By Nataly Manjarrez Orduño, Global Lead, Organization for Latino Achievement (OLA)
Recently, I had the opportunity to join some of the industry’s most talented scientists at the 2021 SACNAS National Diversity in STEM Conference (NDiSTEM), the largest multidisciplinary and multicultural STEM diversity event in the United States.
The event, which prepares participants for their academic and professional paths in STEM, gave our team at Bristol Myers Squibb a chance to connect with individuals who will become the future of biopharma—and potentially, future innovators at BMS. Our presence at NDiSTEM also reinforced our commitment to building a diverse workforce now and for the future. As we say in the Organization for Latino Achievement (OLA) at BMS, it’s all about achieving together. ¡Juntos Podemos!
After speaking with many brilliant scientists at the conference, I was inspired to share some advice for those looking to pursue a career in biopharma.
Biopharma has its own language.
Just like any other industry, pharma has its own language. Do not fear. You already know all the concepts—you just need to learn the words. For instance, when you work with a particular molecule in a signaling pathway, you are performing target identification and validation. Do your homework.
Drug development goes beyond what we typically do as postdocs.
When you are pursuing a Ph.D. or postdoc, you work on a molecule/pathway, look at its function, and then publish it. In pharma, this process is known as exploratory drug discovery, and it is just the beginning of the drug discovery process. Afterward, you need to screen candidate molecules, optimize the chemical species, evaluate its therapeutic potential in an animal model, perform toxicology screens, and more. PhRMA provides a good primer here.
Biopharma teams are specialized.
In biopharma, you may have a scientist specialized in flow cytometry, another who does cell-based assays and a department focused on generating mutants. We work in large, highly connected teams because you need to be as efficient as possible when patients are waiting. While pursuing your Ph.D. or postdoc, you likely run your gels or flow cytometry, generate the necessary cell lines, design the assays you need to evaluate the mutants, etc. (note my cell biology bias!). Use this to your advantage as you look for a job. Deconstruct your expertise in terms of disease, pathway, and techniques. You will see that there are far more opportunities than you initially thought.
Biopharma takes a village.
Projects are not “your” projects, but you are the person accountable for their biology, chemistry, in-vivo, pharmacology and other aspects. Remember that we work for patients—together.
Biopharma is all about nontraditional leadership.
Specialized teams often have competing priorities. If you believe your experiment demands immediate attention, be prepared to communicate that effectively. If another project takes priority, be flexible and willing to help. Inspire people to want to work on your project and, more importantly, share the credit. It’s all about collaboration. If you are successful, your name will be featured in the acknowledgments among 40 others across 10 different departments. That is success!
Interested in a career at BMS? Stay connected.
As an extension of NDiSTEM, BMS OLA plans to launch a mentoring program and will co-host a webinar with SACNAS in early 2022 to discuss career opportunities for Latinx professionals and university students at BMS. Stay tuned for more updates on this initiative.
Interested in joining a company where your ideas and diverse perspective can lead to life-changing treatments for patients? Explore open roles today.