Open University Skolkovo, the Russian Union of Young Scientists, and the New York Academy of Sciences
A Career Development and Entrepreneurship Workshop
Posted September 27, 2012
The New York Academy of Sciences and the Skolkovo Foundation of the Russian Federation co-hosted a career development workshop for young Russian scientists on June 5–7, 2012. Randy Ribaudo and Larry Petcovic of Human Workflows LLC and SciPhD Training Programs conducted the first day's workshop, which focused on finding a job in the corporate world. Ribaudo and Petcovic collaborate with the New York Academy of Sciences' Science Alliance program to offer business and job skill preparation for scientists. They described how, in order to get corporate jobs, academically trained scientists need to understand the language of private industry.
Next, three Russian panelists: Oleg Alekseev, Vice President of the Skolkovo Foundation; Alexander Kuleshov, Director of the A. Kharkevich Institute for Information Transmission Problems; and Dmitry Peskov, Director of the Young Professionals Department of the Agency for Strategic Initiatives (a government-mandated agency to promote entrepreneurship and modernization in Russia), assessed career options for the country's young scientists.
Monica Kerr, Director of Science Alliance, the Academy's science career development program, led the second day's session, which focused on entrepreneurship. Kerr explained the risks and benefits of that career path and how to assess one's entrepreneurial qualifications.
Following the presentation on entrepreneurship, Gaidar Magdanurov of Microsoft Seed Fund and Albert Yefimov, Director of Skolkovo IT Cluster Projects, gave the Russian perspective on Russian opportunities in startups.
Use the tabs above to find a meeting report and multimedia from this event.
Presentations and panel discussions available from:
Oleg Alekseev (Skolkovo Foundation)
Monica Kerr, PhD (The New York Academy of Sciences)
Alexander Kuleshov (A. Kharkevich Institute for Information Transmission Problems)
Gaidar Magdanurov (Microsoft Seed Fund)
Dmitry Peskov (Agency for Strategic Initiatives)
Larry Petcovic (Human Workflows, SciPhD Training Programs)
Randall Ribaudo, PhD (Human Workflow; SciPhD Training Program)
Ellis Rubinstein (The New York Academy of Sciences)
Albert Yefimov (Skolkovo IT Cluster Projects)
- 00:011. Evaluating an opportunity; Paper Clip Challenge Part 1
- 05:022. What makes an idea a good opportunity
- 13:583. Key frameworks for commercialization
- 22:044. Seven Domains framework: definitions of domains
- 35:005. Other frameworks and business approaches
- 36:256. Evaluating an opportunity: Yahoo! example
- 43:417. Evaluating an opportunity: Sirtris example
- 50:158. Differences between tech and biopharma
- 52:449. Paper Clip Challenge Part 2; Business model
- 00:011. Introduction
- 02:072. Workshop objectives and design
- 04:153. What is entrepreneurship?
- 11:464. Why learn/teach entrepreneurship?
- 18:375. Is entrepreneurship right for you?
- 27:006. Innovation ecosystems: Silicon Valley and the players
- 37:067. Innovation ecosystems: the stakes and code
- 42:258. Evaluating an opportunity; Paperclip Challenge Part 1
- 46:519. What makes an idea a good opportunity
- 55:5110. Key frameworks for commercialization
- 63:5211. Seven Domains framework: definitions of domains
- 76:5212. Other frameworks and business approache
- 00:011. Evaluating an opportunity: Yahoo! example
- 07:172. Evaluating an opportunity: Sirtris example
- 13:513. Differences between tech and biopharma
- 16:224. Paper Clip Challenge Part 2; Business models
- 27:265. Paper Clip Challenge Part 3: develop a business model
- 28:296. Opportunity execution; Conclusio
Your Career Steps
This site provided by the Stanford University Career Development Center includes exercises and tips to help you move through the career process. After completing the steps, you will end up with a list of your career interests and specific goals to help you explore and/or pursue those interests.
Myers-Briggs Type Inventory (MBTI)
This personality type theory is based on the idea that much seemingly random variation in the behavior is actually quite orderly and consistent, being due to basic differences in the ways individuals prefer to use their perception and judgment. Knowing your personality type, as measured through the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® instrument, may help you with career planning.
National Postdoctoral Association Core Competencies Toolkit
The U.S. National Postdoctoral Association (NPA) has established six core competencies to offer guidance to individual postdoctoral scholars who must seek out relevant training experiences, in collaboration with mentors, institutions, and other advisors who provide this training. "Competency" has been defined as "an acquired personal skill that is demonstrated in [one's] ability to provide a consistently adequate or high level of performance in a specific job function." These competencies are meant to serve primarily as: (1) a basis for self-evaluation by postdoctoral scholars and (2) a basis for developing training opportunities that can be evaluated by mentors, institutions, and other advisors.
Complementing the New York Academy of Sciences's innovative and dynamic scientific programs, the Science Alliance provides programs and services focused on career education, development and training. Through live events, webinars, and a dedicated website and forum, Science Alliance provides unparalleled opportunities to learn and network with individuals across institutions and disciplines. It serves over 4000 young scientists and the larger Academy membership.
