Oct 4, 2020 | E022 How to Successfully Build Your Impact as a PhD? Parag Mahanti on Networking Through LinkedIn
Dr. Parag Mahanti is a life science professional with experience in life sciences strategy consulting, biotech valuations, and pharmaceutical access/commercialization strategy. Parag received his Ph.D. in Chemistry and Chemical Biology in 2013 from Cornell University where his research was focused on nuclear hormone receptors, steroid signaling, and metabolomics. He then transitioned to a career in management consulting at the IMS Health Consulting Group (now IQVIA) focusing on biotech/pharma strategy projects.
Subsequently, Parag was part of an II ranked biotech equity research team at Barclays, where he focused on rare diseases (especially neuromuscular and ophthalmological diseases), gene therapy/editing/cell therapy platforms, and immunology/immuno-oncology companies. Since late 2018, Parag has been at Novartis, focused on strategic planning and operations around pricing and access, and is currently a Director of US Market Access Business Planning.
Since 2013, Parag has also been a volunteer for the USA-India Chamber of Commerce in organizing the Annual BioPharma & Healthcare Summit at Cambridge, MA. Parag continues to be passionate about early stage startups within the healthcare industry and serves as a mentor for the Entrepreneurship Lab (ELABNYC) launched by the New York City Economic Development Corporation to provide mentorship to biotech/health-tech start-ups.
Outside of life sciences and biopharma strategy, Parag’s passions include music, both playing and listening, and understanding the evolution of scientific reasoning and leadership skills. Parag takes an active interest in career progression of PhD students to explore and pursue non-academic careers and has participated in multiple career panels at Cornell, Gordon Conferences, Cold Spring Harbor Labs, and NYC-INET. Parag has also created PhD Career Networking Group, a fast growing LinkedIn Group to foster career development of PhDs and graduate students which currently has 4,000+ members.
In this webinar, Parag told us his story and explained how he made his career decisions so far. He also told us about the origins of the PhD Career Networking Group on LinkedIn and the philosophy behind the group. How to network on LinkedIn? How to look for mentors? How to stay forever young? We touched all these subjects, and many more!
Parag’s LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/paragmahanti/
Parag’s Twitter profile: https://twitter.com/ParagMahanti/
The PhD Career Networking Group on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/8476427/ – joining this group is the obligatory homework from this episode! 🙂
The episode was recorded on October 4th, 2020. This material represents the speaker’s personal views and not the views of their current or former employer(s).
Natalia 0:10 Hello, everyone. This is yet another episode of Sunday webinars by welcome solutions. In these webinars, we chat with PhDs and other professionals who build interesting careers and made some bold career moves in the process. And today, I have a great pleasure to host Dr. Parag Mahanti whose bio is very long, so, I will need to be brief here. And Parag is a life science professional with experience in life sciences, strategy consulting, biotech valuations, and pharmaceutical access and commercialization strategy. Parag received his PhD in Chemistry and Chemical Biology in 2013, from Cornell University, where his research was focused on nuclear hormones, hormone receptors, steroid signaling, and metabolomics. I’m not a biologist.
He then transitioned to a career in management consulting, and he was working for IMS Health Consulting Group, Barclays, and Novartis, where he’s currently a director of US market access business planning. He’s also involved in other projects as a volunteer, he collaborated with the USA India Chamber of Commerce to organize the annual biopharma and healthcare summit at Cambridge, MA. And he also serves as a mentor for the Entrepreneurship lab launched by the New York City Economic Development Corporation to provide mentorship to biotech and health tech startups.
He also created the PhD Career Networking group on LinkedIn, a fast-growing group to foster the career development of PhDs and graduate students, which currently has over 4000 members. Now, I like to give the floor to Parag. We are very curious about your story. I’ve seen from your point of view, especially about why you took your decision to move to the industry, and what prompted you to now be involved in helping PhDs in building their careers? Thank you so much for accepting our invitation.
Dr. Parag 2:18 First of all, thank you Natalia for the invitation. It’s a pleasure to be here. And I’m glad that I can share my story. Hopefully, some people will find benefit in it. But it’s always good to chat. So I think you asked a few questions there first was my story. Second, how did I transition? And third, How did I come up? Or why did I create a group? So I’ll start with the story part. I am from India, where I grew up, did my undergrad, I come from a part of India and India in general, over indexes in academics, like we are told from the beginning, if you don’t study, then your life is pretty much useless. You should be focusing on academics. And even within academics, the part of the country that I come from pretty much unanimously believes that studying science, and now it has changed to engineering and medicine.
