Dr. Girish Kedaar holds a PhD in Neuroscience from Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and is the founder of the GLOVERK Consultancy company. Listing to his story about resilience and how to consider starting your own business after PhD.
Hi and welcome to PhD Career stories, a podcast for people interested in Career opportunities after their PhD. I’m your host today my name is Michele Manzo I am co-founder and producer of this podcast. Today we are pleased to have the story of Girish Kedar who was born and raised in Mumbai in India. From 2009 he has moved to Europe, where he has gained his PhD in Neuroscience from the Vrije University in Amsterdam. After a lot of struggle in finding a job in the pharmaceutical industry, Girish came up with what he called his “Plan B”, which was “Open his own business”. After an initial struggle, he funded GLOVERK Consultancy which is based in Amsterdam and provide services to the pharmaceutical and medical devices industry. At the same time, he had the chance to open another office of GLOVERK in Pune in India and provide similar services. He is also busy working as a Student ambassador from Vrije University as well as an independent career coach for PhD students and postdoctoral candidates.
Thank you Girish and welcome to PhD Career Stories!
First of all, I would like to thank Tina and her team at Passage2Pro for giving me the support you need to talk to you and share my journey so far as a PhD candidate and becoming an entrepreneur.
So to begin with, my name Girish Kedar. I'm basically from Mumbai, India and right now I'm based in Amsterdam and work as an independent consultant and career coach.
I have a basic background in pharmaceutical sciences, and, by the time I finished my bachelor's in pharmaceutical sciences, I pretty much knew how medicines work, treat any disorder or element but I did not know how diseases firsthand happened to human body. How Alzheimers or Parkinson, schizophrenia happens for which we needed to find a suitable treatment or a cure.
So this tossed-off understanding of how diseases happened to human bodies, I decided to do a master and then I got my admission for master's in molecular biology in Sweden.
By the time of 2010, I finished my master’s and I got a research analyst position at Heidelberg University for a very short time because by 2010 I got an offer from Vrije Universiteit neuroscience department to do a PhD Over there.
So in 2011, I started my PhD in the neuroscience department of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and the beginning of the journey was really nice and smooth, I was in a new country, with new people and new scientific questions. I totally enjoyed the beginning.
As I worked in the pharmaceutical industry before my Master's, I always had an inclination towards the pharmaceutical industry so I had decided somewhere even at the beginning of my PhD that once I'm done with my PhD, I will definitely find a job in the pharmaceutical industry.
So the question of staying in academia wasn't there at all because I knew that I don't want to do post-doc and I don't want to see myself as a P. I. or professor or giving lectures so I was very clear about my future that I want to do jobs in the industry.
Of course, I had a good time during my PhD, I enjoyed the scientific questions, failures, exploration, and so on.
By the end of the PhD when it was time to apply for the industry positions; it was before six months of finishing the contract I started applying for the jobs.
Of course, I was very much focused on finding a specific job and I was applying for them once a week or twice a week depending on their availability.
But after some time almost after six or seven months, I got no responses almost whatever response I got was negative. Either it was like I am overqualified or I was under-qualified or I did not know the Dutch language and these were the major reasons why I got rejections.
I felt like though I have a degree, PhD degree why I'm not getting a job!
At one point I realized just having a PhD degree is not enough and I dive deep into the question of why I did not get a job.
I started getting answers for it and the answers were like this:
The first thing was throughout my PhD I knew that I wanted to do a job in the pharmaceutical industry but I did not develop any technical skills which were relevant to the pharmaceutical industry.
My scientific questions were really fundamental I used a variety of tools, including electron microscopy, confocal microscopy, cloning, SEM, but those technical skills were not relevant to the pharmaceutical industry.
The second thing was during the PhD, I did not make any network within the pharmaceutical industry and that was a big blow when I realized I should have used my PhD time to do some networking in the pharmaceutical industry.
Third thing as I mentioned most of the time the rejection I got, therefore, my inability to speak the Dutch language and that's when I thought it was already too late to learn the language and spend time in learning the language.
So these were the three major reasons why I think I did not get a job in the pharmaceutical industry.
Now It was already a significant amount of time I had lost after finishing my PhD, I was jobless for almost a year which was really significant amount of time.
By the time I was in my thirties, I was married I had the highest degree but had no job so I had pressure from my family as well.
