Job Title: Senior Scientist
Type of Company: I work for a biotechnology company that provides technology to help with drug screening efforts in the pharmaceutical industry.
Education: BS, Biochemistry, UMass-Amherst MS and Ph.D, Human Genetics, Worcester Polytechnic Institute/Genzyme.
Previous Experience: After undergraduate studies, I worked as a lab technician at Brandeis University, then at Lahey Clinic. I was able to take the "book" learning I'd acquired and put it to use in the lab. The work piqued my interest in doctoral studies and led me to apply that knowledge to the biotechnology and pharmaceutical business.
Job Tasks: My main responsibilities are the following: 1) Providing technical support and science knowledge to our sales group. This is done primarily through face-to-face meetings at the customer site with the sales person. I talk to the customer about what the product or technology is capable of doing, why it would be of value to the customer, and what kind of experiments should be designed to get the most out of tit; 2) Performing experiments at the customer site. These are known as evaluations, where the customer has agreed to look at the product or technology we are selling, and most evaluations require me to travel to the customer site and spend about a week there providing training and guidance. Sometimes the the product is left on site with the customer for an additional two weeks so they can use it on their own; 3) I am responsible for taking the customers' data and compiling a report on it which we submit to the customer for review. This can be done via video conference or a trip back to the customer site to review the data and answer any questions that it prompts; 4) I am responsible for performing development experiments at my company when I am not traveling to customer sites. These can range from customer-related issues that require problem solving at our end or an in-house experiment that the customer has specially requested.
Best and Worst Parts of the Job: There is no doubt that the best part of the job is the travel and meeting other great scientists in the world. The travel that I do is both in the United States and Europe. Not only do I get to see this great world that we live in, but I also get to meet and work with some of the brightest thought-leaders in the science world.
The worst part (or better phrased, least-liked part of the job) is the time I have to spend away from my family because of the traveling. One eventually finds a life-work balance, but that is not always an easy thing to do in the beginning.
1. In a position like this, you really need to like talking to and interacting with people. This is essentially a "customer-facing" job and a majority of your time will be spent with the customer, whether it is on the phone, on site, or through email. People skills are not really taught, but rather learned through life experiences. Always be aware of how you act in front of people, constantly showing proper social etiquette and manners.
2) It would not hurt to take a few sales or marketing courses in addition to science classes. Because this job is involved with pre-and post-sales, knowing the ins and outs of the sales process would make you more effective.
3) Always remember that the customer is always right. No matter what you think and feel when you are with him, there are ways to discuss topics and data that will always make the customer look good. You never want to show the customer up or prove him wrong.
Additional Thoughts: The type of science-work that I have chosen for a career is not just "bench" work. There are a lot of non-science skills that are needed to be successful, such as good people skills and an understanding of the sales process.
Again, the science field, to me, is very exciting, especially when you are working on or providing a product or technology that helps others in the field identify novel drug targets for cancer, or come up with a new vaccine, or cure baldness. To me, the discoveries are endless.
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