Dr Priya Revathikumar is an Indian researcher with a pharmaceutical technology background that moved to Sweden in 2010 to do a Master’s project at Karolinska Institutet. Her interest for immunology and the brain led her to a PhD in Medical Sciences, which she finished in May last year.
Today, Priya works as a Failure Investigation Engineer at the molecular diagnostics company Cepheid AB.
In this episode, she shares her story on how she turned obstacles into opportunities while making the transition from academia to industry as well as some do’s and don’ts to consider along that path.
There are a lot of people out there who really are willing to help people from academia to make the transition to industry. Reach out to these people and ask for feedback.
– Dr. Priya Revathikumar, Cepheid AB, Sweden
Welcome to the 56th episode of PhD Career Stories, the podcast about career paths inside and outside academia. My name is Jo Havemann and I am very happy to introduce Priya Revathikumar to you. Priya is going to tell you about her background in Pharmaceutical Technology and what obstacles she faced as she advanced in her career. She successfully turned these obstacles into opportunities and steps upwards and will share with you some do’s and don’ts along that path. But let us hear that from Priya herself!
Hey this is Pryia Revathikumar and I'm going to talk to you about my career transition from academia to industry.
So a little bit of a background about myself.
I completed my bachelor in pharmaceutical biotechnology in India I'm basically from India and then decided to do my highest studies abroad and then I got admitted in Karolinska Institute to do my master in biomedicine.
I wanted to be associated with research after my bachelors and I wanted to be in academia as career so that's why I decided to move to Sweden to do my master's degree at Karolinska.
After my master at Karolinska I decided to do my PhD and how I decide on my research topic it was that fortunately at my masters course I was asked to choose three different projects during my time and so one of the projects was at neuroscience-immunology laboratory where they were researching about the brain and the immune system and how they communicate with each other to limit inflammation.
Immunology was my background and the brain is something that I always wanted to work with so this was a perfect topic for me to pursue my PhD and I ended up pursuing my PhD in the Rheumatology unit at the Center for Molecular Medicine (CMM).
About the time where I doubted myself and considered changing the topic or giving up on science, definitely not I never felt like changing the topic or giving up on science but of course I felt that academia was not my cup of tea. Saying so it was also not an overnight decision but it was rather a gradual change.
For example that there are many factors that led to this decision for me personally and somehow the pace of doing good science and the inability to connect to the end users or patients and the debate of funding constraints came a cross and the handling of negative results and so on and so forth.
Sometimes I also felt that the goals are not that clear and all the improvements or the updates to the real world came at delay back pace.
These were some of few of the many factors that made me take the decision of transitioning from academia to industry.
And of course there were many happy and important moments, research is really important but I just felt that I didn't fit and I didn't see myself as a group leader leading a research group.
What was my first feeling after starting my transition? Well of course the first feeling was that I was so naive I was hundred bus late and I was in academia for a lot of years and I've never had any contacts of friends in the industry in specially in Sweden and I did not know what the industry wanted or what were the expectation from PhD students from academia so it was totally zero on that. Before and my contract ended and I finished my PhD in Karolinska I started applying for some positions but I never heard from these applications so the rejection was of course inevitable in the first few months and then I realized there was something terribly wrong so then I decided to go to the career service course that was offered at Karolinska who did a very good job in bringing up people from industry and making them talk with us and then they give us presentations where I actually begin to understand what the industry actually wanted and how it is out there it's just completely different from what academia is all about.
I met a lot of people and then I started talking about their positions and the different roles that they were doing.
I started networking that was a big shift for me of course I used to talk to my colleagues and you become friends in academia but still it's a very very small world when you compared to the industry so this course at Karolinska helped me to open up a bit and also to start networking with people whom had no topics to relate, no common topic between us but to initiate a conversation and really highlight yourself through these conversations about the industry.
So of course the beginning phase was a rejection and a realization that I was quite naive in this case.
This led me to meet a lot of people, to go to a lot of seminars, I had to re-write my CV and then I was handing in my CV to people who are really good at it and got feedback and then my CV got a major changeover so I should thank the career service at Karolinska and my job coach Tina and also TSN for helping me out in this.
The first thing and the most important thing in this transition would be networking especially for a person like me who did not have any prior industrial experience and also had no contacts in the industry I would say networking is really important because through networking I met new people and through new people I also came across a lot of new positions that I wasn't really aware of before so it would really help me and so you should have an open mind and you should just network with as many people as possible.
It doesn't matter even if you're interested in this position or not but just by being able to talk to them you'd be able to understand the companies better and and positions better so always have an open mind for networking.
The second important thing was to get feedback so I always wanted to have a feedback on things that I did for my CV for what I thought. There are a lot of people out there who really are willing to help people from academia that will make this transition to the industry so it's really good to reach out to these people and always ask for feedback.
Even if you go to an interview and if you don't end up getting the job it's always nice to ask for feedback that does really really help a big deal.
The third part is that of course reflect so during my PhD I was behind a lot of things, trying to get things done, getting things published, applying, presentations, conferences, defending...
I never ever took time off to actually reflect upon the things that I actually liked and the things that I didn't like and the things that I wanted to do in my next job so these are things that you and everyone should definitely reflect upon at some point of their career.
Of course there are also excellent exercises and that can also help you, some tests or some exercises that can help you to rediscover yourself on what you want to do in the next job and what kind of a personality are you, what kind of the team are you looking for, what kind of company do you want, how should your employer be... so lot of things that you can actually reflect upon and make a note of all these things because these are very important when you apply for a job and when you go for an interview.
It would definitely be at that whenever you see a job ad that you're interested in always always call the recruiter and try to gather more details about the job because just by taking what they put on the job and is sometimes not so clear and straightforward so it's always nice to give the recruiter a call to really know what's in their mind it would be of great help for you to re-write your CV and to write a cover letter to toward what they want from you.
The second thing is to create a contact list of all the companies in your field of interest and do a spontaneous application to get a better picture of the employer and also made a picture of what they expect from the candidates.
The third one is to keep track of your job ad. This I realized half way through the applications in the beginning were not so much but after awhile there is a lot of job ad that you can actually apply after the deadline is over they take off the job offer from the internet so it's always important you save a copy of the job ad as well as a copy of the CV and the cover letter that you have sent to this particular job because it would definitely be handy even to go for an interview because all of a sudden they can also call you up and ask whether you have applied for this job and tell me about this particular experience that have put on your CV so you should be able to remember at least refer about it so it's good to have a track of your job ad and your application.
The first thing is to prepare your mind for me that took sometime to prepare my mind that there's not going to be any quick fix so I was just like in a few weeks I'm gonna get a job no that's not going to happen it's going to take like months and for me since I didn't know Swedish so I was and I started learning so then it was even more difficult and I had no contacts of previous experience so it is going to take at least couple of months before we get our first job so that is something that we have to prepare our mind to that, that really helps me to stay motivated.
The second one I said do not send the same CV to all positions always take a look at the keywords that are there in the job ad and to try to find two in your CV according to that.
The third last thing from me is that to do not apply to all the job positions especially within the same company sometimes there are some a company can go a mass hiring where they have a lot of job positions and please do not apply of for all them it might end up with the same person and then you see this contradictory interest that you have.
So it's very important that you don't make it so desperate to have that you don't look so desperate in front of them, only applied to the jobs that you're really interested in.
So that's it from me and I would like to thank Tina and her team for giving me an opportunity and hope this is of good quality.
Thank you so much!