Working in a company vs. working in a research lab

Last week I spoke with Mary Ann Rafferty, a consultant who specializes in career management for bioscience professionals. Mary Ann has many years of experience as an executive in the bioscience industry and now heads a leadership development practice working with companies in the biotech sector. She has an excellent perspective on the skills of a scientist working in industry and I’m excited to get her input, particularly since most of my contacts to date have backgrounds in the physical sciences.

During our conversation on the phone we discussed hiring. Mary Ann relayed one of her favorite interview questions to ask someone with a science background wanting to enter industry: “In what ways do you imagine working in this company would be the same and different from your experience in the research lab at the university?”

Two things occurred to me when I heard this question:
1) Great question! It digs into the candidate’s attributes, not just stopping at skills and knowledge the way so many interview questions do. It will tell you if they have researched the differences, spoken with others who have made the leap, and will lead to a discussion of how well prepared the individual is to make this transition.
2) I realized that this is the fundamental question that my book should help scientists answer. Through these interviews with real scientists who have successfully made the transition to industry, I want to give others a window into a world that is full of challenge and opportunity, but is often not very accessible to those in the academic world.

Thanks, Mary Ann!

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