BCBA is a true glimpse into a scientific world outside of academia
by Daniel Kramer, PhD | June 23, 2020
As graduate students or post-docs, it is extremely easy to be caught in the bubble of academia. Only until recently has it seemed that the majority are laser focused on catching that ever elusive faculty position. However, there are many different paths to takes that aren’t always advertised to students or postdocs, and being a scientist doesn’t mean tenure track is necessarily right for you. There are many positions that want and need someone with an analytical mind. BCBA provides a path to a world that is often business focused, but still lets you work your chops as a scientist. This world is quite different from academia, but is still exciting and challenging.
Life-science consulting is extremely fast-paced. As scientists, we become accustomed to taking our time to approach and test a hypothesis from every angle to ensure no stone is unturned. However, when you have only 12 weeks to complete a multi-faceted timeline, you don’t have this freedom. Projects at BCBA teach you how to organize and prioritize both your time and swaths of information in order to come quickly to the best conclusions. You become comfortable providing answers and recommendations with only a fraction of the information. With this skillset, you start to feel more confident in your own instincts, and are able to make important decisions quickly. These traits extend far beyond just the project and make you a better scientist and professional.
BCBA projects rely heavily on interpersonal relationships and teamwork. Throughout the 3 months, you will depend on your team members and project manager to provide insight and information, as they depend on you. Rather than toiling away alone on a specific experiment, successful execution of a BCBA project requires everyone to come together to deliver final recommendations. This is exciting because you always feel as though someone has your back and the success isn’t completely reliant on you. This emphasis on teamwork has led to what I believe was the biggest advantage of working with BCBA. Throughout my 2 years as a team member, project manager, and VP of consulting, I was able to cultivate a network of like-minded scientists. BCBA and its community have the unique ability to bring together groups of scientists throughout the bay who are looking at moving away from academia. These relationships have been maintained for the 3+ years since I began and will continue throughout my professional life because of their strength. In the future, this network with mentors and friends will be vital for professional growth.
It can be a bit daunting to transition away from the bench, but BCBA eases this with consistent feedback. Most of us are experienced scientists and feel the most comfortable at the bench. Because BCBA understands you may not have experience optimizing therapeutic pipeline discovery, or prioritizing drug targets, you are given the training and guidance necessary to execute on the necessary tasks. We understand how foreign it can be because we have made the move as well. In addition to the training, and something quite unique to someone accustomed to the academic life-style, there is consistent feedback throughout the project from project managers, VPs of consulting, and mentors. This was something I had found refreshing coming from academia where feedback was reserved for once a year meetings, and would never be productive. At BCBA, the whole company is organized to ensure team-member feedback and growth is a priority.
BCBA provides more than just a glimpse in the business world, it provides the whole view. It is truly a consulting position, albeit with the volume turned down. While you aren’t spending the entirety of the work week on the project, these are still real biotech companies, with real business questions, that need real answers. Transitioning out of academia can be difficult because we are used to the bubble and all the things that come along with it. However, with life-science consulting, I still feel like a scientist at heart, but can take advantage of other strengths I have that would not be rewarded had I stayed in academia.