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

Monday, September 24, 2007

A comment stream on an Application Science applicant

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

App Sci applicant said...

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

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

9/14/2007 8:43 AM

Anonymous said...

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

New question anyone can feel free to comment on:

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

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


9/14/2007 10:01 AM

app sci applicant said...

In response to a second commenter:

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

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

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

9/14/2007 3:34 PM

yes said...

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

With regard to the travel question.


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

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

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

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

9/14/2007 8:23 PM

app sci applicant said...

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

9/15/2007 2:39 AM

yes said...

"App Sci Applicant"

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

There are other components of salary.

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

Anything else?

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

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

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

9/15/2007 7:49 AM

app sci applicant said...

Reply to yes:

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

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

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

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

9/15/2007 8:32 AM

bill said...

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

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

9/15/2007 9:52 AM

yes said...

Good to see you Bill!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9/15/2007 10:12 AM

Anonymous said...

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

9/20/2007 3:04 PM

app sci applicant said...

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

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

9/22/2007 12:00 PM

app sci applicant said...

The offer given to me today in more detail:

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

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

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

9/24/2007 3:57 PM

yes said...

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

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

Any stock options?

Travel is normal.

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Industry does nothing....

Over here, Derek is actually surprised to find that people still think academia does everything and industry is dumb... I think it is just a sign that I am closer to grad school than him for me to NOT be surprised by this. It isn't

Post doc for Application Scientists?

Way way way back here (2 years ago) when I talk about being an application scientist, a new comment was posted. I wouldn't know that if I didn't get email notifications, so you will be excused from not knowing it either, but it is an interesting comment.

The comment says, after inflating my ego (much appreciated...)

I just came from a talk that a "Field Application Scientist" just gave, and approached her and asked about how she got her job. She said that "it is hard to get into industry" and that "she had to do a post-doc in industry" and that basically she thought I should do one too. By the way: I don't want to do a postdoc.

Question: have things changed in two years? Is this still true? I wonder because I am getting ready to defend in three months and kind of need a job...

I do NOT think that post docs are needed for application scientist positions. I have taken two days to answer this question becuase I was just at a meeting with a lot of app scientists (training and "idea exchange"). NONE of them had post docs (industry or otherwise). That is 0 for 23 of them. Being at a larger company, they cover a wide range of products, so this was not localized to just one type of product/field/country.

I have met others who, like the woman you spoke with, DO have post doc experience.

For the application scientist role, I do not think a post doc makes a whit of difference. The role itself will not be helped by post doc experience. The research you do as a post doc won't likely be the dividing line between getting the job and not (the exception being if you had never ever done technique X as a grad student, but do it as a post doc then that would be relevant to getting a job as an app scientist about technique/instrument X).

Bill, a friend and sometimes commentor on this blog has a bit of a different spin on this. His comments on it are not the only ones I have heard. The comment posted on that old posting mirror it. It seems like a lot of people, including people in industry, disagree with me. As many of them are likely hiring managers, there is likely something to it and it may make a difference.

I want to be very clear that I am talking about Application Scientist and NOT bench scientist in Industry.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Hiring and working in industry

I have now hired and re-hired several times for a few positions I have. Some I have written about here, others are for groups that reported in to me transiently (although none have yet moved on, so I have some odd groups reporting to me).

In total, I have hired about 20 people. Of those, I am happy with 15 of them. Not all are "superstars" as some of those positions are lower in needs than others. The other 5, I am totally unhappy with what I did, and I do blame myself for the hire.

I hired people my gut told me not to. They looked good on paper, and I convinced myself that my read of them during an interview was "wrong". Other people were not jumping for joy enthusiastic about the hires and said things like "they will be OK" or "you could do worse". So I hired them. And now, I am having to "move the along", which is the polite way of saying I am documenting their failures to justify asking them to move along involuntarily (i.e. Firing them). This sucks.

Joel Spolsky talks about this, as do a lot of people. As I am obviously smarter than the rest of the world, I decided this didn't apply to me. So I hired people I knew I shouldn't. And they haven't worked out. Who knew... oh right... I did and so did everyone else.

