1. What is your current position?
Scientist (group leader) at Genentech
2. How far in advance of your planned starting date did you begin looking for jobs?
3. How did you learn about your current position?
Former colleague already employed at Genentech
4. Were any resources (inside or outside your university) particularly helpful in your job search?
I had a pretty strong network, to help hear about job openings. In addition to that, the internet is your friend!
5. What was your work or educational background before you were hired?
I had been a postdoc with David Baker at University of Washington for two years prior to being hired.
6. Which aspects of your background (postdoctoral training, internships, etc.) were required for your position?
Postdoctoral training, but in most cases employers are typically looking for evidence of growth and accomplishment, rather than specific boxes to check. Many positions have one or two hard-and-fast experience requirements, but having extra experiences doesn’t guarantee a position. I would much rather work with someone who had relatively little experience but showed evidence of thoughtful hard work and understanding than someone who had decades of history but only shallow engagement.
7. Was your mentor supportive of your career choice?
8. 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 Genentech Scientist interview process is very similar to interviewing for an assistant professor position. There are two days of one-on-one interviews with other Scientists and department heads, a formal talk, and a more informal “chalk talk” on proposed research. I spent a great deal of time preparing for my formal and chalk talks, and also read biographies of and papers from each person I would be interviewing with. It pays to know who you’re talking to!
9. Had you seriously pursued other positions or career paths prior to being hired? If so, what factors led to your ultimate job choice?
Yes, I also pursued academic positions. The opportunity to do basic research in a setting where I could anticipate a real impact on sick people was the deciding factor.
10. Has your career trajectory followed the path you’d expected when you started graduate school?
No. I fully expected to become an assistant professor, but I’m very glad that I widened my sphere.
11. Was anything about your job not what you’d expected before you were hired?
Meetings, meetings, and more meetings. I’ve transitioned away from the bench even more quickly than I anticipated, and now only spend 1-2 hours a week actually doing experiments.
12. Are there any skills or experiences you wish you’d had before you started?
Management skills. It’s very hard to get experience managing teams of people as a grad student or postdoc, and it’s by no means easy! Different people are motivated by different things and each person has different desires and aspirations. It’s a real challenge to organize large, cross-functional teams that may have conflicting goals or clashing personalities.
134. How do you spend an average workday?
Mostly making talks for inside/outside presentations, attending meetings to manage project progress and trajectory, writing/responding to emails, and writing manuscripts.
14. What do you most like about your work?
Every day (every minute!) has you thinking about something different. Labs at Genentech are rather small, so everyone wears many hats. It’s exhilarating to keep all the balls in the air simultaneously.
15. What do you find the most challenging about your work?
Effectively coordinating teams is very difficult, but also very rewarding.
16. What skills do you think are absolutely essential for your position?
An ability to think clearly about a wide breadth of difficult scientific problems/questions, insight to rapidly get to the heart of said problems, and a great ability to communicate (both formally and informally)
17. Do you think it helps to have a certain personality to do the work you do?
You should be unafraid to think critically about any and all science before you, and you should be outgoing enough to communicate your thoughts on that science (both to those above and below you).
18. Are there any traits that would make it difficult to succeed in your position?
This position would be nearly impossible for someone inflexibly focused on a single scientific problem to the exclusion of all else. Very introverted individuals would also find it difficult to spend so much time communicating results across teams and up the chain.
19. What advice would you give to someone looking for a position like yours?
Do interesting science, talk to your peers, and look for opportunities. Your network of friends and colleagues will help you get your foot in the door, and clear ability and drive will help you succeed in the interview. Finally, be sure to sit down and really consider what you want out of a career and out of life. Try to always be sure a job is something you actually want before going down that path.