Transitioning From The Lab To The Business Side of Science


Event Details

  • Date:

A scientific career is one filled with options. A scientist can use his or her skill set in either a traditional lab setting, office cubicle, or combination of both. Choosing one career path over the other can be daunting as each position will result in the utilization of a unique skill set, some that may need to be developed de novo. This talk will discuss the transition from a laboratory-based career to a career on the business side of science. Having had multiple positions on either side of the lab bench, Bill will discuss what can be expected regarding the options, expectations, mindset, and overall process of leaving the lab to explore a scientific career relying on emails and communication, rather than pipettes and standard curves. The talk will focus on those with a background in biological sciences, such as cell biology or immunology, but the overall message can apply to individuals across any scientific discipline.

Speaker:  Bill Arteca, Scientific Solutions Lead, Sanguine

TRANSCRIPT

Alessia Ortega:

All right, it’s time for us to get started. Hello, and welcome, everyone, and thank you for joining us for our S3 webinar, Transitioning from the Lab to the Business Side of Science. Our speaker for today’s presentation is Bill Arteca, the scientific solutions lead from Sanguine. We’re going to be taking questions later on in the webinar, so you can submit your questions using the Q&A button that you’ll find at the bottom of your screen. Now, it is my great honor and pleasure to introduce Bill Arteca.

Bill Arteca:
Thank you so much, so we’ll get kicked off. So as you mentioned, my name is Bill Arteca, I’m the Scientific Solutions Lead at Sanguine. I’ve been at Sanguine for about a year at this point, however, I have had a pretty long career before this, in both the lab and the business side of science. Today I want to describe what the transition of that looks like, give you guys a little bit of an idea of what the positions out there might be available to you for those who are working in a lab and might be considering leaving, and also just some key takeaways and experiences that I’ve had during my transition out of a laboratory into the more business commercial side of science.

Bill Arteca:
So for the agenda, first we’re going to start with a little bit on my background just to give you guys a little bit of how I got to where I am today, in regard to the different career paths that I’ve taken. Then we’ll move over to my actual decision to switch careers and my decision to leave the laboratory into the more business side of science and some of the factors that built into that. I’m sure that you guys will be able to relate to a few of them, for those of you who are considering that transition. We’ll then move on to the job search and available career options. So, I know in the scientific industry there’s a little bit of gray area, in terms of what you can actually do with a scientific degree outside of a laboratory. So I always want to shed a little bit of light onto what those positions are and what are some things that you can expect once you start that job search. Then we’ll move on to the actual transition itself. Then I’ll share some harsh realities that I had during that transition, then I’ll move on to some pleasant realities that I had during transit. Then lastly, we’ll finish up with some of the perks of the commercial science space and then some takeaways that I’ve gathered throughout the entire process and throughout my entire career.

Bill Arteca:
So without further ado, let’s begin. By the way, this presentation should take about a half hour. At that point, we’ll open it up for questions and I’ll answer any questions that you guys have. So please just write them in the chat as mentioned before. So in terms of background, I actually began my scientific career relatively early. I was one of those people, and I’m sure most of you are the same way, where you knew that science was your calling from a young age. So as soon as I turned 16 and you were able to legally work, I got an internship at a laboratory, I essentially was just filing papers in the basement for them, but it was as close as I could possibly get to a laboratory. Now after that, I worked there in high school, gained some knowledge and just was around laboratory equipment. Then after that I went and actually gained my MS in molecular biology, as well as a minor in quantitative chemistry.

Bill Arteca:
Now from that moment on, I spent about six years in the laboratory. My first job was in the DermResearch Center of New York, that was a stage three clinical trial facility. I then moved on to Eton Bioscience, which was more of a commercial focused organization where they did DNA sequencing, and then they would send it back to clients. Then lastly, I spent about two or three years at Crescenta Bioscience, which was my first true scientific research job. My job title there was Research Scientist, just like many of yours are, and that was where I’d go into the lab every day, perform, design, and execute experiments in the space of drug discovery. I performed translational research with the goal of improving treatment and finding new drugs for both the treatment of diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. As we know, they are both caused by acute inflammation, so we were trying to find a mechanism of action that could potentially treat both with our compounds.

Bill Arteca:
Now after I left the laboratory, I’ve had about five years experience in the commercial science space. Now when I say commercial science, I put a lot of thought into what term I want to use for that and I didn’t really like the word business science, it doesn’t flow as well. So I just used the word commercial science. So whenever I say that, don’t take it as it’s only you’re selling equipment, that’s just my general term that I use for just the general business side of science as a whole. There is no real good terminology to capture that, however, when I was there, or I am here, however for the past five years, I’ve worked at Ohaus Corporation that sells scales, balances, and laboratory equipment. Then I worked at GenScript, and GenScript does a variety of different things. They have DNA sequencing, they’ll sequence your peptides, they could do HLA typing. So they do a lot of different things and a lot of different services there. Then lastly, I ended up at Sanguine Bioscience, which is where I am today. I’ve been here for the past year and I really couldn’t be happier here, it’s an excellent place to work. Additionally, for the past two years, I have been a professor at Kean University. I teach both graduate cellular techniques, as well as undergraduate biochemistry.

Bill Arteca:
Now the positions held, now we can really start to really dig into it. So the positions held, so when I was in a laboratory I was a Research Assistant. I’ve been a Laboratory Technician, I’ve been a Lab Manager, and I’ve been a true outright research scientist. So I’ve pretty much done everything that you can do in a laboratory, minus being an actual principal investigator. On the commercial side, I’ve been a Sales Support Scientist, I’ve been an Account Executive, I’ve been a Customer Success Manager, and I’ve been a Scientific Solutions Lead, which is what I am currently today. Now, for all of those titles on the commercial side, I’m actually going to go through those in the next couple slides and really give you an idea of what those mean and what those jobs entail, in terms of how you would use your scientific acumen that you’ve developed to help further your career outside of a laboratory.

