An interview with Jessica McKlveen, Ph.D.
What is your name, your full job title, and the full name of the company you work for?
Jessica McKlveen, Science Officer, Ripple Effect Communications, Inc. I have been supporting the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP) as a government contractor for approximately 11 months.
What is your biggest or most satisfying career goal you’ve reached since transitioning into industry?
My most satisfying career goal I’ve reached since transitioning into industry has been the opportunity to give back through informational interviews to several individuals that I’ve met through networking or through the CSA (two of which went on to receive job offers at my company). I was also recently invited to be part of a panel of women in alternative careers at a prominent stress meeting I once attended as a trainee, which is a huge honor for me.
What’s been your biggest learning experience or Ah-Ha moment since transitioning into your new role?
My biggest Ah-Ha moment occurred when I was working “late” one night (at 6 pm), and the lights were turned off on me. I was pretty much forced to leave the building because the organization I work for actually wants people to have good work-life balance. It’s refreshing after working long hours as a grad student and postdoc to finally be in a position that not only allows but fully supports a good work-life balance. I don’t work evenings or weekends (aside from the occasional conference). I can actually take vacations, and I finally get to spend uninterrupted time with my family — it’s amazing!
How is your current industry position different from your academic postdoc or experience as a graduate student?
A lot of my job is about “people management” and having a high EQ. During my academic career, interacting and networking with other people was certainly important, but I find that I spend more time in my current position considering the perspectives of others and trying to make things as abundantly clear as possible and getting to the point quickly — because “time is money.” This concept started to click with me when I watched one of the CSA webinars on job talks and one of the points that was made was to deliver the punchline first and then present the data that supported that claim. This completely changed the job talk that I gave and I still use this strategy in emails that I send that require actionable items (this is also known as the BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front). I find that this helps tremendously with clarity and getting everyone on the same page, faster.
If you could go back in time, to before you received your job offer, and give yourself one piece of advice or encouragement, what would it be?
Don’t panic! The right job will come along and patience is key. It is important to not make a hasty decision, but rather to make the right decision for yourself, both from a personal and a professional standpoint.
What was the most memorable moment for you (so far) as a Cheeky Scientist Associate?
The most memorable moment for me was the feedback that the private Facebook group provided on my resume. It was invaluable to get personal feedback on my resume, in combination with the webinars on resume preparation. I was really clueless when it came to preparing my resume and it is amazing to look back on the resume that I first started with compared to the resume that I ended up with when I got my job. Through the webinars, I gained a better understanding of what hiring managers were looking for (with the limited time they have), and I learned how important it is to tailor every resume for each job, incorporating as many keywords as possible. These are all things that were really foreign to me when I first started putting together my resume and that is why this was the most memorable thing for me. I also always appreciate the outpouring of support from the group, both for myself and for others, when going through the ups and downs of job-hunting. It’s great to have fellow CSAs as cheerleaders, offering support when needed, and celebrating each other’s accomplishments.
What do you see as the next step in your career?
One of the most exciting, but somewhat unnerving, aspects of my current career (because I’m definitely a planner) is that there are many options and career paths that I could pursue from here. One of the great things about my company is that they strongly encourage and support professional development and with their backing, I have been able to take coursework in technology commercialization. I have long had an interest in tech transfer and, combined with my experience in grants and project management, see this as a potential trajectory that I may pursue in the future. At this point, I am continuing to learn as much as possible and being open to new opportunities that may arise.
How can the Association and the Association’s members help you continue to achieve your career goals?
The Association’s members can help me continue to achieve my career goals by continuing to reach out to me on LinkedIn. I have greatly enjoyed the interactions that I have had with individuals that have contacted me through LinkedIn and I would love to continue building my network and helping others in any way that I can.
Now that you’ve spent some time working in industry, what is the biggest takeaway(s) you’d like to share with those who are still executing their job search?
I would say to be open to new opportunities and conduct as many informational interviews as possible. I found out about my current job by talking to a friend who had my current position before moving onto another job. At this time last year, I didn’t even know CDMRP existed and now I am in a position that I love. Had I not taken the opportunity to talk with my friend and subsequently to other people at CDMRP, I might still be executing my job search. I think it is definitely important to identify the career path that is right for you and take the necessary steps to pursue that path, but especially in the beginning phases of the job search, I think that it is important not to narrow your focus too quickly without considering possibilities that might not have been on your radar previously.
*All opinions and views expressed are the author’s and don’t represent an official position of Ripple Effect Communications, Inc. or the DoD.
To learn more about how you can transition into an industry career like Jessica, including instant access to our exclusive training videos, case studies, industry insider documents, transition plan, and private online network, get on the wait list for the Cheeky Scientist Association.
Isaiah believes that if you feel stuck somewhere in your life right now, you should make a change. Don’t sit still and wait for the world to tell you what to do. Start a new project. Build your own business. Take action. Experimentation is the best teacher.
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