants to take some time off she won't already have enough. I am letting her use what she has, and then she will wrack up negative time. For the following couple of months she will be working that off. Another choice is just to take unpaid time off.

On a side note: Congrats on getting married!

In any case - if they won't work with you on this I would take that as a huge red flag for working there. It gives you a very clear sense of their values and what they think of you.

I'm so excited but scared...I have to buy a suit and get some make up!! ARGHH!

This made my wife laugh in a knowing kind of way. Not having to use makeup is a big plus for being a guy!

What should I do to nail this job interview?

You seem to have this under control. Your first paragraph at the top explaining what you did to the question asking section shows you know what you are doing. Keep doing more of that.

Good Luck.


Monday, June 12, 2006

Interview question / answer from a comment

A couple of posts ago Dapi asked more questions, and has moved forward in her interview process... so I will dispense ?advice?mis-information?other? in response. Hope any of this is usefull. Cutting and pasting from the comment, so answers follow questions.

Her Questions are in Blue.

Do you have any tips on asking intelligent questions?

No. And I don't mean this to be harsh, but I have never been good at this part. When I ask people if they have any questions, they always asked some canned questions, as I see you line up below. When I have been on the "being interviewed" side of it, I have always been bad at this. I will get to your questions below, but the overall answer is that yours are no better/worse than anyone elses.

i'd like to know what types of questions have impressed you in the past when interviewing people?
Not many. Not what I am looking for. Read on....

I wrote a few out that I'd like to us ie:

-What does it take for me to be successful in this field?
HR question...the answers you get to this should be interesting as well.

-What skills are you looking for for this job?
HR BS question, but usefull in that seeing what kind of answers you get will tell you about the people you may be working with/for.

-what impact do you need me to make during the first month?
HR BS question. During the first month I expect you to NOT make an ass of yourself. I expect you to be learning at a feirce clip, but not helping too much.

-How long do FACS normally stay in their positions and where do they go from here in your company?
This is a really good question, but you should be careful in asking it that you don't appear too mercenary. Couching this in line of "I am interested in working at this company for awhile and want to grow here" rather than "what can you do for me". Fine line to walk, but I like the thought process here.

Do you have any tips for me?

Yes. Shocked?

I rated your questions from the bottom up, so to the extent there is order in my comments that is they way my responses should be read.

Your questions are, as I said, very similar to everyone elses questions. I have no problem with this, as the generic question that I ask "do you have any questions for me" invites this.

I would add to the list "What haven't you heard me say that will help me get the job" or something like that. You want to check in with people and see how you are doing. If your flopping, hear what they are thinking and then make changes to un-flop yourself. If you are doing well, or they say something complimentary, then try not to say anything to screw that up.

Write thank you notes to each person individually after you talk to them. Make sure you get enough contact information to do this.

Make sure you spell and type in proper english when writing those notes. We have killed more than one person because they write like they text ( or like I write this Blog). Proper English is the Proper thing to do here.

Be yourself. I can't say this enough. I really mean this. Know as much as you can about the company etc.... but at the end of the day just be yourself. If you don't get the job that way, then you probably shouldn't get the job. harsh, but true. You won't be happy.

Don't BS too much. It is annoying to listen to and helps nothing. Don't say too little either as then you are terse. Yes I realize this is unhelpful advice as I didn't really say anything....

After you answer a question - follow up with "did that answer your question?" as especially on phone calls it is hard to see peoples responses and too know what they are thinking. Doing this too much is annoying, but if it was a long answer it is appropriate. If it is "Yes" then it isn't.

Don't assume you know what they are going to ask, and make sure you answer what they do ask. See point above, but I really want to make sure that you don't interrupt them before they are done talking and start answering something they don't care about. You are likely smart, but you still don't know what I am thinking until I am doing saying it. NEVER assume you know what I am thinking. Scientists are HORRIBLE at this point. I have been horrible at it and continue to work on this aspect of my dealing with the world. My wife whacks me in the head when I do it to her, which does prove an effective reminder. Most customers/interviewers don't do that - they just think you are a pompous ass.

Ummmm....Go to it. You sound in writing like you should be fine.

Did I miss anything? Would you like more random ramblings directed your way?

Tell me how it goes please!

Saturday, June 10, 2006

...why i didn't respond that quickly to comments

Normally the blog emails me when their are comments...

but it didn't.

I would really like to blame someone, but when you switch email addresses and don't update the field on blogger you are kind of out of luck on the whole "blame" thing.

So - the 1 month delay in asking a question is pretty much bloggers fault for not having the ability to psychicly detect that I had a new email address.

...My hiring is done.

My new person starts soon! She accepted and I am very psyched.

No Ph.D. but a lot of application scientist and lab experience + some time in marketing.

SO - the take home message here.... Experience matters. If you want to be in this game you have to start playing. Don't do a post-doc!!!!!

Application Scientist Salary...response to a comment

in response to about 3 posts ago I got a bunch of comments. Previosly answered 1, but here is the response to the second (from Dapi).

?He? posts asking about Salary range for an application scientist, and notes that all they tell him on the salary is that it is "negotiable".

Spells out his qualifications, but to sum it up.

Ph.D. + 3yrs Post-Doc looking for App sci position.
Is $80K fair for 70% travel (or how does $80K stack up?).

I think $80K is the right ball park in this day and age. You might bump it up a bit ($5K or so) and I would suggest always tacking 5 or so on to what they offer and asking for that. My mileage on this varies, and the recruiter should be able to give you some guidance on this if you say to them "I want 5 or so more" the recruiter will give you a great first pass read on whether or not that will fly. Either way - I think you are in the right ballpark.

