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Beyond the Lab and the Launch

Beyond the Lab and the Launch

Author:  Gabrielle Bauer

Explore these ideas, insights, and tips to help you live your best life, both on and off the job.


To stay sharp and to grow within the biotech industry, you need to look beyond the daily routine, to set goals, and to make connections. When you reach a fork in the road, you need strategies to help you choose your next steps with confidence. You also can’t ignore the rest of your life. No matter how inspiring you find your work in the life sciences, time away from the lab or the boardroom can help you maintain your zest for working and for living.

This backgrounder aims to inspire you to live more purposefully and creatively, at work and beyond. Use the ideas and tips below as a starting point, adapting them to your unique style and circumstances. Follow the links to dive more deeply into a topic, and keep an eye out for our blog and events for further insights into the science life.


A successful career journey includes both making and changing plans. While perseverance can get you through many rough spots, you also need to know when to cut your losses and regroup. Consider these approaches to help you chart your course.

Boosting Your Goal IQ

“I want to be successful in five years” may be an admirable goal, but it’s not a smart one. Smart goals are:

  • Specific: To zero in on your goal, try answering the five W questions: What do you want to accomplish? Why is the goal important? Who does it involve? Where is it located? Which resources does it require? ●
  • Measurable: How will you know when you’ve reached your goal or are partway there? Measuring your progress can help you maintain your excitement about approaching your goal. If your goal will take months or years to accomplish, break it down into steps that end with clear milestones.
  • Achievable: By all means dream big, but make sure your goal matches your interests, aspirations, and aptitudes. The best goals are those that stretch your abilities without exceeding them. A word of caution: avoid setting goals that depend on someone else’s actions, like “getting promoted to medical director.” If that’s what you want, reframe your goal to something like “acquire the training and skills to be considered for a medical director position.”
  • Relevant: The goal has to mean something to you. If it doesn’t align with your values and other life goals, it will lose its appeal. You know your goal is relevant if you can answer yes to the questions: Does the goal seem worthwhile? Is this the right time for it? Am I the right person to pursue it? Does it make sense in the current business environment?
  • Time-bound: A time-bound goal has a deadline. If you decide to pursue an advanced degree in bioinformatics, you can set your deadline at (for example) three years from now. You can also set deadlines for completing prerequisites, if needed, and for applying to bioinformatics programs.

While you’re working on SMART goals, take the opportunity to step back and consider your long-term career trajectory. Dorie Clark, a marketing strategist who teaches at Duke University, suggests you begin by clarifying where you don’t want to go. “Get clear on what you don’t want, and then take steps to avoid that,” she writes in the Harvard Business Review. “It’s much easier to identify things you know you dislike, rather than ideating about a hypothetical future.” Perhaps the pandemic years have made you realize that you don’t want to spend all your time in an office environment. Or perhaps it’s the opposite: you’ve learned that working from home doesn’t do it for you. Or you’ve realized that you don’t want to spend the rest of your career in a laboratory or on the road.

Next, flip the exercise around and make a list of scenarios that instinctively appeal to you. Maybe the entrepreneurial lifestyle calls to you, and you can picture yourself launching a boutique skincare company with a small lineup of clinically active products. Maybe you’re an avid hiker and you’d like to live closer to the mountains. Such “visioning” exercises will keep your long-term aspirations alive in your head, so you’ll be ready to turn them into SMART goals when the right time comes.

The Biggest Decision

If you’ve recently completed your schooling, you’re probably staring down the scientist’s biggest fork in the road: academia or industry? Or maybe you’ve already made your choice, travelled some distance down that path, and are now wondering if you should backtrack and take the other road.

It never hurts to lay out the pros and cons of either choice, as we’ve done here. For extra inspiration, check out videos such as this one, targeted to scientists and engineers.

Pro and Cons Chart of Academia and Industry

When reviewing such lists, be sure to check in with yourself. Are you listening to your inner promptings, or are you trying to please a colleague or professor sitting on our shoulder? If that’s the case, refocus your thoughts on your own mental picture of yourself—the only picture that counts. Nobody knows you as well as you do, and what works for your mentor won’t necessarily line up with your needs.

