UCL Researchers
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    The UCL Careers team use this Blog to share their ‘news and views’ about careers with you. You will find snippets about a whole range of career related issues, news from recruiters and links to interesting articles in the media.

    We hope you enjoy reading the Blog and will be inspired to tell us your views.

    If you want to suggest things that students and graduates might find helpful, please let us know – we want to hear from you.

    Karen Barnard – Head of UCL Careers

    UCL Careers is part of The Careers Group, University of London

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    Using a science PhD to build a marketing career

    By S Donaldson, on 12 June 2015

    John Paul gained a PhD in Cell Biology from Manchester University. Here he tells us about his current role in pharmaceutical marketing, as an account manager at Circa Healthcare.

    How did you move from academic research to marketing?

    After my PhD I worked for three and a half years as a post-doctoral researcher. In the last year of my post-doc contract I started to weigh up my options. My boss had offered me a contract extension and future assistance in developing grant proposals to obtain my own funding so I could start the process of being independent/having my own projects and students. However, I was having reservations that setting up my own research group and constantly applying for grants wasn’t for me. Having an outgoing and sociable personality, I decided that I should look for a role that would use my scientific background but also allow me to interact with people rather than with plastic dishes and cells (I spent lots of hours in cell culture labs!).

    I looked into many roles in which scientific knowledge would be useful in communications; advertising/marketing was just one. I was very lucky in that I obtained a job in a pharmaceutical advertising agency due to a family connection.

    What does a normal working day look like for you?

    I’m generally office based, although I probably travel to meet clients or attend extended brand meetings at least once a month. I work within the accounts team and am a point person for both national and global pharmaceutical brand managers. My roles include developing strategic (short and long-term) marketing plans for the products and defining the tactics that need to be developed to drive the marketing initiatives. I then work with my creative team (writers, designers, web developers etc) to create the tactics, on time and within budget, and liaise with our clients to ensure, prior to being released to market, the content created communicates the messaging they desire.

    What are the best things about working in your role?

    No two days are the same; working on a variety of products with different marketing campaigns and product life cycles ensures there is a variety in my workload, which keeps things interesting.

    What are the biggest challenges you face in your work?

    All clients have budget limitations and it is often challenging to manage expectations, or to explain to clients that when they change the project scope and we need to do something different to meet the new needs, that we most likely need to re-estimate the project or adjust timelines – although this may sound like what would be expected, it is often not the case. Ensuring projects stay on budget (and on timeline) is essential not only for clients but also for your team and your agency’s business – if you constantly go over budget you are a less profitable company, and if you constantly fall behind timelines your clients will not be happy for very long. As such keeping projects on budget and on timelines is challenging but essential to maintaining good business practice.

    Is a PhD essential for your role?

    No, although a scientific background has been very useful to help understand on a molecular level how products work/how they stimulate their effect in comparison to competition (helps to define differentiating factors). Although a science degree is not essential, all employees need a degree; most of my colleagues in the accounts team hold business and/or marketing degrees.

    What skills do you use from your PhD in your current role?

    The majority of the marketing managers I work with are doctors, and some are even specialists (e.g. cardiologists), who have transitioned into a business and marketing role. As such my degree allows me to engage in detailed scientific discussions on the products and the market competition with clients, which I believe they appreciate, as many account leads do not have a scientific background. Also being able to develop concise but detailed presentations (verbal and written) are skills I refined during my PhD studies and use regularly now.

    Where do you see yourself going from here?

    Becoming an account supervisor, and so being responsible for more strategic development projects/less tactical projects, leading pitch projects and presentations and managing a team of lower level account personnel. Following this, progression to director of client services – i.e. overseeing all account personnel and management of client relations.

    What top tips would you pass on to a PhD student/post-doc interested in this type of work?

    More and more pharmaceutical and healthcare agencies are looking for people with science degrees when recruiting for new account team members so just apply! Be confident and direct; demonstrate your passion to join the organization and the ability to communicate scientific matters clearly. Although having a science background is great, having some knowledge of business practice and basic marketing would be very helpful and also very appealing for employers. If time permits there are great courses online which can assist with this, and there are some great books out there for people who need to know the basics.

    PhD Life Science Careers – Why would IMSCG recruit PhDs and how can your PhD help you in a consultancy role

    By Manpreet Dhesi, on 7 February 2012

    Here is the 2nd of our series of guest blogs by PhD holders who work at IMS Consulting Group. You will find more information about PhD life science careers and IMS Consulting Group in our  Careers in Clinical Research, Biotechnology and Pharmaceuticals  Forum for PhD/research students which will be held on 28th February 2012. Go to the Forum page on the Graduate School website for more details about this event.

