Please describe your current position.
BioSpyder Technologies, Inc. is a relatively small biotech company that features a potent assay for high-throughput gene expression profiling. As a research scientist, I am responsible for building on the currently established assay to fit different applications. I design and perform experiments and analyze the data. Additionally, I am the manager of our in-house Illumina sequencer and a number of academic collaborations. I am also the team leader for a product in the development pipeline.
How far in advance of your planned starting date did you begin looking for jobs?
I had been looking for about a year but got serious about it 6 months before I landed my current position.
How did you learn about your current position? Were any resources particularly helpful in your job search?
I found a website that featured an up-to-date list of biotech companies in my area. I went through them one by one and made a spreadsheet of those that interested me. BioSpyder was one of those. I didn’t see any solicitation for resumes on their website, but I was intrigued by the technology, so I just sent them my CV and asked if they were hiring. They contacted me the next day and we set up an interview for a week later. The website that made this possible was BioPharmguy.com.
What was your work or educational background before you were hired and how did it help you develop the skills required for your current position?
As a postdoc, I focused on developing a skill that I did not get much experience with in graduate school: gene expression analysis. I knew I wanted to work in a company that developed tools in this area, so I focused on learning how to build RNA sequencing libraries and perform next-generation sequencing (NGS).
How would you describe the interview process and how did you prepare for it? Were there any skills or experiences in your CV that seemed to stand out?
When I interviewed, BioSpyder was growing rapidly (and still is). I knew they were looking for someone who was versatile, so I focused on showcasing my skills in being adaptable and open to a changing environment. I spent a lot of time researching the company and had a list of technical and organizational questions that I had memorized. I made sure I understood the basis of the core technology and thought of ways it could be built upon. In the interview and in my cover letter, I focused on the skills I had which related to this. I had applied for previous jobs at large companies, and for my current job, the interview process was far more laid back. I met with about four people, including the co-founder and CEO.
What factors led to your ultimate job choice?
Location: I wanted to stay where I was already living due to family and friends. San Diego is also a biotech hotbed, and I liked the possibility of not having to move if I changed jobs in the future. I also liked the people I interviewed with (my future supervisors) and was really attracted to the idea of a growing company.
Are there any particular skills or experiences you wish you had before you started?
Not particularly—with a little effort, it has all been learnable!
How do you spend an average workday?
(It is) 20% organizing and designing experiments, 30% at the bench, 30% analyzing data, 10% in meetings, and 10% dealing with collaborators, customers, and vendors.
What do you like the most about your work?
Freedom to choose my own adventure. This is the unique bonus I have gotten with a small company that is rapidly growing. I have an opportunity to focus on what I enjoy and take the lead on it. I understand this is rare, so I treasure it immensely.
What do you find the most challenging about your work?
Working for a small company means fewer resources. Having come from a big academic institution, I was used to comprehensive cores that offered services that were already in place. Here, I have had to find a way to get my needs met without such services. In a way, however, it forces you to think creatively and step out of your comfort zone.
What skills do you think are absolutely essential for your position?
Time management. I find myself not only having to manage my own time but a small team of people as well. Luckily, academia was a great place to develop this skill. Also, teamwork is very important.
What advice would you give to someone looking for a position like yours?
Use all the resources available to you, including career-oriented websites and workshops. Also, networking is a huge deal. In total, I interviewed at three places: two of those interviews I got by networking. I also found it was useful to set aside time each week dedicated to job hunting.
The views and opinions expressed in this blog are the views of the author(s) and do not represent the official policy or position of ASCB.