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

Friday, August 24, 2007

More on the "the field" and gettin to the top of a biotech company

2 posts ago, Bill commented that
I think a lot of PhDs are probably biased against "customer service" type jobs.

which sort of resonated with me. I totally agree with him. So many in academic labs only see their sales rep from a company (could be ours...) come in and try and sell them stuff. AND - quite rightly you think those folks are possibly a bit slimy, probably pretty stupid, and you could never see yourself doing that.


For the most part you can't do that job. Most, certainly not all, of the academic sales reps do not have Ph.D.'s. Some do, but they move on and upward pretty quickly.

I didn't go the route of academic sales rep.

I went commercial sales rep. When selling to companies, you are generally selling something that costs more. You show up where you are going with an appointment (or they won't let you through the door) and you are, in a sense, "wanted". You are not cold calling, which is what you mostly see the academic sales rep doing to you (just as you are doing something that can't be interrupted).

It is a totally different world. You, as an academic lab person, don't know anything about it and should not be freaked out by it.

****non-sequiter**** but sort of related.

I think the point of seeing the top people in our company all have that similar background points not to what they did early in their careers as a function of getting there. I think it points more to the type of personality that does those jobs well.

To say that more clearly -> the kind of person who is going to thrive in a field position and who is, as a side benefit, going to be able to move up the corporate ladder, is an extroverted scientist.

Extroverted Scientists apparently, and a recruiter just explained this to me again, don't really grow on tree's. They are, in fact, a bit rare. I keep searching for them to fill the bus dev roles I have and keep getting hammered by it.

For those who are not naturally extroverted this has to be harder. As I am, as somewhat of an understatement, pretty extroverted -> I have no idea how to do it as an introvert.

So - To put the two parts together.

Ph.D.'s do need to get over the "service job" as the experience that you have of the reps calling on your lab doesn't map to the kind of job you should get.
Extroverted Scientists seem to end up in the field naturally, and people at the top of the places I work are all extroverted, so I would say the label is that extroverted people migrate to the top and they happened to have been in the field NOT that they were required to be in the field.

Career's in biotech.

Unabashedly stealing these links from "In the Pipeline" where you should be reading anyway.

Faseb did a study on biomedical sciences and what is going on with jobs.

The summary is here.

The basic take home for me was that there are a whole lot more people going in to industry than there are in to academia. Yet, as you see over on the AAAS forums, it is still an "alternative" career. Why weren't we trained (at least where I went to school) more for the place where most of us will actually work? Why wasn't more information on how to get there made available ( None given to me....)

I know studies like these won't change anything, as the people running graduate schools are, exactly, the people who made it in the academic track and don't, for the most part, know anything about the corporate track.

Still... They should at least invite people in.

That said. I will be on a panel next month at Scripps as a recruitment pitch for our company and answering questions on how to get in to business development. I don't know any details just what I am talking about. Given that is going on, it seems like someone is at least driving something to get exposure to folks. At the very least, it should be interesting.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Scientists who go to the field... and then run companies

As the evolution of our integration moves forward, I am slowly getting ready to move on in my career. I will be within the same company, but just have a bit of a different role. That means my current role will be open.

That means I have to hire.

I tried to just pretend that magic elves (HR possibly?) would fill my position, but it has been made abundantly clear to me that I have to "Back Fill" my position.

There is an internal person who might expect it, but that person has shown themselves to not be up to the job.

SO... the hunt begins.

I started by talking to a senior person who just joined us. He has been in business a long time. New to our company, but been around. Started talking about this and he just leaned back and whistled. "good luck, going to take awhile" - I looked at him a bit confused. Huh? How hard can it be. I need a Ph.D. with field based experience. An "outgoing" scientist who is not afraid to learn new fields. We have a bunch of them in the company doing a variety of things. Most too senior and in other fields to be interested in my role.

then it hit me.

1 Everyone above me is a Ph.D.

2. Everyone above me did time in a "field" role (application scientist, sales, etc....something where you are out face to face with customers and dealing with them WELL (i.e. you have to be good at it))

There are males, females, couple of races etc.... the absolute unifying thing is those two statements above. I want one of those people.

Apparently, we are rare. I know, speaking for myself, that we are expensive. BUT - looking at several companies, we also seem to do well.

The fact that I am surrounded by them is, apparently, odd. When I was interviewing, I was only talking to them. Apparently that is odd as well. When you look at the company as a whole, the "field" part rules out most of the Ph.D.'s BUT most of them are in the lab at the bench (or managing the bench people).

So - to the Ph.D.'s out there. If you have a desire to really move up the company management totem pole, I can say that it has really struck me in the last week that the number one thing you can do is get some sort of position where you are in the field learning how to deal with customers. Learn what makes sales people tick. Understand the sales process. really, at a level that makes you totally get it, understand how business gets money. If you get that, you will rise up the business pretty quickly. I personally am seeing that in my promotion speed, and notice that everyone ahead of me has that common past (and about only that as their common past).

yep...I am a lawyer...

There was a ruling in the Seagate case recently. I have spent a bunch of time reading the CAFC's opinion and understanding what it does for us. Find it pretty likely that it decreases the number of legal opinions I have to get for product launches. As an opinion runs $50K or so (and up I should say), this is a non-trivial ruling.

Then I remember I didn't go to law school and that I really am a biologist in disguise. And I feel like a dork for getting excited about it.

I would say, though, that the outcome is a good thing for our budget. To say that the legal department is up in arms analyzing this is to understate the matter. Many many many emails received on this. Several conference calls.

For those of you who don't do what I do, and are in science and looking at business, you have to realize that I am weird even by the business peoples standards. MOST of the business people don't even know this stuff. Don't be afraid just because I talk about it!!!