Have you ever asked yourself what life as a manager in industry is like? To give students answers to this question the BFB (Bonner Forum Biomedizin) set up the event “Dine with a managing director“ . There, eight students and young postdocs from life science had the chance to get first hand impressions on what life and a career in industry are like and ask their questions about this career path.
The invited guest Dr. Joachim Schorr brought more than 25 years industry experience. Directly after his PhD in Virology with Walter Doefler, in Cologne, Dr. Schorr started at QIAGEN as a project manager. At that time, QIAGEN still was a small company developing new tools and methods for nucleic acid and protein purification. During the twenty years he spent with QIAGEN the company experienced massive growth and he was therefore confronted with all the changes, opportunities and challenges such dynamic growth implies. Finally, Schorr became Senior Vice President for Research & Development (R&D) and one of four Managing Directors for QIAGEN. As such, Dr. Schorr was responsible for QIAGEN’s global R&D in Life Sciences & Molecular Diagnostics. During his time at QIAGEN, he also founded several startup companies. After 20 years with QIAGEN, and with revenues exceeding $1 billion per year, he made the decision to move on and join Caris Life Sciences, one of the leading cancer profiling companies, first as a consultant and later as Chief Scientific Officer. At Caris Life Science Dr. Schorr established R&D processes, project management structures, quality control, regulatory affairs and bioinformatics. After leaving Caris in November 2014, Joachim Schorr started his own consulting firm, JS Consulting, which offers consulting services for R&D change management, innovation management and Systems Biology within cancer profiling.
Amongst a relaxed dinner atmosphere at an Italian restaurant, Joachim Schorr answered our questions on how to get into industry and what to expect there.
Firstly, he pointed out that when working in industry it is important to know and understand how your products work and to know about your customer´s needs. Here, his personal background (he initially started as a Biologielaborant (biotechnological technical assistant)) as well as his studies and PhD in life science were beneficial. Furthermore marketing experience including constant contact and interaction with customers is essential for understanding how best to serve your customers. To be successful in industry, commitment and the will to go the extra mile are prerequisites. As Schorr pointed out, “There is no free lunch!“, meaning that one needs to be patient and work a lot. According to Schorr, a successful career will not come with only working forty hours a week; it´s more likely to be a seventy to eighty hour work-week. But, at the end of the day, you also need some luck.
Asked when to leave academia to go into industry, Schorr agreed that it is indeed advantageous to quickly finish the PhD and if one does do an academic postdoc, to not stay in academia for too long. But, ultimately, to get a job in industry, it is certainly worth having a PhD. Similarly, doing a postdoc abroad before entering industry is also a good idea. When asked about the different work culture in companies, Schorr agreed that there is more room for your own ideas and to shape projects in startup companies, where processes and structures are still more flexible. Furthermore, starting in a large consulting firm after your PhD and gaining experience there before joining a biotechnological or pharmaceutical company for a management position is also one great career path to take.
When asked about his next steps professionally, Schorr revealed that he is planning to switch from pure consulting back into more of a hands on role. He wants to be more involved in the implementation and management of projects, as well as consulting and offering guidance to various companies.
Altogether, the evening was a good chance to get an exclusive personal insight into possible career paths in industry, to gather impressions as to what to expect there and to meet a successful manager in personal setting. Furthermore, despite being so successful, Joachim Schorr was still down to earth and passionate about things beyond his work, such as motorcycle touring.