↓ Expand ↓

Category → sales

Cheering for Science—A Chemist (and former professional cheerleader) in Medical Sales

It’s not every day you meet a chemist who works in surgical sales and used to be a professional cheerleader. But that’s what Allison Grosso is.

Allison received a double major in biology and chemistry from North Carolina State University, where she was also a cheerleader. After college, she worked for four years as a biology researcher at Merck, and also cheered for the Philadelphia Eagles for four years, serving as captain for two years.

Allison eventually realized that she wanted a job with more interaction with people. She transferred into a sales rep position at Merck, where she learned the ins and outs of the business of pharmaceutical sales.

After a few years, Allison says she felt she “needed a bit more of a challenge.” So she applied for a competitive position in surgical sales and landed the job. Now she is a Territory Manager for a surgical device company, which she finds both challenging and satisfying.

“I work with surgeons in the operating room, and my knowledge of our technology, anatomy and specific disease states is essential to my success,” Allison says.

A typical day for Allison starts at 7:30 am in any one of the many hospitals she covers in eastern Pennsylvania. Her job is to be present while the surgical procedure is taking place to ensure the equipment is functioning correctly.

After a few surgeries, Allison takes care of office calls and spends time talking to doctors and operating staff, informing them about new products and training them to use surgical equipment.

The best part of the job for Allison is working with surgeons and operating room staff.

“I sell a great product that is loved by so many people, and it is so wonderful to hear the success stories from them about how great the patients are doing after the operation,” Allison says.

“The most challenging part of the job is trying to convince some surgeons to try something new,” Allison says. “It is my job to simply get them to try it, and let the success of the product speak for itself.”

Allison says having a background in chemistry and biology has helped her immensely with her current job. She feels confident in being able to understand exactly how the company’s products work and compare to their competition’s products.

In her spare time, Allison is part of a science outreach organization—Science Cheerleaders—comprised of current and former professional cheerleaders who are also scientists.

In addition to performances, such as (posted above) at the 2010 Science and Engineering Festival in Washington D.C., the cheerleading scientists also visit schools and do science experiments with kids—all while dressed in their cheerleading garb.

Through her involvement with Science Cheerleaders, Allison hopes to encourage kids to pursue their dreams and do what they love—even if it’s outside of the box.

“I know a lot of people think you can’t do both [cheerleading and science], but I want to help spread the word that you can!” Allison says.

“To most people, science and cheerleading seem like two totally different worlds,” Allison says. But she says she never felt like she had to choose between the two. And she hopes to be a role model for young girls and women who may think that you can’t be a scientist if you’re into cheerleading and dance, or vice versa.

To people out there who are interested in a career in medical sales, Allison says that it’s definitely helpful to have a science background but also demonstrate that you understand the business side of the job.

Once you’re on the job, you have to always be learning as much as you can, “about not only your product, but every other competitive product out there,” Allison says. You also need to stay current on the research related to the diseases and surgical procedures that your products are used for, and be an excellent communicator.

Out of curiosity, I asked Allison if she has ever encountered hostility or stereotyping resulting from being a cheerleader in a scientific field.

Sometimes when people have found out she is a cheerleader before they got to work with her, “I could tell they assumed I had no idea what I was doing,” Allison says. In these situations, Allison has tried to focus on her job and keep the conversation at a professional level.

“Once I convinced them I wasn’t just a dumb cheerleader, and I truly knew my products, then I would let them ask questions about cheering,” Allison explains. “It can be somewhat exhilarating to see a person change their impression of you right before your eyes.”

Scientific staffing: Connecting employers with job candidates

Profile: Lynn Sullivan, Chemist (B.S., 1999), Account Manager for Aerotek, Inc.

Lynn Sullivan brought seven years of industry experience to her current job as account manager for Aerotek, which provides recruiting and staffing services. Courtesy photo.

Chemists on the job market may be all too familiar with the process by which staffing companies work with recruiters to connect employers with job candidates.

But has it crossed your mind that it takes someone who has firsthand experience in the chemical industry to know who will be a good fit for the job?

Lynn Sullivan serves as an account manager for Aerotek, which provides recruiting and staffing services in the Atlanta metro area. Prior to her account management role with Aerotek, Lynn worked as a chemist for seven years. For more than four years now, Lynn has been working to help the scientific and healthcare industries find hiring solutions.

Although she started off as a biology/pre-med major at Delta State University, she decided that wasn’t the career path that she wanted and made the switch, receiving her bachelor’s degree in chemistry. After graduation, she landed an industry job, where she worked in quality control and eventually moved into R&D.

While working as a manager in an R&D department, Lynn was responsible for hiring technicians to work in the lab. She used a staffing company to help her identify job candidates, which led her to consider a career switch into the field.

“I thought it would be a great fit for me because I could stay in the sciences but work more with people,” Lynn explained.

Day to day, you can find Lynn calling companies, meeting with customers and working with recruiters to identify candidates for the companies’ needs. One of her favorite parts of the job is building relationships with people in a variety of scientific fields.

Lynn strongly believes that her degree and prior experience in the scientific industry helped prepare her current role. She doesn’t miss working in a lab—after seven years at the bench, she realized it wasn’t her passion. But her current job requires her to visit labs often and learn about the research at various companies—so she still feels very connected with the scientific world.

For those interested in a career like Lynn’s, she said there’s no industry-specific experience required. However, it’s important to make sure you don’t want to work in a lab environment and are willing to go into more of a sales position within the science community.

Lynn said working for a staffing company requires an interest in sales because “we are selling our staffing solutions to employers, whether it’s to meet a temporary, cyclical or more permanent solution.”

The obvious question to ask a person who works in scientific staffing is: What advice to you have to chemists on the job market today? Here’s what Lynn had to say:

Lynn's advice to chemists on the job market is: network well and have a clean, professional resume. Photo credit: flickr user washtenawcc.

“Two things that are important for chemists looking for jobs:  networking and their resume.  Networking is key to helping people find employment.  When networking, you want to make sure you have a clean, professional resume.  Chemists often forget to include laboratory skills, and that’s what will catch the eye of an employer or recruiter.

“For new graduates in Chemistry, it’s important to not only include any undergraduate research or internships, but to speak specifically about what your role was in the laboratory, and what equipment or techniques you utilized.”

In her spare time, Lynn is an active member of the American Chemical Society, and is currently the Chair Elect for the Georgia Local Section. In the past, Lynn served as committee chair of the Women’s Chemist Committee for the local chapter.

When asked why she has chosen to be involved in ACS, Lynn said she initially got plugged in for networking purposes and to meet new people in her area with a chemistry background.

“Organizations like ACS allow you the chance to meet chemists with a variety of backgrounds and to stay current with new research and industry trends,” Lynn said. “It also gives me the chance to volunteer by educating and promoting the field of chemistry to others.”

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 Skinner, Field Marketing Director for PerkinElmer, San Diego, CA. Courtesy photo.

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.”

Will traditional lab notebooks soon be replaced with electronic lab notebooks? Photo credit: flickr user proteinbiochemist

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. Continue reading →