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Industry Transition Spotlight: Sidharth Mohan, PhD

An interview with Sidharth Mohan, Ph.D.

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

Sidharth Mohan, Scientist – Ligand Characterization and Analytics, Avitide, Inc.

Can you describe what a typical day at your job looks like?

My team sits across the multiple “divisions” of the company, which means that my team and I are setting up experiments and analyzing data on a continuous basis – and we do this across multiple projects, which themselves are in different phases.

On a day-to-day basis, this means we’re setting up many experiments in the 2 broad halves of the day. The spare time is for data analysis and meetings. Typically, I get in to work early (I live very close to work!), we break for a company-sponsored lunch at noon (one of the many perks of being employed here!) and follow a similar pattern of work in the second half. There is a good mix of benchwork and deskwork – data analysis, emails, other R&D, and weekly all-hands meets.

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

There are 2 significant ones – apart from leveraging the technical skills from my graduate training, I see that I’m able to match the pace of growth and work at a young company whose goals are aligned with mine. The other amazing part is, I’m able to spend 5-10% of my time in developing and advancing the technology I work with, which is my own R&D for improving processes and work-flows. This aligns with my scientific and engineering mindset, where knowledge is acquired and implemented.

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

That communication truly was everything. Sure, it is easier to say that now that I’ve transitioned, but demonstrating the enthusiasm and dedication through your work and interactions with colleagues is critical to the trust that you build for yourself at the workplace. Importantly, I can see the impact my work has on the projects and decision-making processes – this was a revelation in that even the smallest wheel can have a big impact on the machine – and it all comes down to a culture fit.

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

I was a postdoc for about 5.5 months before starting at Avitide. My position here is different from academia for many reasons – and I understand that some of these reasons are just realities of academia vs. industry, so they are not meant to deride any one person or group, but just to shed light on some of the broad differences through my very personal lens. At the outset (some folks might not be comfortable to mention this), the compensation matters!

First, the illusion that going to industry meant selling out is false. I am still on a very steep learning curve, and the stakes are just as high, if not higher. I must learn while doing, which means that there is little room for error. I have virtually unlimited access to the technology, and that is a direct impact of being in a profit-driven system, which is not the case in academia, as we know.

Second, the people I work with are hand-picked and the integrity of culture at the work place is critical to overall success at Avitide. “Culture” also means being able to adapt to technology that is not the core – what are the best practices and how can we update these to stay on top of things? I get to partake in answering these questions with little bureaucratic red-tape.

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?

Hold on, you will have your day in the sun. There are stressors everywhere, be it the industry-specific demands for experience (always a Catch-22, I know!), lack of a network in your target companies, or immigration related hurdles. Maybe the real test of your employability is your tenacity to handle this situation. Keeping a positive outlook and focusing on your job hunt is critical to your success. A big contribution to this is your support network – personal and professional. You need to find people who can support you in both spheres, and never ever burn bridges or take someone for granted. In a way, CSA is a door to the latter – you must take that first step.

What was the most memorable moment for you (so far) as a Cheeky Scientist Associate?

1) Interacting with Matt Heberling. I had the luxury of having access to a former lab-member who is a Cheeky. The conversations with him were critical to my decision in joining CSA.

2) Without a doubt, The Cheeky Summit in Boston (2017) was superb, and I think it will only get better in 2018. I met the entire Cheeky team in person and made some amazing personal and professional connections. The peer-to-peer advocacy is a strong culture within the CSA community, and the summit illustrated that to me.

3) The idea of personal branding. In today’s social-network driven culture, it was shocking to me that PhDs like myself were not self-advocating or promoting their own “brands”, an idea I learnt a lot about from CSA.

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

Build technical and managerial expertise to lead a project from start to finish. I want to build a career and not have a series of jobs – the distinction is subtle yet important – and I am still in the process of figuring out the minutiae.

How can the Association and the Association’s members help you continue to achieve your career goals?

Meetups to keep the network alive and mutually beneficial. This is super important to me, since there is a lot of cohesion between associates who join at the same time, or who have met in person – we share a lot of the same challenges, which breeds camaraderie. This network within a network eventually translates into employed professionals who are well-connected to each other, which can result in mutually beneficial outcomes.

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’ve been on 3 interview panels so far. Companies care about culture and your ability to communicate. It is taken for granted that you have the technical know-how; if you do not explicitly have the expertise, they want to see your ability and enthusiasm to learn. I have seen a variety of expertise and communication styles, and the ones who get hired are the ones who do their homework about the company. When you get the interview call, telephonic or otherwise, you need to know more about them than they know about you!

Working in teams and managing your time is super important; I cannot overstate this. Succinct, precise communication that enables your team and keep things on track is seen as your ability to translate overarching goals to doable tasks.

Lastly, do not listen to the naysayers. If you want a certain kind of job, go for it – figure out where you stand and what needs to be done, and then fill in the gaps (if any!) by harnessing your enthusiasm! If you’re at rock-bottom, then the only way is up!

To learn more about how you can transition into an industry career like Sidharth, 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 Hankel


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