Bill Arteca:
But before we do that, let’s get into a little bit of my mindset when I first got out of college or really when I was in college and I was committing to a life of science and what I thought I was going to go into, and what ended up being the reality. Now before I begin, I do want to mention that there might be some times in here where sounds like I’m advocating to not work in a laboratory. That is not the case, if it comes off like that, I apologize. I did love working in a laboratory when I did, it just wasn’t for me and I’ll reveal why. However, for those of you who are in a laboratory, if you love it, definitely stay with it and if you’re here just to learn some more information, all the better, but please don’t think that I’m trying to sway you one way or the other. I just like to present the facts and hopefully give some clarity for those of you who are considering the transition.

Bill Arteca:
So the expectations versus reality of working in a lab. I’m sure for those of you who do work in a lab right now, you’re probably going to relate to almost all of these. The first one, expectation when I was, when you get out of college, you get your first real lab job and your expectation is that you’re going to have standard working hours. So you’re going to go to a lab at 9:00, maybe go to a lab at 8:00, get out at 4:00 or 5:00. That is not the reality. Typically as you guys know, when you begin a scientific career, the experiments tell you when to work. So I have worked weekends, I’ve worked night shifts when I was in a lab, I’ve pretty much gone in out of the lab as I needed to, as the experiments needed to be completed.

Bill Arteca:
Another expectation that I had was that aha moments happen every day. Now, that might be something that I just picked up from cinema. Obviously, when you watch movies and you watch people in a laboratory, from the time they have an idea to the time they solve a problem entirely is about three minutes. In reality, it’s like, what? 12 years, maybe. So it is a little bit of a skew there. Then the reality of that is that really you’re not having any aha moments. You have pretty much consistent failure of experiments until you get one or two that work and you move on with that. I had one aha moment in my career, we were testing our novel compounds in mice and it actually worked, and we watched the video of the mice and it was incredible. That was really the first and only aha moment I had. So I did experience it in a laboratory, but the majority of my time was redoing failed experiments. That’s just how it is.

Bill Arteca:
Now Another expectation I had was that I’m an expert from day one. For those of you who work in the lab, I’m sure when you got out of school, when you got out of either your masters, your PhD or your undergraduate degree, you came out and you thought to yourself, hell yeah, I just passed all of these difficult classes, I have my degree, time to start my career. Then you get into the laboratory and you realize that even though you’re an expert in the areas that you were educated on, there’s still a lot more learning left to be done and you’re always learning in the laboratory, you’re always improving your skill sets. Now that proves true across almost any industry, but in science specifically, there is a little bit of a gap between those who just started their career and those who are 15 years in, in terms of knowledge and the knowledge base that you have.

Bill Arteca:
Now, another expectation that I had was unlimited budget. Again, I think this falls back to my love of movies and what they show you in the cinema as a kid. Whenever they’re doing scientific research in the movies, it always seems like they have the super high-end equipment and they can do anything with it and money isn’t an issue. As we know in the real world, money in fact, and the reality of it, money in fact does not grow on trees. So the experiments that you want to perform have to be approved by the budgeting department and the procurement department, the things that you want to do, even though you want do them, you might just not have the budget for them or you might not even win the grants to begin the project in the first place. So, that was another harsh reality for myself when I realized that every time I failed an experiment, I cost the company about maybe 100, couple hundred bucks, depending on the experiment that you’re performing. So that was something, these were the realities that I faced from day one. However, these aren’t really the main reasons why I left the laboratory. I’m going to get into that on the next slide.

Bill Arteca:
So my moment of clarity. So before I get into this, I want to mention that if any of you relate to any of these moments of clarity, maybe it is time for you to start thinking about the transition from the lab to the business side of science, however, it can be different for everyone. This was just my personal experience and what I ended up experiencing that caused me to have that definitive moment that I said okay, time to explore other options.

Bill Arteca:
So really, it began with small mistakes and moments of mental lapse. I would have procedural failure in experiments, and then I had some mental lapses during routine work resulting in experimental errors. To give you an example of that, I found myself zoning out during experiments because I wasn’t as mentally engaged as I should have been. So when I was at Crescenta specifically, for the first year and a half, I was very mentally engaged, everything was perfect, my experimental technique was great. As I began to lose interest or began to lose motivation, I think is a better word, I started to make stupid mistakes. These mistakes include, while I was running an Eliza or while I was labeling tubes, I would think about something else for half a second and then go back and forget which tube I was on. For those of you who work in a lab and have done this, you know how much of a pain that is and how disheartening it is when you’re labeling 96 tubes or 96 wells and you realize you missed one and have to go back and restart or relabel all of the tubes. So, it was moments like that that began slowly but became more and more frequent in my life, not because I wasn’t trying hard. It was because I was just mentally not as into the work as I was.

Bill Arteca:
Now as time went on, that progressed into a true lack of motivation. This is when I really started to realize that it was time for me to explore other job opportunities. I think going into the lab every day, I slowly started to not resent going into lab every day but I started to resent the lack of social involvement. For those of you who work in a lab, I’m sure you know, you do speak to people but you’re not speaking to people as much as you would in other industries. In the lab I was in, it was relatively small, there were only three of us who were in the lab full-time and if one of one or two of them wasn’t there, there were days where I spent the entire eight, nine hours of that day in that laboratory alone. So that led to a lack of motivation, led to a yearning to be outside. My lab, had big windows and in the summer I would look outside at the grass and I would say, “Man, I want to be out there,” but I couldn’t because I had to monitor the experiments, monitor the cells. I also desired a more social working environment. I started to, as I said before, I started to want to communicate with people a little bit more and I started wanting to talk people a little bit more.

Bill Arteca:
Then lastly, I had just a general decrease in work ethic. So before this, it was mental lapses and then this is when it became a true decrease in my willingness to work. Given I was doing these things, I didn’t want to hinder myself career wise, and I wanted to make sure I was providing to the company that was paying my salary, but my overall ethic was not as strong as it could be and as strong as it was prior to that. So this all culminated into a singular moment and in that moment, I knew that it was time to leave because I was making mistakes that were in-repairable.