But if you don’t study science, somehow your life is not complete, a thought that I don’t believe in. But it was what I grew up with. And in fact, I wanted to study English as literature. Like I wanted to be a writer at some point. But it never, all those dreams got squashed because my parents and the surrounding family, everybody was a chemist, everybody pursued chemistry. And so it was obvious that I was going to study chemistry as well.
I studied chemistry for about five years in India, three years of bachelor’s, and two years of master’s, and then I decided to come for a PhD in the US, where I am now. I came here in 2008. My PhD was in Chemistry and Chemical Biology. Specifically, I was working with worms, and I was a chemist by training. Essentially my professor who’s a leader in the specific analytical tool that we use called NMR Spectroscopy was looking at chemical signaling through NMR spectroscopy.
That was our job and very simply put, and this is how I explain my research when I am ever asked that in interviews, imagine there’s a group of people and you take a photograph, and then you ask people who are wearing blue so you had me say to get away from the photograph and then take a picture again. Now, if you give both of those pictures to somebody else and try to compare them, they will immediately see that the signal that was given was removed from the blue people. And that’s basically what we do we take snapshots of chemical signals at different parts of a biochemical pathway, and then compare what is missing and what is not. And that kind of gives us an idea of what genes created, what molecules?
Natalia 5:28 Can I have a comment? If you gave me a photo and asked me what was done to the photo, and that was removing blue dress people I would never get You to know.
Dr. Parag 5:41 It is much simpler than that. It’s almost you overlay two pictures, and you see certain dots missing. And then you realize that is missing because you created a mutant. And now you know that because of that gene, this molecule was being created. It’s something as simple as that. I need to work on that analogy now because I think I’ve made it more complicated. I did that for my entire PhD. And it was super interesting.
I loved the work. I loved solving puzzles as they were. But somewhere around the third or fourth year, I realized that from a long-term career perspective, this is not what I wanted to do. And multiple reasons came through that kind just in general, realizing that I loved science.
But the amount of time I had to wait for the work that I was doing, to impact people was going to be a long way made me realize that I wanted something where I could see my work, having an impact faster. And that’s what started me kind of thinking, Alright, if I want, I can do a postdoc. But what else is out there? And that’s when I started speaking to people, and it was just out of sheer frustration.
I think because everybody around me was all like we’re gonna finish PhD and get a pharma R&D job, or do a postdoc, whereas I did not want to do either of those two at that time. And so I was like, what else can I do? And I started talking to people, most folks outside of chemistry and biology, because the engineering folks, they know a lot more about consulting, and you know, other things that are out there, just because I don’t know why.
Maybe it’s because they’re closer to the industry. But that’s what I realized, at least at Cornell. And that’s when I came to know about this thing called consulting or strategy consulting. I mean, I knew the company’s McKinsey BCG, I didn’t know what they did. But it is only then I realized, this is something that I’m interested in. These are smart people solving problems in a team.
That is exactly what I wanted to do. And so then I joined the Cornell consulting club. And that’s when I realized, that consulting is what I wanted to do. So I interviewed with all of the big firms, the firm that I ultimately chose to join was a healthcare-specific firm called IMS Health, which is now called IQVIA. And then we can go into detail about the interview process. But at this point, I’m just going to tell you what happened after that.
Within consulting, I gained a whole bunch of skills, many of which are pretty very much to an MBA, because you know how to lead people, how to manage people, so you manage clients, you manage internal stakeholders, you manage content, you manage time. And all of those things, even if you do them during PhD, nobody tells us that they are skills. And suddenly you realize, these are actually skills that you are being measured upon, which is one of the things that we as PhDs need to be told very early on, is that everything that you’re doing managing resources, managing people managing time, are skills that can be quantitatively estimated. We don’t do it just because it’s part of our lives, So consulting was very eye-opening.
It was immensely enriching in terms of gaining skills that I still use. Not just PowerPoint or Excel modeling skills, but in general, how do you continue a group conversation? How do you run a brainstorming session? So I did that for about two and a half years. And then around that time, I realized I was missing science, which is when I kind of like, What else can I do? And an inbound recruiter essentially reached out to me and said, Hey, do you want to do equity research. And I tried to find out what equity research was. And when I met the next manager for who I ultimately worked next, I realized this was something super interesting because she was focusing on gene therapy and gene editing, and cell therapy. All of those things were super interesting. Just for those who don’t know what equity research is, it’s basically, you’re following specific stocks.
In my case, it was biotech companies and you’re trying to understand, what is the science good enough? And does the science translate to the value that the company is saying that they’re worth? So every stock has a value. Do you know how to connect the pipeline that a company has to the value that they’re saying? And so in that connection, you need to understand how much what’s the market size of that product? Are there other competitors? So competitive intelligence is a big deal in equity research. What does the market think? Because the product on the market might be great. Do you have a question?
