Episode 4: Rob Hutcheson Playing to Your Strong Suits
We each have our strong suits. Your interests in your strengths may not completely overlap with the researcher carrying on for your Grad Ed studies but they can serve as a blueprint for what comes after graduation and informed the career choices you will make once you're on the job market your personal interests. It's also key for keeping a healthy balance between work and your personal life during your studies in this episode we'll be talking with Rob Hutchison who'll share his insights and experience achieving balanced during Grad school and charting his bath in his current non academic career welcome to pop up each with David Mendez the podcast where we explore careers and life after Grad school with guests who have walked the road less traveled and have unique stories stories to tell about how they made their place in a world of constantly evolving rules get ready to go off the beaten path and hop on for an exciting new episode of Papa. PhD before we dive into today's episode I just WanNa let you know that I've prepared for you a resource sheet to help you take a snapshot of your current situation and start defining your profile for the job market market in your areas of interest you can download it by visiting Papa. PhD Dot Com and following the instructions in the website footer welcome to the show so today we're discussing career paths with Rob Hutchison. Rob Hutchison is senior manager at CER- Tara evidence in access success a leading global consultancy specializing in the demonstration of product value for pharmaceutical clients seeking to optimize market access and reimbursement. I want for their products before joining so tara. Rob was senior medical editor at ICS Exxon an industry leader in the development of pharmaceutical sales force restraining programs and materials rob also holds a master's degree in neurobiology from McGill University and his is a project management professional. Oh PMP certified project manager welcome to the PODCAST ROB. I David thank you for that introduction and thanks for having me on your podcast so now now. I'm GonNa let you introduce yourself a little more deeply. Where would you like to add to the short buy into that. I presented sure so so I guess it might be worth adding a little bit more as to what a market access consultant is for the pharmaceutical industry so I work as a consultant for our clients this ad pharmaceutical and medical device companies and we help them demonstrate the value of their products in order to gain favorable reimbursement conditions on public can private drug plans so because if a drug is not reimbursed and paid for in it's less likely to be used by the patients who need it so the idea around found value is that it's not enough to just say that a pharmaceutical product works or even works better than existing product. You need to demonstrate that the product provide sufficient benefit benefit for its cost the types of things that I work on to demonstrate that benefit do things like budget impact models. The show the the impact the product will have on health fines budget. I work on these large. Documents called global value dossiers that summarize the clinical and the economic evidence. It's and also do research to get in sight via interviews with payers. Who are the budget holders or the decision makers to get their opinion on the data and the likelihood of gaining members okay okay. I see very cool so to so given the two you have a master's in in in your neurology and that we're GonNa talk about how you got this career that you're working now. The first question I'd like to ask you is is how was how was the the end of your masters was easy to find motivation to complete it would actually have to say yes ask for me because I did a master's in neurology at McGill and although it was challenging I think that it was easy to stay motivated to complete the two years Masters Masters Program compared to what the candidates had to go through which was four years or more and also a lot of that to the type of research I was is doing as I was conducting research on how a snail's brain controls its mating behaviors and as strange as that sounds. It's actually a lot of fun and without going into all the details snails they're actually really remarkable creatures and or one there hermaphrodites and also have this bizarre for mating ritual where they shoot what's the love. DART into the skin of the other snail during mating little bit freaky but they also have really really large neurons in their brains so we are interested in seeing how these neurons respond during these activities but also whether we could stimulate the nerves to trigger movements movements in the animal and it wasn't like the Typical Masters Research Project where you would just run assays all day and hope for the best we were designing these really crazy experiments and coming up with some interesting findings and stuff had never been done before so and looking at behavior yeah exactly okay. That's sounds sounds very cool and yeah they must have been exciting for sure and so in your masters clearly you theme in questions and the model that you that that you liked and that you enjoyed but still you know there's steps you need to go through those hoops and hurdles. You need to to pass to finish your master's. What main attitude or principal would you say. A has accompanied. You guided you from doing a master's to finishing a masters to today is is there something. Is there a line that you can that you learned while Louis Muscles steel today that helps you sure so I learned that it's really important into stay curious and that same drive that had me wanting to discover more about the snail's brain in Grad school as really the same thing that keeps me going my day to day work today so as a consultant for the pharmaceutical industry and continuously learning about new disease states and new drugs and need to come up with solutions to help our clients with with whatever issue they're facing don't away the job. I have now is quite similar to the research and experimentation that I did during Grad school curiosity. I think I really I agree totally and and I agree that throughout life having curiosity especially in today's world where things are changing very very dynamically and the very frequently if you stick curious you'll stay motivated for sure now you know you finish your your your masters you a I guess you you had some answers to your questions and and then he was over and and then you decided to not follow up into into academia to impeach Bosox Etcetera Etcetera so can you tell us a a little bit about that