Chemist-turned-marketing director in the computer software industry
Profile: Philip Skinner, Field Marketing Director for PerkinElmer, San Diego, CA
Electronic laboratory notebooks are the way of the future for scientific records, and Philip Skinner is helping pave the way for them.
Philip is a field marketing director for PerkinElmer, where his current focus is promoting E-Notebook products to companies and laboratories.
But he wasn't always in the software industry. He is a trained synthetic organic chemist who received his Ph.D. at the University of Durham in the North East of England and did a postdoc at ETH Zurich before landing a job in med chem.
While working in med chem, Philip helped asses E-Notebooks for his company. This experience helped him develop professional partnerships within the computer software industry. Little did he know that the time and effort invested would eventually develop into a full-time job just when he needed it.
In 2009, the pharmaceutical company where Philip had worked for eight years cut 40 percent of its staff and Philip was left unemployed. He spent nine months actively exploring other career options, including project management and consulting. Finally, the software company developing E-Notebooks decided to expand their sales team, and they offered Philip a job. Shortly after, he moved up in the company into a marketing position and is now a director of field marketing.
Philip said he would not have been so lucky had he not had the training and connections with the folks in the software industry.
"I met a lot of people networking, but I got this job from contacts I had made and nurtured for many years, and people I had actually worked in partnership with," he said.
For the most part, he works from home, where he spends his time preparing for product demonstrations, participating in conference calls and talking with customers.
"One of my main roles is essentially a translator," Philip said. "As an experienced lab scientist, I understand the way at least the drug discovery world works. I can speak with the scientists we are working with, but also to our software people."
Philip Skinner, Field Marketing Director for PerkinElmer, San Diego, CA. Courtesy photo.
To expand the company's client base, Philip demo's the products at trade shows and visits companies all over the country-- so there is a good deal of travel with his job.
Philip said the best and worst part of his job is working from home since he said it makes it very difficult to maintain work/life separation. But he said he is very happy with his career move.
"I enjoy the work, I like the people, it gives me a lot of freedom," he said. "I feel valued and useful... and I feel that I have somewhere I can actually grow."
For chemists who may be interested in breaking into the software industry, Philip suggests doing research on both the companies and products, making connections with people in the field, and determining which entry positions into the company are a good place to start.
"This is how they get people in the door to check them out," he explained. "Once you are in, if that position doesn’t fit you can normally move around."
Philip said there is no magic bullet to success in his field, or in chemistry in general. But he said perseverance, hard work and a keen eye to spot opportunities when they arise will certainly help.
"Try everything, learn from your mistakes, be open minded," he said.
Also, Philip said information interviews are "probably the most important thing you can do when trying to transition a career."
Philip said he is happy with how things have turned out with his career, but it wasn't easy being in career limbo.
"I was trying to forge new careers in alternative energy, in project management, all alongside trying to find work as a chemist," he said. "Trying to balance all of those ideas can be a tough juggling act."
While he does miss being in the lab, Philip is glad his job helps him stay connected with the research world.
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Will traditional lab notebooks soon be replaced with electronic lab notebooks? Photo credit: flickr user proteinbiochemist