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“I am still connected to the field of neuroscience and its research”, Marco Brockmann
Making the transition from working in academia to working in industry can be a daunting prospect, particularly if you have never imagined yourself working outside of a lab, and aren’t sure what jobs are even out there. Here, in our second case study of a series, Dr Marco Brockmann tells his story about how and why he decided to make the move.
My journey in academia
I studied Biology for my undergraduate degree and then completed a Master’s degree in Neuropsychobiology, both in Italy. After this, I completed my PhD in Hamburg, Germany. My research focussed on the prefrontal-hippocampal interactions during the first two postnatal weeks, both in physiological and pathological conditions. Following this, I did a postdoc in Boston, where I investigated how the prefrontal cortex encodes and retrieves information about the “what” and “where” features of memory, using a combination of in vivo electrophysiology and behavioural tasks.
What I enjoyed about research was planning and carrying out experiments. It was fascinating being the first person to work on a specific topic and seeing the results for the first time. I also found helping and supervising students and younger colleagues really rewarding.
However, I soon found that advancing a career in science means lots of grant and other funding applications. I could not see myself doing that, which is a big reason why I decided to leave research. I also found that working in research made it difficult to combine your interests with the ones of your partner, who has to follow you to different cities or countries.
How I made the move to industry
I knew I wanted to change but I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do or even what I could do. It’s been a long process and with lots of doubts. Staying in touch with old colleagues helped me to get feedback about their experiences of moving from research and find out more about what roles are out there.
The difficulty of transitioning from working in research to working in industry is that it’s not easy to find information about what you could do outside of academia with a PhD title. Also, most other jobs require interactions with customers and other similar skills; it can be difficult to demonstrate and convince managers and recruiters that you have these skills.
I have always been in touch with Scientifica because I used the PatchStar micromanipulators for in vivo patch clamp recordings, but also because a former colleague of mine from university used to work for Scientifica. I regularly visited him at conferences and during a conversation with him I found out they were looking for somebody with my background to look after customers in Germany. After my application was successful, I moved to the UK in Spring 2016 to start this new career as a Product Specialist. In April 2018 I moved to Germany, where I am working as a Senior Product Consultant, to enable me to better look after Scientifica’s customers here and in Austria. Often, there are opportunities to move to different locations while working for the same company.
The fact I am still connected to the field of Neuroscience research and its network is what made me apply for this job. I don’t think I was specifically looking for a position like this one, but I am 100% happy with my choice and have no regrets.
What my job in industry involves
My role involves meeting lots of researchers and prominent scientists, talking to them about their science and projects and providing advice on the best equipment for their experimental needs. I also travel to and participate in conferences. I enjoy establishing long-term relationships with customers and being their main contact here at Scientifica. I love finding a solution for researchers and helping them to achieve their goals.
How industry is different to academia
I find that working in industry is much faster paced that working in research. There is pressure in both environments, but industry is very much business-related rather than findings-related.
A main difference between research and industry is that you work as more of an individual in research, and more as part of a team in industry. In research, it can take quite a long time to complete a project and troubleshooting is very difficult because you can’t count on as many people. You must learn several disciplines to succeed (e.g. biology, physics, programming) with minimal support. Whereas, in industry you are normally part of a team and are working with people who have a variety of backgrounds. If I don’t know something, I can just ask a colleague and any issue or doubt is resolved very quickly.
I think it is common to comes across this dilemma. My advice is to speak to people about their experiences and don’t wait too long. It’s a difficult decision but remember that nothing about getting a new job is irreversible. There is always a choice and whatever you decide will just help you to better understand what you enjoy and want to do as a career.
If you are interested in working for Scientifica, take a look at our latest openings and find out how you can send us your CV for consideration when a relevant role becomes available.
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