PhD Career Exploration Fellow Spotlight: Julia Tasca

(Hosted by Janssen)

Describe your experience working with your host:

My host was Dr. Sheng Gao, the Director of Immunology Translational Sciences at Janssen Pharmaceuticals. I am extremely fortunate to have been paired with an attentive, knowledgeable, and caring host such as Sheng. Sheng curated 6 informational interviews with colleagues across various biotech/pharma industry disciplines based on my skills and interests as a scientist. Following the informational interviews, Sheng would meet with me one-on-one to discuss any follow up questions. Importantly, Sheng was generous with his advice and experiences about minority representation and work-life balance in industry. Although the CEF program has ended, Sheng has invited me to stay in touch and reach out with any questions regarding my future career. 

What did you learn from this opportunity (about yourself, about career fields, the job search, etc.)?

My experience in the CEF program helped me affirm my choice to pivot to industry after obtaining my PhD.  It was reassuring to connect with successful scientists who were once in my shoes and chose to pursue an industry career.  I learned about a wide variety of industry jobs outside of traditional bench science including scientific communications and marketing. Conducting informational interviews helped me to understand which kinds of jobs align with my interests and skills and which jobs may not be for me at this time. I’m grateful to have benefitted from the wisdom of industry professionals who were so open about sharing their paths with me. 

How does your CEF experience benefit your future career plans?

The CEF program helped shed light on many unknowns I had about industry. I feel far more prepared to seek a job that will serve as the basis for a career in science leadership. Thanks to guidance from Sheng and my new industry connections, I can focus on sharpening my skills both as a team player and as a lab leader with an industry-minded perspective.

What was the most valuable part of your CEF experience?

As an academic scientist, I had very few connections with industry professionals. The most valuable part of this program was developing those connections and growing my professional network. All of the people I conducted informational interviews with encouraged me to remain in touch and to keep asking questions as I had them. My new and growing network gives me a sense of community in industry.

Top reason PhD students should apply to the CEF:

Students in need of direction about their futures should apply to the CEF. The unknown can be daunting, especially when considering a non-academic route. This was the case for me, and the CEF quelled my anxieties about the future by providing a platform to explore the options available to me.

By Tithi Basu Mallik
Tithi Basu Mallik Associate Director, Graduate Students