Unlike many areas of health, the genomics sector is one in which “Industry” (including the big pharmaceutical companies) and organisations labelled as “Academia” (such as University research institutes) work closely together.
It is therefore possible for experienced genomics professionals to work for both Academia and Industry. Despite this, there has been a historic lack of transition between industry and academia. We look at why this is and talk to a professional to get their first-hand views on this transition.
From GSK to EMBL-EBI
In December 2018, Matt Hall moved from being Clinical Research Director for GSK Global Health Catalyst to join EMBL-EBI (the European Bioinformatics Office) as Senior Scientific Officer.
We asked him for his views:
Why did you switch from Industry to Academia?
I had worked in the pharma industry for 25 years and had enjoyed a fabulous career. I found my role with GSK had changed to be in line with new organisational priorities and didn’t align with my research interests and purpose. I felt that genomics was an exciting area and I heard about the role becoming available at EMBL-EBI “on the grapevine”. I had been the GSK representative on the EMBL-EBI industry Programme, so I knew the organisation very well. Once I found out more details it was clear that the role was perfect for me and I jumped at the opportunity.
Did you have any worries?
Having been at GSK for so long there was an element of trepidation – but I felt the time was right for me personally. My kids were coming to the end of their University education so my role as family provider had lessened. This meant that the reduction in my overall salary and benefits package was not a major concern. Also, as I already knew the organisation well this minimised any concerns I had.
What have been the main differences in working environment and culture?
EMBL-EBI has 800 staff on one main campus from all over the world and it is a wonderful environment to work in. You are very much left to crack on with your role and I feel very empowered to create and drive change as I see it. There are fewer commercial factors to be mindful of and organisational structures tend to stay quite steady.
What about work-life balance?
I am lucky that I already lived in the Cambridge area, so I spend less time commuting and this has definitely improved my work-life balance.
Do you miss the big pharma perks?
There were lots of opportunity for personal development at GSK. In 2012 I spent 6 months volunteering in Kenya on GSK’s flagship employee volunteering programme. It was a life changing experience. The GSK benefits package and annual bonuses were very good but now at my stage of life I don’t think that they are as important as my work satisfaction. Also, now I can personally interact with most people in the organisation. For example, the HR department is just down the corridor and I can pop into sort anything out in person.
How did colleagues react to your move?
It was a time of change with a lot of people moving and leaving the company, so I don’t think people were surprised at all. Most of my colleagues were very supportive and it has been very positive in my new role to reconnect with old contacts and make new ones throughout the industry.
What advice would you give to others considering switching from Industry to Academia?
The best advice I can give is to talk to people in your network who have made that move. Talk to them to find out what it’s like and what their views are. I was fortunate as I already knew EMBL-EBI really well from a former role in Bioinformatics at GSK, but I still had plenty of questions before I switched.
Many thanks for Matt Hall for sharing his journey.
Paramount Recruitment searches internationally to find the best talent for the genomics, pharmaceutical, healthcare & medical communication industries. Check the latest roles we have available. We’re recruit for a number of positions both in Industry and Academia. If you’re considering a shift or career change, then we recommend you speak to one of our consultants. They’ll be able to provide further tips for mastering your CV and interview stages.
Call our team of experienced consultants now on 0121 616 3460 where you can have an in-depth conversation about your next career move, and we can help shape your visions for 2020.