May 15, 2015, by Susan Lim
Exploring career paths in Bioscience
The first edition of the Bioscience Careers Day hosted by the Careers Advisory Service, University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus (UNMC) took place on March 4, 2015 at The Great Hall, bringing together students, graduates and employers for a panel discussion and a mini expo focusing on careers in science.
The event, co-organised by UNMC student body BSN (Biosciences Students in Nottingham), received strong support from leading graduate employers – AAR, J-Biotech, Matrioux, ERM, ACGT, Yakult, Chemopharm and Propharm –who were involved as exhibitors in the Great Hall Foyer. This was a great chance for the company representatives to connect with the attendees during and after the event.
Among other things, the panel discussion aims to look at how a Bioscience degree can open up a massive range of career paths both in Malaysia and abroad, as well as the requirements to succeed in an international business arena. These include network etiquette, the types of roles leading graduate employers are actively recruiting, career grooming tips and graduate training schemes.
Propharm (M) Sdn Bhd business development consultant Jason Fernandes and Ida Mariani Idris, ERM senior consultant for business development and sustainability, joined the panel discussion together with Dr Mehdi Maqbool, research programme coordinator of UNMC’s Crops for the Future Research Centre (CFFRC), and Dr Hirzun Mohd Yusof, vice president in the R&D department, Sime Darby Plantation Sdn Bhd.
Addressing the students, Jason said, “All of you hold a seed of greatness and have a great responsibility to figure out what to do with your education. In academia, we will look to your contribution to the pool of knowledge. In the working world, we will see if you can flow with the company’s vision.”
Jason, whose professional pursuit in strategic management has taken him across the world, also stressed the need for investing in oneself by putting time and effort into building a network and a good personal appearance for the modern workplace.
“People notice the funniest little things and when something or someone is in order, people gravitate towards it. As recruiters, the common pre-conceptions we have to judge a person’s character would be, ‘Can clients trust you?… Can you work hard?’. If your goal is a career, be a transparent communicator and keep the people that you know close”, he added.
Dr Hirzun, who is also a current member of the Malaysian Qualifications Agency Accrediation Committee (for the field of Science), touched upon the need for a mindset shift in communicating science in a manner that not only makes it interesting, but also creates profits.
“The time has come for Malaysia to change from a research-based country to a knowledge-based one. This means straight-A students must evolved in such a way that they now know how to talk business –translating research findings into values (dollars and cents). There’s no more excuse not to find this kind of knowledge because there’s something called Google in your hand,” Dr Hirzun said.
The next few points of the panel discussion shifted between experienced department leaders Dr Mehdi and Ida, with each emphasising on the importance of starting out in the working world with the right attitude.
“Be knowledgeable about all the opportunities that exist for you,” Dr Mehdi said. “While a research centre can be a good starting point for fresh graduates, they are encouraged to do so looking to gain professional learning. We at CFFRC, in particular, are always on the lookout for young graduates who are willing to work hard and help drive the strategies that we have in place for the next 10 years, so be sure to check our website for all vacancies,” said Dr Mehdi, who specialises in postharvest technology, supply chain management and microbiology.
Ida, who has over 16 years of management consulting experience in varied industries said, “My professor had once told me, that people will hire you for your ability to apply what you know. Yes, job opportunities in science do depend on a country’s economic landscape but graduates could always opt to do something else first. As a matter of fact, those who work outside their degree field are believed to make the best employees in the market.”
One thing is for sure, a graduate who holds a Bioscience degree can make a difference in a multi-disciplinary team. If given that chance, the attendees would make the most of it seeing how some of them actively interacted with the speakers during the panel discussion. When the session was over, they were told to email the speakers if they ever had a career question.
Head of Careers Advisory Service, Alicia Ch’ng said this initiative was highly relevant in the context of today’s employment trends and diversities.
“For those trying to decide upon a career path, it is hoped that this Careers Day will inspire them to weigh through the employment trends and diversities while in college and embrace the variance in jobs as they learn about what they need for their future career,” she said.