Finding Your Career Sweet Spot

Ever heard of Ikigai? This Japanese path-finding exercise, which roughly translates to “reason for being,” can help you zero in on a career path that speaks to your heart and your mind. As illustrated below, Ikigai invites you to ask four questions:

  1. What do I love?
  2. What am I good at?
  3. What can I get paid for?
  4. What does the world need?

Once you’ve answered the questions, see where they overlap: that’s your ikigai, or career sweet spot. For example, if you love biology, you’ve always been good at drawing, you’re comfortable around computers, and you’ve noticed many new digital health communications companies popping up, you may find your sweet spot as a digital medical illustrator.

The Ikigai Intersection

Venn diagram of Ikigai

Tweaking Your Career Path

If you’ve hit a mental wall in your career, you’re certainly not alone. By age 50, the average person has held 12 different jobs in search of the right fit. People change not only jobs, but careers: in 2016 alone, about 6.2 million workers left their roles for work in a different field. If you recognize yourself in these signs, it may be time for a change.

  • You’ve lost your mojo: You don’t feel connected to your job and you have trouble faking enthusiasm. You’re underperforming and letting deadlines slip past you.
  • You don’t feel like you’re making a difference: Your role doesn’t play to your greatest strengths, and you don’t feel your accomplishments make the world a better place.
  • Your job is affecting your personal life: You come home exhausted, you take out your frustrations on those who live with you, or your body shows signs of chronic stress, such as headaches or digestive problems.
  • You fantasize about a new job or career: You feel jealous of your friends’ careers or find yourself browsing job boards. When people ask you what you do, you don’t take pride in the answer.
  • You dread going to work: This clue needs no further elaboration. If you feel this way consistently, it’s time to look elsewhere.

Perhaps you don’t need to step out of the life sciences field, but to find a new career under its large umbrella. If your job as a lab technician doesn’t fulfill the performer in you, maybe a biology teacher will do the trick. Or if you enjoy working on science projects but feel like an outsider in the lab, you could find your groove as a regulatory writer. Don’t ever think of such lateral moves as steps backward: success is measured in personal fulfillment, not in a CV.


The life sciences are as much about people as products. Whether you’re looking for a new job, want advice on writing research grants, or simply enjoy picking colleagues’ brains, you don’t have to be the life of the party to make meaningful connections. You just need to show up where your tribe hangs out.

Go to Industry Events

If you’re in job-hunting mode, networking will take you farther than just about any other strategy. It’s your ticket to the hidden job market—the 70% of jobs that never get advertised to the public. Not just that, but networking jumpstarts 85% of all job offers.

Start by making the most of industry events. The biopharma world runs on a continuous cycle of conferences and summits, many of which include after-hours networking sessions. Even if you feel tired after a long day, resist the temptation to skip them. Designed to help people relax and unwind, these events are networking gold: when people feel relaxed, they connect more easily and organically.

Which brings us to the big networking takeaway: focus on building relationships, rather than making transactions. It’s unlikely that your new connection has a job lined up for you, and a direct appeal may turn them off at this stage. Remember that both of you share the same goal: to build a network of people who can help each other over the course of your careers.

Within a day or two of making a connection, send a quick follow-up note. Avoid making a specific request: instead, thank your contact for the chance to chat and tell them you hope to speak more in the future. Next time you sign up for a conference, ask them if they plan to attend and can meet up with you.

In some cases, a connection may lie dormant for a while before coming back to life again—and sometimes the spark just isn’t there. If you feel you’re forcing it, step back and accept that not all connections will stick. Like many things in life, networking requires a mix of persistence, patience, and rolling with the punches.

