Industry Transition Spotlight: Shanta Boddapati, PhD
An interview with Shanta Boddapati, Ph.D.
What is your name, your full job title, and the full name of the company you work for?
My name is Shanta Boddapati and I am a Bioprocess Scientist at Seattle Genetics.
What is your biggest or most satisfying career goal you’ve reached since transitioning into industry?
The ability to help transform cancer therapeutics with contribution towards making antibody drug conjugates is extremely satisfying. Believe it or not, in 2001 I won a scholarship and told the panel that I would use engineering and biology to fight against incurable diseases. I am living my dream.
What’s been your biggest learning experience or Ah-Ha moment since transitioning into your new role?
People do not have endless samples or endless time to make decisions. There is a latent risk-taking that happens every second where you need to be okay with 2 data points, piling on 4 different conditions in one experiment, and just analyzing the best and worst cases rather than the whole gamut of scenarios. Constraints really make it an environment that tests your decision-making skills and your creativity and scientific knowledge help in that, but you need to be comfortable making these kinds of judgements. Everything is strategically aligned to the company’s goals, so things are fast-moving and fluid – projects get axed or pushed through, depending on various stage gates that evaluate multiple factors based on likelihood of success.
How is your current industry position different from your academic postdoc or experience as a graduate student?
My academic postdoc was about studying the biology of cancer. In graduate school, I learned about producing antibodies and statistical tools like DOE process control (classes), which I use a lot now. However, the context was totally different. Also, I am only involved in the bioreactor stage at work, whereas in the grad school lab I would do clone selection, purification, characterization, etc. We never did any risk assessment or robustness studies, which is a big thing in industry. We have teams that only focus on purification, or only clone selection, so that they can do these assessments for their focus area. Also, in my position, I get a lot of help from 2 RAs.
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?
It is just a matter of time before you transition into industry. Work on project management, communication, and other soft skills. The work is totally doable, but learn to jump in and define your next project, breakdown deadlines and define tasks, take initiative to maybe upgrade a system or get a new technology into the group, etc. Nobody will tell you what you need to do, and that is what you need to get used to.
What was the most memorable moment for you (so far) as a Cheeky Scientist Associate?
The interview with Michael on interview dress code. He actually mentioned that somebody showed up in a stained shirt. I packed a backup outfit for myself wondering what I would do if my son spilled something on me, or something crazy like that.
What do you see as the next step in your career?
I am hoping to become a director and lead process development teams in biologics manufacturing.
How has the Association and the Association’s members helped you continue to achieve your career goals?
It would be nice to have a meetup of professionals who have transitioned because there is a lot of information that can be valuable. We can help each other get to the next rung. In terms of accountability, it would be nice to have a check-in periodically to see how our network has grown, what new skills we have picked up, and what we need to improve upon. I am curious to know if we can also have panel discussions: for example, QC is something I am very curious about. Where to find these regulations, how to learn about them, etc. I am happy to talk about industry standards in my area of work as well.
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?
An academic career is just one of the so many options out there for us. Someone out there is bound to tell you that you are walking away because you failed, and I am going to warn you to really look beyond all that. Every single one of us cannot be studying cancer pathways. Someone has to also make the tools you need, someone has to bring them to the market, and some others have to decide which tools to sell.
Look hard into your interests, likes, dislikes, and strengths. I decided very early on that I was going to help cure diseases that caused pain and suffering. I picked a position that would exploit my strength of being interdisciplinary and I highlighted that a lot. The confidence you have from knowing you are very good at your job will help you stay on top of things when you step out of your comfort zone. Industry is very team-oriented, so get used to interacting with lots of people, negotiating, and solving problems with people.
Finally, there is always, always, always a path you can carve out. Go for it!!!!!
To learn more about how you can transition into an industry career like Shanta, 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.