Alternative Careers in Medicine - Where can your PhD take you? #2
Our regular series of case studies looks at what career options are available to graduates in medicine and life sciences outside of academia. Philipp Gramlich explains how he worked at a start-up between his PhD and postdoc, before leaving academic research to work full-time at Eurofins Genomics. Philipp now owns and operates NaturalScience.Careers, a career development and leadership training company.
An Interview with Philipp Gramlich (Co-Founder of NaturalScience.Careers)
What were your first career steps and how did that work out?
After my PhD, I was invited to start working in a start-up that my supervisor founded. Therefore I delayed my postdoc at Edinburgh University by some time and gathered very interesting experiences. After the postdoc, I decided to leave academia and took a position in industry, working for Eurofins Genomics. This phase was relatively 'normal', marked by a bit of horizontal and vertical movement in the hierarchy. I started as Senior Scientist R&D and ended up leading three teams in production and R&D. In parallel, I co-founded NaturalScience.Careers, a company specialised in workshops and talks specifically for life- and natural scientists.
The overlapping period with a job in industry and budding self-employment was enriching and tiring at the same time, as you might imagine. Now the company is stable and growing, so I am happy with a free, creative and flexible type of work.
Which industry are you working in now and what qualifications and experience did you need to attain your current role?
Trainer and speaker, co-founded my own company. 'Speaking the same language' as other scientists is a major selling point for our activities. The specialised science skills don´t count in my current role, I work in a typical generalist role. There are some new core skills, though, particularly in the fields of teaching and presenting.
Having exposed myself to a wide variety of environments and challenges has been helpful in order to be able to cover a breadth of topics.
What does a typical working day look like for you?
Ca. 50% Home office. Prepare and wrap-up seminars and talks, office work, supervise our (sole) co-worker remotely. Communicate with customers. Improve my skills and services.
Ca. 20% Travelling.
Ca. 30% Giving seminars and talks.
Have you encountered any barriers to entry in your career outside academia and how did you overcome them?
'Between my ears', meaning prejudices, e.g. against jobs in industry. By trying it out and speaking with experts from these fields, I learned about the real pros and cons about working in industry.
Inherent risk of entrepreneurship. We had a swing-in phase, during which I was still employed on an 80% contract in industry.
What sort of person would thrive in your particular role?
Generalists. People thriving when trying out things themselves, which is quite often a messy and amateurish way of working, but which can lead to great learnings in the end. And of course, the inherent risk: people who regard employability (for which entrepreneurship can be great) as more important than safety (for which entrepreneurship is awful).
What advice would you give to an early career researcher who might be interested in pursuing a career outside academia?
Expert interviews. Speak with people who work in different areas. Then you can verify or falsify your preconceptions in a way which you can never get from the internet or books.
Philipp studied chemistry at both Munich universities as well as at the University of Sydney. During his PhD, he joined a project team, whose work led to the foundation of base click GmbH by BASF Venture Capital. After some exciting experiences during the pre-founding and founding phases of this company, he went to Edinburgh for a postdoc.
Philipp then left academic research to join Eurofins Genomics for five years. In this time he worked as team leader (mainly in part-time), eventually being responsible for 22 staff in three teams. In parallel, he co-founded Natural Science Careers, where he is focussing on leadership training, career starters, coaching and business development.