So now I am pushing them out. I hired because "I needed hands and I can't wait". Lets say it takes 3-4 months of concerted effort to get rid of someone. Do I think that I would have got a good person if I had waited 3-4 months longer (Yes)? So, was it worth it? (No)

Now kicking myself.

2 of these people fall in to the ballpark of people that I talked about in the last post. They came expecting the easy job. I am, for many reasons, not the easiest person to work for. They wanted to coast and make good money. I don't let them and they aren't happy. I honestly don't even think they are capable of working hard as there are web sites to look at and people to gossip with and a coffee room to go to.

They came straight from academia. I am not sure what they will do after they leave me, as they have been with me for less than a year. When they finally move on, it will be just over a year. They will have a hard time getting a recommendation (not from me, thanks!). I will guess that they go back to academia, but I will bet that they weren't stellar workers there either. These people will be the people who get talked about, and a bit of the fault lies with me. I shouldn't have hired them and then they wouldn't be in the position I am going to put them in.

Is it BAD to jump to industry?

From the last post, in the comments, is a long question from Daniel. The crux of it (and you need to go there to read the background) is this question.
I find your last few entrys encouraging to such a direction, and you've acknowledged in the past the fear that's involved in making the jump out of academics. I guess what I want to know is -- Do you think it DANGEROUS to leave? In other wards, do you know of anyone that left academics and ended up (3 years down the road) in worse position versus someone who bit the bullet and did an academic postdoc?
An anonymous person says "yes" they know some people like that. So do I. I also know people who have stayed in academia and gotten progressively more miserable. Others who have stayed in academia for a long time always meaning to jump. Specifically the guy who graduated just ahead of me from our lab,took 8 years to jump over to industry. He always said he was going to, but just didn't get it done for quite awhile.

I would say EVERY step is dangerous. I will admit I have been lucky and others haven't been. I don't know why that is, but can't deny it. I would not say a jump to industry is any more/less dangerous than any other career move.

However, there are people who make the jump across to industry for purely the wrong reason, and those people fail.

They jump because they want a 1) EASY and 2)High Paying job. News flash, Industry jobs are NOT easier. They are higher paying, but if you went in expecting the EASY part the pay won't make it up for you. These people are doomed to failure, as business does demand results. I will write more about this in my next post.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Considerations for Management

In talking with my "mentor", and soon to be boss, about my choice of next steps up the ladder (see last post for the decision), we talked about a lot of things that you "need".

To get to the top, he declared you needed the following:

1. The "Vision" thing.
2. People management/logistics
3. "Portfolio" management
4. Technical ability

To explain these further, and in reverse order

4. Technical ability. This referred to a technical understanding of the science in the marketplace in question. For me, my Ph.D. takes care of this. Staying current is required. This was the least interesting for me, as the order was basically "Make sure you know the science you are trying to sell or figure out or move in to". Translated really loosely - make sure you understand your problem/customer. I wanted to say "no duh!" - but that seemed a bit impolite. I guess some people don't get this, but I don't know how they do it.

3. "Portfolio" management. This refers to making trade offs between A and B, where both A and B are important. Made up example - You have $2M to spend on R+D. Group A supports your current projects, and spending that money will over the next 3 years return you $5M, with a 95% probability. However, these are your current products and don't move you in to any new areas. Group B is in a brand new area where you, as a company, should be. The $2M spend will return you $5M over the next 3 years, but there are a lot of chances for things to go wrong. You may get nothing, you may get more than $5M, or it may cost more to get in so the $2M number might go up. You have to decide. This, in his view, was portfolio management.

2. People Management / Logistics. I have managed a smallish group for awhile. There are a fleet of little things that come from that. The next step for me is to manage a much bigger group where I have layers of managers below me. As put, there is no real way to do this other than to do it. HR has little guides to help you. There are management training classes. There are mentors to ask. There are many things.... At the end of the day you just have to do it and try to learn faster than you screw up. I am petrified/excited about this for when I get to it.

