Delielena Poli: "My unconventional internship experience enriched me both personally and professionally"
A new work perspective for soon-to-be biotech graduates: lab-based, computational and… what else? Consultancy!
I did MSc’s Internship at ttopstart, a PNO group life science consultancy company, based in Utrecht until August 2022 and now in Rijswijk. During the four months of my internship, I had one main research assignment and collaborated on multiple projects running within the company, to get some first-hand experience of the consultancy work.
Two elements were new to me: the non-academic environment and the topics/work type. Coming from a background in computational metabolic engineering and molecular plant biology I had experience with building metabolic models and conducting experiments on Arabidopsis. Despite the academic consultancy training (ACT) course, consultancy was quite an unexplored territory. I was drawn to the field of consultancy to find out whether it could be an interesting career path for me, and during my time at ttopstart I found my answers! Here’s how both types of activities (i.e. research assignment and collaboration projects) made my experience at ttopstart very important in my career development.
My own research project was very much focused on entrepreneurship principles and financial aspects. The goal was to generate new insights on how private investors select biotech and medtech startups for investments. To work on this topic, I had to think back to the content of the WUR course “New Venture Creation: from Idea to Business plan”. In addition, I was challenged to dive deep in the literature to strengthen my basic background and learn how qualitative research is conducted. I found particularly interesting to discover a new mindset: from a very life science-related quantitative approach I had to learn the qualitative one. Very different ways of data collection and analysis are used in qualitative research. I had to reach out to investors, interview them and the analysis of such information involved text labeling and other alien procedures to the science-y world. To any curious people I would highly recommend exploring very different research fields. The mindset switch is one of my main takeaways and I am glad I decided to embark on the journey of exploring a social science related field.
One of my learning goals during the internship was to find out whether working in consultancy in the biotech field was a suitable job prospect for me. By joining other consultants in their daily tasks and collaborating with the on projects I learned what being a consultant entails. I participated in client meeting, joined the colleagues in supporting the clients on to write proposals and shared with them the enthusiasm for making a positive impact. Thanks to the open and welcoming environment at ttopstart, I could experience all the different services offered by the company. This opportunity was invaluable as I could start to build consultant skills and get tips and tricks from experienced professionals.
My advice to every MSc student is to make use of the experience of the internship to answer questions that are important for your future choices. I highly recommend exploring what’s outside of the academic field, especially when students are doubting about a future career. I believe that experiences within the study program (e.g. internship) are the perfect occasion to explore new environments, ways of working, thinking, methodologies, etc. I can really say that my unconventional internship experience enriched me both personally and professionally and I recommend ttopstart to internship seekers.