Shankar Suresh is a PhD student studying Immunity & Infection at the University of Birmingham. In an ever increasing competitive employment market, Shankar recognized the need to diversify his skills and take part in Entrepreneurship and Innovation led programmes.
“Coming from a life sciences and research background, I have first-hand experience of the impact modern medicines have on human health. My goal after finishing my PhD was to join a top pharmaceutical company in a non-research and development based role to help deliver medicines and services to patients around the world. From speaking to industry insiders and reading job descriptions I knew that I needed to develop my transferrable skills to tackle the world outside academia. Entrepreneurship and Innovation gave me the opportunity to learn and demonstrate these skills in a friendly, relaxed setting with other like-minded PhD students at the University.”
Shankar took part in the Talent Pool programme which he feels has helped him in his ability to take his PhD forward.
“The six sessions covered a wide variety of topics, such as networking, emotional intelligence, management consultancy and presentation skills. The workshops were delivered by experts who kept their sessions engaging, interactive and enjoyable. Lunch and refreshments were also provided throughout the day. During the course, I negotiated challenging business situations such as writing proposals to consultancy briefs under time pressure without prior knowledge of the field. The course culminated in an Assessment Centre, where I had to demonstrate what I learned through group and individual exercises. This experience was similar to the AC I had with Johnson and Johnson (J&J), and I worked through any weaknesses in preparation for the real thing a few months later.”
Three key skills
“I would recommend the Talent Pool to other PhD students looking to diversify their skill set to further their careers both within and outside academia. The course has given me vital business experience and skills that fall outside the scope of normal PhD studentships. It was great to have on my CV for job applications and I was able to delve into greater detail during the interview stage. Furthermore, the connections I made during the course were even more important in securing a graduate job. I approached Entrepreneurship and Innovation (EI) regarding any opportunities in marketing and was given the role of a Talent Pool Ambassador. I delivered “shout-outs” to students before lectures to make them aware of the programmes and services available. I also attended careers fairs to market these services to prospective students or refer them onto other departments in the UoB Careers Network.
Completing the Talent Pool programme and working as an Ambassador demonstrated to J&J that I was more than just a laboratory scientist. During the final interview stage, I was against other candidates with business and management backgrounds, and I was the only one with a purely academic research background. By drawing on my experiences as an Ambassador, I was able to convincingly demonstrate competencies such as communication, presentation skills and teamworking that J&J were looking for. I feel that my newly acquired business knowledge coupled with my scientific background elevated me above the competition and secured me my ideal job in the pharma industry, and I am thankful for the help and advice given by EI and the Careers Network in making this happen.”