In line with the final month of nominations for this year’s New Investigator Award, three leaders in bioanalysis reflect on their careers and give advice to new scientists in the early stages of their own career. In this first installment, Dominique Gouty (BioAgilytix) discusses opportunities available to young scientists.
Dr. Dominique Gouty is the Senior Vice President of Business Operations at BioAgilytix, where she holds key roles in both technical and commercial biopharmaceutical services. She has over 20 years of industry experience and a career spanning research and development (R&D), clinical operation and manufacturing in multiple multinational pharmaceutical organizations such as Eli Lilly (IN, USA) and J&J (Dublin, Ireland), as well as smaller biotech companies and CROs. Dr. Gouty is the leading expert in key subjects concerning preclinical and clinical bioanalysis for novel therapeutic biologics and biosimilars. Dr. Gouty is regularly invited to present at conferences and publishes key articles and ebooks concerning effective routes to robust and rigorous immunoassays. She has extensive experience ensuring strict GLP compliance for bioanalytical assays and has expert knowledge on the evolving FDA, EMA and other regulatory agencies.
As a seasoned scientist who has held both technical and commercial roles within the biopharmaceutical industry, I have acquired over 20 years of on-the-job knowledge that you won’t learn in school. University may teach you about the structure and function of an antibody, but many young science majors graduate with zero knowledge of the vast opportunities available to them with a scientific degree.
My career experience spans several industries including research & development (R&D), clinical operations, and manufacturing. I have worked in multinational pharmaceutical companies such as Eli Lilly (IN, USA) and J&J (Dublin, Ireland), as well as smaller biotechs and CROs. To put it modestly, I have been there, done that, and seen it all: the good, the bad and the ugly…
My purpose for writing this article is to provide some helpful direction to scientists at the start of their careers. I will begin by reviewing key aspects that must be evaluated when choosing the career of best-fit, including the preferred job type and company size. After establishing guidelines for finding a compatible career, I will advise on how to thrive in one’s chosen area of specialty by building a skill set through supplementary initiatives.
In the world of science, there are many different industries in which one can establish a successful, long-term career. The best place to begin occupation exploration is in university, where students can fill their summers with internship opportunities that will distinguish them from other recent graduates during the job application process. Furthermore, I have found that internships are an excellent venue for discovering one’s true interests. Within 2–3 months, the intern can develop a solid understanding of the job and gain the necessary tools needed to evaluate whether or not that career is right for them. When possible, I recommend that interns begin searching for summer opportunities during their first year in higher education and encourage experimentation with different jobs each summer until their passion is realized.
Most individuals lack either the guidance or foresight to pursue internships while in university. After all, it takes an extremely mature student to plan for the future between the distraction of football games and keg parties. I also understand that it simply takes some people longer to figure out what interests them. I would like to mention a few potential career fields as prospective starting points for all of the late-bloomers reading this article. Some specialized opportunities that come to mind within the biology/chemistry science industry are pharmaceutical, biotechnology, contract manufacturing, contract research, and regulatory professions.
Within each of these unique industries, scientist can have roles with responsibilities as vast as project management, people management, R&D, quality assurance and control, commercial operations, business development, and even patent law. All of these career subdivisions can be found within companies of every shape and size, from virtual startups to mid-size corporations and multi-national conglomerates.
Regardless of what others may say, no single type of company or sector is better than the –rest; rather, each comes with its own set of associated benefits and disadvantages. Therefore, the individual must let their unique passions drive them towards a germane career and company. For example, if you are interested in project management, then it is best to start at a small company where your responsibilities will span across several assignments and departments. Smaller businesses, including start-ups, demand much from their employees to survive and challenge the individual to learn how to efficiently manage projects, people, and expectations.
On the other hand, perhaps a career in the quality field is of greatest interest. If this is the case, then I recommend starting your career at the largest company that will hire you. Well-established companies are intricately familiar with regulatory best practices as their employees are often key influencers in shaping industry guidance. Large companies also have the monetary resources available to send their employees to conferences and workshops that provide a venue for priceless dialogue between the attendees and members of the US FDA, EMA, etc.
Irrespective of your career path and company of choice, make sure that you fully understand the requirements of the job before accepting an offer. For instance, one factor that individuals often neglect to consider when evaluating job suitability is travel demands. Some jobs, such as those in Business Development, mandate an overnight travel rate of 50%, which can be challenging to balance along with family obligations. What appeals to a person just starting out in their career might be completely different to that which appeals to someone at the middle or end stages of their occupation. For example, job travel: individuals tend to look at it as exciting and exotic when they are young, but this view generally changes from an attraction to an inconvenience after family or other life events come into the picture. In short, just be sure to carefully consider all job requirements and try to choose a career in which you can grow.
Once the individual has determined a befitting career, then it is time to start thinking about how to get to the next level by growing one’s skill set and networking with other scientists in the industry. The types of conferences and meetings that scientists attend are crucial to expertise development and should evolve throughout the course of one’s career timeline. For example, early career scientists should focus on attending smaller workshops (20 –30 attendees) with a focused curriculum that is in line with their area of specialty/interest. Later in one’s career, it is more appropriate to attend global meetings where industry best practices are discussed in a roundtable setting and opportunities to network with peers are provided.
In addition to conferences and workshops, there are plenty of committees and organizations in which you may participate, such as AAPS, GBC, SQA or GCC. However, if you decide to join a particular committee, then you must be fully dedicated to contributing your time, energy and insights to help better the group initiative, whatever it may be. Remember that your reputation is influenced by your performance within these organizations, which are likely made up of peers from different companies. Their impressions of your professionalism could help or hinder your search for another job within the industry.
In conclusion, there are a broad range of possibilities open to individuals with an education in the sciences. In order to get ahead of the curve, it is important to start brainstorming preferred roles at the early stage of one’s career. Make a list of pros and cons for each appealing opportunity in order to help evaluate the best fit job for you. Be sure to keep your interests at the forefront of the discussion and let those interests guide you down a well-aligned path.
Best of luck,