We increasingly see job postings that call for well-rounded candidates. I think this trend is here to stay, especially with the growth of interdisciplinary or cross-functional positions both in academia and industry. I actually think this is a good thing, since this trend facilitates more interactions between people in different roles (R & D, Marketing, Sales, Customer Service, etc.).
You know what I’m referring to…the qualifications for open positions that require experience and proficiency in a given set of lab skills, but also “creativity, dynamic communication skills, excellent interpersonal relations, generally business savvy” and other soft skills. These are generally skills that we might not acquire in our typical graduate lab computer experiences (of course, each individual case is different), but in speaking with (formerly) fellow students, I’ve sensed a great interest in being able to develop these skills prior to our PhD defenses.
Along these lines, but slightly more specialized, is a month-long program at the Stanford Graduate School of Business that I just cannot recommend enough. It is called the Summer Institute for Entrepreneurship (http://www.gsb.stanford.edu/sie/), and provides an overview of (very) basic business knowledge, with an entrepreneurial focus.
I enjoyed every minute of it – the stellar professors, the interesting courses and reading (of which there was quite a bit), engaging class discussions, and especially meeting all of the other 70 students. They brought in several speakers during the month, including venture capitalists and angel investors, as well as entrepreneurs (both successful and unsuccessful). We gained experience in developing a business plan and presenting the plan to a panel of judicious investors. After completing the program, I can now read the Market & Money/Investing sections of the Wall Street Journal with a much better understanding of the terminology and concepts presented in the articles.
There were students from all fields – everything from Engineering, like myself, to Computer Science, Sociology, Psychology, and Medicine. Most students were near the end of their PhD or had just finished (again, like myself). If you’re at all interested in rounding out your graduate experience with a fantastic business overview, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND this program. I promise no one is paying me to say this. Speaking of paying, I’ll be honest in saying that the program was not inexpensive, but it was worth the cost. I believe other schools have similar programs – while I don’t know the specifics of these other programs, I’m sure they are great as well. I’d be happy to answer any questions about the Stanford program.