what's sets us apart inside and outside of the industry door
June 2, 2012 4:07 PM   Subscribe

job hunting filter: in biotech job market, what exactly an "industry experience" gives you and sets you apart from others who has no such experience

In the biotech job market, it seems that industry companies would rather hire people with industry experience, recycle them from other company's layoffs even, than to hire somebody who always worked in academia with extensive research experience, problem solving skills and good writing skills. Can somebody explain to me what exactly makes people who had industry experience different? Are they more practical, more collaborative, more willing to be bossed around, more quick to change work directions, more aware of the need to keep formal record of work, more capable of taking initiative, more aware of market trend ect? I think figuring this out will help me when I do interviews at industry companies ( hopefully I say the right things to them) or when I do start a job in a company and want to fit in better. Thanks
posted by akomom to Work & Money (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
For the most part, I think that "Industry Experience" is one of those scare terms that is used by HR people to filter out people who are not confident in their abilities. If you think you can do the job, apply.

It always helps that you get along with people, can work in a team, small talk, be polite. Most other stuff can be trained if you're competent.
posted by sibboleth at 4:34 PM on June 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

My experience was that industry jobs had a lot more collaborative/team work than most academic labs, which was sometimes good and sometimes involved explaining chem 101 to people who supposedly had a phd. The only other thing I'd say was that you had to be more creative in getting good data from lower-cost instruments; only the bigger companies have routine access to the fancier ones.
posted by Dr.Enormous at 4:46 PM on June 2, 2012

I can tell you now from my current biotech industry experience, if you have worked at all with robotics (Bio-meks, for example), that's probably relevent. Any experience with library construction or high-throughput assays seems like a plus too. But I work at a very, very academic lab in "industry". The only thing that really makes it industry is that it is (eventually) for profit.

Also, I think industry people tend to be on a more regular schedule than academics. I mean this is the more minute sense - they start work by 9 at the latest. This is markedly different from the academic labs I've been in.
posted by maryr at 7:17 PM on June 2, 2012

Biotech can be kind of incestuous since there is often someone in a company that can vouch for a candidate from a previous job. Anyone with a personal recommendation is going to get more consideration than someone without any known history. It's not necessarily fair but that's not just biotech.

But to answer your question, there are certain things that can really only be learned in industry. For example, many jobs require working under Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), Good Clinical Practices (GCP) or Good Laboratory Practices (GLP). These are industry standards of practice on things like documentation, training and following standard operating procedures. Another example is the experience with regulatory agencies, like the FDA. Sometimes it's important to know how to write technical documents for regulatory submissions and to understand guidance documents from these agencies. Or you may need to be able to deal with FDA inspections. You don't really come across these things in academia. They're not difficult to learn but if it's a significant portion of the job, you're lacking a skill that someone already working in the industry may have. No one expects this experience of someone straight out of school, but if you've built an academic career and want to translate that to a non-entry level position, this may put you at a disadvantage. If you want to cross over from academics, you'd have a much better chance going for basic research positions or at a company that has very early stage products, rather than roles in development or post-commercial product support, which would require more of these industry-learned skills.

Good luck to you.
posted by LemonOrange at 8:51 PM on June 2, 2012 [7 favorites]

Outside of academia, my industry experience is only small industry or only tangentially with big industry....but I think the differences are....

Scale/Quantity - in industry you need to run more trials, make larger batches, etc. on a daily basis than in academia. You will also need to be able to keep track of these and analyze the results. In terms of skills, I would say being able to organize large amounts of data while still being able to perform other tasks would be a benefit. Also, as previously mentioned, this larger scale may include robots.

Professionalism - you need to be able to communicate your needs across several different departments in a professional manner.

Results/Timelines - You need to meet your timelines. If you miss a deadline in academia, you are typically the person who suffers, or at most your lab. If you miss a deadline in Industry, you might screw over the entire company, depending on what it is.
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 8:54 PM on June 2, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks everyone who gave me advice. I especially appreciate LemonOrange's point on GMP, GLP and the advice of targeting basic research than in development and post product support. So a big part of lacking industry experience is specifically people do in industry like GMP, not something I can compensate by "talking the right word" as I previous thought (like i can say my previous academic work is managed more like industry setting, I have collaborated with people, worked under tight timelines ect).
posted by akomom at 8:58 AM on June 3, 2012

For broadening your knowledge and learning industry-speak and expectations, I would recommend becoming familiar with the Code of Federal Regulations, Parts 210 and 211. Also check out all of the International Conference on Harmonization guidelines, which incorporate GXPs from the US as well as other participants. Also, there is a very low tolerance for mistakes in biotech. I've seen more than one minor mistake made at the manufacturing technician level cost the company millions of dollars.

Feel free to memail me with questions. Good luck!
posted by kamikazegopher at 11:48 AM on June 3, 2012

I'll second the mention of reporting, timeliness and keeping to deadlines. Very important stuff in industry, and while working on a project in an academic research lab has elements of project management (setting goals, creating time lines, reporting benchmarks as the project moves along) it's helpful to frame current work while keeping the concept of meeting milestones, etc in mind.
posted by NikitaNikita at 8:29 PM on June 3, 2012

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