The course is designed to help you asses your current skills and express them in business-friendly language. Furthermore, the SciPhD course will help you see where gaps in your skills could be preventing you from realizing the career of your dreams. With this knowledge you will know exactly the kinds of continuing education or coaching you should seek in order to be competitive.
Strong Interest Inventory — various websites
The Strong Interest Inventory is designed to give students and people in transition insight into their interests, preferences, and personal styles. It compares the test taker's results with those of people like them who have already found satisfying careers. It also generates a list of the top 10 occupations the individual is most likely to find rewarding.
Bio Careers is a career service dedicated to expanding professional options for life sciences PhDs and MDs. The service provides online career resources and job postings.
LinkedIn operates the world's largest professional network on the Internet with 161 million members in over 200 countries and territories.
Books and Articles
AAAS/Science Business Office. Career Trends: Careers Away from the Bench. Advice and Options for Scientists.
Fiske P. Putting Your Degree to Work: Practical Career Strategies for Scientists.
Freedman T. Career Opportunities in Biotechnology and Drug Development. 1st ed. Cold Spring Harbor, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press; 2009.
Fuhrmann CN et al. Improving graduate education to support a branching career pipeline: Recommendations based on a survey of doctoral students in the basic biomedical sciences. CBE Life Sci. Educ. 2011;10(3):239-49.
Newhouse M. Outside the Ivory Tower: A Guide for Academics Considering Alternative Careers. Cambridge, Harvard University Office of Career; 1993.
Robbins-Roth C. Alternative Careers in Science: Leaving the Ivory Tower. 1st ed. Waltham, Academic Press; 1998.
Rubio M, Hooley T. Recruiting researchers: Survey of employer practice 2009. Vitae, The Careers Research and Advisory Centre (CRAC) Limited.
Bioentrepreneur: From Bench to Boardroom
Nature Biotechnology's portal dedicated to scientists interested in commercializing their research.
Business Model Generation
Business Model Generation is a digital Canvas that can be used to generate a business model.
Ecorner: Stanford University's Entrepreneurship Corner
Stanford University's Entrepreneurship Corner offers 2000 free videos and podcasts, featuring entrepreneurship and innovation thought leaders.
Books and Journal Articles
Byers T, Dorf R, Nelson A. Technology Ventures: From Idea to Enterprise. 3rd ed. New York, McGraw-Hill; 2010.
Mehta S. Commercializing Successful Biomedical Technologies: Basic Principles for the Development of Drugs, Diagnostics and Devices. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press; 2008.
Mullins J. The New Business Road Test: What Entrepreneurs and Executives Should Do Before Writing a Business Plan. 2nd ed. Harlow, Pearson Education Limited; 2006.
Pavese KE, Hayter C, Satinsky DM, et al. Yaroslavl Roadmap 10-15-20.
Pressman L, Guterman SK, Abrams I, et al. Pre-production investment and jobs induced by MIT exclusive patent licenses: a preliminary model to measure the economic impact of university licensing. J Assn Univ Tech Managers 1995; Vol VII.
Monica L. Kerr, PhD
Director, Science Alliance, The New York Academy of Sciences
e-mail | website
Monica Kerr earned her PhD in Cell and Developmental Biology from the Biological and Biomedical Sciences Program at Harvard Medical School. Here she worked with Lewis Cantley, who discovered PI 3-kinase, identifying a new component in the PI 3-kinase pathway through a proteome-wide screen for novel phosphoinositide binding proteins. She then explored the role of this previously uncharacterized protein in Norbert Perrimon's laboratory, employing functional genetic techniques in Drosophila.
Leaving the bench but remaining at Harvard, Kerr subsequently moved over to the Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology Department to focus on higher education as an Instructor and Curriculum Fellow. She taught and developed science-based curricula for undergraduate, graduate, and medical school science courses, as well as led career advancement initiatives for science PhDs. Throughout her tenure at Harvard, Kerr founded a new professional development series for life scientists, received two teaching awards, and was selected to participate in the Harvard Macy Institute's Program for Educators in Health Professions.
Kerr joined the New York Academy of Sciences in February 2010 as the Director of Science Alliance, an international career development program for graduate students and postdocs in the sciences. Kerr regularly speaks at top universities like Columbia, Cornell, Harvard, New York, and Rockefeller on career planning, career exploration, self-assessments, and networking and is also lead instructor for the Academy's From Idea to IPO course and Making the Leap career boot camp.
Monica L. Kerr, PhD
Director, Science Alliance, The New York Academy of Sciences
e-mail | website
Larry Petcovic, MS
Human Workflows, SciPhD Training Programs
Larry Petcovic brings 25 years of rich experience in a variety of industries; publicly and privately held companies, midsize (100MM) and larger (1.5B); in operational and staff positions. His entrepreneurial spirit and startup experience bring a pragmatic approach to his executive coaching techniques and his developing talent as in the SciPhD project of Human Workflows. Petcovic is a Founder of 3rd Order Communications LLC and a Co-Founder of SciPhD.
He started his professional career as a Health Physicist and transitioned into the training of science subjects. He then managed all training for Ryland Group and specialized in sales and communications impact. Petcovic then pursued the GE workout process and directed process improvement programs for Ryland. He transitioned to assignments as VP of Training and VP Customer Service Operations for Chevy Chase Credit Card Operations. In the role of VP Human Resources, he managed a leverage buyout of a manufacturing firm. Throughout these roles, he continued to perform as Chairman of the Compensation Committee of a $100 Million NASDAQ service company for 15 years.
