Pharmaceutical Industry Outlook — International Employment Opportunities

October 13, 2008

ACS Industry Forum Teleconference with Dr. Carolyn Ribes from Dow Chemical in The Netherlands.
Today I listened in on a teleconference, where the featured speaker was Dr. Carolyn Ribes, Technical Leader, Core Research and Development, Dow Benelux BV. Carolyn is from the United States, but has worked in Argentina for a year, and is currently in her third year working in the Netherlands. The tile of her talk was “Working Seemlessly Across Borders”, and much of what she said applies to people who work across cultures, as well as those who want to work across the border. Below are some of the most important ideas I took away from the session.

Some general advice for professional career development:

  1. Be adaptable and flexible
  2. In industry, everyone must be a team player
  3. Continuously learn
  4. Must be well-networked both within the company and outside the company
  5. Use information management tools

Communication is more than just speaking a common language – though that’s important! It includes many other features, most of which run along a continuum. You need to figure out where you are, and where the other person is, in order to communicate effectively and avoid insulting or offending the other person. For example:

  1. how direct people are, being blunt vs. softening the edges
  2. importance of saving face, accepting criticism
  3. task or people oriented – get down to work or get to know each other
  4. context sensitive information – how important is the surrounding information

Cultural Awareness means understanding the background and expectations of other people, and acting in a way that they expect. The golden rule is no longer “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, but ““Treat others the way they want to be treated”. A subtle, but real, distinction. Some characteristics you may want to think about when getting to know other people are:

  1. what is other person’s culture, and what do they expect
  2. importance of individual vs. part of a group
  3. time is finite – work stepwise until reach goal, or work on multiple things until they’re done
  4. share power – flat or hierarchical
  5. take on or avoid risk
  6. level of control they feel they have over their own lives

Do you thrive on diversity? Do you want to learn the language and culture of another country? If you decide you want to immerse yourself in another culture by moving to anther country for an extended period of time, start looking for those opportunities. Let your leadership know hat you area available for relocation, and get the skills and training necessary so you are ready to take on an opportunity when it arises.

Before accepting an overseas assignment, carefully it carefully. Will you enjoy the time spent in that position/country? Is this a step up for your career, or will it perhaps allow you to move up in the future?

Once you make the decision to go, there are a host of logistical issues to take care of:

  1. visas and permission to work there
  2. finances and taxes – in both countries, must keep good records
  3. personal aspects – partner’s employment, children’s schooling,
  4. cost of living, but money is not always the most important factor
  5. getting an international driver’s license
  6. Learn how to remain visible to colleagues back in US headquarters

For dual career couples, the odds of both finding jobs in the same place can be vanishingly small. They increase if both work for the same company, since the company will know you want to move together. For couples who don’t work at the same company, the best thing can be for one person to accept a position, then the partner find a job after the relocation has taken place. The partner will have more restricted degrees of freedom, but can do a more intensive search since they will already be in the new location. VISA issues can sometimes be expedited once you are in the new country as well.Working overseas can truly be the experience of a lifetime, if you let it. Even after returning to your home country, you will be looking at things through a new lens. Your old life may look very different to you than it did before you left.

She recommended the Peace Corp Cultural Training for further study in how to fit into a new culture.

For details of future talks in this series, or to download her slides, see the ACS Careers Blog.

Lisa M. Balbes, Ph.D. Scientific Communication Services since 1992, Balbes Consultants http://www.balbes.com/ http://www.linkedin.com/in/lisabalbes

Author of:  “Nontraditional Careers for Chemists,” published by Oxford University Press (2006)

Join us for the next ACS Careers Industry Forum:
Title: An Alternate Career Path: Starting and Running Your Own Chemical Company
Speaker: Dr. Michael Strem
President, Strem Chemicals, Inc.