transition and about what path in how you make decisions that led you to where you are today starting starting at at the end of your masters so when I was younger. I never really knew what I ultimately wanted to do for work when I was older for example. I wasn't one of those kids that knew early on that. They wanted to be a doctor or lawyer. I only knew the school was something that was very important to me and so I just decided to take things one step at a time time and in high school and see jet which is college here in Quebec. I focused on science in general and about the science courses I really enjoyed biology the most so then I did my bachelor's in biology at McGill men of all my biology courses I found neurobiology the most fascinating and I love learning about how the sensory Ansari System takes in information about the world around us we process that information and then at motor neurons to intern affect the world around us so that's how I ended up doing and my master's in neurobiology working on the snail as a model organism then while working on my master's thesis also developed a love for science writing so that was the next step which is what allowed me to transition to a job in the pharmaceutical industry as a medical writer and then medical editor and and finally developing training materials for Pharma sales representatives so after seven years of salesforce training that's when I discovered an even narrower aspect of the Pharma Industry which was market market access and reimbursement which is what I specialize in now although I've had of narrowed my focus the topic of market access reimbursement for Pharma in general is still very broad and there's still a lot of room for discovery but those are kind of the steps that took me to where I am now and it was like a step by step process where I just fell upon and each new discovery along and you focused more and more into into something very very particular exactly yeah okay you you mentioned mentioned that you you discovered the that. You liked science writing. Did you write blogs or were you contributing to to who is to make two magazines or publications before going into medical writing well there was my thesis and then I was also an author on on one journal Publication that came out of my master's research okay the writer on that and then also help to review some of my my colleagues journal Journal manuscripts and that sort of thing so I didn't have a blog or anything like that it was more of the the academic writing that I actually enjoyed and sometimes even more the research is doing okay and people came to you to look at my look at this that I wrote. Can you please review it something like that exactly burkle it makes total sense and then once you feel that you have almost a knack for something and that it's something specialized into in. It's directly linked to what you do. You know you you a follow up on it and and and that's yeah sounds very logical but very cool that you had that kind of a possibility to very quickly find your calling. Let's say and so it appears from what you're saying that things went very smoothly from one step to the next still you you moved from you. No the academic environments to to the job market environment with their any fears or obstacles that you that you faced I in that transition and even transitioning from one job to another aura was everything did everything go as smoothly throughout there were definitely some fears and obstacles so my I fear leaving Grad school was around whether I made the right decision to stop at the end of my masters instead of pursuing so at the end of my master's program I was asked by my thesis supervisor if I want to extend to do a PhD and I bought it over and decided to just complete the masters sisters and then began looking for a job and I still don't know if that was one hundred percent the right decision and I suppose I'll never know but at the time I knew that I didn't want to research snails for another two years also knew that I didn't want a career in academia so I didn't feel that was absolutely necessary. And finally I really just wanted wanted to get on with my life and get a job so when I started working there was always a question of whether PhD would give me maybe a higher position at my job or if I paid more than that is possibly true however I also had a two year head start my career by doing a masters such as also plus us so what I have seen in the real world is that a PhD definitely would have been an advantage but that it's not impossible to get ahead without it so for example we'll have seen even high level executives without any fancy degrees and they got there because of their talent than their determination and then on the flip side of also seen people with Ph gauge the struggling to find a job or to keep a job and in the end. I think it really comes down to what you can convincingly demonstrate you can do to help an organization achieve their goals and that's what I've been focusing on so I'm happy with where I am now and I'm not really looking back and worrying too much about that decision that I made but I think at the time name there. was that uncertainty there that was a little bit difficult to overcome Yeah Yeah No. I think it's the it's the healthy attitude we're we're not in the Marvel Universe and we don't have Gizmos that can bring us back in time but for sure a hearing new and ended knowing you you know you. You've definitely made the choices that ledge somewhere. Where you're you're doing well. You're doing something and you love and I think that's in my opinion. Imagine you agree. That's one of the most important things in the end yeah exactly I think I I I can't worry too much about those decisions as long as unhappy now and I I'm just forging down the path and they'll definitely be another fork and need to make another the decision but as long as I go for it jump in make a decision and tried to do my best and I think that's the best second yeah and you got what your fixation right so. This is also something that's coming up that has come up in other interviews is that even with a PhD you can go back and do a certificate in in the field that interests you and then you know you can when you're talking to employers you can say well. Yes I have to Z. But now I have a certificate in air be or I have an MBA in NC or the end because one of the issues that can happen is for some Um employers they may they may be reticent to Employ Appeal. Because they consider that they may be a overqualified but a for sure in other domains. Let's say medical writing its values right is valid by the employer that that the person has speech so