Describe your job and what you do on a day-to-day basis: As a consultant in the life sciences, I advise pharmaceutical clients on different stages of drug development including R&D portfolio management in pre-clinical stages, identification of key clinical end-points to differentiate from competitors for later phases of clinical trials and developing strategy for product launches. Most project work is performed in teams of 3-4 people, where I conduct primary research, such as interviewing physicians and developing physician surveys, secondary research, developing models and synthesis of the collected information into useful insights for a “deliverable,” which is usually a Powerpoint report, occasionally supported by an Excel document. Additionally, I manage projects to ensure work streams are run in a timely manner and contribute to proposal development by writing short documents that lay out the suggested project work the firm will do for the client with steps that will lead us to developing the final insights. The end results of this work enable pharmaceutical companies to decide on or validate key milestones, such as whether they should develop a product further or how they can leverage what they currently have to develop the most impactful drug.
How did you get your first job out of academia? I talked to alumni (and anyone else who would talk to me) who had transitioned out of academia, including consultants. I realized that consulting would teach me the business acumen and the background I wanted on the pharmaceutical industry. Getting a job in consulting is a clear process: to complement my background in the life sciences, my application had to demonstrate a clear interest in consulting. Therefore, I participated in case competitions, took HBx CORe (an online course from Harvard Business School that teaches the basics of business) and did some pro bono consulting as a member of the Harvard Graduate Volunteer Consulting Group for a start-up. I also practiced “cases” with friends in the Harvard Graduate Consulting Club. The case interview, where an interviewer acts as a “client” asking for your recommendation for a specific project, is an opportunity for the interviewee to lay out structured thinking, prioritize key issues and self-manage time in developing a suggested recommendation for the client.
Tell us about your academic background. I received my Ph.D. in immunology, with dissertation work focused on host-virus interactions, specifically mechanisms of inhibition of DNA viruses including the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and the herpes simplex virus-1 (HSV-1) with Dr. Norman Letvin and Dr. David Knipe at Harvard University. The most important skills I learned from them were developing clear hypotheses and critical interpretation of data; which are both crucial consulting craft skills.
What is one piece of advice you would give to someone looking for a job now? Commit to your career and be aware that this can take up as much time as those experiments that run for 16 hours straight. Use every “resource” available to you, from the career center to friends, friends of friends and even head honchos in industry. It never hurts to ask people for advice- at the very least they say no; at the most, they can provide insights that help you decide on your career path and actionable next steps in getting there.
Find Teja on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/tejaswini-reddi-ph-d-202b2934