Hear the experience of a successful industrial chemist who founded his own company immediately upon receiving his Ph.D. in chemistry.  Scheduled for 2 – 3 p.m. ET on November 13, 2008, the teleconference will feature Michael Strem, Ph.D., President of Strem Chemicals, Inc.  As an industrial chemist, Dr. Strem will speak on his experiences and lessons learned as the founder of a small chemical company that has grown since its founding in the 1960’s. There will be a 30-minute discussion with Dr. Strem followed by a 25-minute Q & A session.

Don’t miss out, register in advance.  For additional information about upcoming speakers, click on the ACS Careers Industry Forum tab located at the top of the ACS Careers Blog.

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Interview with Dr. Abou Gharbia, Sr. VP at Wyeth – Part 2

October 8, 2008

Advancing your Career in Pharma:  Part II

This is a continuation of our discussion with Dr. Abou Gharbia, a recent guest speaker of the ACS Careers Industry Forum.  For a full bio please go to our blog.

Part I provided an overview of Pharma R&D operations and entry-level opportunities at Wyeth.  We will continue talking about key ingredients to advancing your career in pharma.

After a few years, some chemists may want to consider a career change, moving off the bench gaining experience in other functions and moving into management.  Dr. Abou Gharbia pointed out that there are many opportunities in other parts of the company for chemists to explore.  After 5-6 years, employees that become familiar with the business, could be considered for work in other parts of the organization.

“Some of these functions may depend on their writing skills.  If you have strong writing skills you may consider becoming a clinical writer, or [if you have strong] coordinating [and] multitasking [skills consider a role in] project management, or [you may enjoy working in] regulatory affairs.”

Management positions such as director, senior director, and even vice president are available as per departmental needs; however, organizations generally promote from within for these high-level positions.

“… advancement will depend on you: your performance, the quality of work you’re doing, inventive contributions, communication skills, interpersonal skills, which are really important.  You could be a rocket scientist, but nobody [will] want to work with you [in the absence of key interpersonal skills.]”

Dr. Abou Gharbia mentioned that in the beginning of his career as bench chemist, he worked without any technical assistance.  His rise through the ranks took time and effort.  It also took passion.  Dr. Abou Gharbia believes that the reason he excelled in his job, is that he really loves doing chemistry with a purpose.  He goes on to say that he really believes that everyone can excel in their job.if they worked hard on the tasks at hand.

He also points out that some time your most creative chemists are not necessarily your best team players and we need to create the right environment to bring the best out of every one. Transitioning from the lab into management requires you to interact with multiple individuals in various departments.

“interpersonal skills are really important, and to manage and move the program forward [requires] working with not just your chemists, but also biologists, patent attorneys, and multiple organizations within the company.  So it’s important for individuals who wanted to progress into the management ladder [to be able to contribute to working in a multidisciplinary team.]”

When asked about globalization, Dr. Abou Gharbia stressed the opportunities for chemists in the US and abroad.  He cited his experience with outsourcing 150 chemists in India, but stated that this outsourcing initiative did not result in any job losses in US operations—only expanded capacity.  The expansion of operations into India also resulted in opportunities for US chemists to work in India through a rotation program.  These interactions broke down cultural barriers between operational sites and allowed for efficient IP transfer.

To listen to the complete conversation with Dr. Abou Gharbia or to read the interview transcript from the interview, please the ACS Careers Industry Forum page.


Interview with Dr. Abou Gharbia, Sr. VP at Wyeth – Part 1

October 6, 2008

Advancing Your Career in Pharma: Part I

The recent launch of the ACS Careers Industry Forum was a success with over four hundred registrants from all over the world calling in to listen to our guest speaker, Dr. Abou Gharbia, Senior Vice President at Wyeth Pharmaceuticals and head of its chemistry and screening discovery research program.  He joined Wyeth in 1982 and rose through the ranks, eventually overseeing a group that included some 500 scientists at four research sites in the United States, as well as an additional 150 chemists at GBK bio in Hyderabad, India.  For a full biography of Dr. Abou Gharbia please go to our website.