it it depends depends on on what job markets you're. You're launching yourself into exactly exactly and that's you know I've got three young kids so I think that it had been difficult to to do that kind of extra studying studying but now that they're a little bit older. I got the PM out of the way and then maybe down the line. I may want to go back and do something like an Mba because I think in in business management that is something that that could be important for me down the line so defending the be all end all of everything who knows maybe I'll want the do one eventually when I do have more time but there are options and I'm looking forward to just seeing what else I can do without later. Yeah Yeah Yeah so basically you're not by stopping your academic career not closing door because there's other doors. They're going to open and you can create create your own doors in your own windows excellent now in the next section I like to talk about university and Grad School and and about the impact that that going through Grad school has had on on on the guests on the podcast guest center the first question that I'd like to ask Hugh is for those of our auditors that still have a year or two of studies to complete if you have any advice on how to make the most most of their time at Grad school leading to their future non-academic career sure so I would advise people to not just do what I did which was the only only focus on my classes and my research and not really look ahead to the next step as I mentioned earlier I really just stumbled upon the next step at the very last minute throughout my academic career career meeting up to my first job but instead I would suggest that people really invest the time to research what jobs and opportunities are available to them so go to the job affairs and search job postings and talk to people in different industries create online profiles on the job boards and lengthened and all that stuff has I think it's never too early to look into what your options are and when I was at McGill had what was called caps or career planning services the at at the end of my degree I basically worked with caps to help create a CB and then started sending my cv out to all the jobs listed in the cats data pace and then job so I I was lucky that this worked out but I think that I could have done more earlier on in case that strategy didn't work out and I think the other thing I would mention is to not don't be afraid to ask questions and just reach out to the people who may have more information than you about potential career opportunities that being nimble like your professors has been also you're teaching assistance. Ta But there's a lot of people who have a lot of great information and experience you can draw from the career and placement services at McGill for sure a full of resources for people looking to transition and and and yet I do advice anyone anyone at McGill to the that's looking for what's out there after to visit is it and to to get appointments into to it because they have all these building resources and and workshops workshops for short caps is is the place to go at McGill for that excellent now now the other thing from from Grad school or about Grad school that I'd like talk is transferable skills so when we leave university we can extend loser bearings because you know the job market is a it's a different. It's a different dynamic. The time you know time and pressure is is different but I would say and I hope agree that we're not totally without resource said at this juncture my question to you is what skills that you acquired at Grad School. You'd say have been your greatest greatest assets in reorienting your career which ones have been valued the most by your employers or by your peers up till today. That's a great question so I think it's fair to say that a lot of what you learn at university is directly transferable to the job market so when I left university I didn't only know about the reproductive system of the snail more importantly I gained were research skills in the laboratory and also in the Library University also gave me organizational organizational skills to get the work done at also to meet deadlines like Shrek completing my thesis on time that sort of thing and then finally leadership skills so being a teacher's Teacher's assistant. Da for example alert to be a leader in the classroom instructing undergrads on animal dissections and of course materials and then a lot of that was was directly transferable for example when working as an editor with multiple medical writers working under me yeah. That's very it's it's. That's what I believe too but the why do I like this question is because I remember that when I finished I didn't see so you know it wasn't easy to see these the transfer ability of these these skills later on later on the the it started coming up and it started being more and more evident but I think it's important for our auditors to that finishing what are they have just finished to let them know you learn a lot. E and it's not not only you didn't learn only about your your your your team. There's a lot of habits that you gain a lot of ability honed that are prized. You know that are valued by by you know employers or people. You'RE GONNA media. You're going to partner with in your in your non-academic. I totally agree and in terms uh-huh of of networking do you feel that Grad school versus the job market to airtight compartments or is there some networking working today that is still connected to to you going through university so I think in my case I would have to say yes they. They are two airtight compartments so I have kept in touch with some of the people I met in Grad school but none of them pursued a career in the pharmaceutical industry so there haven't really really been many networking opportunities that would be of any value to me but most of the people I knew continued to do more organizational biology work and they're mostly now researchers researchers or teachers so I kind of keep in touch with them on facebook or whatever but I wouldn't say that I network too much with them. From a career perspective okay that's fair and what about when you change careers a uh give give you still in connected domains that must be some connection still happening. from you know from your previous jobs to to your current yes in that case. There are definitely a lot of networking opportunities so going from pharmaceutical sales force training so where I am now which is pharmaceutical market access consulting there is a lot of overlap and I still keep in in contact with a lot of people from my old job and just being in the