Bill Arteca:
So my mistake actually was, and for those of you who work in a laboratory, you’re going to realize you’re going to read this and realize immediately how terrible it is. I left a minus 80 degree freezer open overnight, resulting in massive sample loss. We acquired these samples and cultured the cells and differentiated the cells and performed all these experiments on these samples over the course of two years. I left the minus 80 open and we unfortunately lost about half of them, if not more, because immediately after that I finished that day’s work and then I resigned that day. Given my boss wasn’t too happy, however, I did resign that day because at that point I knew mentally that it was time to leave and explore other options. I had nothing else lined up, I did not know what the future future held for me outside of a laboratory. All I knew is that I loved science but I didn’t want to be in a laboratory and I was going to find a way to go forward with that path. So with that said, I’ll get into what that path looks like.

Bill Arteca:
So I began with a new frontier, commercial science. So with that new frontier, the first thing I did, I actually decided decided to go through three months unemployed. This was a little bit of a risk on my end, when you get out of college, I got my apartment. I thought I was pretty set financially, and then it just obviously I ended up not liking the lab so I decided to go a couple months without a paycheck. So it was a little bit of a strenuous time, but I’m glad I did it because I learned a lot in that time. So during that time, some of the lessons that I learned and while I applied for just about every position possible, is that a lot can be done outside of a lab with a scientific degree. On the next slide I’ll go through some of the different sections you can get into, but a scientific degree is the best way to describe it, and what I always tell my students when they ask is that a scientific degree is basically like a crack in the door. Then when you open that door, whether or not you go left or right or center or wherever is up to you, but that scientific degree is what gets that door open in the first place.

Bill Arteca:
Then I also had an immediate realization that science is a language that only those with training can speak. This is something that was a pretty cool realization but also a scary realization. I think the reason for that is because when you decide to have a career in science, as most of you know, when you enter a company or when you enter school freshman year, you go through grad school, maybe you go for your PhD, and then you get into a laboratory. From the time you’re a freshman in college to the time you graduate and begin your career and even after that, you’re surrounded by other scientists and you’re surrounded by other students who are going for the same degree, and you’re surrounded by people who speak science. It’s not until I actually left the laboratory and I was interviewing for jobs where I was only one of maybe two scientists on a staff of 100, where that’s where you realize that science is almost like an entirely different language in which those who are trained on it can speak and those who are not trained on it might have an understanding, but they’re not going to be as competent in you in that sense. So, that was a pretty interesting realization and I’ll get into what that means and how that helps your career going forward in the next couple slides.

Bill Arteca:
Lastly, your knowledge is your most valuable asset. Your knowledge, as I said before, it’s something that science is something that if you’re not trained on, it’s difficult to pick up. You can’t really teach yourself science with an online course. You can teach yourself some things, but you need to be in a lab, you need to be hands on, you need to see how cells react, you need to see a genetic sequence, you need to see a primer dimer and adjust, and all these different things. So your knowledge is the most valuable asset when you’re searching for a job. Not really anything you’ve done beforehand, just what you know.

Bill Arteca:
Then lastly, communication skills are of the utmost importance and this, I cannot stress enough. This has been something that I learned immediately in the beginning when I searched for jobs, and even to this day it is still one of the most important skill sets that I’ve had to put significant time into developing. Now I have down here a quote, this is actually from an old mentor of mine when I was at Crescenta. Te turned to me and he said, “Bill, the mark of a great scientist is the ability to explain science to someone who knows nothing at all about it,” which I think still holds true to this day. I think if you do a research paper or if you do a scientific experiment and you explain it to another scientist, you can get into extreme detail, you can use those buzz words, you can use that vocabulary.

Bill Arteca:
But if you explain it to someone who has absolutely no interest in science and maybe their last biology course was senior year of high school, that’s where there is going to be a little bit of a communication disconnect when you start using that more scientific specific vocabulary. So being able to communicate scientific ideas with people who don’t know science is probably one of the most important skill sets that I’ve acquired and that I’ve continually built. So, that’s something that I learned right off the bat, still developing, and I’ll get into again on the next couple slides, really how that will advance your career and why that skillset is so important.

Bill Arteca:
So some of the career opportunities available. So as I said before, I spent three months interviewing for basically every single job you can imagine that required some type of scientific degree. Some of them I wasn’t interested in, however others I was, and others I just wanted to learn about. Now, these are not all of the jobs and these are very summarized and categorized pretty neatly, however, there are a bunch of different derivatives to these, but in my experience they all fall into one of these general categories in some way shape or form.

Bill Arteca:
So the first is going to be a support scientist and you see, it has an asterisk there, if there’s an asterisk there that means it’s actually a position that I’ve held. Then on the next slide I’m going to go into what the individual aspects of those three specific positions are. So for our support scientists, those go by many different names and I’m sure you guys have all worked with them or seen the names. They go by technical support, scientist, sales support specialist, sales support scientist, product specialist. There’s a bunch of different names but they’re all really the same thing. Your general role in that is to assist sales and customer service teams with the management of scientific clientele, acting as a subject matter expert to provide a client with the best service possible. So typically what that means is maybe there’s a salesman who’s really good at selling, but he’s never taken a science course in his day and in his lifetime, but he’s selling to scientists. So his job is to be the salesman and the communicator who closes the deal, however, your job as a scientist is to come in and speak the lingo and be the “engineer” of the deal to give the researcher that you’re selling to or the researcher that you’re working through a problem with, some peace of mind that they’re speaking to someone who knows what they’re talking about. Now, when it comes to support scientist, you are going to travel quite a bit or you can travel quite a bit, but I’m going to get into that on the next slide actually so I’ll stop there.

Bill Arteca:
However, when now moving on, we also have financial scientist. This was something that did peak my interest. I realized quite frank, quite quickly that it was not for me because I’m not the greatest at math and obviously, this role would require a lot of math. However, in this sense, you’d actually serve as a consultant to investment firms on the validity of the impact of science or of the impact of a scientific organization’s research and potential ROI. Essentially what that means is, maybe it’ll be Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, even a smaller investment firm. What they typically do is they’ll hire people out of college with either a master’s or a PhD, and they’ll hire you out of college or maybe a little bit afterwards, and they hire you for your expertise. Now, the reason why they hire for your expertise is not because of your financial expertise obviously, it’s more of your scientific acumen. Now what they use you for, and a lot of times they do hire you out of college so that they can build you up, so that is one thing I learned about that role, or at least if not out of college, relatively early in your career. What they’ll do is they’ll take you in and they’ll train you on the financial side but they want to utilize you to help them make decisions about their investments.

