Thanks to Dr. Donna Korol, I was put in touch with biotechnology consultant, Dr. Nancy Fogg-Johnson. Dr. Fogg-Johnson is currently a Principal in Technology and Business Ventures, Inc. and founder of Life•Sciences•Alliance, a consortium of consultants. If you check out her bio, you'll see that she's had a broad range of experiences in the industry, most heavily devoted to the interface between science and commercialization.
She traced it all back to her undergrad days as a science major, where she was loving science and doing everything in her power to avoid things like business. But like most things in life that are avoided, that caught up with her later. During the course of her graduate studies in Nutrition and Food Science, she decided to go into industry instead of academia. She was really happy with her first job out of grad school as a bench scientist investigating soy protein. After a few years, she was promoted to Director of Product Development and sent to work with one of their clients on-site in New Mexico. That was the trip that changed her life. The two hour scientific talk she prepared was pared down to 15 minutes, and for the remainder of the two day visit, they wanted to talk finances. Thus began her journey into "science business", and the rest is history. Actually, some of it can be found in her bio, but I don't want to spoil it too much because we'd like to get her to visit U of I to tell you in person! Keep an eye out for that in the Spring!
She had some great insight that I'd like to share in the meantime though:
1. Practice interviewing skills. Go to your job placement office (such as the BCSO) and take advantage of the opportunities for mock interviews and resume critiques. Being able to present yourself professionally is key.
2. Get a job. When I asked her the one bit of advice she'd give to a newbie interested in going into industry or into the business side of science she said that that is the most important thing to do. First, land some sort of job (anything that doesn't make you completely miserable will do). Then figure things out from there. It takes being on the "inside" to really understand where the opportunities lie.
3. Talk to your professors. She found her first position out of grad school by talking to her professors who had industry connections.
A peripheral topic we talked about was headhunters (I'm referring to the second definition in this case). I've heard folks in the industry talk about headhunters, but finding them always seemed elusive. Headhunters are basically recruiters who search primarily at the Executive level. Therefore, they probably won't be interested in you if you just graduated. However, once you're out there in the workforce for a 3-5 years (see 2) and doing good work, they'll find you. Hence, the "hunting" aspect. Amazing to think that in the future, jobs will come looking for you!