Career Perspectives: Michael Lang, Consulting Associate at Charles River Associates

Michael Lang

Please describe your current position.

I use quantitative and qualitative market research as well as structured analytics to deliver insights that help pharmaceutical and biotech clients value and prioritize market opportunities and launch new brands. I work with multiple teams across CRA’s life sciences practice to help companies with their most critical and challenging business decisions within the rare disease, oncology, immunology, neuroscience, and other specialty biopharma sectors.

Michael Lang

How far in advance of your planned starting date did you begin looking for jobs?

Roughly a year and a half, but I began to seek job-specific resume building opportunities two and a half years prior to when I went on job interviews.

How did you learn about your current position? Were any resources (inside or outside your university) particularly helpful in your job search?

The University of Michigan (where I finished my PhD) continues to develop its professional development opportunities for graduate students both within and outside of STEM fields. During my graduate work, I volunteered at a graduate-student-run consulting firm where I was exposed to business development and consulting career opportunities. Additionally, I attended the ASCB-KGI Summer Biotech Course, which was an invaluable opportunity to gain insight from different career paths appropriate for recent PhD graduates. I learned about my current position through my alumni connections from the ASCB-KGI course when a peer from my cohort of the course was hired by CRA.

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?

Undergrad: biology (BS) from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Doctoral work: University of Michigan: Department of Cell and Developmental Biology

Important skill development from my PhD includes: hypothesis generating and testing, scientific literature literacy, and general scientific/medical knowledge acquired during my PhD

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?

The interview process at CRA is typical of consulting firm interview styles with both qualitative interview questions as well as quantitative, case-study interview topics. Case studies are focused on biotechnology and life sciences topics. I prepared for the interview by practicing case studies as well as practicing qualitative mock interviews with friends.

What factors led to your ultimate job choice?

  • The culture at CRA is great.
  • The work-life balance at CRA is great for a consulting firm.
  • The work is stimulating and still science-oriented.
  • I travel enough to keep it interesting, but I am not a road-warrior.
  • The compensation and benefits are appropriate.

Are there any particular skills or experiences you wish you had before you started?

The on-boarding process at CRA coupled with my PhD background together allowed for a seamless integration into the firm. I felt like I had challenging projects that I was capable of executing from day 1 at CRA.

How do you spend an average workday?

I typically am staffed on 2-3 projects at any one time at CRA. My days are spent working with the 2-3 project teams on each project (typically 3-5 total people per team) and fulfilling the deliverable objectives of each project. For instance, I may spend my morning working on a market research survey, switch in the afternoon to analyzing a dataset using Microsoft Power BI, then switch to performing and analyzing market research interviews in the late afternoon or evening depending on what time-zone the market research subject is in.

What do you like the most about your work?

The teamwork, the fast-paced environment, and the caliber of clients and projects I get to work on.

 What do you find the most challenging about your work?

Managing my time, which is split between multiple projects. Each project has its own timeline, which contains crunch periods or final-report readouts that are time-consuming. Letting each of my project managers know what they can expect in terms of available hours, as a result, can be challenging.

 What skills do you think are absolutely essential for your position?

  • Critical thinking
  • Communication—both written and verbal
  • Dataset manipulation/data mining
  • Hypothesis testing

What advice would you give to someone looking for a position like yours?

  • Be able to demonstrate on your resume and in person that you understand what the job is and have sought out experiences that are similar to the job description.
  • Be concerted and tactical in your application—perform informational interviews, understand the job application cycle, and prepare appropriately for interviews.
  • Defend either 4 months before or after the job application cycle starts as both defending and preparing for interviews at the same time is not a fun experience.

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.

About the Author: