Each Friday we post a new v i s t a profile, a career beyond the academy story (use the tags at the bottom of the post to find the entire list). These posts accompany our curated events to support post-PhD career transitions, v i s t a mentoring, and also #sheffvista on Twitter.
Job title and company: Scientific Content Manager and Global Campaign Manager, , Merck KgAa, Darmstadt, Germany
Approximate salary range for your type of role: Variable €40-55K
When you come across someone in a role where you think “ooh, I’d like to do that job” it seems that the answer to the question of how they got there is always “well, I just fell into it really” or “I got lucky”. I feel the same, but obviously, there is more to it than that. There always is.
I have a degree in Medicinal Chemistry, and a PhD in Protein Crystallography, where I specifically studied the structural basis of DNA repair.
So how did I end up in marketing?
Like many PhD graduates, I stumbled out into the real world lacking in confidence, so I decided to remain in what I thought was my comfort zone, by taking a postdoc position close by. Midway through, my PI relocated to Atlanta, which although not on my bucket list, provided a great experience career-wise particularly in terms of new experiences and managing my projects.
The benefit of a postdoc job is you know when they are going to end, so you have time to prepare and figure out what the next step is. I looked into doing other postdocs, and various other jobs, but I got lucky and found a scientific R&D position in France with a genome engineering company. Having thought I’d struck gold, during my third year there, after settling in and learning the language, I was suddenly made redundant due to financial difficulties in the company.
I remained unemployed for 6 months, during which I translated my CV and learnt to write cover letters and conduct interviews in a second language, and started networking like crazy. In the end, I accepted a demanding, but relatively low-paid position in a small CRO (contract research organisation) for 6 months, which got me back into the market.
My own personal network led me to the next job, where I chanced upon a role in marketing for a company that sells screens and consumables for protein crystallography. The owner understood that a knowledge of the subject was more important than a background in marketing. In a small company, you have the benefit of seeing all aspects of the business and I learnt the marketing on the job.
So where am I now? I am now part of one of many Global Marketing & Communication teams in the Life Science business of Merck KgAa, Darmstadt, Germany (now known as MilliporeSigma in North America). Previously Merck Millipore and Sigma Aldrich. Although not essential for my position, my manager felt that she needed someone with a PhD in this role to ensure the stakeholders respect my decisions and work.
I operate as a service for 6 Global Marcom (= Marketing Communications) campaign managers by providing scientific content for global brochures, emails, newsletters, webinar abstracts, web content for both the Merck and Sigma-Aldrich websites amongst many other things. Subjects I cover range from e.g. microbiological testing in the food and beverage industry, to column chromatography and Karl Fischer titration.
The campaign managers are not scientists, but they do work closely with the product managers who are. I have to check that the content is scientifically, and grammatically correct, whilst also ensuring that we convey the best message to the customer (yes, I sex-up agar!). Due to the size of the business, it is also extremely important to communicate new campaigns and product launches internally, so I also manage our internal web pages and newsletters.
The team I work in is based in France and Germany, and due to the global aspect of the job, I often also work with people in the USA – some of whom I have not met in person. A typical week involves many teleconferences with product managers, campaign managers etc. and I clear my schedule in blocks for writing so people don’t sneak in a meeting when I need to be thinking. I have a 1:1 with my boss weekly, and usually travel (often to the HQ in Germany) approximately once a month.
My tip is ‘always negotiate’. Academic salaries are fixed, but industry will always make you an offer as low as they think you’ll accept, so there is nearly always some wiggle room, and you will need to speak up to get it. Your negotiation may not be monetary, it could be hours of work, option to work from home, a company car, it’s for you to decide what is important. If they want you, they won’t rescind an offer because you ask, so you have nothing to lose.