From Academia to Industry

Making a career transition is often intimidating, and many questions arise when dealing with change. In this section we will discuss the transition from academia to industry in scientific research. Through interviews with experienced CENL members, we hope to get information about how this process works in the Netherlands and to answer any possible concerns. We hope you find it useful!

Section coordinated by the Head of Dissemination and Events of our association, Miriam Guillén Navarro

Name: Clara Esteve Gil

Age: 33 years old

Hometown: Elda (Alicante)

Previous studies: Post-doc in LUMC (Leiden University Medical Center) PhD in Analytical Chemistry (Universidad de Alcalá)

Current work/study: Senior Scientist at Janssen Biologics (Leiden)

Subject: Analytical development of biological drugs

Why did you decide to change from academia to industry?

After two years as a post-doc in The Netherlands, I had to decide whether to fight for a new contract at the academy or to make the leap to a company. At that time, I didn’t find the motivation to continue competing at academia. At the same time, I found the opportunity to work in a biopharmaceutical company where I could apply everything I had learned before and without even changing cities.

How did you plan your job search? Any advice to speed up the process? What do you think of Career Events organized in The Netherlands? Have you participated in any of them?

When looking for a job all options are valid, including Career Events. I found the offer for my position at indeed.nl.

When you have been working in academia for years, you are highly specialized in one subject.  Therefore, I advise you to start looking for a job several months before your work is finished, especially if you want to continue working in the same area.

What is the selection process like in a company? What kind of difficulties can a person find in industry selection processes?

The selection process in my company typically consists of three phases. Firstly, the human resources team makes a pre-selection of the candidates which may include a short interview. In the second phase, the candidate is interviewed by members of the department in which he or she will work, including the person who will be his or her supervisor. Finally, if you are lucky, you move on to the negotiation of the contract and its terms.

The selection process in a company is not particularly difficult. A person who is used to the selection process in academia does not have to encounter great difficulties as long as his or her profile is in line with what the company is looking for.

In your opinion, what are the most important points when preparing for an interview in a company in The Netherlands? What do you value the most?

Although I am not an expert in human resources here are some tips. Defend your technical expertise but don’t forget your soft skills, which in the end is what makes the difference between people, and what you will need to succeed in a company.

Before the interview, find out about the values and objectives of the company you want to work for and prepare questions about the position you want to fill.

What are the most important points to note when preparing a CV to apply for a position in a scientific/technological company in The Netherlands?

Companies receive a lot of CVs, so it is often recommended not to go beyond the two pages. Although you can mention the number of publications/scholarships/congresses you should avoid giving a complete list of them. You can include the total number of them and, if relevant, mention the most important ones. A small personal introduction including your motivation for working in the company can make a difference.

How is the working environment in your company? What are the aspects that you value positively or negatively compared to previous work in academia?

The working atmosphere in my company is full of energy and there is a lot of camaraderie. Many of my colleagues also come from academia and the essence of that atmosphere is maintained. In my company there is an open-door policy and the hierarchy is minimal, which is characteristic of The Netherlands and makes the relationship with your superiors more relaxed.

How is your day-to-day life in the company? What kind of responsibilities do you have? Do you think it is very different from what it would have been if you would have continued your career in academia?

Every day is different. The projects are very dynamic, we travel, we have meetings, events, workshops, etc. The environment is more dynamic than in academia where you can work all your life on the same subject. In my company, if you are interested, you have the possibility to access other jobs, learn about new areas or develop new skills.

I work as a scientific integrator, and a large part of the position consists of project management. I work on solving scientific problems to develop new biopharmaceuticals aiming to improve the treatment of patients with autoimmune and oncological diseases. This includes interaction with health authorities, such as the FDA or EMA, which has just moved to Amsterdam.

I think that if I had stayed in academia my responsibility would be very different. No better nor no worse. There is not just one path or one job in which we can feel fulfilled.

Is it desirable to change company/job regularly? In other words, is it something that is valued positively as in academia? Or on the contrary, is it more valued to promote within the same company?

Each person’s career is different. There is no bad option and it is difficult to generalize. If you are interested in changing companies, or departments within the same company, That is an option. In big companies there are rotation programs where you can work in other departments or projects for a while and then decide whether to return to your previous position or stay in the new one.

Does your company maintain a close collaboration with research in academia? Do you think it is different in Spain?

Janssen maintains a close collaboration with academic research both in The Netherlands and in Belgium. It is common to establish relations with academia and to apply together for grants or projects at a national or international level. I think that in The Netherlands there are more resources to support this type of projects and a greater tradition of collaboration between academia and industry.

How do you imagine the future of your scientific career?

Now I am very happy in my position at Janssen Biologics. I have been promoted recently and there are enough challenges ahead to keep me entertained for a decent period of time.

Do you think that a scientific career in a company is more stable than one in an academy?

That is certainly the case for me. In my experience, the possibility of getting a stable position in a company in The Netherlands is greater than getting a stable position in academia.

Would you consider returning to research in academia?

No, but I would consider participating in industry/academia collaborations.

Both if you continue to work in a company or in academia, are you considering returning to Spain soon?

I am not planning to return to Spain soon.

TRANSLATION: Noelia Muñoz Martín

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