Dr. Saurabh Sen, principal scientist at Boehringer Ingelheim, recently gave the first career talk to UT Health San Antonio trainees as a part of the new Career Exploration Series.
He holds a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Helsinki, Finland and completed his postdoctoral research at Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine and the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He was a senior scientist at Lucigen Corp. before joining Boehringer Ingelheim. As a research scientist with a domain expertise in Antibody Therapeutics, he is primarily working on antibody therapeutics towards developing new drug for unmet medical needs, spanning over a broad depth from discovery to upstream manufacturing. His main focus is on optimizing novel technologies for antibody expression (both transient and stable CLD), using cell culture of mammalian cell lines (mainly CHO variants) in support of early discovery research, process development, scale-up and technology transfer.
Dr. Sen discussed the different research areas of Boehringer Ingelheim: Biologics, Pharmaceutical and Animal Health, along with their three locations, the headquarters in Ingelheim, Germany, with additional research locations in Biberach, Germany, Vienna, Austria and Ridgefield, Conn., where he works.
He also discussed the importance of collaboration across the different groups and locations. Teamwork, communication and trust are keys to success when working in industry. Dr. Sen also discussed the differences between working in industry versus working in academia. In industry, it is a market driven model of research, in a collaborative environment with targeted goals where patients come first, and safety of the drugs is a prime concern. In his area, the project must have the possibility to be a drug to move forward – only certain projects make it to the final finish line, others getting dropped in the way due to varied reasons for failure. Because of the limited disclosures, publications are sometimes limited in an industrial setting
Looking ahead, Dr. Sen stated that in industry is technology driven and globalized. Additionally, there have been a number of mergers and acquisitions. However, the landscape looks good, companies are still hiring even during the pandemic. Additionally, if a person wants to transition away from bench research, there are many other role and opportunities within the company. Some examples include operations, quality control, business development, regulatory affairs and project management.
As for getting a job in industry, Dr. Sen recommends assessing your expertise and skills, your readiness, and your connections/network. Hiring managers are looking for people who can work on a team, are creative and have “out of the box” solutions to problems. They are looking for people with flexibility, adaptability, resourcefulness and a willingness to wear multiple hats. Good hires fit in with the team and culture and are willing to learn new things. Dr. Sen relayed that the hiring decisions are often jointly made by the team, not just the hiring manager, so finding someone who is a good fit is very important since teamwork is emphasized.
Some of Dr. Sen’s Advice included:
- If your background and qualifications meet at least a significant part of the job description, go ahead and apply! A job description is a wish list if the hiring manager could find their “perfect” person. It’s rare than anyone will meet all the listed characteristics. Hiring managers are often willing to train in a specific skill if the person is a good fit for the team. But make sure you customize your resume & cover letter for that position.
- Research the company (and group) in advance and be as prepared as possible. Be ready to answer the question “Why do you want to work here?” with a great response. Resonate your skillset with the frequency of the company.
- Network! Networking is key and will help you learn about hidden opportunities and help you get a foot in the door. Keep in touch with your contacts and let everyone know you are looking. Dr. Sen related a story about speaking with a friend in passing about an open position. Turns out the friend had a co-worker who had recently been laid off. The person applied and was hired. Proves you never know where you may find your next position!
- Sen also reminded the trainees to trust their gut feelings. It’s important to work for a great organization that you respect and where you can have a good work-life balance. Try to learn in advance how success is measured and evaluate the reputation of the organization.
For Dr. Sen, he enjoys testing hypotheses in the lab and knowing that his research has a direct impact on human health with the products that are developed. It is a constantly challenging and evolving environment, always trying something new, but with relatively stable employment. While he sometimes misses the craziness of an academic atmosphere and the energy of having lots to students around, he’s very happy with his career choice.
Disclaimer: This disclaimer informs readers that the views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the author (Dr. Saurabh Sen), and not necessarily to the author’s employer, organization, committee or any other group or individual.