Bill Arteca:
So for example, say Goldman Sachs, extreme example, but we’ll use them. Say Goldman Sachs is looking to invest in a small biotechnology company. Now as you guys know, most biotechnology companies, some do produce a revenue but others don’t, others are in the research phase and with the hope of producing massive revenue in the future. So for investment companies, this becomes an issue because when you’re investing in a company, you look at things like their funding, their return on investment. I mean, their revenue, their revenue stream, their cashflow, how many shares they have outstanding, things like that. However, it’s difficult for the people who are experts in that to also be in the scientific part of it. So say they’re investing, say Goldman Sachs is investing in a small biotechnology company. They’ll have somebody look at the numbers, but then they’ll come to you as a scientist to look at the actual research and determine if the research or the drug development or the experiments that they’re performing are valid and are a good investment and can actually produce a return financially in the future. So, this was a pretty cool position, I did interview for one or two positions, just wasn’t really for me, but it was really cool exposure and it’s really cool knowing that that position’s out there.

Bill Arteca:
Now next, move on to a standard salesmen. For those of you who work in the lab, I’m sure you’ve been exposed to these a million times. I was in fact, one of those salesmen who would bother you during experiments and walk into your laboratory and try and sell you things. So I do apologize on behalf of all salesmen, if you’ve ever been interrupted during an experiment by a knock on your door with someone trying to sell you consumables. However, when it comes to salesmen, that is a little bit of a unique role, in that you combine your scientific knowledge with your communication skills. As I mentioned before, your communication skills are going to be one of the most important skill sets that you can develop. So, if you can combine great communication skills with scientific knowledge, you have a really unique skill set in that sense, and if you’re able to put a little bit of a sales edge on that, you can then sell either equipment, reagents, even complex, multimillion dollar pieces of machinery to scientists and to research organizations to help better their science and to help improve the bottom line of the company that you work for. Now guys, on the next slide I’ll get into a little bit more of what that entails.

Bill Arteca:
Now next we have scientific business relations, this is generally what I do know. This is a very overarching term. I couldn’t think of a better term to describe it, but essentially what this means is you’re in more of a business development role, however, you use your scientific acumen to have business minded conversations. So, what does that mean? Essentially, you use your skillset, your scientific skillset to advance company objectives. Now, these objectives could be partnering with another scientific entity or the development of new scientific products and marketing campaigns.

Bill Arteca:
So for example, if you join a company and there’s a marketing team and they want to market something to scientists, there’s a good chance that nobody on that marketing team has worked in a laboratory, they’ve probably got a degree and built their career in marketing. So what they’ll do is they’ll call you in and they might call you in and they’ll rely on you to say, “Hey, does this marketing campaign look good? Would you care if you were in a lab and you read this, or can you read this over? Does this make sense if you were reading as a scientist?” Additionally, as I said, they could use you to partner with another scientific entity. So if you’re, say your business wants you to expand a relationship and you want to have a third party vendor look at yourselves or you just want to partner with them in general. That’s where you would’ve to have a conversation with them. Now you’re going to use your business acumen to close the deal and get the most favorable terms that you can. However, you’re also going to have to use your scientific acumen to have the conversation about the things that you want to have a conversation about.

Bill Arteca:
For example, somebody in business, if you’re speaking… Somebody who has a traditional business degree, you might be able to negotiate but say you’re negotiating the price of a PBMC, peripheral blood mononuclear site. There’s a good chance that businessman who has only been educated in business won’t even know what PBMC stands for. So, that’s why it’s a little bit of a different, of a unique role in this sense, where you use both your business side and your science side to have the conversations needed, but you use your business side to get the business objective done.

Bill Arteca:
Then lastly, we have scientific writer. Now there’s a bunch of different kind of terms for this role, you could be a freelance writer, scientific writer, scientific editor, they even have ones for more marketing gear, but essentially they’re all the same thing. That is that you’re either a salaried or a contract writer responsible for providing literature and material for purposes of attracting views from scientists for purpose of marketing or brand recognition. So essentially what that means is, say a company wants to put out a piece that is maybe geared toward a researcher or geared towards scientific personnel. They would then contract you or if you or work for them full-time, they would give you the assignment of writing this article geared towards scientists who are going to find it interesting, who are going to relate to the information in there because it was written by a fellow scientist.

Bill Arteca:
So, these are the general positions that I have been exposed to. Again, there are a lot of derivatives that these can break off to, but they’ll all generally fall into one of these categories in some way, shape or form.

Bill Arteca:
Now career insight, so as I said before on the last slide, there were three positions that I did actually hold. So I’m not going to speak to the ones that I didn’t hold because I only interviewed for them and I did research on them. I never actually worked in them. So I wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing that, but what I can share is the positions that I did work in. So the first one I had was Support Scientist, this was my first breakout role into the business side of science when I left the laboratory. As I said, I spent three months searching for jobs, I landed on Ohaus and they hired me at a Sales Support Scientist. I had no idea what that meant up until I actually began the job, but it was one of the coolest experiences in my life and I’m very glad I did.

Bill Arteca:
So the first thing I will say is that it’s excellent for developing a business skillset. With this role specifically, it does typically serve as a stepping stone type role for people who do want to leave a laboratory. I don’t say that generally, most colleagues that I know who have left the lab end up in this type of role. Again, they have a bunch of different names but they’re all generally the same, and from what I’ve seen, this is the stepping stone role. Now, it’s excellent for developing a business skillset because you’re in a supporting role so even though you’re not the main point of contact for a client, you’re still speaking with clients and you’re why watching somebody who is the main point for the client speak to the client, and if you’re able to absorb these skillsets and you’re able to absorb the way they speak, absorb the way they send emails and absorb the way that they generally go about their business, you’ll be able to take that on as your own and develop your own business skillset.