Get Social

Whether you love or merely tolerate social media, it’s a networking channel you can’t afford to ignore. Start with LinkedIn, recognized as a top choice for career networking. Make sure your own LinkedIn profile stays up to date, and post articles of interest to your network every few days. Join LinkedIn groups devoted to your area and become an active participant. Also engage on LinkedIn with people you’ve met at live events. Request a connection, comment on their content, and share articles that may interest them.

Hop on Twitter to get industry news and discover movers and shakers in your area. As with LinkedIn, engage with the colleagues you meet on Twitter: follow them, comment on their posts, and retweet blog posts and articles they’ve posted.

At the same time, avoid relying exclusively on social media to build your network. As Dorie Clark, author of Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future, points out, “Sometimes social media tricks us into believing we have a strong connection with someone when, in fact, that connection only exists in that single plane of existence.” When an opportunity presents itself, Clark suggests taking the conversation off-line. “If you notice that your friend was just promoted or had some other success, celebrate her win by giving her a call or sending her a note.”

Want to volunteer? Do it strategically.
Strategic volunteering means choosing volunteering roles based on the skills you have and those you’d like to acquire. Yes, it’s calculated—and that’s a good thing. For example, if you’d like to boost your project management or business communication skills, consider volunteering for a hospital foundation. Want a crack at leadership or policymaking? Volunteer for a committee in a science organization. For the biggest bang in human contact, help out at a major conference.

Stepping Away From Toxic Relationships
Building your network doesn’t just mean making connections: it means severing those connections that cause more harm than good. If you sense that a colleague or friend is trying to sabotage your career, you could well be right. Not everyone has your back. Attitudes and behaviors like these should set off your alarm bells:

  • Failing to offer encouragement when you clearly need it
  • Questioning whether you’re qualified for a job you have in mind
  • Revealing personal information about you to other colleagues or on social media

If the saboteur is someone you know well, a candid conversation may lead her to mend his ways, but don’t count on it. Sometimes your best course of action is to cut your losses, ideally before the tension escalates to animosity. If you keep getting sabotaging vibes from a friend or associate, step away without guilt. As the saying goes, life’s too short.

And what if the problem lies with your whole working environment? By no means rare, toxic work cultures can sap your performance and your spirit. Signs of workplace toxicity include lack of transparency around projects, passive-aggressive communication, and cliques within departments. If this describes your workplace, consider taking your concerns to someone in the human resources department (assuming your organization has one). A mediated group discussion could help people reflect on their contributions to the bad vibe—and realize that they’re being watched. If nothing changes, look for opportunities to move to a different department, or even a different branch. And update your resume, just in case.


Balance doesn’t look the same for everyone. To achieve a work-life balance that leaves you fulfilled, you need to know what you value most, both at work and elsewhere, and work toward it. If flexible work hours and creative control top your list, share these priorities with recruiters and hiring managers when you consider new biotech roles. Of course, flexibility works both ways: don’t automatically reject opportunities that meet most but not all of your criteria. Small details can be negotiated, either now or down the line.

Avoiding Burnout

As a rule, life science professionals bring a lot of passion to their work. There’s nothing wrong with working hard—or even to devote most of your waking hours to your work—except when your focus on work strains your personal life or starts affecting your health. A hyper-focus on work also puts you at risk of job burnout—a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that erodes your job satisfaction and even your personal identity. Symptoms of burnout also include lack of energy, poor concentration, and physical symptoms such as headaches or digestive problems.

While not (yet) a medical diagnosis, burnout is recognized by leading medical publishers such as the Mayo Clinic and WebMD. If you’re heading toward burnout, you need to insert a braking mechanism into your working life, even if it feels forced at first. Some burnout-busting ideas to consider:

  • Keep one day per week free of meetings
  • Designate certain hours of the evening off-limits for viewing and sending emails
  • Schedule outside time into your day: go for a walk, sit by a lake, or stroll through a botanical garden
  • Schedule activities with family and friends
  • Show up for family meetings and emergencies
  • Plan day trips to nearby towns or hiking trails

Attitude Adjustment: the Joy of Gratitude

Appreciating the blessings in your life doesn’t just feel good: practicing gratitude can improve your sleep and emotional regulation and protect you from stress and burnout. To get the full benefits of the practice, list a few blessings every day in a gratitude journal (or electronic file), post them on a gratitude mood board, or drop them into a gratitude jar. Don’t limit the blessings to big-ticket items such as a promotion or new friendship: the cherry tree you saw down the street or the joke you exchanged with the cashier count, too.