Natalia 11:16 I have a question. I have a little thing. So if I’m correct, this is also a type of analysis that is often referred to as fundamental analysis, Am I correct?
Dr. Parag 11:27 That is absolutely correct. Two types of analysis happen with stock. One is called fundamental analysis. The other is technical analysis. And so technicals are basically looking at just how the stock is moving, not necessarily how the company and what the pipeline is and so on. They’re just making assumptions on a quantitative basis of the stock has been up for a number of days. And it’s reaching this ratio between its 12-month high and six-month low and making things up here.
But that’s what is more technical and we didn’t do that we went with most equity analysts. Most equity research analysts within biotech are focusing on fundamental analysis of the stock. And so I did that for two and a half years. That was, extremely in consulting. And in general, for any of these service jobs, we use a term a jargon called drinking from the firehose. And there was a lot of information thrown at you, and you just had to catch, interpret, assimilate, and then kind of remember all of that. And so it was super enriching. The work-life balance was different. Because when you’re doing equity research, your day starts around 7 am. And it can end whenever that depends on the team.
That depends on what you’re working on and how dynamic that industry is, small and mid-cap biotech which is my industry was super dynamic. And people were always asking questions, we were always creating content. So on average, I was working at least 13,14 hours a day, for sure. And often it went much higher than that. And I would say I realized that this is awesome. I love doing this. But can I do this sustainably, continually certain other things happened in my personal life that made me realize, no I cannot.
I need to find a place where it’s equally enriching in terms of intellectual stimulation but takes a little bit fewer hours in the day. And that’s when I started looking at what can I do? Can I go into Vc? Or can I go into an industry and I interviewed at a few places, the Novartis position was the most, I would say, kind of the one that I wanted because it was a strategy with a good biotech biopharma company. And right now, what I do is strategy and operations for Novartis, specifically within market access.
Market Access is the part of a pharma company that allows drugs to reach patients. There’s a part that does sales. There’s a part that does marketing, but there’s a part that takes getting the drug to the patients and there are multiple steps to that. So how do you keep that flowing? What are the strategies associated with it? Is what I do And it’s a combination of skills. It’s one part of my understanding of science. It’s another part of my understanding of the consulting business. And then, of course, understanding equity research, and therefore the biotechnology market & competitive intelligence, all of that relates to the position that I’m now doing.
That’s a long answer to my story on where I am. I’ll take a pause. I know there are two other questions you have. But I’ll take a pause. And I’ll see if you have questions. If Anna has any questions, and if anybody else has any questions,
Natalia 15:39 Just a little comment, guys, if you have questions, please post them in the chat. And we’ll take all the questions. that’s a great story. Parag Actually, I usually ask this question at the very end. But I would, I would hear I’m tempted to ask you this question in the beginning.
And the question is, how do you see your future? I like the fact that you build upon your previous skills and you integrate your knowledge from all these different disciplines. I think people who have that skill and that general strategy to develop themselves get far in professional lives. But I’m curious, do you see yourself? Do you have a vision for yourself from the perspective of 5, 10, or 15 years? Or is it an open question?
Dr. Parag 16:39 The reason why I say it’s tough, is because if I look back, seven years back, which is when I finished my PhD, I wasn’t thinking I will be in this specific position. I took the pivots. And some of those many of those pivots were strategic, many of those pivots, for example, the equity research was personal, right. Because I realized that I had to spend more time at home, and there were things that I couldn’t do, just by, staying at work out all of the time. With that caveat, I think I have a 10, and 15-year plan of doing two things.
On one end, I do want to converge the skills that I have at a senior role in a biopharma company. And when I say senior, I mean a decision-making senior management role, how long that takes, we shall see. And on the other hand, we will talk about this, but the community that I’m building on LinkedIn, I want to see it grow into something where people kind of find it to be, This is something that has been built for PhDs, for both academia and non-academic, STEM outside of STEM, to kind of discuss and do the stuff that we are doing and all of us are doing this individually.
Can we make this bigger? And we can go into that. But those are currently the two kind of ideas I have. I said 10,15 years now, you can’t jump from now, until 2030. I mean, nobody knew 2020 was going to be the way it happened. So one cannot have a crystal ball and say what’s going to happen in 10 years, but I can say, there are little goals that I want to achieve at this point. I’m keeping them to myself because you know, there are little internal goals, but 10,15 years, that’s the vision at this point.
I will relate that to the question that you asked what the best way to move up is what I have been told. I’m still building my career. But what I’ve been told is to get a breadth of experience. The depth of my experience was and is understanding science and understanding strategy. Now it’s about Do I know all parts of the business? And Do I understand all parts, the breadth of the business and so that’s what I would use that or anybody who’s listening, translate that to whatever you’re doing.
