I would like to move to the business side of science. Should I get an MBA as well?  

 

Colleague 45654
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January 8, 2019 5:42 pm  

I would like to move to the business side of science. Should I get an MBA as well?


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Colleague 45108
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January 8, 2019 5:43 pm  

Many people feel it is essential to have significant pharmaceutical research or manufacturing experience - outside of an academic setting - before beginning an MBA program. Some who are planning a business career don't realize how difficult it is to make two big changes at once. You may find that you need to make a move to industry (your first major transition) before you get the job in business (the second transition, and just as drastic as the first). It is very difficult to make both transitions at once.

This post was modified 3 months ago by Dave Jensen

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Dave Jensen
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January 8, 2019 5:43 pm  

You need to plan this career move as if it were a game of chess. As an example, many successful career-changers have used the approach of getting a job as a scientist and then later moving their careers in a new direction from that technical starting point. Most Directors or VP's in Business Development in the biotechnology industry started out as research scientists, not as MBA's coming from academia.

You could also try to start out by gaining some experience in the technology transfer office of your university. From there, you could move to tech transfer positions in many different settings, including intellectual property or business development. Some people work part-time or even volunteer with their campus tech transfer office. This can work wonders for your career aspirations. You may start getting calls from headhunters about jobs after as little as one year of part-time experience.

Many top business schools require work experience for admittance to their MBA programs. Real experience will also help you to get more from your MBA coursework. Although it is a benefit that is slowly disappearing, note that some employers still pay for all or part of your MBA training. Once you have a job in industry, plan to apply to an MBA program after two to three years. This will increase your chances of admission to the better schools, which makes a big difference to your MBA success.

Once you get to business school, many big pharmaceutical/biotech companies do MBA recruiting, and some offer rotational programs. These may require an initial stint in sales for those with no prior field experience. However, companies tend to recruit primarily at a few schools - usually the ones that are most difficult to get into - and they have only a handful of slots.

- Dave Jensen, Moderator and Founder

Dave Jensen, Founder and Moderator
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Dick Woodward
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January 8, 2019 7:51 pm  

First, figure out what you want to do on the business side of science. I often recommend sales and marketing as a good entry to the business side. The barriers to entry are relatively low, the compensation is good, and there are significant opportunities for advancement. Korn-Ferry International, a global recruiting firm, has found that “The fastest route up the corporate ladder is through the marketing side”. For more information, take a look at http://www.sciencemag.org/careers/1997/05/his-mother-cried-when-he-went-sales . While this article is more than 20 years old, it is still very relevant today.

Good luck.

Dick Woodward


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DX
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January 9, 2019 1:00 pm  

Hi Stacey,

To expand on what Dick said, what is it exactly do you mean by business side of science? Doing what exactly?.   If I look at a pharmaceutical company, nearly everyone IS on the "business side of science" as EVERYONE should be aligned to delivering on a the company's business objectives - irrespective of where you sit being Regulatory Affairs, Clinical Development, Marketing or Sales, or Market Access &Pricing, or HEOR or Medical Affairs or even Discovery..and so and so and so on.  Its more the day to day exposure to science and business right and how and where you interface it and for what reasons.   

And also, where would you like to engage that practice? in a Pharma firm? in Management Consulting? Advertising firm?What's the Goal?

So that that next begs the question..what do you mean by "MBA as well"?  Becareful there. Many believe that going after a MBA immediately after a PhD will immediately open doors and give access overnight to ALL business related positions.  It won't.  What you will is a PhD holder and MBA holder with no experience...full stop.  Yes there are company's who may recruit from MBA schools - for example Management Consultant firms and in some cases Pharma Companies, on the latter side, I've generally seen those MBAs come in as trainees with a limited duration of employement where in that time they have to earn their stripes to a Fixed FTE role.  But that's far and few and between these days. And they need to becareful because one day - the lack of Sales experience may actualy get'em depending on paths they want but just as FYI.

My recommendation - identify what it is you want when it comes to "business side of science" then see how you can get there without an MBA, i.e. map entry points.  Later one after some experience, work out if indeed you "need" an MBA and for what purpose. Clearly define that. You may find its not worth the investment, these days experience in-hand is worth more than degree in hand.  You'll find that later on if you do get an MBA, it may help you get to your targeted position - thats the value "maybe" but if there is someone without an MBA in that target position - guess what?  you're on an equal playing field wiht that person, it's about performance and experience then that will get you to the next role not the MBA. MBA may be come a soft check box. Maybe.

So, I'm on the business side of science. No MBA. Was in Marketing, let my own Brand Team with Sales targets as part of my Team's MBO.  I had responsiblity for an operational budget. What got me there? relevant experience from a relevant scientific function that allowed sufficient commercial interfacing and engagement.  

A word about Sales, for me something to consider if you want to go up a Commerical Route to say GM, Business Unit Head or even CEO. Carry the bag.  A solid customer-facing experience does wonders - if not keep you grounded when and if you go into a more fluffy often percieved as ivory tower Marketing role (i'm allowed to say that i'm ex-Marketing as noted).

However there are other paths and environments - Dave mentioned a couple , that can take you to the busienss side of science, i..e varied Medical Affairs functions (such as MSL a nice customer-facing role and experience, or Medical Communications/Publications ..this linked to strategic data communcations), Market Access and Pricing, Market Research, that's a nice entry point i've seen Market Research folk go into Marketing as Product Managers and even Commerical Operations Excellence. 

Good luck what ever you decide, but first step is decide what it is you want. Second define where and if an MBA sits on that path.  and lastly...you'll find as you start to get experience, you may find interesting paths that you don't hear about in school, guage then if a MBA is relevant..or another form of formal education. 

DX


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