The SciPhD program is the result of the combination of Petcovic's many years of experience in developing and teaching social communications skills combined with his scientific and human resources industry knowledge and best practices. Petcovic continues to coach industry executives in high performance teams and is a qualified coach in several 360 and Leadership Effective Analysis type assessments. His work in behavioral competencies is based in his current research in the social neurosciences and social media practices.
Petcovic holds a BS in Chemistry, an MS from Rutgers University in Environmental Radiation Sciences, an MS from Johns Hopkins University in Behavioral Sciences and doctoral work in Executive Development at George Washington University. He is the creator of several unique team based diagnostic exercises and continues to write and explore the social neurosciences and stochastic decision making in executive communications.
Randall Ribaudo, PhD
Human Workflows, SciPhD Training Programs
Human Workflows and SciPhD co-founder Randall Ribaudo has over twenty years of experience in the Scientific Research and biotechnology field and has successfully made the transition from academia to industry. Ribaudo co-founded Human Workflows after more than five years at Celera Genomics. During his time at Celera, Ribaudo has acted as a liaison between Celera and the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and academic communities, served as product manager responsible for developing support products for the Proteomics Groups mass spectrometry software, led the iScience Task Force to define strategic directions for sister company Applied Biosystems, advised on product development for the Celera Discovery System and enterprise solutions for information integration, and worked as a Manager of Strategic Solutions in the Informatics business.
Prior to Celera, Ribaudo worked at the biotechnology and bioinformatics company Molecular Applications Group. Ribaudo was responsible for presenting the revolutionary capabilities of MAG's products to representatives in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and academic communities.
Ribaudo also has extensive experience in the academic biological life sciences arena as well. After receiving a PhD in Immunology at the University of Connecticut, Ribaudo joined the Laboratory of Immunology, NIAID at the National Institutes of Health where he studied the molecular basis of antigen presentation. Ribaudo then accepted a position in the National Cancer Institute in the Laboratory of Immune Cell Biology as a Principal Investigator where he developed his own research program studying the immune response to viruses and tumors, leading a team of postdoctoral fellows, technicians, and University and High School students. His work at the National Cancer Institute led to the development of a novel technology to develop vaccines against tumors and viruses. Ribaudo holds patents for this technology which are now being further developed by private companies.
All of this experience has provided Ribaudo with tremendous insight into the rapidly exploding technological capabilities in areas of discovery research, information and data management, as well as a detailed understanding of the skills and competencies required for scientists to be successful in industry careers.
President and CEO, The New York Academy of Sciences
Ellis Rubinstein is President and CEO of the 195-year-old New York Academy of Sciences, home of 25,000 scientists in 140 countries and 28 Nobel Laureates on its Council. He served as Editor of Science from 1993–2002. He was Editor of The Scientist, Senior Editor at Newsweek, and Managing Editor of Science 86 and IEEE Spectrum. His journalism was honored by three National Magazine Awards, the Pulitzer Prizes of the U.S. periodical industry.
A long-time friend of China who organized the first national publishing agreement that permitted all Chinese scientists to receive Science on the Internet, Rubinstein was the first western journalist to interview Jiang Zemin. He was also the first science journalist to interview then-President Bill Clinton.
At the New York Academy, he has established groundbreaking international public-private partnerships in obesity and diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, science education, and "smart cities." Rubinstein has forged partnerships with presidents, prime ministers, governors and mayors and the Academy has alliances with scores of universities and multinational companies.
Vice President, COO for Education and Research Skolkovo Foundation
Oleg Alekseev is a graduate of the Moscow State Historical Archives Institute. In 1992, Alekseev established and was the chair of the consulting company, IMS, which specialized in creating city/region/company development programs. He combined business with project work in a state city planning institute and headed the expert board of the Russian Local Government Council. In 2002, he headed the Center for Strategic Research of the Volga Federal District. From 2003 to 2010, he was Director of Human Resources and Corporate Relations and Member of the Management Board in the Renova Group. Since November 2010, Alekseev has been the Vice President of the Skolkovo Foundation and Chief Operating Officer for Education and Research. He is responsible for research and educational projects of the Skolkovo Foundation (Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (SkolTech), Open University of Skolkovo (OpUS) and "School Skolkovo"), collaboration with universities and the Russian Academy of Sciences and creation of innovative environment and culture of Skolkovo. He is a member of the Steering Committee of the Smart City Program and a member of the Steering Committee of the collaboration between SkolTech and MIT. He is also a Member of the Management Board of the Foundation.
Director, A. Kharkevich Institute for Information Transmission Problems
e-mail | website
Alexander Kuleshov is a full member of the Russian Academy of Sciences and Director of the world-renowned A. Kharkevich Institute for Information Transmission Problems. He is a well-known specialist in information technologies and mathematical modeling. His research interests comprise of construction of interdisciplinary models of complex technical objects, new mathematical models, methods, and algorithms for data analysis and processing based on cognitive technologies, and specific applications to CAD problems for fuzzy input data and constraints. New mathematical methods and algorithms of routing in large-scale distributed communication networks, which Kuleshov co-developed, are summarized in the highly appraised monograph "Packet-Switched Networks" (1986, with I. Mizin and V. Bogatyrev). In recent years Alexander Kuleshov is working on cognitive technologies in modeling and design of complex technical systems.