Dr. Abou Gharbia discussed trends that can affect your career path in the pharmaceutical industry. He provided a brief overview of Wyeth as a company outlining the organizational structure, mission and goals.  The organization has about 45,000 employees world wide, and ranks in the top 10 global companies.  Wyeth discovers and markets innovative pharmaceuticals in various platforms, such as small molecules, vaccines and proteins.  Research is conducted mainly on the east coast of the U.S., with recent partnerships and collaborations with companies in Dublin, Ireland, and Scotland Chemists at Wyeth are involved in all stages of discovery from initial synthesis to clinical evaluation.  Therefore, they must have a comprehensive view of the process approach utilizing various multidisciplinary skill sets.  For example, medicinal chemists must work with other scientists to design the best possible drug candidate taking into account predictions from computational chemists, results from biological pharmacokinetic and metabolic studies.

Dr. Abou Gharbia suggests “… when try to  treat any illness you try to find out…what causes the disease (called target), and make molecules which actually alleviate or modulate those targets…”

Molecules will have an effect on the human body and vise versa.  Therefore, it is not enough to make a molecule to act on a disease agent.  A chemist must also be aware of what other effects the drug may have on the body, and what alterations to structure of physical properties the body may make on the drug candidate (metabolic pathway).  The daily job of a medicinal chemist is multifaceted.  They not only synthesize molecules but also , interact with colleagues on the team, attend meetings and give presentations.

“That is why you’ll find communication skills, even though we’re talking about just the chemist, it is important.

At Wyeth, approximately 50% of Chemical sciences organization  work on the synthesis of target molecules, and the remainder of the staff vary in their role from those in testing and assay development, to screening, structural elucidation, and purification, to computational chemistry.

There is a high attrition rate for drug candidates in the clinic where almost 100,000 molecules are initially screened.  The list of viable candidates is quickly winnowed to a few hundred through initial testing, and subsequently down to 1-2 of the candidates will make it to the market.  This is a very tedious process, but it ensures that only the best drug candidates make it into the marketplace.

To help reduce attrition,  a chemist will conduct pharmaceutical profiling.  An analytical chemist will look at the drug-like properties and see if the molecule is soluble and whether it will reach the appropriate biological target so that the molecules can reach the target and produce the desired effect.

“If you treat patients with depression, it [is] no good for the patient, [if] you give them a molecule which cannot reach the brain because [it can not] cross blood-brain barrier.  So when we work in the lab, we make sure that the molecule we make will have the properties to reach the brain to treat the patient.”

There are a multitude of job opportunities for chemists in the pharmaceutical sciences.  They can work in drug discovery as medicinal chemists , performing analytical analysis, computational analysis, or biochemistry.  We will continue our discussion with Dr. Abou Gharbia in Part II of our series on our blog.


Do you have what employers want?

September 22, 2008

You might be surprised to learn that employers are not only looking for the technical but put heavy emphasis on soft skills.  Employers know that candidates have the technical skills to do the job but need employees that has solid communication skills and work well with co-workers.  This is where employers say most candidates fall short.

Employers responded to the National Association of Colleges and Employers’ (NACE) annual Job Outlook survey were asked to rate the importance of candidate qualities and skills on a five-point scale, with five being “extremely important” and one being “not important.” Communication skills (4.7 average), honesty/integrity (4.7), teamwork skills (4.6), interpersonal skills (4.5), motivation/initiative (4.5), and strong work ethic (4.5) were the most desired characteristics.

“While employers rate communication skills as one of their most desired characteristics, they also report that they are the skills that are most lacking in today’s job candidates,” says Marilyn Mackes, NACE executive director.

The good news is that you can develop or hone these soft-skills through training. And ACS is making it easy.

