Industry Transition Spotlight: Chris Drummond, PhD
An interview with Chris Drummond, Ph.D.
What is your name, your full job title, and the full name of the company you work for?
Chris Drummond, Study Director 2, MPI Research, I have been here for 10 months.
Can you describe what a typical day at your job looks like?
Every day is something different. I spend a lot of my time trouble-shooting issues with ongoing studies. Answering/updating sponsors (clients) on their study progress or issues, a fair amount of time is spent interacting with clients to sell new studies, additional amount of time is spent preparing and clarifying IACUC regulatory documents, study protocols, and study reports. There is a good combination of administrative and functional opportunities every day.
What is your biggest or most satisfying career goal you’ve reached since transitioning into industry?
I think, as a postdoc or graduate student, it is easy for supervisors and PIs to question and shake your confidence enough to make you question whether you know what you are doing or if you are a good scientist. One of my goals was to prove that I was a smart and good scientist. I have done this by interacting with clients and becoming a resource for specific study types at my company. This has validated my time spent training.
What’s been your biggest learning experience or Ah-Ha moment since transitioning into your new role?
I think when you start out looking for an industry role, everyone tells you that the pace is different, and if you were successful in academics you likely would not be successful in industry because the skill sets needed are different. While the pace is faster, it is by no means insurmountable to become accustomed to. Your training as a postdoc or PhD student comes in handy and provides a good base upon which to build. With time, you get used to the pace and the demands of the job. It also helps that you are not responsible for everything from start to finish on a study. There is a lot of delegation of activities to qualified individuals in your company that help you spread the load of the job.
How is your current industry position different from your academic postdoc or experience as a graduate student?
In industry, you are a lot closer to the clinic for drugs than you are in academia. In academia, you study an idea, maybe generate some I.P., and possibly do some initial efficacy studies. There is still a long way to go, even in the most prepared and commercialized academic labs, you may still be 5-6 years away from human trials. Whereas in industry, you are a lot closer to the clinic, we regularly are performing safety and large animal efficacy studies necessary to get a drug into a Phase I trial or continue in a Phase II or III trial. The pipeline is much richer and the ideas are more developed in industry because they are investing significant amounts of money in these products.
Additionally, the scale at which you can operate is significantly different. No matter how well your lab is funded, there is still a limit to what resources you can devote to a project. In industry, they are working with money that can be orders of magnitude higher than what you can spend in academia. Basically, this allows you to use the best equipment, supplies, and expertise, that you likely would not have access too otherwise.
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?
I would tell myself to stay patient and work the program. I was very lucky in that once I worked through the Cheeky Scientist material and got my skills and materials into shape, two very strong job offers occurred in close succession with each other. For a long time, I had applied and applied with no response, but basically within 3½ months of starting the program, things changed and I was getting interviews and job offers.
What was the most memorable moment for you (so far) as a Cheeky Scientist Associate?
It was the way the program helps you figure out what you want to do, and then sets up a template for how to do it. I thought it would take me longer than 4 months to get a job, but the program really streamlined the process.
What do you see as the next step in your career?
So, the next step is to become Senior Study Director. This comes with a big pay bump and more responsibility. This will hopefully set me up to become Director of my department someday in the future.
How can the Association and the Association’s members help you continue to achieve your career goals?
I think the most important thing is to keep following successful Cheeky Scientists throughout their career path. Working in industry, there is always a chance that the company could close, or downsize. It would be good to know how other people who have been through the program handle change (positive or negative) throughout their career.
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?
Know what you want to do, and prepare for it. If you are non-committal on what you like to do and how you can do it in industry, then employers will see that. Only when you are clear on what you want to do, and work with Cheeky Scientist to figure out how to put that out there, then the offers will come and you will be a sought-after commodity. If you float through the process and don’t have a goal, industry opportunities will pass you by faster than you know.
To learn more about how you can transition into an industry career like Chris, 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.