Managing Director, Microsoft Seed Fund
Gaidar Magdanurov is Managing Director of Microsoft Seed Fund and the local software economy initiative lead at Microsoft Russia. His focus is in the development of the software ecosystem and successful technological startups in Russia. Magdanurov is an active trainer and expert on startups; he teaches students and startup founders on building and running successful businesses. Magdanurov joined Microsoft in 2007, as Developer Evangelist, helping developers in Russia to learn and adopt recent technologies and development techniques. Since 2009, he was leading the web initiative, supporting web companies and hosting providers in business development. In 2011, he took the role of Microsoft Seed Fund managing director. Besides his primary job functions, Magdanurov has been mentoring startups for five years. His primary area of expertise is in the internet and software business. Before and during his time at Microsoft, Magdanurov has participated in the launch of 50+ web projects as developer, project manager, and mentor.
Director, Young Professionals Department, Agency for Strategic Initiatives
Dmitry Peskov is the Director of the Young Professionals Department in the Agency for Strategic Initiatives and is Founder of the project group Metaver. From 2001 to 2008, he worked at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations of Russia where he managed the formulation of the Institute's strategic development in the Center for Internet-Politics. Peskov managed the creation of the Russian International Studies Association (RISA). He was formerly the Director of Innovations and Deputy of the Vice-Chancellor for Research.
Peskov organized the first technological conference in barcamp format: iCamp, develops iCamp, MobileCamp, RuCamp, EduCamp formats. He is a co-author on the concept of strategic development of OAO "GAO VVC" commissioned by the government of the Russian Federation. He is the Director of the selection program of students from the Open University SKOLKOVO. Peskov developed the quick method of obtaining reliable maps of the industry development —RF (rapid foresight) —and is a co-author of the first Russian independent foresight "Education 2030." He has conducted foresight-projects in car and energy industries and development of single territories.
Dmitry Peskov has participated in a range of international conferences on Knowledge Management, is an author of the monograph, "Anti-Globalization and Global Governance," co-author of textbooks, including "Contemporary International Relations," "Technological Progress and Contemporary International Relations," and author of about 15 scientific publications on problems of the information society. His areas of expertise include strategic management, creation of educational systems, strategic planning, assessment and audit of IT projects, international relations, IT, politics and the Internet.
Director, Skolkovo IT Cluster Projects
e-mail | website
Albert Yefimov has 20 years of IT and telecom industry experience, leading complex and large projects in various organizations. Yefimov has a Masters degree in Computer Science from Moscow Institute of Radiotechnics, Electronics and Automation, as well as a Masters degree in Communications Management from Strathclyde University in Glasgow. In the Skolkovo innovation center, Yefimov works with all IT Cluster residents. Among his projects are the Mobile Medical Device contest and Data Center Architecture for Skolkovo.
Alan Dove, PhD
Alan Dove is a science writer and reporter for Nature Medicine, Nature Biotechnology, and Bioscience Technology. He also teaches at the NYU School of Journalism, and blogs at http://dovdox.com.
It's a bad time to be a young scientist. Governments are slashing long-term research budgets to cover short-term financial needs, a single tenure-track academic job opening receives hundreds of applicants, and the overwhelming majority of grant applications will never get funded.
It's a great time to be a young scientist. New technologies and techniques have opened previously unimaginable lines of research, a global population of nearly seven billion people is clamoring for solutions to huge social and environmental problems, and a globally-connected business community is generating new companies and opportunities at an unprecedented pace.
On June 6–7, 2012 both of these views were on full display in Moscow, where the New York Academy of Sciences and the Skolkovo Foundation co-hosted a career development workshop for young Russian scientists. The meeting drew an enthusiastic crowd of graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and early-stage academic faculty, all trying to navigate the complex career landscape of a country still reinventing itself after decades of centrally-planned Soviet administration.
Randy Ribaudo and Larry Petcovic of Human Workflows LLC and SciPhD Training Programs conducted the first day's workshop, which focused on finding a job in the corporate world. Ribaudo and Petcovic collaborate with the New York Academy of Sciences' Science Alliance program to offer business and job skill preparation for scientists. These programs are important because scientists who have spent much of their adult life in academic training often find corporate culture confusing, even in companies with a heavy emphasis on research.
Even in the U.S. and Europe, government and academic research labs comprise a minority of the job market; most PhD-trained scientists will end up working in the private sector. Contrary to what many academics believe, though, corporate research is not all dull and repetitive. Ribaudo cited several major breakthroughs in biomedical science that have come from industry labs, and many successful scientists rise into corporate management as well.
To get those jobs, academically trained scientists need to understand the language of private industry, and Ribaudo and Petcovic provided a primer on it. Businesses are looking for researchers who have technical qualifications, but who also understand business concepts such as strategic thinking, project management, and finance. Fortunately, many PhDs have developed those skills during their years in the lab. Through a series of exercises and discussions, Ribaudo and Petcovic explained how to evaluate and express those abilities in terms business people will understand.
