An interview with Shen Lin, Ph.D.
What is your name, your full job title, and the full name of the company you work for?
Shen Lin, Research Scientist – Talee Bio, Inc.
What is your favorite part about working in industry?
I am the first employee of a gene therapy startup company so I get to be the lead scientist for all the experiments and data analysis. I am working cross-functionally with leaders in industry and academia in order to bring a product from bench to the clinic. My scientific impact is potentially quite big and the work I do is potentially life-changing.
Can you describe what a typical day at your job looks like?
Since our company is still at the early stages of growth I am working in an academic lab with the academic co-founder scientists of the startup. On a daily basis I get to work early and either have a lab meeting, a conference call with the corporate department, or set up experiments for the day. I still have lunch with graduate students and postdocs within the lab and I still attend a few academic seminars here or there. The university I work at is quite big and is connected to a major teaching hospital so I am able to make use of the core lab facilities as well as multiple cafeterias and the occasional free concert. I still get to leave before dinner every day.
Once a week in the afternoon I also have a conference call with our Chief Medical Officer. There we discuss scientific progress, development plans for upcoming GLP studies, or regulatory requirements for gene therapy development. I am also in charge of R&D spending so I have to report all expenditure to the corporate administrator and constantly organize purchase order forms.
How is your current industry position different from your academic postdoc or experience as a graduate student?
Industry requires a different mindset in that your main objective is not to publish and get a grant, it is to fulfill milestones and meet defined objectives by a set date. In order to reach those milestones you have to be organized with your experiments and try to do things efficiently. One of the first things I did when I started was to set up an Electronic Lab Notebook (ELN) which I could use to log my results online and share with others on the team. This will make it easy for data to be viewed and signed down the line as development continues.
The other major difference is that expenditure is tracked and audited very tightly at the company. Every order, no matter how small, must be logged and signed. In addition we have to make sure that the company’s expenditures are not mixed with the academic lab’s expenditures since the granting bodies are entirely different. This is so that we can avoid a conflict of interest with the university.
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?
A job in industry does not have to mean being in a corporate environment, or even dealing with clients. Leverage the skills you have learnt during your PhD to your advantage so that the job you find works for you and suits your personality.
Network, network, network. The extra degrees and certificates you have do not matter unless you can get extra “degrees” in your network so that someone can give you a recommendation for a job. And always work on improving your emotional intelligence while you are networking. People like to interact with you if you can help them in some way.
What was the most memorable moment for you (so far) as a Cheeky Scientist Associate?
Talking with the founder (Isaiah Hankel) and executive leader (Aja Davis Isble) at Cheeky Scientist! Who would have thought that we all have a University of Iowa link!
Introducing my friends to Cheeky Scientist and seeing them use it to their advantage.
The moment I realized networking and adding value to a relationship plays a bigger part in finding a new career than the technical skills from my PhD and other degrees.
What do you see as the next step in your career?
I would like to see the gene therapy product we are working on go through its preclinical development milestones and reach the clinic. I want to get some managerial experience working with CROs who could guide us in product development. I would then like to do some clinical translational work.
How can the Association and the Association’s members help you continue to achieve your career goals?
I enjoy watching video interviews and listening to audio interviews of CSA members who transition into industry. I am always keen to learn about what other industry jobs entail.
I want to get to know more of the Executive Associates at Cheeky Scientist so that we can share stories of how to reach our next career objectives, as well as give advice to postdocs and graduate students in transition.
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?
Just keep going and don’t give up. In the last year and a half of my postdoc I sent well over 200 CVs, applications and resumes to hundreds of job adverts, ignorant of the mistakes I was making. I had dozens of pre-screening phone interviews, three in-person interviews with CROs and got rejected from all of them. I had also been a long-term postdoc of nearly a decade, partly because I had to wait for my green card. I found my industry job just before finding out about CSA, before I had access to the great resources on the website. Imagine what you can do with the CSA materials and network of members at your disposal! The sky is the limit.
To learn more about how you can transition into an industry career like Shen, 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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