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

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

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.


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!

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?


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.

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....)

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

Anonymous said...

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

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.

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.

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.

app sci applicant said...

I will sit on their email for a day or two and reply by requesting a base salary in the range of $68-70K. I never gave a figure for what I think the salary should be so I think I have room there. I'll also ask for a relocation package similar what you described though I really only need 10 days hotel, deposit expense, and gas for car transport for a total of about $3K.

I will also seek clarification of the bonus system or profit sharing schemes. I honestly don't feel extremely comfortable with it all (and that probably says alot right there) but I do feel I have to make some sacrifice to dip my toe into the industry side of science.

If there's anything I need to follow up on that you think I'm missing then please let me know. Thanks.

yes said...

There is a HUGE component of trusting your gut on matters.

You need to separate "scared" which we all are when it comes to these things, from "this sucks" which is a way your gut tells you these are bad people doomed to failure.

Hard to do with nothing to base it on as far as experience, but trusting your gut is a good thing to learn.

I am not saying "don't do this", as I don't know you or the company or the full outline of the job. I am saying that there are times when you have to say NO even if you want to say YES.

Only you know where you are on the spectrum.

Good luck. It is a big decision.

Anonymous said...

"I am saying that there are times when you have to say NO even if you want to say YES.".......

Thats one hard thing to do if you have no other job in hand...but this company does seem really weird in the kind of answers app sci applicant has received. I have another question, Is getting a bad job like this better than waiting a couple of months to get another job? Any comments...

app sci applicant said...

After a good 1 1/2 week wait, the hiring manager came back with an offer of 72.5K a year with a $3500 starting bonus for relocation. Other things remain the same: annual bonus to be determined, travel expenses, laptop, cell, etc. Basic insurance and vacation package.

Things are shaping up to what I had expected. As long as I meet my graduation time I think I will take their offer.

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