Beyond the PhD recently hosted Aditi Vyas, a Scientific and Clinical Regulatory Consultant for Cerneos Group. She shared her experience and advice about how to navigate from a PhD into life science consulting.
Before venturing into the field of consulting, Aditi attained a PhD in Biological Sciences with a focus on the Neurocardiovascualr system. She additionally holds a Masters in Exercise Sciences and Kinesiology as well as a physical therapy degree. Aditi first learned about science consulting at a conference, and then decided that she wanted to work in this industry after further research.
Aditi detailed why she chose to work at Cerneos Group when beginning her career in consulting. She specifically wanted to work at a small- to medium-sized consulting firm to gain experience in the field and kickstart her career as a consultant. Cerneos Group consults on a wide range of projects ranging from ideas and early-stage development all the way to therapeutic use. Cerneos provides consulting services in scientific, regulatory, and product development as well as assists with grant writing and fundraising.
Next, Aditi explained what consulting is. Consulting is a job where you provide professional expertise in order to advance a particular field and attain specific outcomes. This might be something like helping companies start a new project, strategic planning to launch a new product or device, business development, providing guidance on regulatory submissions, helping with fundraising, or grant writing and submission.
Aditi then went on to talk about who can do consulting work. Scientific consultants often come from a variety of backgrounds. Healthcare professionals, PhD holders, industry scientists, and other expert professionals can all work as consultants. To be a consultant, it is important to have both a technical background in your area of expertise as well as an understanding of current business and market trends.
Many of the skills you develop during your time as a PhD student or post-doc can be beneficial to consulting. Translational or “soft” skills that you develop as a researcher and student will be important if you want to work as a consultant. This can include things such as communication skills, project planning, time management, leadership, critical thinking, and more. On top of scientific expertise in your chosen field, it is important to be open to new ideas, be adaptable, and be cable to communicate to a variety of audiences if you want work as a consultant.
Aditi mentioned additional ways you can prepare yourself for a career in consulting during your PhD or post-doctoral training. Networking at various events, conducting market research, expanding your expertise, freelancing, conducting additional training, or doing an internship are all wonderful opportunities to broaden your skillset as a student looking to transition into consulting. She stressed the importance of, “getting comfortable being uncomfortable”. Consulting is a field where you will constantly be challenged and will often have to face complex problems. Knowing how to be uncomfortable when put into new situations can be extremely beneficial for this role.
Finally, Aditi relayed how someone can get into consulting after completing a PhD or post-doc. Consultants can work for small firms all the way up to large corporations. Companies that will hire consultants include consulting firms, pharmaceutical companies, biotech firms, startups, healthcare, and many others. Consulting can be a tough field to break into, but having the right skill set can make you an ideal candidate. Take opportunities when you can to network and learn more about consulting if you think it may be a potential career path for you. No matter what job you are looking to start, you get to decide your own professional trajectory and skill set. Developing translational skills and preparing during your time in academia can be invaluable for future success.