Even though inventing a new vaccine technology might seem like the ultimate in scientific research, it left Daria Jacob unfulfilled. “I see so many researchers who have fun only doing lab work, but that’s not me,” the Russian MBA candidate explains. “I really missed communicating with people.”
It was in the middle of her post-doctorate research at Paris’ famed Institut Pasteur that Daria first sampled the business side of biomedicine. “I was leading experimental research on my vaccine project and, at the same time, trying to find funding and negotiate with investors,” she says. “That was my first experience outside of research. I realized that I am more driven by business tasks within the pharmaceutical industry. I wanted to switch to the industry side, and that led me to discover HEC.”
We asked Daria about her personal strategies for making a career pivot as a scientist, and how she’s been able to leverage the HEC Paris MBA as part of her journey.
For someone who is looking for a similar career switch, what’s your advice?
I know quite a few researchers who have transferred from pure scientific research to lab management or other business-side jobs. It’s just a question of whether to do it through an MBA. I was really interested in corporate management and strategy, and an MBA is indispensable to reach the corporate level.
Is that an easy career transition to make with an MBA?
I knew that I needed to do a fieldwork project to have some hands-on experience solving business problems.
Describe your fieldwork project.
I worked for Tecan, a highly technical company that makes automated laboratory robots. I did a 12-week project to help them understand and potentially expand into a new market. The market is very niche, very specific, and divided into very different potential applications of Tecan’s technology.
I had to perform a very complex analysis and make strategic recommendations about the best way to enter the market. I did 55 interviews with customers and specialists in the field to get different points of view and different pieces of data. That information helped me to formulate my conclusions and advise the company on which direction to go.
At the end of the project, I had to pull all my research together into a business-oriented PowerPoint presentation, something that I’d never done before in my life. I presented it to Tecan’s corporate development team, which includes the company’s CEO, CFO and the vice presidents of different departments. It was really important for them to get into the details of what I analyzed, so we ended up discussing every one of my slides for at least five minutes. It was a very interesting and dynamic interaction.
Did the MBA’s Fundamental Phase help prepare you for the fieldwork project?
The amazing thing is that everything that I learned during the core classes was applicable to my fieldwork project. Unlike many students, I don’t have a background in business. For me, most of the classes were rather new, but they were taught so deeply and efficiently that I started the fieldwork project with the feeling, ‘I do know how to do this’.
Has the MBA benefitted you in other ways?
Without the HEC Paris MBA, I would’ve never met so many people from different industries and backgrounds. People usually come to the MBA not just with a single background, and their future is not a straight line, either. We serve as examples of what the opportunities are, and what you can potentially do. What’s next for your career? I received a job offer from Tecan, which I accepted. Before the MBA, my job title was post-doctorate researcher. When I start full-time with the company in April, my title will be associate for corporate development. It’ll be a completely different job for me, in exactly the direction that I want to go.