ACS and Harvard Business Publishing have partnered to offer a suite of 42 online courses. At your own pace you can develop communication skills and other critical business skills such as:

§ Writing Skills

§ Presentation Skills

§ Team Leadership

§ Leading and Motivating

§ Negotiating

§ Persuading Others

§ Coaching

§ Delegating

§ Feedback Essentials

§ Difficult Interactions

§ Diversity

§ Career Management

You benefit by gaining high-demand skills. And you get to download an ACS-Harvard Certificate of Completion for each course you complete. ACS recommends that you include the course titles on your resume as a way to stand out from other applicants. See the full course descriptions here. Go to www.acs.org/professionaldevelopment to enroll today!


Global Talent Wars

September 17, 2008

It is perceived that globally there is a skills shortage which is driving countries to ease immigration laws with the hopes of attracting highly skilled workers.  What does this mean for you?  It means increased employment opportunities globally for chemists and chemical engineers whose skills are in high demand. 

Traditionally, the US has been the global leader in attracting and retaining skilled workers.  Work visas have increased in the US but the supply of non-domestic talent is diminishing.  Students from around the world have traditionally come to US to study and have stayed here to work.  Recent tuition applications show that from 2001 to 2003, applications from foreign students to American universities dropped by 26% while they increased in the United Kingdom (36%), France (30%), and Australia (13%).

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that over the past five years, the U.S. attracted an average of 73,000 skilled immigrants annually, down from about 107,000.  The US has traditionally attracted 55% of qualified immigrants while Europe attracted only 5%.  The European Union is looking to change those numbers by approving a single work visa.  The Blue Card along with a global advertising campaign will be launched to attract highly skilled workers.  The card will allow skilled foreign workers to work and live in the EU’s 27 member states.  In addition, families can move with them after a 90-day application period as part of a programme designed to meet an estimated short-fall of 20 million skilled and non-skilled workers by 2030.

Other Countries are beginning to ease immigration laws with the goal of attracting high skilled labor.  The Australian government has recently announced its intention to increase immigration by approximately 60% in the next two years.   The emphasis is on skilled immigrants.  New Zealand, recently opened their immigration policies, followed by Singapore, Japan, and Hong Kong.  The goals of all these programs are the same: to attract skilled talent and divert some of the talent that flows to the United States.

The supply of talent is simply not adequate to keep up with demand, here in the US or elsewhere. The U.S. produces the highest number of engineers per million residents of any country in the world, but that’s only about 15,000 chemists and chemical engineers with bachelors’ degrees every year.  Those that hold Master or Doctorate degrees with the right combination of skills and work experience may want to look to jobs beyond the US.  With overseas employment restrictions loosening this can give you the opportunity to expand your work experience. 

If you are considering working overseas you should join us for the ACS Careers Industry Forum teleconference on October 9th from 2 to 3 pm EDT.  This series will continue with next month’s presentation by Dr. Carolyn Ribes from Dow Chemical in The Netherlands.  Dr. Ribes will speak on the international work environment and the lessons learned from the perspective of a US industrial chemist.  You should not miss this valuable opportunity to hear from a US chemist working for the world’s second largest chemical company (#1 in the US) on October 9th at 2:00 p.m. Eastern.  For more information, please see our website and sign up now to participate.

 

 

This article was written by Liane H. Gould, Manager of Career Services for ACS Department of Career Management & Development.. 

 

 

 

 


Careers in Biotechnology/Drug Development

September 8, 2008

A recently read a review of a new book entitled “Career Opportunities in Biotechnology and Drug Development” by Toby Freedman, 2008, Cold Spring Harbor Press. Freedman is a PhD molecular biologist that has moved into life sciences recruiting. Since I’m alway interested in career development, and biotech is a field I don’t know enough about, I thought I’d check it out.

I must admit I was highly impressed with the material. The book discusses current conventional wisdom for scientists who are concerned about their careers. Freedman totes that “there are lots of jobs in the biopharma industry”, so it’s worth looking there for options. But what are those jobs? Freedman then proceeds to give a comprehensive answer to that question.

Along the way, she provides a detailed description of the drug discovery process.

