Joanna Klementowicz, Senior Scientific Researcher at Genentech, San Francisco, USA
Joanna did her PhD in Immunology at the University of Manchester. After, she moved across the Atlantic to do a postdoc at University of California San Francisco. After 4 years there she realised she did not want to stay in academia and she was tired of postdocs being treated as trainees. “I was treated as a trainee without being actually trained by anybody. Postdoc seems to be an excuse used by institutions to pay very qualified personnel very little.”
In January 2016 she started her new role as a senior scientific researcher at Genentech, “the first biotech company” she tells me, where she feels much more appreciated. “I feel that my work matters more now that I work for biotech. My team supports clinical trial teams so my work is directly related to improving patient health. That feels great, not to mention that they pay you much better salary and have more resources for your research.” I asked her how this new job compared to her PhD/postdoc and she felt that her new job is faster paced than both her PhD and postdoc. “In academia you work pretty much at your own pace because you work alone. In industry you are a part of the big team and there are thousands of deadlines you have to meet. If you’re late, you are the reason everybody else has to wait. That said, I just started in biotech so maybe it’s because I’m not used to this new environment yet.”
So, what advice would she give a PhD student who is considering moving into her industry? “If you are a PhD student, check the possible companies you may want to work for and look at the qualifications that are required for the positions you are interested in. Sometimes it’s better to start lower at the company and get a promotion in couple of years than start higher up with a postdoc on your CV. If you’re thinking of moving away from bench research you most likely won’t need a postdoc at all. Start planning your next career move early on (it took me a year to plan and research my next move). You need time to figure out what you’d like to do, where you’d like to do it, how to get there and to build your network reflecting that new job aspiration. The most important thing is to build your network. Do informational interviews with people holding positions you are interested in, make sure you know at least one person in each company you may consider working for. They will help you get your CV to the hiring manager. Bypassing the HR department and being recommended by a colleague almost guarantees you at least a phone interview.”
What advice would she give someone who is thinking of starting a PhD? She said that having a PhD would give you a great advantage in certain careers but not all of them. “A PhD requires great commitment and discipline. Make sure you do a PhD because you know it will be essential for your career progression and not because you think it will be cool or interesting or because you don’t know what else to do.” Finally, she advised on thinking ahead so you can set up the steps that will lead you to your dream job. “Write your 5-year plan and take time to reflect on it. Five years usually will involve at least 2 career steps so you will have to think about your future ahead of time. That will help you greatly to decide on what skills you need to get or to polish, who to network with and what opportunities to look out for.”
If you have any specific questions regarding her work, you can message Joanna on LinkedIn. However, she is very busy in her new role so she may not reply straight away! This post is part of a mini series on post-PhD careers.