A panel session at the end of the first day featured three researchers who have succeeded in business in Russia. The panelists gave a realistic, often blunt assessment of the best career options for the country's young scientists.
Monica Kerr, Director of Science Alliance, the Academy's science career development program, led the second day's session, which focused on entrepreneurship. Even researchers who plan to work for a big company may find themselves developing and commercializing new products, so entrepreneurial skills are essential for everyone in industry. For those planning to start their own companies, Kerr explained the risks and benefits of that career path and how to assess one's entrepreneurial qualifications. A series of small-group exercises illustrated how entrepreneurs should think about exploiting new opportunities.
Several factors have made the U.S. a leader in entrepreneurship, including a strong emphasis on financial success, official encouragement for new companies, and a culture in which failure is considered acceptable. Two successful Russian businessmen from the technology industry underscored those points, and answered attendees' questions about starting companies in Russia.
The highly interactive meeting also featured two evening networking sessions and discussions over lunch each day. At the close of the conference, young Russian scientists still faced formidable obstacles, but attendees now had a set of practical tools with which to overcome them.
Ellis Rubinstein, The New York Academy of Sciences
Randall Ribaudo, Human Workflows; SciPhD Training Programs
Larry Petcovic, Human Workflows; SciPhD Training Programs
- Private industry offers exciting opportunities for young scientists.
- Researchers need to develop short- and long-term career plans to guide their job searches.
- Scientists need to build a "personal brand" and sell it in their business resumes.
Misconceptions about scientists in academia and industry
Ellis Rubinstein, President and Chief Executive Officer of the New York Academy of Sciences, started the Career Development and Entrepreneurship Workshop with a brief introduction to the Academy's mission, tracing its long history of openness and international collaboration. In recent years, Rubinstein has led an effort to build on that tradition with meetings aimed at young scientists from different institutions. This workshop was part of that initiative.
Randy Ribaudo, President and Chief Executive Officer of Human Workflows and Co-Founder of SciPhD Training Programs, then introduced the first day's main session, which focused on getting a job in private industry. Ribaudo began by noting some of the differences between scientists in academic labs and those in industry, based on his own company's interviews with them. "The basic difference was that scientists in academia tended to debate and argue and defend their own beliefs, and ... in industry it was a much more collaborative kind of an attitude of working in teams and that sort of thing," he said.
While working in industry involves a great deal of collaboration and teamwork, getting a job is still a competitive process, and Ribaudo described several strategies scientists can use to gain an edge in the corporate hiring process. That has become even more important in recent years, as surveys have shown that a majority of new PhDs will ultimately end up working in private businesses rather than in academic or government labs.
Unfortunately, academic scientists still harbor old biases about corporate research, often regarding it as the "dark side" of science. "Sometimes you will find that your mentors, the people who run your laboratory, will criticize you if they find out that you want to leave academia and go to industry," said Ribaudo.
That negative perception of the corporate world has spawned several common myths: that industry research is boring, that scientists in corporate labs cannot publish their results, and that academically-trained PhDs are overqualified for work in business. Through a series of examples, Ribaudo systematically dismantled these myths, showing that modern industrial labs employ numerous academically-trained researchers and conduct exciting, often groundbreaking studies that get published in top journals.
Indeed, scientists who choose to leave academic research have a plethora of options, ranging from laboratory work in large global companies to starting their own businesses or becoming independent consultants. To make intelligent choices, researchers should develop short- and long-term career plans based on their interests. The plans should include identifying the new skills needed to advance through a career, and clear strategies for learning those skills.
The importance of soft skills
To most scientists, "skill" means the ability to perform particular laboratory techniques and research methods. While many research-focused companies will expect new lab workers to have those types of abilities, they also need employees to have "soft skills," such as good judgment, communication, teamwork, and the ability to get things done. In industry surveys, managers say that academically-trained scientists are most likely to have the technical skills, but not the soft skills necessary to work in business. "You've got to do something to convince industry that they're wrong about this," said Ribaudo.
That may not be as hard as it sounds. Ribaudo described several things academic scientists can do to build a "personal brand," combining aspects of their scientific, business, and social identities to demonstrate the skills industry wants. For example, conducting a series of experiments and publishing the results is the essence of a basic researcher's scientific identity, but that process also requires persistence, planning, and often teamwork and delegation—traits that demonstrate a strong business identity.
Larry Petcovic, Vice President for Communications at Human Workflow and Co-Founder of SciPhD Training Programs, explained that big companies often use a systematic approach to score executives' strengths and weaknesses in a variety of areas, and he and Ribaudo have adapted that process for scientists trying to move into industry. Looking more deeply into the concept of a personal brand, Petcovic and Ribaudo described six categories of skills that correlate with success in entry-level positions in industry. Job-seekers need to understand which of those skills they already have and how to communicate those talents to prospective employers.
The six categories are strategic vision, developing people, executing plans, achieving results, communication, and financial acumen. Individual skills within each category provide a more detailed description of the requirements. For example, communication includes technical literacy, style flexibility, emotional intelligence, and social intelligence. Though these don not sound like traditional strong points of highly trained scientists, Petcovic and Ribaudo argued that most researchers are simply unaccustomed to expressing their abilities this way. For instance, explaining a project to a friend or colleague requires all of the skills in the communication category.