The first 6 chapters of this book provide general career advice, giving an overview of what is expected in the biopharma industry, what it takes to succeed, how to write a resume, network, etc. Most of the advice applies to all jobs, but some is specific to science or these industries. The advice is very good, and includes lots of details, examples, and resources for further information. Freedman provides a balanced overview, pointing out both the good and bad points of this industry.

The industry she is focusing on includes both biotechnology and drug discovery & development, also called biopharma. These industries have a great deal in common, and similar career paths and positions are available in each. The entire process is very complex, and often not well understood by those who have not been immersed in it.

The second, and major, part of the book breaks the drug discovery enterprise down into its various stages, describes the role of each step in the process, and details positions available at each stage.

The positions described range from those that require a PhD or MD, to those that are accessible to those with a college degree.

Freedman describes the types of positions, typical job titles and career paths, roles and responsibilities, typical tasks, relative salaries and other compensation. She also describes in detail the pros and cons of each field, how to excel in the field, and what personal characteristics are most often found in those who succeed in that field.

She predicts where the field is going and what job prospects will be like, and also talks about how to get started in each field.

Finally, each chapter ends with recommendations for training, professional societies, and other resources. The entire volume is well organized, with important points in callouts, and many clarifying diagrams.

Anyone who reads this book will come away (like I did) with a deeper understanding of the drug discovery industry, and how complex it really is (and perhaps why marketed pharmaceuticals really cost more than you’d think).

Hopefully, they will also come away with several ideas of places they might fit into that industry, and the resources and inspiration to start investigating those options. I would have liked to have seen more statistics and numbers (salaries, etc), but understand that data would get dated quickly, and ACS members can get current information from the Salary Comparator.

As further proof of the growing importance of this field, ACS has started an Industry Forum and their first speaker is from Wyeth Drug Discovery and Development. The free teleconference is coming up on Thursday, September 11th. While I may never work in a traditional job in this field, it is certainly an area I am going to keep an eye on, and learn more about.

This article was written by freelance technical writer Lisa M. Balbes, Ph.D. of Balbes Consultants.

-Lisa M. Balbes, Ph.D. Scientific Communication Services since 1992, Balbes Consultants http://www.balbes.com/   http://www.linkedin.com/in/lisabalbes –

 Author of:  “Nontraditional Careers for Chemists,” published by Oxford University Press (2006)

 

 

ACS Careers Industry Forum:  Monthly Teleconferences featuring Luminaries in the Chemical Sciences.

We feel this is a great opportunity for practitioners in the chemical sciences to listen in to top industry leaders in their industries and will assist in making informed career decisions. Guest Speakers include

ØSeptember:  Dr. Abou-Gharbia, Senior Vice President & Head of Chemical & Screening Sciences, for Wyeth Drug Discovery & Development.

ØOctober:  Dr. Carolyn Ribes, Process Analytical, Dow Benelux, B.V., Terneuzen, The Netherlands.

ØNovember:  Michael Strem, Ph.D., President, Strem Chemicals, Inc. founded Strem Chemicals in Newburyport, MA.

ØDecember:  No teleconference to be scheduled.

ØJanuary:  Dr. Tom Lane, to be President of ACS.

ØFebruary:  Dr. William F. Carroll, Jr., Vice President, Chlorovinyl Issues for OxyChem and works on public policy issues and communications related to chlorine and PVC.  He is also Adjunct Professor of Chemistry at Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana where he teaches polymer chemistry.

Please join us to discuss economic and employment trends with top industry executives in the chemical sciences.  Go to register now.  This is a free service via conference call.

 

 

 

 

 

 


A Far Cry from CSI

August 25, 2008

Forensic scientists love to laugh at the pseudoscientific methods used on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. A favorite target is the scene in which a “scientist” used a gas chromatograph/mass spectrometer to analyze DNA. Yet there’s one aspect of a forensic scientist’s life that the actors get dead right—their passion for work.

 “Every once in a while, you see your work making a difference,” says Jason Schaff, a chemist at the FBI lab in Quantico, VA. “That’s really very rewarding.”

