What do employers want to see? Barry Starkman, CEO of Hemcon, shares his message.
This week at Portland Community College's Bioscience Technology Program we had the privilege of hearing from Barry Starkman, current CEO of Hemcon Medical Technologies. After telling us how he became an engineer and began working in pharma, he spoke with us about the opportunities that have come his way throughout his career. Starkman began his career on the east coast working for Merck. He was successfully lured to the west coast by Genentech and managed Genentech's construction project for their Hillsboro, OR fill/finish facility. Once that facility was up and running Starkman acted as the Genentech Hillsboro plant manager until September 2010. After doing some consulting work and other projects, he accepted his current position with Hemcon and is currently navigating the company through a nearly resolved financially challenging period. Starkman sees Hemcon as a viable company that will continue to grow and create bioscience workforce employment opportunities.
Starkman's message focused on the importance of value propositions, preparation, and relationships. Knowing your value proposition and being able to communicate that effectively and concisely is your elevator speech. That's your hook that's going to help yours stand out in a stack of resumes (but I'll get to that point in a bit). Preparation is mandatory. Knowing what the value proposition is that a particular company or a particular position is offering is necessary before you interview.
Persistence, resilience and honesty are the things he looks for in potential employees. Starkman pointed out the importance of networking. He emphasized how imperative it is to make new contacts and build relationships with people. Relationships. Effectively managing and negotiating relationships are one of the most important soft skills you can develop professionally (and personally). Relationships affect many aspects of our career development and can take a toll on our mood from day to day leading to consequences in other aspects of life. Of course, cultivating the easy relationships is well, easy. Sometimes it's difficult though to accurately evaluate the importance of relationships when we are on one end or the other of a steep authority gradient. I'll tell you a secret: all relationships are important regardless of which end of that gradient you're operating on currently. Negotiating relationships is a skill we all strive to develop and polish throughout our lives.
I have to share a story that one of my instructors shared with me yesterday. She was an undergrad student and her class was evaluating a research paper. With the limited knowledge my instructor had at the time, she read through the paper and during a class discussion explained what she felt was wrong with the paper or its methods. To make a long story short, she was off base. Her professor communicated my instructor's errors in knowledge and judgment openly during class in a way that made my instructor feel terrible. My instructor felt terrible to the point of spending the next hour or so in tears. My instructor spent so much time thinking about it that she eventually came to the conclusion that she was going to do whatever was necessary to learn from the experience. My instructor faced her professor and asked her professor to explain where and why she was incorrect so she could learn from it. She also asked that same professor who embarrassed her and caused her to be so hurt to be one of the members of the review board for her PhD candidacy when she got that far. The reason was that because of this experience, my instructor knew she would pay close attention and learn a great deal from what this professor said to her about her work!
Life throws a lot of situations like this our way. People we find particularly difficult to deal with are not going to just steer clear of us one day when we get older so we don't have to deal with them anymore. Not everyone we will encounter in a position of authority is equipped with the requisite leadership skills and emotional intelligence. Likewise, as we progress through our careers we are likely to find ourselves in positions of leadership that demand us to elevate our own skills. To persevere and thrive in our careers we have to know how to negotiate these situations. What's the best way that we as students, can prepare ourselves for situations like these that we will face in our careers?
I asked Mr. Starkman what he looks for from entry level potential employees, like ourselves, when he's had to interview them in the past. There was a laundry list of good advice! First, we need to have a hook. Our hook is something on our resume that will set us apart from the rest of the stack of black and white resumes people are sorting through. For some of us it's our GPA. If your GPA isn't a 3.5 or better though, you're going to want to find another way to stand out. Once you make it to an interview, he was looking for a connection and fit. He was looking at how the candidate would compliment the team already in place. Starkman also explained the importance of honesty AND thinking before you speak. Starkman said that he looked for "people who can show that they think and don't necessarily jump to conclusions."
A classmate asked for which particular skills, aptitudes and strengths companies are looking. Not surprisingly, Starkman responded with the importance of general knowledge and familiarity with GMPs. A demonstrated capacity for following procedures, a mentality of understanding the importance of repeating tasks exactly how they are required to be carried out, and understanding how the work we might be doing in an industry position fits in with the requirements of the FDA and could potentially affect someone's life.
Our instructor pointed out that Mr. Starkman should do a TED Talk. She was right.
In Protein Purification this week we continued our project by using ammonium sulfate precipitation then dialyzing. I've attached some pictures below.