Bill Arteca:
Additionally, this role is very commercially focused. It is often with a quota-like objectives assigned, so this was a harsh reality for me, which I’ll get into on the next slide, is that in a lab there’s objectives but the objectives aren’t as strict. As soon as you go into the commercial side and sales is attached, immediately there’s a quota and you have to hit that quota. So I didn’t even know what the word quota meant until I left the laboratory, so as soon as I got my first one, I was like, what the heck is this? Now in addition for support scientist, and one of… Excuse me, and one of the reasons why it is a pretty good stepping stone for those who do want to leave your laboratory, is that a lot of support scientist’s role do require travel. In fact, it is more rare to find one that doesn’t than to one that does. The reason for that is because a company might have 20 salesmen, but they’ll only have five or six support scientists. So you have to travel out to sites, travel out to labs, set up equipment, perform demos, go to trade shows, and all that good stuff to help further the company.

Bill Arteca:
Now regarding travel, mine was a little bit extreme. In 2019, I took upwards of 45, 50 flights. That was a lot for me, and that’s why I did end up leaving that job. It sounds cool until you’re brushing your teeth in the airport three times a week. However for those… It was great in the beginning because I was stuck in a lab and all I wanted to do was get out and do things. So I went from a lab to traveling all around the country. Now that’s why this role is a really great stepping stone, because it really helps to get that angst out of, oh man, I’ve been in a lab, I want to do something else. You start this role, you’re in it for a year, and then you pretty much get that out and you’ve seen things that you want to see and experienced the things that you want to experience. Additionally, the support scientist role has exposure to many different research projects, in that, because you’re a support scientist and you’re helping your clients get where they want to get, you’re going to have a lot of different opportunities to be exposed to their research, what working on, and what scientific projects they have.

Bill Arteca:
Now moving on to salesmen. Salesmen, now as I said before, personality is just as important as your scientific knowledge. I’m a little bit more extroverted, if you’re introverted, maybe salesman isn’t for you, you definitely do have to have a little bit more of that cliche salesman edge to you. Not saying you have to be like out of a movie, but you do have to have that salesman finesse to you. There’s just no way around it.

Bill Arteca:
Additionally, there is a stark contrast, not contract, between a lab’s acceptance of failure and a business’s need to hit quota. Meaning that when you’re in a lab and you perform an experiment and it fails, yeah, people might be disappointed with you if you made a mistake or if you wasted reagents, but there’s a general acceptance that you’re going to try again and you’ll get it right at some point. Whereas my first, one of the realities I had as being a salesman was that there is no room for failure, in that sense. They give you a quota, you’re expected to hit it, if not, they reprimand you, if not let you go entirely. So that was a pretty big difference between the lab and the business side in that sense, and something that I learned pretty quickly.

Bill Arteca:
Also, you have an exposure to many different research projects in this as well, the same as a support scientist. Lastly, salesmen can be extremely lucrative. In my experience this is at the higher levels, is probably one of the most lucrative things you can do with your scientific degree. The only reason for that is because as many of you know, scientific equipment can be very expensive. So if you’re selling a car, when you’re selling cars, when you’re selling lab equipment, it’s still a general industry standard on the same amount of commission. The only difference is the average car goes for maybe 30,000, if you’re a good salesman and you working your way up on the scientific industry and say you’re selling NextGen sequencers, your average sale is 500 to $1 million, or even more if you’re selling things like NMRs, flow cytometers, whatever the case. So this pretty lucrative career at the highest level, you can start to make some really big bucks in commission and just general base salary as well.

Bill Arteca:
Then moving over to business relations, this requires a cumulative knowledge of a business process. This is not something that I think you can get into immediately upon leaving a lab. This is going to require a little bit more of a solid business foundation. However, in this role, you serve as almost like a consultant to your company, in terms of scientist needs and wants. As I mentioned before, they’ll pull you into marketing campaigns, they’ll pull you into product campaigns, they’ll just ask you general questions. So your job is to be the “science” guy. Now, some companies have several of these people and that’s perfectly fine, or some companies have a full-time staff scientist who takes over a lot of those roles. So there is a little bit of flexibility here, but generally it’s a pretty even distribution in this role between business and science.

Bill Arteca:
Now in this role also, you can be client facing, you can also be behind the scenes, or you can be both. So support scientists and salesmen are usually strictly client facing, business relations is when you start to take a step back and go into a true email behind a computer type role, and if you have any questions, please just put them in the chat or the Q&A and I’ll some at the end. I think we only have about maybe four slides left, so maybe about 10 minutes and we’ll be done, and I’ll address any of the questions that you may have.

Bill Arteca:
So now to the fun part, some of the harsh realities that I had upon making the transition. The first harsh reality I had was that unless taken as an elective or self-taught, most scientists have extremely limited exposure to business education. For those of you who in here do work in the laboratory, I’m sure you guys had a similar experience to me. You guys probably never took an accounting course, you probably never took a course on how to balance a spreadsheet or a course on business relations or how to close a deal or how to draft an MSA or a CDA or an NDA. There’s a million different things that you have to learn. Now, a lot of those you do learn when you do get into the industry as a scientist because you are working for a business, so you do have to learn those terms a little bit, but for the most part it’s a pretty stark contrast between what you need to know when you’re in a business role, as opposed to what you can learn on your own.

Bill Arteca:
Now, in order to con combat this, you really, at least I had to be able to absorb as much from the business environment as I absolutely could, and be as dedicated as I possibly could to acquiring new skillsets. Now, there’s a few ways to go about this. I’m sure many of you are much more studious than I am and actually would educate yourself. I took the layman’s approach to it, and what I would do is would sit there in meetings in board rooms and any time that a term came up that I didn’t know, I would just Google it. It turns out if you do that enough times, you actually end up learning quite a bit. So for about a year and a half of my life, Google was my best friend and that’s just how I learned. However, there are articles you can read, resources you can read, there’s much better ways to learn on that sense. I just did it that way because I figured it was the most relevant to me and that’s just how I retain information the best.