The morning session ended with an exercise in which attendees worked in small groups, identifying how various skills they have developed in academic research fit into one of the six categories. A representative from each group then presented the results.
Larry Petcovic, Human Workflows; SciPhD Training Programs
Randall Ribaudo, Human Workflows; SciPhD Training Programs
Oleg Alekseev, Skolkovo Foundation
Alexander Kuleshov, A. Kharkevich Institute for Information Transmission Problems
Dmitry Peskov, Agency for Strategic Initiatives
- When applying for a job, candidates must address the business skill requirements described in a job advertizement advertisement.
- Networking is a crucial skill for job-seekers.
- The career development process in Russia has changed dramatically in recent years.
- Working for a Russian state company may be poor career choice, but some private business sectors are likely to grow dramatically.
How to develop a detailed job-search strategy
The second half of the day focused on developing a detailed job-hunting strategy. Petcovic and Ribaudo began this session by discussing the self-assessment process, which entails figuring out one's aptitude at each of the 24 skills presented in the first session. To simplify that process, all of the conference attendees received passwords to Petcovic and Ribaudo's online self-assessment web site, which guides job-seekers through a series of structured exercises to determine their qualifications.
Once scientists have developed a good idea of their own abilities, they can read job listings with a more critical eye. Ribaudo showed a typical advertisement for an industry research position, highlighting two distinct types of qualifications. Most scientists immediately notice the technical qualifications in a job listing, such as experience in immunology and molecular biology, but few realize that the advertisement also contains a list of business skills the company is looking for. Identifying those skills can put applicants ahead of their competition.
"It's hard to imagine that you are going to be so much better than all those other PhDs with regard to your molecular biology skills," said Ribaudo, adding that "the advantage that you can have is that most of them ... are going to talk only about their technical skills."
Many researchers also misunderstand how companies handle resumes. Unlike an academic curriculum vitae, a resume should be no more than two pages long, and its sole purpose is to land an interview, not a job. Once in the interview, the applicant can convince the company to hire them. Indeed, most resumes are not even read by people initially. Because they receive so many applications for each position, companies generally process resumes by computer, using algorithms that identify the applicants who have mentioned the same skills that were in the job listing. A generic resume will probably lack those specific keywords, so applicants should customize it. Looking at the sample job listing, Ribaudo explained how a typical molecular immunologist could map specific competencies from his or her own self-assessment, correlating them with the specific terms in the listing. Armed with that map, the applicant can then structure a resume with the appropriate keywords.
After the initial resume screening, a company will send the top resumes to the executives and team members who will interview applicants for the position. Most of these people will read the resumes quickly right before the interview. Ribaudo offered several tips on organizing a resume to put the important information where it is most likely to be noticed. "In your resume you're building your brand ... covering all the things that are most important to that company for that job you're going after," said Ribaudo.
Even the best resume will not get very far, though, if it doesn't reach the right person. In industry, the majority of new hires come from referrals, either by someone who already works at the company or someone who has done business with them. Applicants who know more of the right people stand a much better chance of getting such referrals, so Ribaudo and Petcovic offered a list of strategies for professional networking. Joining local business organizations, using online networking sites such as LinkedIn, and seeking out industry presenters at scientific conferences can all lead to good results later.
Once the interview comes, job-seekers have to be ready for it. Ribaudo advocates doing as much research as possible on the company's business, competitors, recent developments or setbacks, and people. Applicants also need to be ready for some standard questions, such as what their greatest weakness is, and why the company should hire them rather than any of the other applicants.
After the lectures, attendees broke into two teams to play a game that involved passing different objects from one person to the next. Each team was free to develop its own strategy to pass the objects most efficiently. Without any formal management training, the teams demonstrated most of the business competencies Petcovic and Ribaudo had outlined during their presentations, showing that they possess these skills even if they did not realize it.
The job market in Russia
The day's final session featured a panel of three successful Russian businessmen who answered questions about job opportunities in the country. This discussion ranged across a variety of topics, from job-seeking and entrepreneurship to Russia's unique economic and business challenges.
Alexander Kuleshov, Director of the A. Kharkevich Institute for Information Transmission Problems, described an individual career as a business plan: one can benefit by increasing either capitalization, in the form of skills that are valuable on the labor market, or dividends, in the form of a salary. Finding a suitable job entails looking at the new skills it will teach and the salary it will pay, and deciding whether it offers a good value.
Dmitry Peskov, Director of the Young Professionals Department of the Agency for Strategic Initiatives, explained that not all skills are good capital investments. Many Russian companies consider a PhD a negative factor, for example, preferring to hire people with more practical business experience. An oversupply of PhDs feeds that trend.
Oleg Alekseev, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for Education and Research, Skolkovo Foundation, stressed that the career development process in Russia has changed dramatically in recent years. In the early 1990s, the chaos that followed the Soviet Union's collapse left thousands of defense industry specialists out of work. Many of those engineers and scientists moved into local government positions, with mixed results.
The panelists universally agreed that working for one of Russia's state-owned companies is a bad idea. Replying to a young chemist who wants to work for the space industry, Kuleshov recommended either switching fields or leaving the country. Alekseev, however, suggested staying in Russia and joining the Skolkovo Open University's space cluster, which is trying to jump-start a new space industry in Moscow.
