“Set your Goals and Work to Reach them” – A Story of successful Career Development

Written by

It’s been a mild summer, labs that were closed during the lockdown are now returning to some semblance of normalcy. Working from home and wearing masks  has become the ‘new normal’. Thanks to video conferencing tools, we can have meetings again and attend conferences or other events. After a few months of “Corona-hiatus” spent readjusting to the new working situations and lifestyles, NGC too, is coming back with virtual events. We opened this Summer Semester’s events with an old friend of ours, Tina Zimmerman, who joined us for our first virtual Career Event for Life Scientists.

It was a much hotter summer last year and having a beer together on campus did not have to comply with Corona regulations. . I had invited three other young and motivated doctoral students to talk about an idea of mine, involving seminars organised by PhD students to discuss what was of interest to us and tailor the topics offered to our specific needs. Tina Zimmermann, who was a PhD student at the University Medical Center of Mainz at the time, was one of them.

Tina’s first years in academia saw her moving quite a lot, including international experiences in Texas and Australia. Passionate about neuroscience, she joined the Department of Physiological Chemistry in Mainz to work on the role of neural stem cells in the endocannabinoid system. Now, she works at Boehringer Ingelheim where she just became a laboratory head. What is peculiar about Tina’s career development is that she had a long-term goal for her post-PhD career: move to industry and become a team leader in R&D. In fact, Tina has always wanted “to make a difference in patients’ lives by finding and developing a cure for devastating diseases”, as she already told us in her NGC Alumni interview in 2018. To achieve her goal, she took part in a range of activities that would ease her transition outside of academia:

  • She participated in as many career events as possible.

  • She visited companies on their open days.

  • She joined a mentoring scheme, which helped her to gather connections in industry and made her aware of the job opening that will later become her first job in a pharma industry.

  • She did a lot of research about careers outside of academia, including informational interviews and networking with people working in industry.

All of this helped her to understand what kind of job opportunities were available in industry, and what would be the best fit for her. Tina’s goal of becoming a team leader in industry has been fulfilled this summer, a little more than 3 years after she obtained her Dr. rer. nat. and started working as a postdoc at Abbvie.

The real secret of Tina’s success is her goal-driven personality. Strong willed, assertive and goal-oriented, Tina set a 5 years’ goal for her career development and defined smaller steps on how to reach it. Her strategy involved a plan B too, because research positions in industry are usually the entry level but they are also fixed-term. In fact, when she knew her 2 years’ contract at Abbvie was about to come to an end, she worked on both plan A and plan B to find her next position. Luckily, plan A worked successfully thanks to all the hard work she had put in starting from her university studies.

“Make a decision that is right for you!”

Now, Tina is an accomplished researcher in R&D in the pharmaceutical industry, who works on cardiometabolic diseases and has one patent application submitted and one paper in preparation from her 2 years’ postdoc at Abbvie. She learnt that when you are looking for the job that is the right fit for you, you need to evaluate your values too, to determine not only what you want to do but also the working environment you want to be in. Above all, she demonstrated how important it is to set your own goals and work to reach them, even if you may have to (or want to) change them enroute.

Written by Chiara Galante; Edited by Radhika Menon. Featured Image: NGC/Design.

We thank the Gutenberg Nachwuchs Kolleg from Mainz University for the financial support in organizing this event.

Go back