Pharma space going to conferences and just being in that Pharma world you bump into a lot of people and for that I can definitely say that there is a lot of opportunity even a lot of the people I worked with before have now moved onto Pharma companies and can become potential new clients for me at my current job so those okay yeah. There's a lot opportunity. There are two excellent all right now going back to people who are still in in in Grad school will you mentioned cap so the McGill career and Placement Services and this touches on on on something that I wanted to that I I like to talk about route. which is you know doing? Grad Studies we you may tend to feel an and you mentioned that before that you know all you do all all that's important and all you do. Is You'll project will be at a massive HD project you know you may May occupy the your whole existence from from waking up to going back to bed at night and and also you may have this feeling that you you working. Oh you know you're working for someone else that it's not for you and given given the size of the generation the length of these projects. It's easy to forget forget yourself you know forget to to take care of certain aspects of your personal life in the process especially if before talking what about students who come from outside who may not have this the safety net of their family close by or or or the Group of friends close by so so you already mentioned using the resources that are available in offered by your university in this case. You talked about caps tonight. I reiterate this is very very important very very helpful but my question would be doing doing a study habits or resources have have helped you cultivate yourself as an independent person and that helped you come out ready to promote yourself on the job market so during my studies and now as I'm in the job market of always tried identify and focused on the things that interest me most than that also planned to my strong suit so it's really simple. I would just ask what do I love doing and what am I good at anything that overlaps within those two categories and that's what I would focus on. You can't go wrong so for me. Three things that I was interested interested in aside from the science itself and that was good at we're writing presentation and multimedia I love writing and putting together presentations and I learned to be proficient with multimedia platforms over the years so I really enjoyed being able to find work in which I've been able to put all of these things together and that might be in. It's like a tablet based training program for Pharma Sales Reps or share point site for market access affiliates or anything that kind of goes outside just the science allows me to bring in other areas of expertise that have developed cool so leverage your strong suits even though they're not directly connected to the to your your research work yeah. That's that's actually very very very pertinent and something. That's yeah that everyone should do you you. You're not a one dimension person people have many different interests and the and strengths that that they should put forward for sure. I agree now. One aspect that that I'd like to to going to a little bit is what about activities outside of Grad school extra curricular activities hobbies things like that was that important in keeping a new keeping you focused energize throughout yes definitely so you know me personally you know that I've played music my whole life and and while I was in Grad School I played in a rock band here in Montreal and we also played some shows outside of the city so music with something that allowed me to kind of distress and when I leave lab go practice with my band and play shows on the weekend and that's something that helped me then and still helps me now in my current career because music really is my passion and it's something that I know continuing for the rest of my life and it's a good getaway from the stressful all day to day work and I definitely do enjoy the work that I do but the music is something that is a little bit different to end a allows me to just exercise the more creative side of my brain and one thing that I should probably add to that it kind of works in the opposite direction too because there's a lot of things that I learned in being abandoned getting up on stage and performing in front of crowds those things that I can actually draw from as well in a two day work because I'm actually not really a natural public speaker at it's not something that I thought that I was not good at in the beginning but I think in being able to get up on stage with my band is something that allowed me to be a little bit more of a a performer in the board room and in salesforce training and talking to sales Dell's representatives and that sort of thing so it is something that has actually helped me in my career even though it started off as just passion. That's that's actually very cool. I I had never seen it. like that and very cool so it's this touches the point about cultivating yourself and then allowing you to promote yourself in a way in markets that often you know needs people to to be the you know to to speak in public to to be able to express themselves. We had to present to be able to present ideas to clients very very very interesting bridge that you that you wish there and so so and I think what's super important about what you're saying is people people need you to not let go of the things they they love they love to do because they're in a graduate program and and they should you'd keep doing them because again like you said it's it's kind of a event could be can be event for many things for creativity or type of creativity that is you don't use that. Let's say in the lab or in research and it can can be a place where you meet your your friends. in in a certain regular basis and then you disconnects it's from either your job or your research and then in a way. I would say recharge your batteries to to win you. Pick up again the next day that you go. Do you go yeah. I totally agree and I think at first I was a little bit nervous that people would think of me as someone not serious enough in the Pharma on world because he's got this other rock man going on than actually living through it. I realized that people are actually more interested in talking to me because you know they don't look down upon me because I'm also very passionate about music. I think they're more interested in hearing about it and so I've really enjoyed being able to keep both of those aspects of my lifetime great so that was about a you know to taking care of yourself during such a project now