Dominique Fauvin

Genotyping Business Manager EMEA – LGC Genomics
Former researcher in Molecular Oncology at the University of Poitiers, France

Dominique FauvinAcademic research experience

I did a licence and master’s in Biology at the University of Poitiers. Having a great lab to work with and funding assured, I decided to do my PhD there as well. My decision was also led by the fact that most PhDs in France are limited to three years: knowing the lab and the subject allowed me to win a few precious months to be able to finish my PhD on time.

Adding the work I did during my Master 1 and Master 2 research internships, I was a researcher for four years, studying tumour suppressors’ pathways.

While I don’t think I should be ashamed of my PhD achievements, once my thesis was submitted and my PhD obtained I didn’t feel smart enough to apply for a postdoc. But I had no clue what I wanted to do next.

Transition from academic research  

Exhausted from my PhD and unable to take any life decisions, I decided to go on holiday, and backpacked in India for a couple of months. There I realised how bad my English was (writing and reading scientific papers in English do not prepare you well for speaking “everyday” English) and how important it was for me to improve it.

Back in France, being unemployed and less than 28 years old I was able to apply for an internship abroad: three weeks of English class followed by six months as an intern, to learn a job on the spot. I joined a great, small life science company in the UK, where, while improving my English, I got given lots of opportunities to learn business-related skills which I’d had no idea about (customer service, technical support, marketing, sales, etc.) and which helped me define better what I liked to do.

This kind of business internship was a great way for me to get a foot in industry and learn new skills, while not being too expensive and risky for the company. Unfortunately, few countries and regions are doing this, and age limits also apply. Democratising this more widely would certainly be a great opportunity for many researchers wishing to transition from academia to business. 

This internship really was instrumental in my switching from academia to industry, and I got offered a long-term position in the company at the end of my internship. J

I was very lucky to have joined this company, as the managers there believed in me and offered me opportunities to try several types of jobs to find out what I wanted to do. Ultimately, they even offered me the opportunity to set up a US sales office. I hadn’t a clue about doing any of this; I’d hardly been to the US; I was terrified. But this was an opportunity of a lifetime, and if they believed I could do it, why should my own fears stop me? I accepted, did it, and succeeded.

I realised how important it was to sometimes set aside my fear and lack of confidence and trust others’ judgment.

Career shift

Having lived in different countries from my boyfriend for three years, I then decided to come back to France and find a job there, if possible in a bigger company to see how the jobs and tasks I liked would be in this new environment. While I began confident in my resume and capabilities, unfortunately after a few months searching for an interesting job I lost patience and confidence (anybody looking for a job would certainly understand this) and opened my job search to other countries again. 

I soon found a marketing role in a bigger company in the UK. Transitioning from a multitasking job in a small company to a much more defined job in a big company didn’t work well for me, so I didn’t stay very long. But there, I’d met a colleague who’d been in a smaller company previously, and who felt exactly the opposite (he didn’t like the “multiple hats” kind of job). Thanks to his insight, I applied to the small start-up he used to work at, had great interviews and got hired. I have the impression that many managers in the UK would hire you because of what they believe you could achieve, not because of your CV, diplomas or skills. This is extremely empowering. 

This new job in a start-up was exactly what I wanted, confirming that I was very much a “small company” person. I loved my job there, I learned and achieved a lot, but after two years, I had the opportunity to finally live in France with my boyfriend, so I took the chance. About time!

Current job – and how it compares                       

I’m now managing a very interesting portfolio for a great UK-based company in Genomics. Living in France with my partner and working from home there, I travel quite a lot everywhere in Europe, to visit customers, visit our labs and manufacturing facilities, or to support the sales team in their territories. I also manage several multi-country projects, and work on all aspects of genomics (instrumentations, reagents and services) for animal, plants and human. It is amazing to feel that our work can make a difference, for example, to rice breeders across the world as well as to human health, all within a single position.

Competencies old and new

I'm not sure I could have done my current job as well without having done a PhD. I feel that my academic research really tunes me in to what researchers want and strive for, thus giving me a running start in understanding my customers.

My PhD helped me improve on many skills as well, such as multitasking, searching information, understanding technical details, and adapting to change.

One major change is that when doing my PhD, I was ultra-specialised. I really enjoy now being less specialised, but in many topics. When a position in a company sounds interesting, even though I don’t know much about the topic, thanks to my capacity to find information and understand it, I can now learn enough to succeed in an interview and in the job. Adaptation is key, and academic research really teaches you this when the theory you worked on for months ends nowhere and all your work needs a new direction.

Switching from academia to industry wasn’t easy, obviously; I had to learn a lot and especially how things work in a company, what all those acronyms that are used all the time mean, who is doing what, etc. But you learn on the spot, and you will not be alone (as you may sometimes feel when struggling in your lab): colleagues and managers will help you.

Reflections on my career path

I’m enjoying my current work; I just want to keep doing this for the time being. I know that great opportunities will still arise, and I will see them when the time comes for the next challenge.

At the end of my PhD, when I thought I wasn’t smart enough to succeed in a postdoc, I may well have been mistaken. But I have no regrets about not having done one. While I loved working in the lab, I hardly ever miss it, as my everyday job is so fulfilling and makes me proud of my achievements.

I’d wanted to be a researcher since childhood; I felt this job had such a strong impact on the world. I realise now that I’m still able to have a great impact by working in business.

My advice

Go for it! A while ago, when somebody switched to industry it would be hard to come back to academia. Now, bridges exist. So if you believe you might like it, try; you have nothing to lose.

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