Why I decided to transition to a job in process development

At times, I think April’s fool wasn’t only April 1st for me, it’s been like a tragicomic movie all along. The first week of April was supposed to be my last working week at my former job. I spoke on how I came about my decision to explore different options for my future career in another article, check it out if you missed it. Then, my last week suddenly became my last day because I tested positive for covid.

I’m glad I gave myself a month of break between the two jobs because honestly, nothing that happened since was planned, envisioned or even remotely considered in the big scheme of (my) things. In the middle of sickeness and isolation, my dad got sick and went to the hospital. I had a couple of rough days and had to keep my mind in one piece. But my fine organisation skills came in handsy. In a few days, I bought tickets to travel to Italy, sorted all covid documents to travel, packed, cleaned most of my flat, dealt with utility bills, organised the logistic of the relocation and finished the slides for my upcoming workshop “How to smash a job interview

My career decision

Enough talking about my life, let’s talk about my career move! Of course, I love being a lab scientist and I am not ready to move to any office job any time soon. But I did start getting bored doing the same things I had been doing in my PhD and for 2 years in my last employment. I think it’s important to make an audit of your CV on a regular basis and understand which skills you miss to progress further. Research and innovation are fast-paced industries, literally what’s new today is out-of-date tomorrow and if you don’t upskill, you’re out of the game in just a couple of years.

Walmer castle gardens

But how did I know which skills I missed?

YOU NEED TO FOLLOW YOUR INDUSTRY TRENDS AND SEE WHERE THE MARKET IS GOING! I’m glad I was able to do this analysis at a very early stage as I started my industry career just 2 years ago. I see people being stuck for years in jobs or roles they don’t fit or belong to because they never stopped and evaluated critically their CV. Have I said it loudly? sorry for the unpopular opinion. And in the chemical industry process chemistry is where the industry is going.

Have you ever stopped and looked critically at your CV to plan your next career move?

Me

Research is expensive, very expensive! and in terms of money is a risky investment. This is why most of the research is done in academia where scientists win government grants and they don’t have to make financial plans of how to return money to investors. Private businesses don’t have this luxury and with the rising cost of goods, inflation, and providing employees with a decent salary, it’s no longer sustainable to sustain the cost of research for many private companies. This is probably why I see more and more businesses outsourcing the cost of research to academia by paying a PhD scholarship or a short term-contract as a research fellow (a postdoc)

A 3-year PhD scholarship or a postdoc contract might cost between £50k and £70k (UK salaries) for the entire duration of the short-term contract. This is as much money as a company has to pay for the annual salary for a manager or director. Outsourcing research to academia is a prestigious, financial and logistic win/win strategy for everyone. Correction: a win/win strategy for everyone except for the PhD students and postdocs who are paid a misery, are emotionally and physically exploited for their labour and half of them are at risk of suffering from depression and anxiety. But this is the topic of a different and sad story.

Process chemistry, meaning the translation of laboratory science to industrial production, is something that academia can’t do! It can’t be outsourced and this is where the market is moving towards. Hence, this is where I want to be if I want to have a long and successful career as research scientist. NOTE: to some extent, I believe this argument can be extended to many sectors of natural and physical sciences, although the topic goes beyond my knowledge and I don’t feel like I’m the best person to discuss it.

Process chemistry is a job that can’t be ousourced to academic labs!

Me

Learning new skills and filling all those gaps in my CV was possibly the most important factor that contributed to my decision to change job and company. It’s an investment for the future and a decision driven by looking at the trends and how the industry is evolving in the next 5-10 years. To finish off, I am beyond excited to start this new chapter of my life. Honestly, nothing that happened since January 1st was planned, I took every opportunity as it came along. This curious and explorative spirit will definitely be with me for a long time because stepping into the unknown is scary but extremely rewarding and exciting.

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