Recharging Your Batteries

In biotech and elsewhere, many jobs involve long periods of physical inactivity and engagement with screens. Over time, this workstyle can drain your energy and lead to health problems. If you recognize yourself in some of these habits, try the science-backed antidotes listed below.

Graphic chart of Stressor and Solution

For a more potent reboot, take that vacation you’ve been putting off. If you’re like four out of 10 Americans, you didn’t take all your vacation days last year. Don’t be that “hero”—today’s employers certainly don’t expect it of you. Successful biotech companies recognize the restorative power of a vacation and encourage their employees to take time off.

In addition to recharging your batteries, vacations can give you a new perspective on your life, including your career trajectory. If crowded airports are not your thing, book a week at a cottage or a campsite nearby.

Holiday Mindset

Official holidays may not coincide with your vacation time, but they offer a further opportunity to disconnect from work pressures and stressors. When the next statutory holiday or holiday season rolls around, take the opportunity to reflect on your career accomplishments and challenges over the past months. Reach out to someone you haven’t seen in a while, whether a colleague or simply a friend. If it’s alone time you crave most, enjoy some guilt-free hours with a hardcover book—or surround yourself with the natural world.

Keeping the Juices Flowing

Have you ever pondered a problem for hours on end, glued to your screen or notepad, and then hit upon the solution after you’ve stepped away to weed your garden or walk around the block? We’ve all had this experience, and psychologists say it’s no accident. As behavioral psychologist Susan Weinschenck explains in a Psychology Today article, “if you keep your prefrontal cortex too focused on the ‘task at hand’ then it can’t go searching for interesting combinations of information you have stored in memory. When you take a break (the garden, the walk, the shower, the dishes) then your PFC is freed up to go searching and combining.”

To stay creative, you need to expose your brain to a variety of stimuli. Different creative activities stimulate different parts of the brain, contributing to its plasticity over the lifespan. For example, exercise increases growth factors that help the brain form new neural connections, and meditation helps preserve the aging brain. Completing a puzzle or playing a word game doesn’t just help you relax: it’s brain juice. To get the most from the activity, choose the right level of challenge—a bit of a stretch, but not too much—whether it’s the cryptic crossword or the daily brain teaser in your newspaper.


We hope you have found some inspiration in these ideas and will apply them to your own life. Feel free to pop back here to remind yourself of your goals and progress. If you’re wondering whether to accept or decline an offer, or whether to reinvent yourself entirely, keep your focus on your must-haves and your deal breakers. The fine points can always be negotiated. If you’re honest with yourself and with your recruiter, you’ll get what you need. Ω

The Life Sciences Industry in 2022

The Life Sciences Industry in 2022

Author:  Claire Jarvis

Are you a recent graduate entering the STEM job market for the first time? Or are you a mid-career professional considering a transition into biotech? The ‘life sciences industry’ is an area of rewarding career opportunities, offering many different avenues for career progression.

What is the Life Sciences Industry?

When most people think of the life sciences industry the first thing that comes to mind are the large pharmaceutical companies. These companies specialize in discovering and developing small molecule drugs.

The second most recognizable type of company within life sciences are the biotech companies. These companies focus on developing large molecule drugs partially derived from living organisms. While life science professionals often talk about pharma and biotech companies as distinct entities, there is often overlap between the two: many large pharmaceutical companies own a mixture of biotech and small molecule therapies.

In addition, there are research companies that focus on the development of medical devices – devices for consumers and healthcare professionals to address unmet medical needs (e.g. insulin pumps, baby incubators).