Bill Arteca:
Now the second part, and this is my personal favorite, is that people are going to assume you are a nerd. I don’t mean that meanly, I’m a nerd myself, I love the nerdy atmosphere, I love science. However, when you’re working in business, you’re surrounded by people who typically stop taking science after high school, or maybe they had that one freshman biology course and never really thought about it again. Now, typically when you get into an industry where you’re surrounded by people who aren’t in science, they might look at you as though you are a little bit of a nerd, you are a little bit of an introvert, and maybe it is because of the way that TV and movies portray scientists. There’s always a mad scientist, there’s always an experiment, there’s always something going on or there’s always this academically minded crazy person.

Bill Arteca:
But in reality, we’re not like that. As you guys, as the people on this call know, we’re not like that, but once you leave the lab and you’re not surrounded by other scientists, you’re not surrounded by other like-minded scientific people, people do look at you a little bit as that nerdy guy or you’re the science guy who’s spent the last three years of his life in a room with white walls and the hum of equipment. So that’s just something that I wanted to put out there, it’s not exactly an obstacle and it’s really up to yourself, it’s really up to you to kill that stigma and present yourself as a business professional. But in my personal experience even to this day, you still get that stigma and that’s funny, actually, at Sanguine they call me Bill Nye the Science Guy, and you still have that nerdy stigma attached to you. You just got to learn to love it.

Bill Arteca:
Another harsh reality is that the world moves a lot more quickly outside of a lab. Now, typically research projects are designed over the course of months to years. For example at Sanguine, when we design studies, our shortest studies are typically three months, when our longest studies can go one to two years, and then you have data analysis after that, conclusions, redraws, it’s a lot of different things that go into that, that can extend timelines. Now, when you move to commercial projects, those are planned in weeks to quarters. So it’s a much stark, much different contrast on how much time you have to get something done and what they’re expecting from you, in terms of your work ethic and your ability to complete task on time.

Bill Arteca:
Then lastly, and I don’t have any notes for this one because I think it speaks for itself. Everything is out of your comfort zone, just accept that now. For those of you who are thinking about transitioning out of a laboratory, once you make that transition, you’re going to feel very overwhelmed and you’re going to feel like you went from a laboratory where you felt like a genius and you knew all this stuff, to a new environment where you don’t really know anything in the business world. So just accept it, accept the fact that you’re out of your comfort zone and learn to love it, learn to embrace it, and learn to create your own comfort zone where you do know things but you’re also able to use your scientific acumen to help better advance your own career.

Bill Arteca:
Now, now that I went through the harsh realities, let’s go through the pleasant realities. So the pleasant realities, one of the first things that I found was that… and this was a pretty great pleasant reality, is that nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing, prepares you more for failure than that of working in a laboratory. For those of you who work in a laboratory as I said before, everything fails all the time, it’s just the nature of experiments. You look for that one or two times it works, then you validate it and you just repeat it for the rest of your life. Now, when you get used to that type of failure, failing in business, which where failing is not more common, doesn’t have that bite as much as much as it normally did or as much as it should. Losing deals, facing criticism, the making of mistakes in general, is just easier to accept because you’ve accepted the fact that you’ve failed in experiments, you’ve messed up in experiments, you’ve had things go wrong already. So it’s nice that you have that ability and you have that tough skin.

Bill Arteca:
Now, another point and another pleasant reality was that you can be and most likely are the expert in the room. Now as I mentioned before, due to the nature of scientific material, it’s generally difficult for those who were not formally educated to become scientifically competent. Now I’m not saying that just because you never took science in college doesn’t mean you can’t learn these things. You absolutely can if you put the effort forth and you commit to learning. What I’m saying is that the ability to speak fluently in it, the ability to have a true conversation scientist to scientist, that’s something, that’s a skillset that you do have to build up over years, you do have to go to school for, you do have to be formally educated on it.

Bill Arteca:
So because of that, when you join a company, they typically… If you join a company where maybe scientists are not the people that they hire often, and maybe you’re one of a few scientists, which is pretty common to be quite frank, once you’re in that, they’re going to look to you as the expert in the room. So if you’re sitting around a board table and they’re talking about a new product that they’re going to launch to scientists, they’re going to turn to you and say, “How would you use it? Would you use this in a lab? Does it excite you?” So that was a pretty cool reality, especially when I first left the laboratory and I was not down on myself, but I was like, man, I don’t know if I could do this. I don’t know, this is tough. I’m going to have to go back to a laboratory. I don’t know if I can pick up the business acumen. Then you realize that people come to you as the expert, it’s not the other way around. So that was a cool aha moment in the business world where I realized that, wow, maybe I do have a spot here, maybe I can actually help this company.

Bill Arteca:
The next pleasant reality was that science is a larger part of your life than would be expected. So when I first left the laboratory, in my mind I was like, oh man, that’s it. I’m leaving the lab, I’m never going to pick up a pipe head again, science is gone, I’m going to be looking at spreadsheets and sales and revenue figures for the rest of my life. I found out that wasn’t true, even though you do not report to a lab every day, scientific conversations and the ability to speak about science and the designing of experiments and all that stuff is still an integral part of your everyday life. Even if you’re a salesman, you still have the end goal of closing the sale, but at the same time, you also have the ability to speak to the scientists about their science and use those buzz words and use your terminology and use your education. If you’re a support scientist, you might end up going to an actual client’s laboratory and helping refine their experiment on the piece of equipment that you just sold them or on the reagents that you just sold them. So you’re definitely still involved in science a lot more than I thought you originally would be. That was a really pleasant reality, and something that I’m still grateful for to this day, quite frankly.

Bill Arteca:
Then lastly, the scientific industry is much, much smaller than expected. Now this goes without saying, but science is definitely a very incestral industry, meaning that scientists will just jump from one large pharma to another pharma, one small biotech to a large pharma, vice versa, just how it is. Same thing on the other side of the lab bench. So when you’re in the business world, there’s only a handful of companies that sell equipment. I’m sure most of you can probably write them down on a piece of paper without even thinking about it right now. There’s only a handful of companies that create reagents and a handful of companies that do sequencing. So it’s a relatively small industry, in the sense that within about a year or two, you’ll have a general idea of all the companies in the space, what they do, what they sell, what the roles are that are available to you, which is great because that means that once you get your feet wet, whether it be a support scientist role or a salesman or whatever it is that you start, within one to two years you’ll be able to pivot and actually pursue something that peaks your interest, whether it be marketing or if you’re not in sales, maybe you’ll go to that. So, that was a really cool reality.

