How to promote yourself to Biotech: 1st Annual Career Connect Day, Vancouver BC

By Nathan Naidu, Undergraduate Student, and Dr. Isabel Pablos, Postdoctoral Researcher, Overall Lab.

On Saturday, January 18th, 2020, LifeSciences BC and BioTalent Canada hosted their 1st Annual Career Connect Day with the aim of introducing life sciences companies and organizations from across the province to talented individuals who attended the conference at the Sheraton Wall Centre in Downtown Vancouver. The primary focus of the conference was to demonstrate the vast array of career options within the BC biotechnology sector, as well as to explore funding approaches towards projects and accessing talent. The event featured information and career opportunities catered to individuals at all stages of their careers. Undergraduates, graduate students, post docs, established researchers, and industry professionals were all in attendance.

All photo credits: LifeSciences BC

Some of the company exhibitors that were present included Amgen, AbCellera, STEMCELL Technologies, Zymeworks, and Chinook Therapeutics. They provided the opportunity to network and discuss various available positions in product and drug development. In the morning session, companies spoke to the hundreds of industry positions in BC alone, that are currently vacant and available, and for which they are actively seeking to fill with talented individuals! Speakers gave tips on how to prepare a resumé for industry using key phrases such as, “problem solving, time management, critical thinking”, and highlighting that you are a team player. Perhaps the most important tip was to always have an elevator pitch well-rehearsed, as this can rapidly and effectively open up opportunities. The afternoon was filled with presentations by BioTalent Canada, NRC-IRAP, MITACS, New Ventures BC, and Work BC, who outlined numerous approaches to attain foundational funding for new projects, to access and recruit talent, and to continue with ground-breaking research.

In addition to connecting scientists with other scientists, speakers also underlined that there are many careers in industry that are not “at the bench”. Nicole Quinn, Vice President of Communications at STEMCELL Technologies, described how she always had a passion for science but recognized that she did not want to pursue a career working in the lab itself. She explained how she translated her skills from the bench into skills that are valued by companies. Nicole went on to report that there are countless opportunities in communications, sales, and business development within science for individuals who wish to remain immersed in a scientific environment, but are looking for a slightly different path than basic research. Several companies also explained the importance of fostering relationships within your network, and how a single contact can be instrumental in establishing a career trajectory, even if it isn’t necessarily in a linear direction.

Overall, this event was a great way to discover the plethora of opportunities offered within BC and how Vancouver’s Biotechnology sector is rapidly growing, offering a myriad of career opportunities for eager individuals. The conference also revealed that pursuing a career in science is not limited to academia, but rather, that there are many other options beyond the bench that can be entirely fulfilling and challenging. Importantly, this day included lots of time for talent seekers to informally ask questions that you might not otherwise ask at an interview. For example, how do companies accommodate employees who wish to balance family life with career development and advancements?  The encouraging answer from one company was that managing working hours, which may be difficult with young families, is not a problem since they work in teams. Many companies were recruiting and this type of networking opportunity could easily have resulted in a job offer for those seeking positions.

Special thanks to LifeSciences BC and Biotalent Canada for organizing this event and providing the means to learn about all the careers and funding opportunities within our community.