On Friday, February 17th, Biotech Connection Los Angeles (BCLA) hosted its 8th annual Bioscience Talent Connection (BTC) at the USC Hotel. The goal of BTC is to bridge the gap between academic trainees and the biotech industry. This year, our programming featured two professional career development panels, 13 industry exhibitors, and free professional headshots. With over 150 attendees, we connected a diverse group of bioscience trainees from multiple universities, biotech professionals looking to grow their careers and find new opportunities, and company representatives seeking to engage new talent across the greater Los Angeles area.
BTC commenced with a warm introduction delivered by Oskar Sundberg, President of BCLA, who explored our history and discussed how BCLA is facilitating the growth of the LA biotech ecosystem. Following these remarks, Sonia Maryam Setayesh, Vice President of BCLA, introduced and moderated the first educational panel of the day “How to Navigate and Transition Careers in Industry.” This panel featured Cynthia McKee (Manager, Amgen Ventures), Alex Stanczyk (Director of Innovation, Abbvie), Amanda Jensen (Director of Regulatory Affairs, Tempus Labs Inc.), and Ava Bamdad (Medical Science Liaison, Neurocrine Biosciences). Following initial introductions, the panelists set the stage for the workshop by presenting the audience with example career paths outside of R&D. The panel emphasized this point by sharing personal and detailed insight into their respective careers to showcase the breadth of roles a scientific PhD can hold in biopharma. A fundamental takeaway from the first workshop was that careers outside of research require skills and experiences beyond what is learnt in a traditional PhD. While some of these skills can be developed in a graduate program it is always advantageous to seek out mentors and organizations that can provide additional experiences and cultivate these skills further. There was a consensus amongst the panelists that many PhDs face challenges navigating these opportunities due to the lack of exposure to alternative industry roles - attending events like BTC is a crucial component in building a professional network that can facilitate transitions between careers.
The second workshop of the day “Do’s and Don’t in Job Applications and Interviews” was introduced and moderated by BCLA’s podcast host Gabriella Rubert. This panel featured Helen Vong (VP of Business Development, Scismic), Stefanie Galindo (Career Services Professional, USC Career Development Services), and Shahira Badran (Upskilling/Reskilling Expert, Founder of Genedu). The workshop began with an overview of the current biotech job market, what trends can be seen, and how early-career scientists can leverage this information in their favor. Specifically, Shahira Badran shared links to resources to help the audience analyze and understand the ever-changing job market. Panelists then discussed useful strategies to identify positions within a company that fits an applicant’s professional skill set, goals and values. After comparing different parameters an applicant may consider, the audience listened to advice on how to efficiently communicate skills relevant to the position across multiple mediums. This ability is crucial to marketing oneself on paper, as well as making a memorable impression on an interview panel. Panelists offered the suggestion that applicants can often use the original job description as a roadmap on what skills to highlight about oneself using concrete examples in one’s own experience. Due to the highly collaborative nature of the biopharma industry, a recurring theme during the workshop was the importance of soft skills, such as emotional intelligence, and how to effectively advertise these skills in a resume and an interview. After the interview itself, the panelists stressed that the actual interview process is not yet complete. Simply sending a thank you email can set one apart from the rest of the applicant pool and make the candidate more memorable. Furthermore, this extra step can help maintain contact with professionals. Networking and finding mentors is a valuable use of time as it can help better prepare a young professional to navigate the biotech job market with more efficiency and ease. So even if a positive interview process does not end in a job offer, it is a valuable opportunity for networking. The discussion ended with the advice that the best way to prepare to enter the biotech job market is to first get one’s foot in the door. Whether that be something as simple as an informational interview, or becoming involved in organizations within or adjacent to the biotech sphere, every interaction helps build the key to opening the door.
The professional development workshops were followed by a catered lunch where attendees, panelists and company representatives also got the opportunity to have professional headshots taken by our talented photographer Marko. During the lunch our company exhibitors set-up their booths and got ready for the afternoon career fair. This year the attendees got the chance to meet with a diverse set of companies and engaged in educated and prolific conversation with their representative. We thank all exhibitors who participated in this year’s BTC event: Wilison Sonsoni, LA BioSpace, Eli Lilly and Co., Q2, IQVIA, KGI, LifSci Consulting, Aureka Biotechnologies, GrittGene, ALine, Scismic, Polypeptide, Appia Bio, Nucleate and BCLA Consulting.
Finally, we would like to extend a special thanks to our workshop speakers, BCLA team members and attendees who spent their Friday with us and made this year’s BTC another success. Without your continuing support it would be impossible to pursue our mission of growing and diversifying biotech in Los Angeles. Follow us across our social media pages to stay up to date with what is happening across LA biotech and we look forward to seeing you at our upcoming events!