The last major chunk of life science companies are contract research organizations (CROs) and contract manufacturing organizations (CMOs). These companies act as vendors to large companies looking to outsource parts of their drug development and manufacturing to save on in-house resources, or respond to surges in demand. Since pharma and biotech companies are frequently looking to save and remain flexible, there is always a demand for CRO/CMO support.

Top Pharma Companies in 2022

In terms of annual revenue, size and profit, some of the biggest pharmaceutical companies in 2022 include:

  • Roche
  • AbbVie
  • Johnson & Johnson
  • Merck
  • Pfizer
  • BMS
  • Sanofi

Thanks to successful new drug launches, these companies grew over the past few years, and are predicted to continue their expansion in the foreseeable future.

For many large pharmaceuticals, Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer in particular, the COVID-19 pandemic led to further profit because these companies were able to invest in resources to develop new COVID-19 vaccines and scale to meet demand. A strength of large pharmaceutical companies is that they already have the financial backing in place to pivot their research program towards immediate healthcare demands, while small biotechs rely on success in a single therapeutic area. Although several medium-sized specialist biotech companies were also buoyed by the success of their COVID-19 vaccines, including Moderna with its RNA vaccine.

Successful Startups

Many biotech startups are concentrated around the Boston and San Francisco areas, though startups can be found across the country.

Currently, a profitable area for startups are rare diseases. Larger pharma companies are less likely to shoulder the risk of developing a rare disease treatment, but the biotechs often end up in partnership with or sold to a larger pharma company once their treatment reaches important clinical milestones.

A lot of medical device companies are innovating with smart technology and artificial intelligence/machine learning.

Deciding on Your Next Career Step

While the choices available in the life sciences industry might seem overwhelming, considering several key aspects will help you narrow down your job search options. For instance, large pharmaceutical companies might offer more security, but more rigid job roles. While new hires at a start-up will need to be flexible and willing to assume more risk. However when they succeed there are greater equity opportunities available for employees at small companies.

The salary at a CRO might be less competitive than at a large pharmaceutical company, but the CRO is likely to offer more variety and a faster pace of work, as well as a less conservative company culture than at Big Pharma. Whatever your career priorities and goals, there will be a perfect position in the life sciences industry for you!

Looking for your next biotech job? Sci.bio is the biotech recruitment agency, whatever your career goals. Get in touch to learn how we can help.

Industrial Careers: Big Pharma vs. Biotech?

Industrial Careers: Big Pharma vs. Biotech?

Author: Cliff Mintz

Many PhD life scientists who have determined that a tenure-track career is not for them usually set their sights on entry-level R&D jobs at pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. While both pharmaceutical and biotechnology jobs are generally lumped together under the umbrella of “industrial careers” there are many differences between them.

Big Pharma: Is Bigger Always Better?

The pharmaceutical industry has been in existence for over 100 years and has successfully developed and commercialized thousands of products. Therefore, not surprisingly, big pharmaceutical companies are generally well-capitalized, multinational organizations that globally employ tens of thousands of people. Because of their large size and financial largesse, there are many advantages to working for a big pharmaceutical company.

First, big pharma companies usually offer high salaries, outstanding benefit packages and a variety of perks including flexible spending programs, onsite cafeterias and large annual bonuses. Second, because of their financial stability, R&D budgets at big pharmaceutical companies are generous and research need not be bootstrapped on being conducted using a shoestring budget. Also, as far as job security goes, it is unlikely that a big pharma company will ever go out of business because of bankruptcy! Finally, because of the large number and diversity of jobs at big pharma companies there are ample opportunities for career advancement or even career change

Despite the obvious pros with these companies, inevitably, the terms “large,” “bureaucratic” and “cumbersome” are typically used to describe the way big pharma companies operate. In general, organizational structure is rigid and inflexible, administrative rules and regulations are strictly enforced, collaboration is difficult and for some employees navigating internal politics can be extremely treacherous. Further, R&D projects are mandated by management and scientists have little flexibility in their day-to-day job duties and responsibilities are rigidly defined and adhered to according to job title. Finally decision-making is often painfully slow and multiple layers of management often impede the progress of research projects.