Though science advocates in other countries often fret over the "brain drain" of talented young researchers leaving for the U.S. and Europe, the panelists at this meeting took a realistic approach. When asked what the current generation of young scientists should do to help the country, Alekseev replied that this is a problem only the meeting's youthful audience could address and suggested that it may involve leaving the country to obtain skills elsewhere. Nonetheless, Peskov pointed to some bright spots where new Russian industries are likely to arise, including biotechnology, materials science, and nanotechnology.
Monica Kerr, New York Academy of Sciences
- Even researchers who plan to take academic posts or go to a big company should understand entrepreneurship.
- Scientific research provides good training for entrepreneurship, but researchers also need to add a few skills to succeed in business.
- Entrepreneur-friendly areas don't stigmatize failure.
Introduction to entrepreneurship
Monica Kerr, Director of the Academy's Science Alliance Program, led the discussion for most of the meeting's second day, focusing on entrepreneurship. Traditionally, an "entrepreneur" was someone who started a new company, but Kerr explained that the term's meaning has broadened in recent years. Modern entrepreneurship can also entail restructuring companies, spinning out new companies from existing ventures, or taking innovative new approaches within a large, established corporation.
Big technology and research-driven companies are especially keen to encourage entrepreneurial ventures, lest they get overtaken by smaller competitors. "A lot of innovations tend to come from smaller companies that are more nimble and agile," said Kerr, but "often in a larger organization they'll have a group within them that is allowed to innovate and encouraged to take risks." Regardless of what types of organizations scientists decide to work for, they will probably be expected to be innovators.
Science is inherently innovative, and academic life provides good preparation for corporate entrepreneurship. "Somebody who's running their own lab ... you're kind of running your own business, you're managing the lab, you're managing people, you're writing grants, getting resources you need," said Kerr, adding that "scientists and academics are naturally suited to be entrepreneurs."
After the initial presentation, Kerr directed attendees to break into small groups and discuss entrepreneurial activities they have engaged in during their academic careers. Volunteers then described some of those activities, which ranged from organizing a large concert on campus to starting a new student newspaper.
The students' entrepreneurial spirit is not surprising; according to a recent report the Academy helped prepare, Russia has many talented entrepreneurial people, but lacks an established culture of entrepreneurship to support them in developing new ventures. Creating such a culture could have a huge impact: an analysis of U.S. companies spun off from academic institutions revealed that these companies have created 280,000 jobs and $33.5 billion in new economic activity.
As an example of an entrepreneurial culture, Kerr pointed to the well-studied business ecosystem of Silicon Valley in California. The area has several important features, including research institutions, an established infrastructure for new companies, a business-friendly legal environment, and a good quality of life that attracts qualified people. Social and business networks in the area are multidisciplinary, collaborative, and globally connected, and the culture is diverse and democratized.
Another crucial feature of entrepreneur-friendly areas is that failure is socially acceptable. "Being an entrepreneur, starting your own company is very risky, and a lot of times you are going to fail ... you need an environment and a culture that embraces that," said Kerr.
Researchers who study business innovation often describe entrepreneurial cultures in terms of three overlapping circles of influence: stakes, players, and code. In Silicon Valley, the stakes are money, time, talent, technology, and customer relationships, and players include the venture capital firms, "angel" investors, law firms, and government agencies that provide resources for new companies. Both of these circles are relatively easy to identify. The third circle, code, is more nebulous: it refers to the unwritten rules and traditions by which people actually do business in that area.
"You need to learn what the code is in your local ecosystem and within your industry in order to really gain ability and trust," said Kerr. Unfortunately, the social code of the local business community isn't always obvious. To learn it, entrepreneurs need to figure out who the major players are in the area and talk to them about how to pursue a new venture. That requires networking, a skill that young scientists will find useful no matter what career path they choose.
How to evaluate a business opportunity
After defining the basic concepts of entrepreneurship, Kerr led the group through a series of exercises and discussions that mimicked the process of developing a new business venture. The first exercise was deceptively simple: working in small groups, attendees had to develop a list of alternative uses for a paper clip.
Kerr then walked through the approach entrepreneurs might use to determine which of those ideas constituted a genuine business opportunity. "There are lots of cool technologies and inventions that people come up with, but do they actually really meet a pressing need? Is it something that people really want and will buy?" asked Kerr. Indeed, only about 6% of inventions ever become commercially viable products.
Specifically, a good business opportunity involves a timely, important problem that is not only solvable, but profitable to solve within a favorable social context. Entrepreneurs can achieve that combination of factors in one of two ways: pulling or pushing. "Pull" innovations involve finding solutions to well-defined problems, a strategy common to the pharmaceutical industry. "Push" innovations are solutions in search of problems, a pattern that occurs in many technology businesses.
Within each of those categories, a new idea can be either incremental or disruptive. Incremental opportunities tend to occur in highly competitive industries, where increasing efficiency just a little bit can provide a substantial edge over competitors; robotic assembly lines evolved from manual assembly lines by an incremental process. In contrast, disruptive opportunities change an entire industry very quickly, the way digital photography destroyed the market for film and replaced it with an entirely new set of opportunities.