Bill Arteca:
Also what’s great about that is it’s really easy to develop friendships. When you’re in a lab, you don’t quite commingle with other laboratories, you might if you’re working on the same research or if you’re in an incubator space, there’s not as much comradery there between laboratories. Whereas in the business side, it’s a little bit different, where there is a little bit more comradery and it’s a little bit easier to build up networks and friends amongst the industry, which is something that I really liked and really enjoyed.

Bill Arteca:
Two more slides, we’ll finish up. Lastly, we have the perks. This is where I said it might seem like I’m trying to sell you on leaving the laboratory. I’m not, these were just the perks that I enjoyed. There’s a million perks to work in the laboratory as well, depending on your personality style and which one suits you better. However, one of the perks was the travel and field work is common. As I said before, if you’re a support scientist, traveling’s great, if you don’t like travel traveling, I believe that won’t be a perk for you, or if you’re like me and you did like traveling and pretty much drank from the traveling fire hose. I eventually got sick of traveling quite quickly.

Bill Arteca:
However, the next perk is that you can acquire scientific contacts and build relationships around the world. As I mentioned in the previous slide, there’s only a handful of companies in this space, and what’s cool is that a lot of them are global. So there’s one day where you’ll be on a call with someone in the state you live in and the next day you’ll be on a call with someone in Australia halfway around the world having the same type of scientific conversation because they’re all under the same customer base of your company that you work for.

Bill Arteca:
Now the next one is also, you’re always working in parallel with scientific advancements. This is cool because obviously with other industries, as new technologies come out, the businesses have to adapt to make sure that they’re taking advantage of those technologies, they’re not being left in the dust. Same in the scientific world but it’s a little bit different, a little bit cooler, in that like when CRISPR comes out or when CRISPR came out, all of the businesses that were doing genetic work had to adjust to be able to either offer that or at least know what it is to be able to speak about it knowledgeably. Same thing with NextGen sequencing and all these new technologies that are coming out or single cell sequencing, you basically have to educate yourself and have to become a borderline expert on these things so that you know and you could still retain that subject matter expert title. So that was cool, in that it’s not like you’re focused on one scientific for the rest of your life, you have the ability to build and progress with science and then you never really get left in the dust in that sense.

Bill Arteca:
The next perk was the faster pace of career advancement and exposure to lucrative opportunities. In that case, when you’re in a lab, career advancement can be a little bit slower, it’s a little bit more of a set pace, whereas in business if you do well and somebody leaves or maybe there’s a position available, or they bump you up, a little bit faster career advancement, not much faster, but I found it’s been a little bit more hastily. Then also you have a lot more exposure to lucrative opportunities. By that I mean things like bonuses, KPIs. You do get bonuses when you work in a lab and I’m sure there are KPIs attached to your performance, however, when you’re in a sales organization, those bonuses do take on a little bit more of a lucrative structure only because there’s typically a quota or an actual numerical figure attached to them that correlates to a higher payout. So, that was just something I found, the bonuses you get from a lab are typically a little bit smaller than the bonuses, commission and quota achievement rewards that you would get on the business side of science, which was a nice perk.

Bill Arteca:
Then next we have, once established, finding employment is never an issue. To give you an example of how secure working on the business side of science is, I switched jobs two times during the pandemic. One of them was actually a day after they released that unemployment was up to 15, 20%. That is how secure this industry is. Simply, it goes back to what I said before. There’s having the ability to have a scientific skillset, but also have communication abilities, and also have the ability to have a business acumen, you become a very small subset in that sense. A very small subset of people with that specific skillset, so there’s almost always a job available to you. Whether or not you want to go back to a lab, or whether you want to continue and go to a different scientific company.

Bill Arteca:
Now, as I mentioned, and I just mentioned, you can always go back to the lab. That was a really nice perk, is that I’ve spoken to students and they always say they, they always during their senior or during the graduate students specifically, they’ll come to me and they’ll say, “If I choose the business side I have this, and if I choose a lab side, I have that.” They look at it very black and white and as if it’s a fork in the road that you can never go back, which is not true. If you go to the business side and if you become a salesman or a support scientist or a financial analyst, whatever the case, as long as you have that base scientific acumen and you have the ability to work in a lab and you know how to work equipment, or even if you have worked in a lab even better, you can always go back to a laboratory. There’s always going to be a laboratory job available to you, given it might hinder your career a little bit because you took a couple years off, but there’s always that ability to go back, there’s always labs looking for positions.

Bill Arteca:
I’m sure, as you guys have a LinkedIn, you always get the messages for contract lab positions and things like that. Those still come to me and if there was ever a day where I did want to go back to a lab for a year or two, it’d be a relatively easy transition in that sense. So, that was always great to have that knowledge that I didn’t leave it behind entirely, it’s always there if I want it.

Bill Arteca:
Now to the last slide, just some general takeaways. First and foremost, if you have interest, try it out, life is short. This is something that I… that was my mindset when I left and I had that three months unemployed. I was like, screw it, I only live once, if I never try working outside of a laboratory, I’ll never know what it’s like. I’m glad I did and it’s one of the pivotal moments of my life and it’s something that I don’t regret.

Bill Arteca:
Now additionally, there’s always ways to still be involved in lab work and get your lab fix. That was something that I missed, but something you don’t realize you’re going to miss. When I did leave the laboratory about a year or two in, I was like, man, I would kill the touch of pipette, which sounds funny because for most of you who do work in a laboratory, you touch pipettes every day, you’re probably sick of them. Sick of calibrating them, sick of the mistakes. I actually missed them. So how I combated that is I actually became a professor so I’m in the lab with students working on experiments, but you can also get that fix through equipment demonstrations or through reagent demonstrations or working with clients on their research and actually spending time in their lab. So even though you leave the lab, there are ways to still get that fixed and that true hands-on mechanical scientific feel again.

