Thank you to our panelists Dr. Andrea Gilpin General Manager Goodman Pediatric Formulations Centre, Dr Bernard Lam Manager, Genomics Production Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, Dr. Saachshaini Sadchatheeswaran Senior Business Intelligence and Reporting Visualization Analyst TD

On February 16, CSB students connected with three U of T alumni in a virtual Career Panel supported by the b2B program and moderated by Raegan Larson, CSBGU’s Career and Professional Development Officer. We are very grateful to our panelists for sharing their unique career paths coming out of a life sciences program. They all gained crucial skills in academia, and chose to follow their passions into the private sector.

Dr. Andrea Gilpin obtained an MBA in International Business after an MSc at Western and a PhD from U of T. She went on to combine her interest in science and business, working for research centres, biotechnology startups, pharmaceutical companies, and in her current position as General Manager of the Goodman Pediatrics Formulations Centre.

Dr. Bernard Lam’s academic career went as far as postdoctoral work at Mass General Hospital in Boston after a BSc and PhD at U of T. He moved to industry to become a Senior Research Scientist at Norgen Biotek Corp, and now combines his academic and business training as General Manager of Genomics Production at the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research since 2018.

Dr. Saachshaini Sadchatheeswaran completed her BSc at U of T in 2011. A marine ecology internship at Stellenbosch University led her to pursue a PhD at the University of Cape Town. Her work on statistics and data visualization was the most fulfilling part of her studies, so she pursued this interest into the private sector. She now works at TD Bank as a Senior Business Intelligence and Reporting Visualization Analyst.

As with Sadchatheeswaran’s love of data visualization, activities or extracurriculars can suggest new career paths. For instance, Gilpin’s experience in student clubs and TA training helped her realize her love for business and management, whereas Lam followed the stock market to gain an understanding of the biotech industry.

Some jobs may require extra training in skills outside the scope of your degree. Gilpin completed an MBA to gain a better understanding of the business world. Sadchatheeswaran took a course on visual analytics and product design at OCADU, and also learned technical skills in coding.

For students who lack experience directly relevant to a job, showcasing relevant skills is key. Sadchatheeswaran advised that, particularly in her field of data visualization, a well-crafted portfolio is one way to create an outstanding application.

The panelists emphasized the importance of transferable skills obtained in academia; interpersonal skills such as teamwork and customer service are important in many life sciences jobs. Gilpin emphasized that while many industry jobs don’t involve lab work, the critical thinking and writing skills required in academia are broadly applicable to many other fields. Lam also mentioned problem solving and presentation as being highly marketable skills.

Lastly, the panelists recommended reaching out and making connections with others in the industry. For one, Sadchatheeswaran was able to land interviews at TD after a presentation that she gave at OCADU. Her talk impressed a viewer who reached out to her via LinkedIn. Lam cautioned that when it comes to making your own connections via LinkedIn, quality comes before quantity.

When contacting prospective employers, preparedness is key. Gilpin asserted the importance of researching companies of interest and thinking about how your ideas and skills can fit into their objectives. Similarly, Lam emphasized looking for ways that the applicant’s research interests align with, and potentially expand, the work of an academic or industry research lab.

Reaching out with a message of genuine interest and enthusiasm in an organization can help make a good impression, and open doors to new opportunities.