1. The "Vision" thing. A strong drive to go somewhere. To lead a group in a growing market, the person in charge needs to have some idea of what the end goal looks like. They have to have a vision of where the group is headed. This, from his point of view, wasn't something that could really be taught. You either had the ability to look ahead and try and drive.... or you didn't.

These were the items that he said you had to have all of in order to get to the upper levels of management at a "large" company. Small companies were different and we didn't get in to that.

Job Decisions - Director R+D vs. Business Development

Over the last week I was offered and declined a different position within my same company.

Post acquisition, I had been (and remain) slotted in to a "larger" business development role, where larger is, loosely, "supporting $1B dollars of current business and making it much much much bigger".

I was offered, funnily enough, a director of r+d position.

I haven't been in the lab in quite a few years.

I was being asked, and there were serious discussions about, me being in charge of a bunch of VERY serious scientists. Several people that I rank as amongst the smartest people I have ever met. To put it in perspective for at least Bill - in the same realm as our advisor's wife (whom was a>much smarter than him and b>one of the smartest people I have ever met)(On a side note, I don't know why she was married to him!!!).

The organization has about 150 scientists in it covering 3 different physical locations. It will grow. It has all the issues that a large R+D organization has.

The part that rattled around my head is that I haven't been in the lab in quite a few years. SO- I asked another person above me, and a person whom I might add I treat as a mentor on how to get ahead within our organization and who has sway over my career, what he would do and why I was being considered/pursued for this position. He added that his voice was behind the push, but that he was also pushing for me to stay in my current role and that I wasn't allowed to do both.

Then he added a couple of other things that apply both generally and specifically to me:

1. Managing R+D has nothing what so ever to do with DOING R+D.
2. You (speaking of me) know enough to smell BS, and that would be your job.
3. You are blunt. People have absolutely no doubt as to where they stand with you. You would need to temper this and learn polish, but it is a good place to start.
4. You are broad. Some might call you "shallow" as they are the same. You know a little about a lot of different things and are quick enough to read up on any area when that area becomes important.
5. You get stuff done.

SO - that, for those who want to go up the R+D side of the house, seems like a decent road map of how to end up in charge of a decent sized R+D group.

I spoke to several other folks internally and a couple externally in order to make the decision, and I will write more about that in the next post, but want to mention the 2 things that most people came back to about my consideration.

1. The scientists you work with respect that while you are on the business side, you do not lose site of the science. I talk to them about science. I attend group meetings and do my best to keep my mouth shut (until later, when the director has to explain bits to me). NOT losing this science link has been key to me keeping my head. My problem was never with not liking science, it was with hating bench work and being underpaid. To those who move in to business development/marketing/other - MAKE SURE YOU DO THIS. You were trained as a Ph.D. -> don't lose it. You probably went to grad school for some good reason. Remember what it was and keep interested in science. Leaving aside the business of it, it is cool. Not just saying that...I really beleive it. I am just as likely to get lost reading about volcanoes as I am about *insert biology reference here*.

2. GET STUFF DONE. People kept coming back to this. This is a trait that seems to really resonate with folks. I would say that I do get stuff done, but that much of what I get done isn't what I was supposed to be getting done. If I was given a list of "Do these things", I would probably not have a great record. I run around, find the big problems, and solve them. This has, apparently, gotten me noticed as someone who gets stuff done.

This, to those who want to know how to move up the chain, seems to be a pretty big deal. All else was secondary to this in most peoples eyes. I have had to hire a person who actually picks up the pieces of the little things I am also supposed to get done, as I don't do them well. This likely means that folks see this and gripe about "He doesn't do his job". In a sense, they are right. I don't do the "technical definition" of my job. I have, however, made enough of a financial dent in the company that they gave me a person to help me "do" my job. She does a kick butt job of making sure that the stuff I was supposed to do gets done while I go fight fires and stir up muck. To get away with this you have to get it done. You can't just stir up stuff or poke around or whatever, because if you are doing that people will, if you don't show positive progress, start to ask about your "real" job. By showing strings of success's on large problems, I am able to hide the fact that I skip a lot of the little stuff that I am supposed to do by farming it off on a person who works for me and is really good at it. Yes - I live in fear of losing her.