 

Schaff tells of a case he investigated not long after joining the FBI in 1999. A U.S. attorney had asked the bureau to dig into an arsenic poisoning. Police knew the victim’s neighbor had a motive, but they couldn’t figure out where he might have gotten the poison. Schaff spent two weeks digging up sources of arsenic and in the process discovered that the victim had accidentally poisoned himself. The man had been working on wood treated with copper chromium arsenate, a preservative. Arsenic was in the sawdust he inhaled. “Because you do your job right,” Schaff says, “someone who’s innocent didn’t get charged with a crime.”

 

Forensic-science supervisor Susan Gross of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension discusses that same sense of satisfaction, this time in helping send a killer to prison. The killer’s wife’s body had been found in a shallow grave two months after she disappeared. Gross scrutinized the skeleton but found no sign of trauma. When she turned her attention toward the victim’s clothes, she found two small holes made with a sharp object. She realized stab wounds at those points could have killed the woman without touching any bones. Confronted with Gross’s evidence, the victim’s husband confessed.

 

For anyone who shares this passion for using science in the search for truth, opportunities abound. U.S. News & World Report in 2005 counted forensic scientist among the hottest jobs. The American Academic of Forensic Sciences’ website typically lists close to 100 job openings ranging from forensic evidence technician to forensic analytical chemistry professor. Forensic chemists at major labs often specialize either in toxicology—identifying drugs used in crimes—or trace evidence analysis—examining paint, soil particles, hair, gunshot residue, and the like.

 

Anyone considering a career in forensic chemistry should focus on chemistry, which happens to be the undergraduate degree most common among forensic chemists. Surprisingly, many crime-lab investigators see no value in bachelor’s degrees in forensic chemistry. Such programs may emphasize criminal sociology at the expense of science.

 

“Go to the best university you can afford and get a chemistry degree,” advises Walter Rowe, a forensic-sciences professor at George Washington University. “Then get on-the-job training or a master’s in forensic science.”

Another benefit of an undergraduate degree in chemistry is that it can lead to a variety of jobs. “Chances are, you won’t get a [forensics] job right out of college,” says forensic-science supervisor Susan Gross of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. Gross says that she worked in an environmental lab and a health department for more than three years before landing a job at the Minnesota forensic-science lab.

Gross urges aspiring forensic scientists to seek out crime-lab internships. “You get to know people and get your foot in the door,” she says.

A rare quality without which no forensic scientist would last is the ability to face the darkest side of humanity, and then go home and sleep at night. Some who go into the field find that they can’t, and they burn out in a couple years. “You’re dealing with an aspect of society that’s not always pleasant,” says Max Houck, director of the Forensic Science Initiative at West Virginia University. “You have to desensitize.”

 This article was written by Cynthia Washam, a Florida-based freelance writer who shares the forensic scientists’ passion for their careers, but is thankful hers doesn’t involve corpses.

Please Join Us for the:  ACS Careers Industry Forum

Monthly Teleconferences featuring Luminaries in the Chemical Sciences.

We are working hard to keep you up to date on cutting edge industrial issues affecting your current and future employment needs.  Make informed decisions about your career and take control of your career path.

Please join us on September 11th from 2 to 3pm EST to discuss economic and employment trends with top industry executives in the chemical sciences.  The Industry Forum will take place the 2nd Thursday of each month. 

     

    

   

  

 

Guest Speaker:   Our first industry speaker will be the prestigious Dr. Abou-Gharbia, Senior Vice President & Head of Chemical & Screening Sciences, for Wyeth Drug Discovery and Development.  In this position, he has built a strong multi-disciplinary Chemical & Screening Sciences (CSS) organization.  During his tenure he has fostered a highly creative environment based on modern drug discovery technologies and enhanced chemistry skills and capabilities via the recruitment of high caliber scientists. In his current role he oversees Wyeth’s Chemistry and Screening.

 

 

 

 

Go to register now.  This is a free service via conference call.