Starting a new venture, either alone or within the context of a new company, is complex and risky. Business researchers have developed numerous models to make the startup process easier to understand. Kerr presented several of these models, ranging from relatively simple ones that follow the distinct phases of business development, to more complex models that map the domains of a business opportunity into multiple microeconomic and macroeconomic categories. All the models encourage entrepreneurs to evaluate a wide range of variables before deciding to pursue an opportunity. For scientists, it is especially important to avoid being distracted by the details of a particular finding or technology. No matter how interesting the underlying science is, if the market will not pay a profitable price for it, the business will fail.
Next, Kerr illustrated the characteristics of new technological and scientific opportunities with two case studies: the Internet search service Yahoo! and Sirtris Pharmaceuticals. Founded by two Stanford University graduate students in 1995, when the World Wide Web was in its early stages, Yahoo! clearly met the criteria of a good business opportunity. Crucially, the company's founders focused on more than just the underlying technology of their Web search system. "The vision wasn't just creating new software or a new Internet-type company, the vision was really to help people easily get access to information," said Kerr. Sirtris arose in similar circumstances: it built on new technologies and scientific findings, but its trajectory highlights the unique risks of the life science industry. The company developed small molecules that activate a class of proteins called sirtuins, or histone deacetylases. Preliminary research had suggested that activating these proteins might reverse some of the effects of aging. Though the idea was timely, important, and potentially very profitable, Sirtris faced enormous uncertainty about whether the technology would actually work. Nonetheless, the company successfully developed it to the point that a larger pharmaceutical firm later acquired Sirtris, so at least some experts in the industry thought the company's idea looked like a good opportunity.
At the end of this session, Kerr told attendees to return to their paper clip brainstorming exercise to evaluate their ideas and pick the best business opportunity.
Monica Kerr, The New York Academy of Sciences
Gaidar Magdanurov, Microsoft Seed Fund
Albert Yefimov, Skolkovo IT Cluster
- Entrepreneurs need to evaluate opportunities carefully and develop workable business models.
- Starting a new venture in Russia can be challenging, but also rewarding.
What is a business model?
After finding a good business opportunity, an entrepreneur needs to develop a business model. The business model is a simple explanation of how the company will create, deliver, and capture value—in other words, how it will make money. A good business model should fit on a single slide or sheet of paper and be easy for potential investors to understand.
Though it should be conceptually simple, the business model needs to address several elements, including who the customers are, what the business offers them, how the product or service gets to them, and all of the requirements and dependencies for running the operation and making profits. Free online tools can help new entrepreneurs generate an initial business plan.
Returning to the Yahoo! example, Kerr explained that the company's original business model was very straightforward. Yahoo! users would get easy access to the growing amount of information available online, in exchange for seeing display advertisements that would bring in revenue. "That's a very simple snapshot of what they were thinking their business model would be back in 1995 when they were just getting started," said Kerr.
Attendees then presented their own business models based on the paper clip exercise. The groups' ideas ranged from practical inventions, such as a paper clip that doubled as a thumbtack and magnet, to more speculative opportunities that included a box of self-assembling clips that could create any desired object.
Kerr finished the workshop by summarizing the strategies entrepreneurs can use to get funding for their ideas. Initial startup companies often need little more than loans from family and friends, but later development stages usually require "series A" funding from venture capitalists and other private investors, followed by additional rounds of fundraising leading up to a public stock offering.
As an epilogue, Kerr described the subsequent developments at Yahoo! and Sirtris. The former eventually became one of the dominant players in Internet search, though it has recently had difficulty competing with Google and Microsoft. After GlaxoSmithKline acquired Sirtris for $720 million, the large pharmaceutical company had trouble replicating earlier results with sirtuin inhibitors, and investors have since soured on the technology. Neither failure is likely to harm the original entrepreneurs' prospects.
Failure is an option
Albert Yefimov, Director of Skolkovo IT Cluster Projects, and Gaidar Magdanurov, Managing Director of Microsoft Seed Fund, conducted the meeting's final panel discussion, beginning by picking up the theme of failure. Both speakers stressed that failure in business is nothing to be ashamed of; indeed, examples from Thomas Edison to the computer gaming company Zinga show that failure is an integral part of success in entrepreneurship. Some businesses simply won't survive. The key, according to both speakers, is to keep trying.
After brief introductory presentations, the two speakers took questions from the audience. In response to a question about choosing a career path, Yefimov explained that big corporations offer security and a well-defined route to promotion, while startup companies do not; however, the greater risks of starting a business balance the greater rewards of eventual success. Magdanurov pointed out that the two career paths are not mutually exclusive; young scientists can try starting their own companies, then take jobs elsewhere if their initial ventures fail. Nor is entrepreneurship limited to small companies. Magdanurov stressed that big corporations encourage innovation as well, and Yefimov said that new projects within a company operate much like startup businesses; however, he cautioned that Russia's state-owned companies are averse to innovation, which tends to lead to corruption in that setting.
The panel also addressed the challenges of getting funding for startup companies, the importance of persistence, and the need to evaluate new opportunities skeptically before deciding to pursue them as businesses. As the meeting closed, attendees left with a realistic assessment of the current business environment in Russia and a solid understanding of the skills and strategies they will need to succeed in their newly launched careers.