what about people that help you have you had mentors that helped you in your journey during your studies or even after your studies absolutely so my master's supervisor. Dr Ronald Chase who is definitely one of the most important mentors ipad definitely grateful that he took me on ask researcher in his lab and I also learned so much from him about the scientific method he is also a fascinating inspiring guy who research snail brains for most of his life but since retirement has gone on to write these incredible books about mental illness and he's the one person who I really kept in contact with from Grad school over the years and he's been a reference for any job that I applied for since Grad school and he's just a great guy to reach out to whenever I need any advice on anything and then after my studies I've had two main jobs each with a key mentor who was again my immediate supervisor so in my first job job in Pharma salesforce training I had a boss by the name of Mark Roberts who really showed me how to transition from the mindset of a student into one of a professional and that included in how to manage my time how to respect project budgets and also how to interact with clients which I hadn't done before at Grad School at my current in company I had a great mentor by the name of Emmanuel Koito who took it to the next level and then really showed me how to be a good consultant so part of that was to really we listened to what the client's needs are have the confidence to trust your instinct to propose the best solution possible so with this. I was able to earn in greater respect from my clients who could now see me more as a problem solver than someone who checks the boxes world of consulting. It's really important to have that the has been a key objective of mine and something that I continually strive to improve miracle and did did the mentor mentor. T- relationship just come up naturally. I guess you know your supervisor for sure you know he was supervisor. So the report you know was it. It was part of that relationship but then in your working life a mentorship mentality. Let's say relationship to develop. Look naturally it came up let's say organically during your path throughout the the different jobs all. I think that the three people people that I mentioned were all my superiors and my the people who I immediately reported to so it wasn't only organic but I think that we just had a click that really worked and they were the type of mentors and supervisors that really wanted to kind of cultivate learning joining in the people who they oversee and I've really reached out to that and we just had a good rapport where we would have weekly sometimes even daily meetings to talk about the work but also wear my career was going and it was clear that they wanted to help and that was something I bet I made sure that I took full advantage of and it also helps them because when they are overseeing projects they were able to feel confident than having having that connection with me so I think it's something that's very important and I'm really grateful that I had with those three people great so so the the connection like a like a clique that happens that that allows for I guess tell me if I may I'm putting right that allows for a very straightforward report with the person and that you were also in a mindset that you know you had your mind open to learn whatever this person had to teach you at that time exactly so it's it's really just open communication and not just them telling me what to do. It's a asking a lot of questions getting a feel for what the person's strengths and weaknesses Dr and then hopefully kind of focusing on the strengths and then improving whatever maybe a weak point and then what I learned from them is now something saying that I try to do with the people I'm working with on on my projects and just the whole learning experience in just the culture of development that I think is really important Gordon for an organization excellent well. I think you've touched on on the points that I wanted to to now. I have a less question that I'd like to ask and it's kind of you know you have to put yourself to imagine yourself in a situation nation and and following situation imagine that you're standing in front of an audience full of young finally sword or recent graduates people just like you when you finish your your Grad school they're struggling through fears worries doubts and obstacles to find their place in the job market to trace their journey towards a productive and fulfilling life. So what I'd like you to do is to tell them what two or three three basic strategies or principles they could follow starting today to put in place a realistic and intangible transition project show so stores I would I would say to identify what you are good at and what you enjoy doing so they may not necessarily be the same thing but hopefully future job would contain elements of both and next I would say start working on your brand early so this would mean developing your CV and your Lincoln page but also putting together. Your elevator debater pitched a summariser profile. This is something that you should have prepared to recite the someone if an opportunity arises and then third I would say don't be afraid great to take a leap so to try new things and do things that scare you like I mentioned before some people might like the idea of just doing the same old repetitive tasks and over and over again but if you want to progress in your career keep things interesting and do more meaningful word that makes a real difference whether it be for your clients or for anyone else but I think they need to take risks and put yourself out there which loops back to stay curious tackling excellent well rob was really pleasure to have you a at the Papa peachy microphone I think you had a lot of interesting insights and and I think our listeners will profit a lot from from what you had to to share with them. so thank you thank you for being here. Thank you for for your time. Is there something is there are less shutout. You'd like to give no not really it was really my pleasure to be on your podcast today so thanks for having me all righty so thank you very much and we'll speak soon. I think thanks for listening to another episode of Coppee. HD PODCAST head over to PAPA PETE'S DOT COM for show notes in for more food for thought about non-academic Post Grad careers. I'll always be happy to share inspiring stories new ideas and useful resources here on the podcast so make sure you subscribe on Itunes or wherever you get your podcasts to always keep up with the discussion and to hear from our latest guests.