Esther (Yu) Wei, PhD
Life Sciences Specialist
Program @ Penn: Bioengineering
|Describe your current position and firm/organization and the career path you took to get there.|
I currently work at L.E.K. Consulting as a Life Science Specialist. I primarily work on projects with in the biotech, medical devices, pharmaceuticals, and healthcare services industries.
I attended a few Biotech Career Fairs that are held by Penn's Career Services office. My 2nd and 3rd year of my PhD, I would walk around the career fair and have relaxing, casual discussions with a variety of employers. That helped me realize that some companies / industries were definitely not a good fit, while narrowing down to a handful of industries, style of work, and day-to-day roles that I would be interested in.Once I entered my 4th year of my PhD, I attended seminars and info sessions held by a few different consulting companies as well as took advantage of planning individual meetings with different Penn Career Services career counselors to understand "what job is a good fit for me." At the same time, I attended various consulting recruitment and firm interviews 2 years prior to my graduation, to understand the interview process, but also to get a better insight on what type of "projects" and work one would expect to do as a consultant. That is when I realized that many consulting firms hire MDs/PhDs, but the majority of large consulting firms hire PhDs in as generalist, with only a few boutique firms that hire PhDs in as medical/healthcare specialists.
What skills and strengths did your graduate training provide you that make you a good fit for your current position?
While Penn has unrivaled academics and research, it is not that type of academic excellence that helps one excel in consulting. It is the ability to pick up information in a limited amount of time regarding a specific industry/market and being able to solve problems within the space in a short time, given the limited amount of information. Public speaking and negotiation were important skills to utilize in the consulting field. Client discussions and upper management meetings constantly require one to be able to synthesize the information and quickly verbalize it in a concise and precise manner.
If other PhD students wanted to get a position similar to yours, what three specific pieces of advice would you offer them that they can be doing now while still at Penn?
Go to Career Services. Seriously. And ask for "career counseling". Before going in for your resume or an interview workshop, have an open discussion about your traits (i.e., what activities do you find rewarding, what activities do you find horribly boring and discouraging, what is your long term career goal and how can you get there).
Go to Career Fairs/Job Fairs, but also talk to many employers; use this as an opportunity to learn about the field/industry, NOT to ask for a job interview (or to assess if the employer is looking for you or not). Try to understand company structure (corporate structures can manifest in many different ways) and the typical career paths of their current employees. Also try to understand what the value of the company is (i.e., what do they produce/give their customers) and how employees would play a part in that (e.g., a researcher would provide IP for product development, a marketing person would help develop the value proposition of the product and communicate that to consumers).
Participate in Student Life organizations and activities. Everything from GAPSA to Penn Biotech Group to community service groups. Activities outside of academics help develop your interpersonal skills as well as your ability to work/communicate as a team. These opportunities also allow you to find out more about what interests you and what does not. Great quote someone once gave me: When passion and purpose meet, that is when you find that your work is meaningful. So find out what your passion is, and discover what types of projects or work help you find meaning and purpose.
Top advice for this career field
How can students at Penn find out more about your career field?
Attend info sessions from companies that are in this field, even if it's a company that you're not interested in, it's important to learn more about the larger field/industry.
Find out moreAttend on-campus information sessions provided by any consultants
|What do you most enjoy about your current position, and what are you looking forward to doing at work over the next week or two?|
I love my job. Pretty much everything about it. I like working in teams, I like definitive deadlines (unlike the amorphous timeline of the PhD life...), I like being able to pick up a project at full speed ahead for 6-8 weeks and then I'm on a new project. I like the fast pace work and getting new projects often (once again, very different from working on the same project for 4-5 years...). I also like that my work actually makes a difference in the industry. After projects, we often see press releases from companies or new reports on M&A or new product launches or partnerships that we were a part of; it's really cool when your work resulted in a business transaction that you can find on the news.
This week, I'm looking forward to a closing presentation with a client for a project in the life sciences space. After, I'm about to start on a new project with a new team for a new client in medical devices, which I'm also really excited about.