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Industry Transition Spotlight: Morgan Bye, PhD

An interview with Morgan Bye, Ph.D.

What is your name, your full job title, and the full name of the company you work for?

My full title is:

Morgan H. Bye MSci (Hons), PhD, MRSC

I work for an independent centre of the BC Cancer Agency (as in, British Columbia of Canada).

Officially, it’s (a bit of a mouthful):

Canada’s Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre, a research centre of BC Cancer Agency

Job title:

Computational biologist and pipeline manager

Duration:

I’m here 3 months, but it was a 3-month recruitment process, so it feels much longer.

What is your biggest or most satisfying career goal you’ve reached since transitioning into industry?

Working in a research lab for many years, I was always concerned with the real-world application of my work. For instance, I knew that best-case scenario, my work might be a footnote in some clinical trial 10 to 20 years down the line.

In my short time at BC Cancer, I have had 75 patient cases come across my desk for analysis, many of which were pediatric. These are people who are literally dying across the road in the hospital. There is no doubt in my mind that the work I do here is important, and gives some people the opportunity for a better life.

What’s been your biggest learning experience or Ah-Ha moment since transitioning into your new role?

It doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from, or what school you went to. To borrow from Neil Gaiman, only 3 things matter here:

1) Do people like you?

2) Do you deliver results on time?

3) Are you good at your job?

Having 2 of the 3 means you can survive. Having all three means you thrive.

No one cares about my publication history here. In fact, in an office surrounded by mathematicians and computer scientists, almost no one knows I have a doctorate.

The only thing they care about is: can they work with me, will I produce?

Because the truth is, in the outside world, life really is a team sport and we win and lose together.

How is your current industry position different from your academic postdoc or experience as a graduate student?

The biggest difference for me is that I’m spending the most time on things that I like. And, this means that the philosophy is very different.

In academic research, absolute truth was pursued at all costs, no matter the time commitment, financial burden or personal sacrifice. In a clinical environment, timely results that can be acted on, right now, even with an error margin, are far more useful than a scientifically robust hypothesis.

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?

Just keep going.

It is worth doing your homework, being unemployed and asking yourself some really hard questions about what it is you want to do. Take the time. Do not settle. You deserve to do something you love and sometimes that takes time to work out. The temptation will be there to take the easy option, to stay in your comfort zone, maybe you should just do another post-doc. Great things only happen when you step outside of your comfort zone.

What do you see as the next step in your career?

I am using this position as a stepping-stone. I have wanted to change career paths into something more computer-related for a long time, but no tech company would touch me without a track record. By finding a company where my technical abilities in one field outshone my lack of proven track record in software development, allows me to use this place as a half-way, to build a track-record of skills and management, and be in a strong position when I decide to move on.

How has the Association and the Association’s members helped you continue to achieve your career goals?

I’d personally love to see an accountability package added to the end of the transition plan that basically looks like, “OK, so now you’ve had your new job for 3 or 6 months, let’s take stock. Evaluate what’s good, what’s bad, and how do we keep growing?”

This would be a great addition in any case, but especially for those just starting the transition plan and skimming the whole thing, it will anchor that it isn’t a “one day” thing, but the plan is genuinely going to take you through the first months of the new job too.

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?

It doesn’t matter who you are, where you went to school, who your supervisor was, whether you’ve got a good recommendation, or even if you published.

I know many Cheekies are terrified by their publication history, and I know they have so much self-worth wrapped up in it that when Isaiah says, “No one in industry cares about your publication history” they find it hard to believe.

But, trust me. No one cares. The only time anyone asked me about my publication history was in one (of the four interviews), they asked (having a PhD themselves), “You have a PhD, but I don’t see any publications on your resume. Do you have any?” I replied, “Yes, of course, I spent years in research, of course I published, but I didn’t feel that a full publication history was relevant on a one-page resume”. That was it. Never mentioned again.

Other than that, new Cheekies need to know that the grass is greener.

My wife is still chasing the professor dream, and I’ll support her 100% while she does. But, as I see it, I see the hours chasing an experiment that will probably never work. I see the supervisor that is never there. I see the quiet resentment of friends any time one of them gets a research breakthrough, publication, or grant. I see the departmental social events, where nobody really wants to talk to each other. I see the constant fear of being scooped. I see the constant hyper-competitive feedback loop that results in 10-12 hour days. I see the “being busy” rather than getting results.

And, you know what? I don’t miss any of it.

To learn more about how you can transition into an industry career like Morgan, 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.

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Isaiah Hankel Ph.D.

Isaiah Hankel Ph.D.

Isaiah is a Ph.D. in Anatomy & Cell Biology and internationally recognized Fortune 500 consultant. He is an expert in the biotechnology industry and specializes in helping people transition into cutting-edge career tracks.

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.
Isaiah Hankel Ph.D.
  • Carlie Stevenson, PhD

    That is a BRILLIANT answer to the publication question. I wish I’d known that when I was looking for my first position, because trying to cram too much into a resume is tough. Good for you for a real tip that will help others on their search, and congratulations on all your success!

  • Kathy Azalea

    Thank you so much for your tips and ideas. They give me hope!

  • Sissy MacDougall

    Congratulations on your transition. I think it’s very wise to really do some soul-searching and know what your long term intentions are. That way, you can very cleverly figure out what you need to get where you want to go. This is probably something that most people miss out on, because they’re very focused on the short term and how to get their first big paycheck. Kudos for finding a way to be happy and also take a big step toward your ultimate goals.

  • Sonja Luther

    I really like your practical analysis of what’s required to succeed in industry. It really isn’t about what you’ve done in the past as much as what you can do now, and what your current track record of delivery is. I know a lot of people who feel true anxiety about what they see as holes in their resumes, but fear seems to be the main thing keeping them back. If you’re petrified in the interview, the interviewers are going to pick up on it! But, if you can stick to those three basics and guarantee that people can work with you and expect good results from it, what else is more important?

  • Theo

    Yeah, I never really planned to go into professorship or anything like that. I want freedom, not bondage, and academia seems a bit stuffy and old-world for me. I’m grateful to be getting my PhD, but after that, I’m gone.