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

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.