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

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Overseas experience?

From two posts back, asking about overseas experience, in the comments - got this

My department is getting changed about and there is an opportunity for someone to run all of Europe as Product Manager or stay in the US at the headquarters for the same role. Which lends itself to more advanced career advancement? Autonomy at HQ, close to the Big Cheeses or responsibility separate but isolated in Europe?

I have been traveling a lot, and unable to update the blog, but that isn't the reason I have been slow to answer this question. The truth of the matter is that I have waffled very hard on the answer. I have argued (to myself) both sides of this. SO - please take that in to account that I don't even agree with myself.

Here are the issues as I see them.
  • Going over seas just for the sake of being overseas (strictly speaking work wise here, not general life experience) is probably not worth it.
  • What will you learn? If there is an expansion of opportunity (i.e. you will get responsibility that you won't get in the US) then it is likely a good thing? You say "same role" in your comment, but I don't ever think that is 100% true.
  • Does the company have a good track record of bringing people back from overseas? or is that where people get sent to die? If it is the metaphorical version of being sent to Siberia - then don't do it. If all of the senior people in your company have been overseas for a posting, and you think you will be staying at that company for awhile - get your butt on an airplane.
  • Are you traveling overseas for work a lot right now? if yes, that can give you a flavor. Make sure you "know" the rest of the world exists at all times or you are likely to be very surprised when something happens. If you aren't getting that opportunity right now, then an overseas posting is probably a good idea.
  • Living overseas has a lot of benefits as far as expanding your mind. There are annoyances and upsides, but overall you will be a more rounded person (outside of work).
  • You will expand your network in ways that US only based people will NOT be able to. You will, therefore, get information and have contacts that purely US based people will never have.
SO - I have absolutely no good answer for you. For me, I haven't and don't have plans to work overseas. Others around me have. I don't think they have a big advantage over me, but I spend a lot of time overseas anyway. Our CEO was based overseas for awhile early in his career, but those around him haven't been.

Kind of a toss up. If you have no family/life issues preventing you from doing it - that likely means you are early in your career, and I would likely do it. That is when I would have done it and am actually a little bummed I didn't get the chance then.


App Scientist said...


I accepted the post. We're in negotiations for relocation packages, salary adjustments, etc.

It's about a 4x increase in product responsibility and I'm somewhat isolated from 'homebase' of the main offices. However, I travel to Europe alot as it is so this will give me my weekends back if nothing else. I'm excited. I'm nervous. I need to learn a few French and German phrases so I don't look like a goof. But overall I feel good.

Many careers have been accelerated through good successful expat placements so I don't think I'm being hung out to dry in a foreign land. Should be good! Now my only concern is what comes out of the relo plan. Not entirely sure what I'm entitled to but I do know what I want.

Neil said...


There should be one reason to work overseas and one reason only - personal satisfaction. I live in Germany (my home country is the UK which means I have a shift in culture more than distance) and I see many people coming to work in my city (note I call it my!!) from all over the world.

The people who come to Germany in order to purely 'expand their professional experience' inevitably shrink just about everything they have because they become miserable, intolerant of teh local culture and homesick. If you are moving for the experience of moving outside your comfort zone and to see what happens then you will do just fine :).

Or am I just being too European ;)?

Now, where's that job in Japan!

App Sci Applicant said...

Didn't get to go. Economic downturn is to blame... honestly, I'm just thankful my dept. hasn't had cuts yet.

Bill said...

So is this thing dead?

yes said...

Not dead - but I can't really write about what I am doing without getting in SEC type trouble. Talking about the industry in general terms also is boring.

I can't say where I am. Can't say what I am doing(even loosly) etc... makes for a dull write up.

FAS wannabe said...

I've just read through all of the posts on here. Lot's of great info. I got interested in becoming a FAS, and Google led me here.

If you are still watching this blog, I've got a question for you. How soon is too soon to start looking for a FAS job?

I have a PhD, and I'm in the second year of a post-doc (academic, naturally). Due to NIH payback obligations, I can't leave my job any sooner than May 31 (without owing a $36,000 penalty). For post-docs (and other academic type positions), it's normal to start looking 6 months to a year in advance. I applied for scientific support specialist position (something else I'm interested in doing), and got a phone interview. However, they needed someone by the end of January, not June.

I've got a total of 8.5 years of research experience. I've also got 3 years of technical support (computers) experience from a job I did between undergrad and grad school, which sprinkles in customer service experience into my repertoire. I've got my resume out on Monster, Biospace, etc.; I figured it's never a bad idea to get my name out there. However, when should I really start applying for positions? How far in advance do you look for people?

Thanks in advance for your help.

yes said...

FAS Wannabe,

Don't really post here any more as was getting too specific and close to my job. Little I could say wouldn't get me in trouble with the SEC.

SO... In answer to your question. We generally look to higher and would expect someone to take the job at most 3 or 4 weeks after accepting the offer.

6 months - we have to be moved on by then and can't have the position open. We have risk during that time that you won't show up or will flake for some other reason. In the mean time, we still don't have that person and we still need them and you still aren't there. No win for us, all risk for us - no upside so we don't do it.

I don't really think you can look until you are a month or just over away from being able to say yes to a job. 2 months at the outside, as there will be some time during the interview process where things won't move, so you buy some months there.

good luck!

FAS Wannabe said...

Thanks a lot for your advice. I totally understand not being able to blog about your current job, and I am glad you're still checking the site. I guess for now I'll just keep getting my resume out there, then step up my application submittals in April.

Thanks again for your help. I hope you still enjoy your job, whatever it is you're doing now.

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