Other negotiation points. You don't have any leverage on the vactation time, as they know you are in academia and don't really formally have any. You will get 2 weeks + other random holidays (personal holidays + company holidays). Some companies will give you 3 weeks but I haven't seen that so much at the application scientist level. I would be hard pressed to defend giving you that.

Signing bonus. Haven't heard of that for App scientists, but keep in mind that I would only know about it for 3 companies and one of them was a start up. Maybe other companies do that but I would doubt it. OR if they did, I wouldn't see it as that much money. If they don't have to relocate you, then maybe you can ask for $5K - $10K but I haven't heard of that being done.

Other things to ask about / ensure is that you have connectivity to corporate email from home. If you will based out of home, ask for help setting up a home office. Some companies do this and some don't. Since I don't know what company you are looking at I can't help you on guidance for that. Those that don't, don't. Asking doesn't hurt though. Asking at this stage may even show some foresight. If you will have an office in some building of theirs, then you will likely not get help setting up a home office (in fact I have never heard of this for an application scientist).

Email is your friend, so make sure you either have a blackberry or always stay in hotels with high speed internet. I have a blackberry, but still will flat out refuse to stay in a hotel without high speed internet. Getting large power point files moved around, or getting your email synced before you get on a plane requires high speed internet. To the extent you can - just say No!

On a side note here.... you will note that in summing up your qualifications I didn't talk about how many papers you have. ***News flash.... It doesn't matter anymore. Once you make this jump, and in fact when I interview people for these positions, I don't care. I care how you present to me. I care how you dress. I care how you sit in the chair and act while talking to me. I don't care about how many papers you have. I *need* you to be confident of what you are talking about, and be able to project that to me (thus my above comments about how you sit in chair etc...). I need you to be able to break the complex down to the simple quickly and succinctly and not make me feel stupid when you did it. If you make me feel stupid, I won't give you money (if I am a prospecitive customer).

Your proven track record of negotiation, if in academia with you negotiating lab buys, is not something that you will reference in a few years if you go in to this business. I was a lab manager before I got my Ph.D. and set up a new lab from putting the walls in up. The deal size is trivial next to what you need to be doing on the business side. Maybe $1M total in deals? If you are at a good company you better be involved in more than this per year or they aren't making money. On the sponsorship for conference side, I would use the people that you got the money from to ask questions about the business side of things. They are from the money side, so ask them questions as well. Ask them for job leads if nothing else... If you talked them out of money, they obviosly have some respect for you.

My only word of warning about going the App scientist route, and I give this to people interviewing with me and learned it through personal experience as well. TRAVEL SUCKS. I love it, I continue to be on the road a lot, and I firmly beleive that if you are in the customer facing/thinking side of a company that you better get out of your office and on the road. BUT - 70% travel is brutal. Make sure that if you are seriously involved with someone (wife, husband,boyfriend,girlfriend whatever...) that they are going to be able to handle this. Make sure you stay in touch with them once you start doing it. If you haven't done it before, you have absolutly no idea what you are in for. You don't know about all the airport lounges and the secrets of getting upgrades to first class etc... but you will learn! and you will either love it, and keep going, or you will hate it and quit in a year. Right now you have no idea which it will be as there is nothing I can say to you that will prepare you for it. It is something that either works or doesn't based on your personality and the personality of the people that you care about. I can only say to you that you really really really really need to keep in touch with anyone who you care about, as it is very easy to get wrapped up in the job and miss signs that you are drifting apart. I have seen several divorces come of people moving in to this and the significant other not being real psyched about it. It *IS* different than spending a stupid amount of time in the lab (and I didn't think it would be....)

My last word on taking this job is to recommend/require that you join every frequent flyer/renter/stayer program for every airline they make you get on, every hotel they make you stay in, and every rental car agency that they make you rent from.

I will never pay for a personal rental car again from either hertz, avis, or budget. OR if I do, I love the amount of vacation I was on.... I have flown my in-laws, my parents, and several grad students across the country several times first class. This gets you brownie points! AND I have taken a couple of vacations to Hawaii and not had hotel bills. You owe it to yourself to make sure you accumulate every perk you can, as on your down time is when you get rewarded for all that. My next thing is me+family free first class flight to Hawaii, 1 week in suite at Hilton, with free convertable car all courtesy of racked up points/miles. Don't miss out on this. This includes getting a credit card (or cards) that get you hotel or airline miles so that you rack them up all over the place.

Application Scientist is a supurb job for a few years. You should burn out after 2-3 years, but you are then all set to go in to marketing or business development. You are NOT set to go back to the lab, so make sure that you really are OK with not being in the lab anymore.

Friday, June 02, 2006

response to question.

In a comment here, a question was asked and I will answer here.

Summing up the question:
Person has MBA and business experience in NON-biotech.
Getting toward completion of Ph.D.

Would I hire them.

YES> This is exactly what I am looking for. You would, subject to all the parts of your resume I can't see, get a phone interview.

Non biotech-business experience is fine. The science background is the key for my position. Coupling that with some indication that you understand the whole idea of making a profit is what I am looking for. Whether that profit is in our business, or some other business doesn't really make a big difference to me.

A post-doc will do NOTHING for your move to business. Take ANY job in the business side of a company but do not do the Post-doc. Take product management positions or something, but don't go to the bench. Field application scientists or some such.

Do NOT take a position in a company at the bench. It is VERY rare for someone to be moved from bench to business within a company. Maybe that isn't true at other companies, but I have seen, and been told, that enough times that I think it is true. At our company it is totally true.