Bill Arteca:
Then lastly and probably the most important before I wrap up, is don’t be afraid to ask for help. I am very stubborn, I hate asking people for help, however, I learned very quickly that when you go into an industry that you have no experience on, that you’ve never taken a class on, you do need to ask for help. Don’t be afraid to ask somebody what ROI means, and that was a real thing that I asked somebody at one point. I asked them, “What does an ROI mean?” Or don’t be afraid to ask the difference between revenue, cost, price, and all those other things. There are things that people want to help you and you’re better off asking and knowing than not knowing and being in a meeting and then being caught in a position where you can’t answer knowledgeably.

Bill Arteca:
Then lastly, along the lines of help, I’ll share my LinkedIn information after this, if any of you are considering the transition, please reach out to me, I’d be happy to talk you through some things and give you some more in detail insight than what I presented today. However, please, please, reach out. I’ve helped students and I’ve helped other professionals with this transition, I’d be happy to offer some guidance to you as well.

Bill Arteca:
With that, I would like to wrap up. So I say thank you so much for your time, I think it ended up being about 40 minutes, so I do apologize, but I’d like to open it up for any questions.

Alessia Ortega:
All right, Bill, thank you so much for that presentation. Like you said, yes, it’s time for us to get in into our questions. We’re going to start with our first question. What are some transferable skills as a lab researcher that can help with the business side of science?

Bill Arteca:
So for the some of the transferable skills, I would say I went through it a little bit, in the sense of your ability to adapt to failure. Also your ability to adapt in general. So one of the bigger skillsets was that in science when an experiment fails, obviously you start to look through everything and you unknowingly develop a very strong skillset of both troubleshooting and the ability to adjust and redesign experiments. That transfers very well to the real world, even if you’re doing a marketing campaign, if that fails, you already have that skillset and that process in your mind of how you’re going to work your way back and how you’re going to troubleshoot that, and then how you’re going to implement new techniques and new abilities in that sense.

Bill Arteca:
Additionally, attention to detail. That’s a skillset that when you’re in a lab, you develop very strongly and that just carries you for the rest of your life. So those are two skillsets that again, there’s a bunch of them, but I do want to get to some other questions, but those are two of the primary skillsets that I would say are definitely transferable and will help you.

Alessia Ortega:
All right, thank you. Our next question is, is an MBA necessary to transition out of lab oriented work to the business side of biotech?

Bill Arteca:
That’s an excellent question, I was actually on the phone with somebody yesterday and they asked me the exact same question. The answer is, no, however, it does help significantly. I do not have an MBA. I just joined it and I built up my business acumen independently of an MBA. I do have other colleagues who do have both an MBA and a master’s or a PhD in science. However, what I can say is that your most valuable asset, as I said in one of the earlier slides, is your scientific knowledge. Your business, when you’re getting hired for a business position, they’re not hiring you for your business acumen so they don’t really… I mean, having an MBA is great and it’ll definitely be a boost in the hiring process if you do have one, but all they really care about is that you’re a scientist and that you’re strong in that skillset and the business acumen will come. So, to answer your question in short, it’s helpful but no, you do not need one. I’ve never had one, I know a lot of colleagues who don’t have one and are in a similar position to myself.

Alessia Ortega:
Okay, great. Our next question is, in the beginning of this transition, how do you sell yourself to show that you’re ready? What are some key skills that are needed?

Bill Arteca:
It’s a good question. I’d say some of the skills, so the one thing I will say is that you do have to convince a company to take a chance on you. Now, I’m not saying like take a chance on you, it’s not as dramatic as that sounds. However, you do have to sell yourself a little bit, in the sense to show that you are ready. So, it’s an excellent question. I’d say the thing that you really can do is don’t present yourself as something that you’re not. Go in there, would definitely have confidence in yourself and have confidence that you are the expert in the room and that more about science than almost anybody in that room, which is always a nice feeling to have, but you also have to be able to take a step back and tell them what you don’t know and say, “Listen, this is what I’m really good at, these are the skills I want to develop. Is there a kind I’m the ground where I can develop with you? I can also help your company in a scientific aspect.”

Bill Arteca:
So I’d say to answer your question in short, it’s a combination of both confidence in the skillset that you’ve acquired and the skillsets that you have, confidence in your communication skills, but also the ability to take a step back and be very transparent on the skills that you do need to develop. A lot of companies I found when I was interviewing in the beginning, they’re more willing to work with you in that sense because they understand that you know where you need to improve, as opposed to, you’re just coming in willy nilly and you’re going to see where it is. You know what you have to work on, you know what you’re good at, and you know what you have to improve, and you know what you have to perfect. So that’s my piece of advice for that.

Alessia Ortega:
All right, thank you. Now, this is our last question for the day, and this question is, which one of these careers would be able to be done remotely?

Bill Arteca:
That’s an excellent question. I’d say pretty much all of them. The only one that can’t be done remotely is probably the financial analyst, typically because when you do work for a financial firm, especially if you’re in New York or something like that, you probably do have to report to an office. However, all of the other ones for the most part are a combination of either remotely or you have a territory. So if you’re a salesman or a support scientist, typically those jobs, you might report to an office, but since COVID things have changed quite a bit. So you probably will end up working from home a few days, then going out to a client site or hopping on a plane and traveling somewhere. Business relations, same thing. You might report to an office but for the most part, they’re all remote. I am full-time remote myself in my position. So to be honest, pretty much all of them with the exception of the financial one, and even that I’m not too sure on even some of those might be remote now, can be remote, which is a really nice perk of not having to trek to a lab every day or just trek to an office in general.

Alessia Ortega:
All right, thank you so much. So, that concludes our webinar. Do you have any closing remarks or anything you’d like to share with our audience before we finish up?

Bill Arteca:
No, thank you, thank you guys so much for listening. I hope I helped, I hope that for those of you who are considering a transition, I hope this gives a little bit of clarity. Again, if you guys have any questions or just want to have a, just want to call me, I’ll send my LinkedIn information to all of you in an email after this. Please reach out if you want to further discuss this in more detail, but thank you all so much and have an excellent weekend.

Alessia Ortega:
All right, thank you so much, Bill, and thank you everyone for joining us in today’s webinar. For our upcoming webinars and to request samples, you can visit Sanguinebio.com. Thank you everyone, and enjoy the rest of your day.