Be More Dachshund

Be More Dachshund

Curious about careers outside of academia? In this guest post, Sam Curran, a previous University of Glasgow PhD student, talks about his post-PhD career path and how he left the lab far behind to pursue a career in business strategy consulting with one of the world’s biggest management consultant firms. Sam also shares some of his top career tips, courtesy of his miniature dachshund, Dotty.

Let me introduce you to Dotty. Dotty is a long haired, miniature dachshund. Much like in her day to day business, she is the hero of this short blog post, so if that doesn’t encourage you to keep reading, then I’m not sure what else could….

 Dotty the dachshund - presumably listening to Radio Four

Dotty the dachshund - presumably listening to Radio Four

Now let me get the history lesson out of the way: apart from being Dotty’s proud guardian I am also a 30-year-old, 5’ 10’, ginger lad from Glasgow with a BMI rapidly creeping into the unhealthy zone. I started off by studying Biotechnology at The University of Edinburgh, and then came straight over to The University of Glasgow where I completed a PhD in Immunology. My research looked at the relationship between cardiovascular disease, rheumatoid arthritis and periodontal disease. I won’t spoil the ending to this exciting bit of literature but I’m sure you’ll enjoying reading the complete thesis next time you’re in the University library.

As I entered the final year of my PhD I started to think about the future. I knew two things already: one, I didn’t want to be an academic; two, I wanted to experience the big bad world of business. With that in mind, I applied to work in the London office of a company called Accenture – one of the world’s biggest management consulting firms with 425,000 staff around the world. I was based in the strategy arm of Accenture and my clients included some of the world’s biggest oil and gas companies. Typically, I would help these clients make more money, spend less money or reduce their operating risk. Unsurprisingly, the workload was intense and the hours long but I really loved working with Accenture. If you’re a scientist and want to experience the cut-throat world of big commerce then I would really recommend that you give some serious consideration to applying to the big consulting firms. You’ll certainly be hard pushed to find a career path that will open more doors for you than consulting.

Now, what I didn’t mention in my little introduction is that I’m also a bit of an eco-warrior and could happily chat (rant?!) away at how society is slowly destroying the only place that we can call home. Now, as much as I loved working with oil and gas majors, I decided after a few years that I really wanted to work in the environmental sector so I applied to the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) where I am now working to support other Governments around the world to improve their natural environment.

People always ask me; how did you make the jump from laboratory based immunological research to business strategy consulting? The answer is simple. By demonstrating that science is all about problem solving. In the lab you formulate a hypothesis, develop an experiment to test that hypothesis, and then you make a conclusion. In business, you identify a goal, develop a strategy to reach that goal, and then you conclude whether it was the correct strategy and refine accordingly.

Anyway, enough about me, let’s get back to Dotty. Maybe I hadn’t mentioned, but as well as being an all-round champ, she also likes to provide scientifically minded people with her top career tips:

  1. Stand out from the crowd – A sausage dog knows how to differentiate itself from the crowd. We all need to do the same. Play up your abilities, whether it be teaching in labs, a passion for science communication, or a skill at leadership on the sport field.
  2. Take dachshund sized steps – Time and time again, Dotty has seen people fail because they obsess about that next big career jump or promotion. Don’t worry about it. Instead, concentrate your biggest efforts on pushing the boundaries in what you are already doing. You will quickly be recognised as someone that always wants to do their best, and guess what? That promotion will probably follow on naturally.
  3. Sniff out new opportunities – Did you know that ‘dachshund’ is German for ‘badger hound’? Yes, Dotty is very skilled at sniffing out badgers, but you need to be constantly sniffing out opportunities. Opportunities to experience new things, opportunities to meet new people or opportunities to promote yourself.
  4. Do what you love – Whether it be burying socks or digging holes in manicured lawns. Whatever you do, make sure it is something you love.

So yes, as I said, my advice for getting ahead in life: be more dachshund!

If you’re looking for further career advice, the University of Glasgow has an excellent careers service to help you find future career opportunities, prepare CVs and applications and practice for interviews. You can also book an appointment with a careers manager to sit down and talk about anything related to your future career plans… or perhaps lack thereof! Keep up-to-date with all the careers-related events as well by following them on twitter @UofG Careers.

Writing a conference abstract

Writing a conference abstract

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