A reader (we'll call them IW) writes in with a question:
I plan to accept a job in a new start up as a chemist. The start up is on a solid platform (well backed by a [important biotech geographical area] VC), so there is no issue about stability for a few years. My question is: how should I use this opportunity to stabilize myself professionally in the drug discovery chemistry field. I am hoping some of your readers might have started their careers in a similar fashion and have some advice for the rough future.
My advice to IW (even though I am not too far from their position is this): attempt to achieve some depth first (really get to know your project and your project's chemistry), and then start to see what kind of breadth you want as well.
Recent interviews offer good advice: MQ talks about the "building depth" as such:
Keep learning. Take the time to learn as much as you can about the biology going on within your project, especially your primary assays. Talk to the biologists; ask them how they are run, and how to best interpret the data. Talk with the pK folks as well, and anyone else your project interacts with for data. Try to attend as many higher level meetings as you can to get a feel for how the decision making process is handled in your company. Make it a point to go to general informational seminars in other therapeutic areas. Keep learning new things because you just may find yourself transplanted on very short notice.
Kay talks about the importance of keeping up your communication skills (always a difficult thing for somewhat introverted chemists):
Make sure you keep up your writing and presentation skills. When you're busy in the lab, it's easy to brush off writing reports or presenting your work at meetings. But those skills are important in the long term. You can be a terrific bench chemist but if you can't communicate, you will have a hard time getting jobs and advancing in your career. You have to sell your work and you also have to sell yourself. Those skills are also crucial if you ever decide to leave the bench or move into another career.It's all very difficult and confusing for a young chemist starting out in the industry -- I seem to recall a premed advisor in college (don't ask) saying something like "You know, to get into medical school, it helps to walk on water." But it seems to me that between the learning in the lab, and the learning by talking to people, there will be more than enough opportunity to really start a career on the right track.
Readers, what do you think? Am I crazy?