That was quite stressful time period of my life, I would say, but luckily the soft skills which I learned during my PhD came to my rescue. For example, patience and perseverance so I really kept myself on the ground: I thought if not a job then what can I do to survive?
I thought okay. It was quite clear I don't want to stay in academia. It was quite clear that I want a job in the industry but now it's not going to happen at all. So what is the next thing?
So I brainstorm with myself for almost six months and came to the conclusion that I should start something of my own.
Amsterdam, being an international city, they've a lot of opportunity for startups. But I had no unique idea to start something of my own at the startup level. I thought I can start something of my conventional business. Where I can be a bridge in between India and European pharmaceutical companies and that's where I started putting my efforts into building up my business model.
Unfortunately, I had no godfather who could teach me the basics of the business so I had to do all the homework by myself, it was fun but it was excruciating because I did not know most of the terminology of the business of course. But I learned a lot of new things.
Then, in the beginning of 2016, I started my business. Of course, it was a slow start and a small start but I think the perseverance and determination which I learned during my PhD came really handy. I was really critical, I was really focused, and I was really adamant at some point that no I want this client and I should really work upon the project and that's how I kept on growing slowly but steadily.
In between I learned a lot of tricks, hacks, strategies about how to grow the business.
And during that time I learned lot of hacks, strategies of using LinkedIn to grow the business and when I learned about this LinkedIn how you can grow the business, I realized that when I was looking for jobs, I knew just 20% of the LinkedIn. Most of the people don't know almost 80 to 70 % of the LinkedIn, how to utilize LinkedIn to find a job.
So that was a time when I thought I don't want any job I'm happy doing my business but they're a lot of PhDs and PostDoc who are looking for jobs or who are not finding a job that easily so I started sharing this LinkedIn strategy and all these things with my friends and colleagues who are looking for a job
But in the meantime throughout PhD career, everyone thinks only about two options either academia or industry. But I believe PhD is way beyond that, PhD prepares you for even harder and better kind of journey where you can build up your own empire.
So I mean, I would advise new PhD students to think beyond Academia and industry.
Apart from that, as I mentioned there were 3 specific reasons why I think I did not get a job:
First, I did not prepare myself on a technical grounds. So, please, if you have a clear idea that after PhD you would like to go into industry or academia prepare yourselves based on technical and soft skills, which would be useful later on in that industry.
Second thing: network a lot because It doesn't matter if you want to go to academia or industry or do something of your own, networking is always the key to get into and on next level.
And third thing: now this third thing is mostly for international students In Europe -- about language. As I said before, most of the time the rejection I got was there for my inability to speak Dutch language, so whenever I talk to my friends in Sweden, Germany, Italy, almost everyone share this same story that “you know most of the time I get rejection because I cannot speak the local language”. So I highly recommend to speak or to learn local language wherever you are in Europe - learn the local language.
I think these are the messages I have for future generation of PhDs. Just think beyond academia and industry, and also think about network because your network is your network. So put your efforts on building up your network.
There are a lot of soft skills you learn during PhD for example time management, project management, negotiation skills, stress management and so on.
All these skills are very much useful when you want to build up your business. So I highly recommend new PhD student if you get any startup idea from the beginning of your PhD, please, water it and let it grow further so that by the end of your PhD you will have something concrete to big innovate, something to build up your own.
So I think these are the three different sectors where a PhD can think of and really grow further.
So I think this is my journey so far and right now as I mentioned I help small and medium-sized pharmaceutical, nutraceutical and cosmeceutical companies either with raw material supplied, private label manufacturing, formulation development, clinical trials and sometimes import/export.
So there's a lot of things but I truly enjoy doing all these things and the most important thing right now: I'm doing what I love the most -- I'm serving pharmaceutical industry and at the same time at the end of the rope are the patients somewhere. I get this feeling that I'm helping needy people as well.
So it's worth, It's very satisfying right now for me what I'm doing my business, it's a bit tough, sometime it get very hard but of course that's the pros and cons with every job that some days are really nice and some days are quite hard.
So this is the deal you've get when being an independent person.
So I wish everyone all the best and I wish Tina and her team also all the best for your future interviewer and helping out a lot of PhDs and postdoc to find that right career.
Thank you so much Guys and Wish you all the best!
Thank you for listening to yet another episode of PhD career stories.
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