How to: from Academia to Industry
How Formorrow helped me kickstart my Data Science career at Janssen
“What to do after my PhD?”
This is a common question that many PhD graduate students, especially at the end of the PhD, have to answer. During my PhD I realized that dealing with uncertainty inherent to a career in academia was not meant for me. This meant that the next step of my career would be in the industry. However, how to make the transition from academia to industry is not part of the typical training of a PhD programme.
Ideally, applying directly to companies would be the way to go, but the chances of this being a success without initial industry experience – even with a referral – are very slim. Often you will need to rely on staffing/contracting agencies to get your foot in the door, and in my case the pharmaceutical industry. Luckily, Formorrow isn’t just any other contracting agency, and this blog will provide insights on my experience working with them.
My Journey from Academia to Janssen Vaccines
During my job hunt I was approached by a former PhD colleague of mine, who was doing a Science & Business Fellowship at Janssen, about joining Formorrow. At that time Formorrow was looking for PhD scientists who were suitable for their Scientist Academy and capable of providing services to Janssen Vaccines & Prevention B.V.. I decided to apply for this position as the Scientist Academy program emphasizes personal development and starting an industry career at a major company like Janssen seemed very appealing to me.
The application procedure was very thorough. It consisted of SHL assessments testing different types of reasoning skills (inductive, numerical, and verbal) and rigorous psychological profiling. The latter immensely helped me realize what kind of role I was looking for in the next step of my career, as this positively forced me to think about who I am and what I want based on my strengths and weaknesses. After this application procedure I received the good news that I was selected for the Scientist Academy, which meant that we could embark on the next step in finding a role for me at Janssen.
During my PhD I took a special interest in data analytics and coding, so I followed online courses to learn Python and become familiar with different machine learning techniques. This is one of the reasons why I decided to apply and was accepted for the role as a Senior Associate Scientist at the Upstream Processing Department at Janssen Vaccines (VPAD-USP). Specifically, within this role I would be responsible for the digitalization of the dataflows and be a core team member of the multivariate data analysis (MVDA) team within VPAD-USP. My duties mainly involved project management of data-engineering projects and (to a lesser extent) performing data modelling for real-time monitoring of vaccine production processes. All in all this was a very valuable learning experience to become familiar with the Data Science work being performed at a global company in the biopharmaceutical manufacturing sector.
The latter immensely helped me realize what kind of role I was looking for in the next step of my career, as this positively forced me to think about who I am and what I want based on my strengths and weaknesses.Keane Kenswil
The Scientist Academy consists of two critical components that enable effective personal development: Targeted group trainings to develop your soft-skills and a personal coach to provide career advice.Keane Kenswil
The Benefits of the Scientist Academy of Formorrow
Formorrow offers an attractive program for those looking to progress their career in the pharmaceutical industry. In my opinion, the Scientist Academy programme already starts at the selection procedure, in which – as I have explained above – requires you to do some self-reflection during the psychological assessment. This will provide you a list of all your positive and less positive traits that can help you focus on what you want to work on during your personal development. The rest of the Scientist Academy consists of two critical components that enable effective personal development: Targeted group trainings to develop your soft-skills and a personal coach to provide career advice.
The group training consists of mandatory sessions that covers a diverse set of topics, ranging from basic and advanced communications, as well as, managing your time, negotiations (which I missed and hope to still attend!), stakeholders, meetings and your energy level at work. Importantly, the mandatory training are considered part of your working week so you are being paid to follow these trainings! Also of note are the elective workshops that you can sign-up for. What makes these trainings especially worthwhile are the trainers that provide them. Most of them are very experienced, and not only do they make the trainings insightful, but they are often quite entertaining and give a personal spin/twist with funny anecdotes. In addition to starting in the Scientist Academy at Janssen, you will also be placed in a group of co-starters with whom you will follow the training courses together during the academy. Personally, what I found very enjoyable was the “TakeOff” training weekend with my Scientist Academy peers. As this provided an instructive team-building environment where we got to know each other better, but also had quite a bit of fun as well!
The personal career coach complements the training very well as this provides time to focus on yourself during one-on-one coaching sessions. You can discuss whatever topics that you deem relevant. This means that you don’t necessarily have to discuss work-related activities that you are dealing with, but whatever you as a person would like to discuss and seek to improve on. Taken together, the group training and personal coaching sessions provide considerable time and valuable insights for personal development.
The next step
Working at VPAD-USP made me aware that I would like to have more emphasis on the data analysis / modelling aspects of Data Science. In contrast, the department realized they needed someone fully dedicated to managing the digitalization projects. This mismatch meant that my time at VPAD-USP came to an end sooner than expected.
Nevertheless, I am very content with my choice to have joined the Scientist Academy of Formorrow. I gained valuable experience at a world-renowned company and I got ample opportunity to focus on my personal development. I am certain that the lessons I learnt will be of enormous benefit in the next step of my Data Science career in the pharmaceutical industry, as I look to move abroad to the beautiful country of Ireland!
What do you choose?
Nearing the end of your PhD en looking for the a promising career in the world of life sciences? Our Life Sciences Academy teaches you everything you need to know to kickstart your career and excel as a versatile professional. Want to know more? Check out our Life Sciences Academy page!