    IMSCG’s business is management consulting to the life sciences sector. So it makes sense that the company has two main priorities when recruiting:  the competencies required to be a management consultant and a strong interest in, and perhaps some background knowledge of, the life sciences sector. PhDs, especially those from the natural sciences, are therefore an excellent group in which to find promising candidates with this combination of characteristics.

    The tendency for natural sciences PhDs to be interested in the life sciences sector is not surprising (although the emotive and pervasive nature of healthcare in our lives also attracts many PhDs from other disciplines). But what about the management consulting competencies?

    A major part of the core skills of a management consultant is bringing objectivity, structured thinking and analysis to a complex and unstructured question. Consultants are curious people who enjoy problem solving. PhDs similarly tend to be curious by nature, interested in solving problems and combining objectivity and analysis in one form or another to a specific issue.

    My PhD has definitely been a helpful starting point for these core management consulting skills. It gave me experience looking at a large and complex overall question and coming up with a way of approaching that question in individual steps. It gave me experience thinking about how to organize and present complex data and how to communicate the outputs of my research. And during my PhD, I took ownership for the outcomes of my own work, giving me a good sense of accountability.

    That isn’t to say that my academic-type problem solving and analytical skills were enough on their own for management consulting at IMSCG. The thinking in consulting is much more explicitly structured and analytical than in academia; I therefore had to sharpen up on these skills before the interviews. I also had to learn how to do it in a much faster-paced environment, more intensively within a team, and with much shorter time periods for producing and showing people outputs of the work.

    As my PhD was in the life sciences it also helped with understanding the more technical side of the life sciences sector. But if you don’t faint at the sight of words like atorvastatin or bevacizumab, then you can also learn that on the job!

    Joel Hooper, IMS Consulting

    PhD Life Science Careers – Why my time at UCL drew me to IMS Consulting Group

    By Manpreet Dhesi, on 1 February 2012

    In the lead up to UCL’s Careers in Clinical Research, Biotechnology and Pharmaceuticals Forum which will be held on 28th February 2012, here is the first in a series of guest blogs by PhD holders who work at IMS Consulting Group.

    I spent just under five fun, happy and, I’d like to think, productive years at UCL working towards my PhD in Neuroscience.  The first of year my PhD was actually a rotation year where I undertook three 3-month projects in labs at UCL, Kings and Imperial, following which I was able to choose where I wanted to spend the next 3-4 years for my main PhD project.  My choice was UCL, for a number of reasons:

    Firstly, the campus has a great location in the heart of the city and most importantly it accommodates the majority of UCL’s degree courses on one large and single site. This gives UCL that rare feeling of a real campus university within London and creates a sense of community that is perhaps more associated with universities outside of the capital. Another attraction of UCL is its diversity, both culturally and academically. One day you might find yourself sitting in the Print Room Café alongside a Pharmacology lecturer from St Albans and the next day you’ll be sharing a table with a Law PhD from Greece. During my time at UCL, which was spent mostly in various laboratories and science buildings around the campus, I connected with a number of intellectually curious and academically brilliant people from all over the world with the same ambition to strive for excellence and challenge themselves; this is what makes UCL one of the world’s leading universities, particularly in life sciences.

    The things I appreciated the most about UCL are things that equally drew me to IMS Consulting Group: people are proud to work at IMSCG and there is a strong emphasis on teamwork and community. IMSCG has a non-hierarchical structure which means that everyone’s opinion counts. Furthermore, people of all nationalities join the firm from both science and non-science backgrounds but one thing that is certain is that, like at UCL, all are welcome and all are appreciated. This opportunity to network with and work alongside so many great thinkers is something I had wanted to maintain upon leaving academia and thankfully this has been the case at IMSCG.  Our people continually challenge each other to better ourselves, though never to a level that creates competitiveness amongst peers. Because of our intellectual approach to project work, IMSCG continues to be at the forefront of the healthcare industry and is able to make a real impact on issues that our clients face and that will shape the industry for years to come.

    Richard D’Mello, IMS Consulting Group

    Find out more about life science careers for PhDs and IMS Consulting Group at the Careers in Clinical Research, Biotechnology and Pharmaceuticals Forum.
    To register for this event see the  PhD Employer Forum – Careers in Clinical Research, Biotechnology and Pharmaceuticals page on the Graduate School website.