Biotech: “Take A Walk on the Wild Side”

Unlike the pharmaceutical industry, the biotechnology industry is only 50 years old. Yet, despite its youthfulness, the biotechnology industry has become a vibrant and essential sector of the American economy and is threatening to surpass the capabilities of many pharmaceutical companies.

There is general agreement among industry experts that the small size and entrepreneurial spirit of biotechnology companies enhances their scientific nimbleness, allows for quick decision-making (less bureaucracy) and tends to foster collaboration between employees.

Unlike big pharma companies, many biotechnology companies are often strapped for cash and funding ongoing research operations can be challenging. This forces biotechnology companies to hire fewer employees and exclusively focus on developing a single rather than multiple products at a time. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that biotechnology company employees frequently possess a wider range of skill sets and experiences than most pharmaceutical employees because it is likely that biotechnology employees (unlike pharmaceutical employees) will be asked to “wear many different hats” to scientifically advance a project.

Because of the smaller number of employees, the organizational structure of most biotechnology companies is less hierarchical and the culture at these companies is much more “relaxed” and less formal as compared with big pharma companies. Innovation is encouraged (and rewarded) at most biotechnology companies and collaboration between scientists is very common. This is in marked contrast with big pharma where so-called “silos” are prevalent, collaboration is nominal and innovation is difficult.

Despite the many “pros” associated with biotechnology jobs, there is a downside. First, starting salaries are lower and benefits packages are much less generous at biotechnology companies as compared with big pharma. Second, because the financial future for many biotechnology companies is uncertain, job security is an ongoing concern. Finally, unlike big pharma, opportunities for career advancement/change are restricted at most biotechnology companies because of lack of job diversity and financial resources.

Things to Consider with Industrial Careers

While there are obviously many differences between pharmaceutical and biotechnology jobs, the competition for industrial careers can be fierce. To that point, most jobseekers will not have the “luxury” of choosing between a biotechnology and pharmaceutical job to be gainfully employed!

Nevertheless, before beginning an industrial job search, it is important to determine whether big pharma or biotech is the best fit for you. For example, if you want financial security, don’t mind bureaucracy and are accustomed to a slower, more conservative research environment, a pharmaceutical company may be ideal for you. On the other hand, if money is not a high priority, innovation excites you and working in a fast-paced, rapidly changing environment is your thing then perhaps a job at a small biotechnology company may be a good fit for you!

Your Science Doesn’t Speak For Itself

Your Science Doesn’t Speak For Itself

Author: Claire Jarvis

As young scientists, we are often taught the academic notion of letting “your science speak for itself” and believing technical skills and research are our most important assets in obtaining a meaningful job. Indeed, when STEM professionals are hired into their first jobs those qualifications and strong technical competencies are important factors.

However, once they start at their new company, entry-level hires are often surprised when technical skills don’t seem as important in the eyes of management. They may also see colleagues with less skill in the laboratory climbing the promotion ladder faster, and perceive this as unfair.

It’s a disappointing and unfortunate truth that the promotion process is often unmeritocratic, and that climbing the ladder as a bench scientist requires self-advocacy and political skills as much as expertise and skill. The best way to make sense of this perceived unfairness is to understand that most individuals hired have cleared the minimum technical requirements needed to perform their job . Your organization doesn’t need STEM superstars: they need people who can get the work done. In that light, once you’re inside the company, your technical skills stop being the most important determinant of your value as an employer. Your soft skills and ability to work with others play an increasingly important role in levels of management and leadership.

How to Self-Advocate

Political (or more appropriately, interpersonal) skills aren’t disdainful or underhanded techniques to get ahead in the workplace. They demonstrate that you understand company culture and can act in a future management or leadership capacity. If people in management can’t get along with you as a colleague, why would they promote you to work alongside them?

