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Upskilling. What's your 2020 plan?  

 

DX
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December 2, 2019 11:06 am  

Last night I was watching of my favorite CNN segments (only my only favorite CNN segment), Fareed Zakaria, GPS and he had a session where the notion of upskilling came into play.   

It made me reflect, on my upskilling and how that part of career development is key to sustainable career growth and development. 

At this time of year, many of us in the private sector are having our end of year reviews - and some that conversation is about what we did to develop (upskill) and where we intend to foucs for the following year.    So I have a plan in place.

Do you?

For me it's a mix.  Certainly my in-job , day to day is the biggest contibutor to my upskilling.  I engage in projects and items that reflect development for me (either personal, or for the team/company) and addresses a gap or an area to strenthen. 

A piece of it is also, and importantly so, beyond job development. I.e. a course, certificate program, etc. 

For  career, as my boss gently reminded me, it can be important to show you're investing in your development and little experiences/training that point to upskilling can be have meaningful returns. (he was annoyed I didn't complete an external training program to which the company invested).  He noted it's what likes to see in a CV that a person is investing in their development beyond the job. But for me this year, most of my important upskilling came from the job, which we ultimately agreed.  For me, this year was about my job and what i did this year i'm happy with on many fronts.

Upskilling: this is one piece of the puzzle what helps one achieve sustainablity in a job market that is now increasingly volitile and immensely competitive. 

So i'm good this year, i feel.....upskilled! I feel, competitive. And in a short-term horizon, stable.

When I was in academia, I didn't think aobut the word upskilling but I did think of others words...differentiation/competitiveness. 

So to that extent, I did invest outside the lab into course work,  volunteer work,  and other trainings that provided additional competency building and training, and so on.  They were linked at time to giving me expsore to items that I was not getting in the lab, namely soft-skill and leadership competency building, and some outside the lab technical skills for future target job areas. So I had a plan in terms of that I knew i needed to differentiate and upskill. I found activities to help towards that end. And yes,  still did my lab work that was at the core. 

So moving into 2020..what are you upskilling plans? 

Mine: complete the training for a specific certificate linked to my job function, do my job, I still have some great on-job experiences I'm looking to execute on, so do that, and move towards some non-work related upskilling for my future entrepreneural ambitions.  

DX


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Dave Jensen
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December 11, 2019 8:00 pm  

Great post, DX. Thanks for your usual (interesting) thread topic.

For me, when I think of this topic of "upskilling" it reminds me of what companies used to take on for their employees, and the way that some people THINK it still operates today.

That "old school" view of upskilling is that the COMPANY is responsible for it, that it is the job of the employer to do on the job training and to help their employees move towards new skill areas and contribute in different (better) ways. While this may be the case in some employers, your post is good because it makes today's picture clear . . . it's really in YOUR area of responsibility, and not the company's, to think about what you are going to add to your mix of skills and what you might add to increase your worth to your employer.

Gone are "OJT" (On the Job Training) programs. If you're hired as a microbiologist to support the fermentation group, and you know how to do one particular assay, but otherwise know nothing further about the operations of a fermenter and the big-picture of microbiology in the pilot plant, you're out of luck. You'll be held at the level you are at now until you gradually, and oh so gradually, start to pick up other skills by attrition. But no one is going to put you through a program to become more valuable to the employer, so you have to "design" such a program yourself! Just as DX has done.

Is there anyone reading and posting here who has an employer who still offers OJT? When I started recruiting, one major pharma company on the East Coast actually cared so much about it they arranged a program with Rutgers at the time to go into their labs and conduct actual creditable coursework so that not only could their people come away better trained, they could also use it towards a Masters degree. That's long gone, I think, but I would love to know if anyone else here can spot examples of this mentality. Gone are the days of companies investing a ton in their people -- now, you invest in yourself. 

Dave Jensen, Founder and Moderator

Dave Jensen, Founder and Moderator
Bio Careers Forum


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Colleague 45211
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December 14, 2019 3:36 pm  

My experience has been a bit different. My large biotech employer has offered many opportunities for upskilling. For example, we have an electronic booklet with internal training opportunities and we are encouraged to complete a few each year. These include internal managerial training courses, improving presentation skills, understanding cultural differences since we are truly a global company, dealing with difficult people, providing feedback and the list goes on! In addition we can usually attend one or two external training courses that cover many similar topics as I mentioned above. Finally, we have rotation programs where you can spend about six months working in a different part of the company in a totally unfamiliar area (a different R&D topic, marketing, accounting, etc...) so that you can better understand what others do.  Of course the onus is on the employee to engage in these opportunities (and be a high performing individual if you want to be eligible for the opportunities) but they are available!

