How do you make a successful move from academia to industry? In March, Albert Farré, Brand Manager at Novartis Oncology, told IRB Barcelona scientists who attended the “Building Bridges in your network” workshop how he did it. And he has some good advice for budding entrepreneurs.
A job in industry can offer academics an opportunity to see how their science is brought to the bedside. This is why Albert Farré, Brand Manager at Novartis Oncology, a healthcare company based in Switzerland, chose to make a “lateral career move" and found new opportunities in industry.
On 28 March, Farré was invited to give a talk in the Building Bridges in Your Network programme, organised by IRB Barcelona’s Innovation Department. These workshops, open to the entire IRB Barcelona community, provide scientists with the opportunity to meet key professionals in the biotech and pharma sectors. According to organiser, Technology Transfer Officer Alba Olivares, “We offer young scientists the chance to strengthen and expand their networks, and get to know the value chain process that will bring our discoveries to the market.”
During the participatory workshop, Farré gave attendees an overview of his career and of his current position at Novartis. “I work hand-in-hand with doctors to give patients affected by rare diseases the best possible treatment,” he said.
Farré has several years of experience in marketing, sales and strategy roles in the pharmaceutical industry and in consumer goods. But before starting his career in industry, he spent many years in academia, doing research in mathematical and computational biology, biomedical engineering, and aerospace engineering. Farré is convinced that his solid scientific background gave him valuable insight into what a successful transition requires.
Step by step
In transitions from academia to industry, he said, “The key is avoid making big jumps, and instead go step by step. Keep a foot in what you know and move another foot towards what you don’t.” When he left science, Farré's main goal was to work in healthcare, he explained. So when scientists think about what they want to do, he recommends they think not about their next position, but three or four positions ahead. "Make sure to know where you want to go to and if that choice is a realistic option for you,” he stressed.
“All of you are fit for industry. You've got the skills. You just have to know how to sell yourselves. Be clear on what unique advantage you bring to the table, and most importantly, figure out how to sell this to the pharmaceutical industry. Storytelling, for example, is a great skill for scientists. Find a story that makes sense for you and one that will resonate with companies. If you are serious about making a transition to industry, training in entrepreneurship is a good way to show your commitment. A PhD of course provides added value, and if you know how to sell it, industry will appreciate your experience.”
Networking is key to finding new opportunities
For Farré, another important asset for young researchers looking for a career shift is networking. “The key is networking,” he noted. “It takes time to build up a good network, but it's crucial because people have to know who you are. Start talking with as many people as possible, send emails, connect via LinkedIn, and collaborate. You have to go look for them because industry is not necessarily going to come looking for you.” (Written by: Llúcia Ribot)