Self-advocacy means highlighting your contribution to successful projects and documenting your achievements to leaders instead of hoping that you will get noticed.. The political side of the process means doing this is a way that doesn’t annoy those around you or take too much credit at the expense of others.

Self-promotion and interpersonal skills take time to develop and should be accomplished in a subtle, tasteful manner: it can be helpful to find a mentor outside your current company who can guide you through the process with a degree of separation from your chain of command.
There are personal brand marketing gurus that can offer lots of insight on the topic of self advocating: Seth Godin, Tim Ferriss and Gary Vaynerchuk among others.

Although learning to proactively promote your accomplishments takes practice and requires trial and error, it is an indispensible tactic in moving on to positions of increasing responsibility. Even if you worry you don’t deserve to – it is a difficult trick to master, and one that becomes important as you grow into your new biotech career.


The Diversity of Biotech Companies

The Diversity of Biotech Companies

Author:  Claire Jarvis

If you’re a recent STEM graduate in the Boston area, or plan to relocate to the Boston/Cambridge area, it can seem like the place is home to more biotech companies than you can count! The large number and variety of biotech, biopharma and pharma companies with sites in the greater Boston area can make your job search daunting. How do you decide which companies to apply to?

First things first, you should consider the general culture of the company you’d like to work for. The working environment within a new biotech start-up is very different from a multinational company with a hundred-year history, and will suit different types of scientists. It’s important to think about what environment helps you be most successful so you can apply to places that will have the right fit. Here’s a broad overview of the main types of biotech companies, and company names to look out for if you are looking for jobs in the Boston area.

Small Start-Up

If you have a thirst for excitement and enjoy a fast-paced work environment, then joining a biotech start-up will make a lot of sense. The advantages of working for a start-up is that you can take on multiple roles within the company and are expected to be a team player, you work in a small team where each person’s voice is heard, and you can play a pivotal role in getting your company and product off the ground.

Start-ups can be a stressful place to work, and there is long-term uncertainty whether the company will succeed or still be around in a few years. The atmosphere and work culture within the company could also change dramatically in a few short years given the rapid pace of start-up growth and maturation. If you thrive on challenges and do well in a shifting landscape, then a start-up environment will be perfect for you.

New Boston start-ups to keep on your radar: EQRX, Imuneering, Korro Bio, Omega Therapeutics


Mid-sized biotech companies retain most of the dynamism of start-ups, but with more stability. As an employee you won’t need to wear as many hats, your role within the company will be fairly specialized and unlikely to dramatically change over time. Although what constitutes a mid-sized biotech company is fairly loose, it usually means the company has products in late clinical development (phase II or III trials), or has already brought 1 or 2 products to market. The number of employees will be somewhere in the hundreds.

Mid-sized biotech companies that are still growing: Acceleron, Akouos, Alkermes, Epizyme, Fortress Biotech


The large biotech companies employ hundreds to thousands of people and may have more than one location. There’s a broad portfolio of products for scientists to work on, and the company will have lots of approved products on the market. The larger the company, the more professional development and in-house training available to you, though you might also feel “silo-ed” within a large organisation where it’s impossible for you to know all your coworkers.

Some of the biggest biotech firms in the Boston area in 2021: Genentech, Moderna, Sanofi, Vertex Pharmaceutical

Multinational Pharma

These days, many traditional pharmaceutical companies also develop biologics. These companies are truly multinational – their total employee counts are in the hundreds of thousands, and they have offices around the globe. The culture at these companies is often more conservative and risk-averse than at smaller, agile biotech companies, although each location will likely have its own subculture, and it’s worth asking questions about how your department fits into the whole. If you prefer stability and processes that are already ironed out, then a large biopharma company may be the best place for you.

Big Pharma companies with offices in the Boston/Cambridge area: Abbvie, Biogen, Novartis, Takeda

Are you looking for your next STEM job but are unsure about navigating the job market? At Sci.bio, we’re experts in the Boston biotech landscape. Our recruiters have spent many years helping connect talent to opportunities. Reach out and schedule a conversation with us today.