One of my favorite conversations I've seen floating around online about this topic is:

CEO: "We need to provide opportunities for our employees to grow."

CFO: "What if we spend all that money on their growth and they leave the company?"

CEO: "What if we don't and they stay?"


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Dave Jensen
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December 16, 2019 4:41 am  

Funny -- thanks for the post. Yes, the largest still have some training programs in effect, which is great. Sometimes they'll get "used" as a training academy as you state. But for the most part, it adds to employee morale. It's hard to pull people out of some of those organizations as a result.

Dave

This post was modified 3 months ago by Dave Jensen

Dave Jensen, Founder and Moderator
Bio Careers Forum


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zoeywilson141
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December 20, 2019 8:39 am  

I have been actually been talking to people about doing an ethics course. It interests me, but I 'm unsure if I will be able to develop depth of understanding. I got interested in the subject when I came across this book Solutions for The Tracks We Leave: Ethics and Management Dilemmas in Healthcare at a friend's. Although it was an undergrad text, it was super interesting. I have also been reading a lot online, exploring forums and talking to people; I'm hoping I can decide soon. 🙂


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Dave Jensen
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December 27, 2019 4:40 pm  

Hi Zoey -- Ethics isn't a bad topic to explore just to add to about any career choice. Especially in science and medicine, having a knowledge of ethics and thinking through decisions . . .  I've never met an employer who didn't consider it an advantage to have some of this training in one's CV,

Dave

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DX
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January 9, 2020 8:41 am  

HI Zoey, 

Sorry for the late response. 

There is a function (department) in most well-established pharma company's called "Ethics and Compliance, aka E&C".  They have titles like E&C Managers or E&C Directors, etc.   

A high process role, they do play a key role with ensuring the company is conducting it's business Ethically, for example adhering to company code of conduct, pharma codes of customer/HCP engagement, and ensuring its employes are in compliance to SOPs, processes and so on.  They do wear many hats and can be involved in many aspects of my job, for example they'll be apart of my approval process to have an advisory board, or they'll review brand plans for ethical issues, or send me nasty emails when I don't do my trainings, or audit my agency engagements/contracts, process and physician/society/grants from many angles.   

They can come from diverse backgrounds, some are legal folk, some have Regulatory Affairs experience, some are ex-Marketeers and some are just start off in some form of process control/auditing and so and so on.   Some aspects of the job are interesting, because I find E&C interesting and know the pitfalls from my activities, i'm have great engagements with E&C - some say I should go to E&C, but its not for me, the fun part is just the tip of the iceberg of what they do, at least for me.  I'm would not be interested say in auditing the trail of a function's engagements with a 3rd party supplier as per SOP adherence. They'll investigate deviations, and complaints of non-compliance/ethical concerns. Not a nice part of the role.

At best, E&C folks in the company are your partners and supporters, solutions focused and just awesome. At worse, they can act as police officers, be deconstructive, problem raisers and  energy drainers.   

You can thus gather, the E&C role is a highly empowered role and carries authoritative weight in the company. 

Anyways, from this post, I would recommend you talk to some E&C folks as part of your networking and informational interviewing - learn more if that can be an interest for your future.  You may have to get expertise elsewhere but nothing says you can't keep it in scope.     

DX


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Dave Jensen
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January 12, 2020 3:33 pm  

I think it's fantastic to highlight positions and career tracks like this one on the forum. For some reason, most career advice on the net is focused on the same kinds of jobs. There's very little invested in talking about the other, very real jobs in companies like yours DX, so the more that you and others can bring to the table, the better. Jim Gardner, another great forum poster, once started a thread about "competitive intelligence" careers, which really sounded cool, and I later found out that every medium to large organization has such roles. There's a lot out there that a scientist can move to if they've decided to get off the scientific track!

Dave

Dave Jensen, Founder and Moderator
Bio Careers Forum


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zoeywilson141
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January 24, 2020 4:53 am  

DX: I'm sorry for the delayed response. 

Dave and DX: Thank you for all the information. This is so much more than what I was expecting. Now I shall explore some courses and job profiles to understand better. I shall also speak to some E&C folks and see what kind of educational backgrounds they have. Again, many thanks!

-Zoey

 


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