How I moved from academia to industry

PhD graduate Doug Hall on his route into pharma consulting


Name: Doug Hall

Degree course:  Medical Science (CRUK)

College: Wolfson

Graduated: 2017


I have been working for almost a year at MAP BioPharma, a pharmaceutical consultancy firm in Papworth. The NHS carefully assesses the value of newly developed medicines to ensure optimum use of NHS resources, and MAP works with the pharmaceutical industry in developing reports and evidence assessments to demonstrate that new medicines are cost-effective and will improve outcomes for patients.

‘My role within the company focuses on guidance and advice for industry’

My role within the company focuses on guidance and advice for industry in understanding the complex systems involved in the assessment of new medicines, to ensure companies are correctly collecting, analysing, and conveying the key information needed to demonstrate their latest technology is worth bringing to the NHS.

Throughout my undergrad (Biochemistry, Oxford) I had been aiming for a career in pharma/bioscience R&D. Upon graduating, I found that interesting research roles invariably required a PhD, and that, due to the tough job market at the time, even BSc/MSc roles were being filled by PhD-holders, so I headed back to do my PhD.

During my postgrad I found that a lot of a challenges I ran into were not technical or scientific, but arose from logistical and political inefficiencies, something that intensely frustrated me. Wanting to overcome this type of issue, coupled with the practical problem-solving skills developed during my PhD led me to consulting as a career.

MAP BioPharma is based in Papworth Everard, 10 miles from Cambridge

The catalyst for this was the university’s GRADschool career development course, which aimed to highlight the transferable skills taught by PhD study. This was largely taught by freelance consultants, and opened my eyes to how applicable my skills were to this sort of career.

To find out more I undertook student consulting project work with a student society, the Cambridge Consulting Network. This was one of the most valuable experiences in my progress to my current role, allowing me to hone the relevant skills, and giving me an idea of the practical nature of consulting work. For current students, I strongly recommend looking into if there are any student societies doing this kind of work within any areas you are interested in, as this type of experience can be very useful, particularly if you can bring a strong personal contribution to a project (and quantify that on a CV).

An infographic produced by MAP BioPharma a few months ago

Once I was applying for jobs, the Careers Service proved invaluable, both in getting my CV and cover letter up to scratch in the first place, and then helping me iterate and improve it as I went. Again, I cannot recommend enough getting the Careers Service to review and comment on your CV. No matter how well you craft and redraft it, getting an independent expert review will always highlight issues you had never considered.

‘the sooner you can start planning out a CV, the sooner you can identify gaps and look into extracurricular options to fill out these’

The earlier you can start thinking about your future career direction the better. It is no longer enough just to have good academic grades and experience, and the sooner you can start planning out a CV, the sooner you can identify gaps and look into extracurricular options to fill out these.

Job-hunting is an arduous and miserable process. Keep pushing on through the multitude of rejections, that you will almost inevitably get, until you get to where you want to be. Successfully landing a job requires capability, a well-designed pitch, and sheer luck. With a Cambridge degree you have the first, refining your CV and cover letter (e.g. through the Careers Service!) will get you the second, but the third can only be achieved by determination and resilience. Forget about the negative responses, keep applying, keep optimising, and you will get there. Do not let yourself get disheartened – you only need to get it right once.

Take a look at our science and technical consulting webpages for advice on getting into this sector.

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