If you’re applying for jobs after PhD, first get to know is to understand the breadth before realizing what you want to do. Do not make a decision, saying this is the only thing I can do. Let me do this. Because you didn’t even know what the breath was, and you kind of just jumped into something the only thing that you knew. So I would translate that. But I know that was not the question you were asking.
Natalia 20:15 At this stage, I would like to refer to something that you told me once in private. And it’s a very interesting concept. when I talk to PhDs, I often mentioned that you can’t have everything at once, you can’t have both safety and stability at the same time, a lot of freedom and free hands to do every project you like, at least not at the beginning. But I remember you have also a very nice point of view on the trade you have to make when you go to industry, so Could you please share with us.
Dr. Parag 20:52 I will not claim that this is my invention. And I will become a little nerdy about this. And anybody who’s listening to this, and has a background in physical chemistry, will understand a three-component phase diagram and if you give me one minute, I’ll quickly explain a three-component phase diagram that is a triangle. And if you think about it, it’s solid, liquid and gas on each of the corners, so anything on the side is between a solid and a liquid. Anything on this side is between a liquid and a gas and anything on this side is between a solid and a gas.
For example, when you convert something from solid to gas, you are on one side of the triangle, you have ignored the other two things. And if you’re on one side, then you have ignored that other one, that’s where this thought came up. I think work-life balance, compensation, and intellectual stimulation, are three parts of this phase diagram. If you want intellectual stimulation, and you want it to be paid highly, you need to compromise on your work-life balance. Now, if you don’t have to, they are not saying that it’s impossible, absolutely not. Like I’ve been in situations where I’ve been in days, I wouldn’t say, extended periods. But I’ve been in specific situations where I’ve thought, this is great.
I love doing this, I’m getting paid well. And I have a great work-life balance and to be very honest without saying this, just because I work at Novartis. Now, I do think I feel that much more often now in Novartis than in any of my previous jobs. But that being said, if you think about it, there are often you will be paid a lot of money, and you will get a lot of time to do whatever you want. But you will realize that this is so boring. As opposed to, there will be times when you will be, you know, super great work-life balance, and you’re doing a lot of great thinking.
But you’re not being compensated and if I may say a lot of academic jobs are like that, where it’s extremely intellectually stimulating, you have the control of your work-life balance, and yet academia doesn’t always pay amazing salaries compared to what you would see ina consulting job or a post-MBA job. If that’s what you were referring to, I think that’s the balance that I keep telling folks that you cannot have, or at least you shouldn’t start thinking that you will have all three, you will reach a point of all three, but it will take the time.
It won’t happen right upfront. After your PhD or postdoc, what is it that you want to focus on? And what is it that you can compromise? And then now I’ve been told by the leaders that I speak with, and my mentors within the work-life balance, so I’m changing this theory, if you can call it whether work-life balance, I think now they’re putting things in my mind, they’re saying geographical location, is another part. You will get all three, but oftentimes you have to move, from where you are. Are you willing to move? that’s the other thing that people often throw in the mix. But anyway, this is something that I think, I use it that all right, I get two of these upgrade.
Natalia 24:57 Great Insight and I couldn’t agree more, I think it’s a very good way of explaining the dilemma that you will face after you leave academia and even in academia, I also agree with you that it’s possible to get the balance between the three, but it always takes time. And to me, it feels that the best way to be able to reach that your status with like, all three of those aspects covered is when you get to a certain degree of wealth. Because if you have that degree of wealth, it also gives you a lot of personal freedom. And you can dictate your own conditions, in what format and in what form you want to work, what types of projects you want to focus on, and how much time you’re willing to spend. So in the end, that wealth factor is really important. Whenever we are taught that it’s not that, then it’s really dirty to talk about wealth. But in fact, I think it’s an important aspect that really influences the number of career opportunities and the quality of your professional life. After all, I think I will agree here.
Dr. Parag 26:19 I also agree. I will double-click on what you said about wealth, and I will say that it’s a wealth of experience also. It’s not just financial wealth, that is important. But also, if you have a lot of experience, at that time you can dictate things, you can delegate things you have a better understanding of where your time is used. So up until that point, when you reach that point, you can do that. But when you’re starting off, you should be like, I can only do these things. You’re right. I think that gives you the privilege, wealth of financial and experience gives you the privilege to choose certain things.
Natalia 27:10 Let’s comment for the audience, please ask your questions. Whatever you would like to ask, we’ll try to respond to every single question. And I have my next question will be about the initiative that you started Career Networking Group, from what I know already, you launched this initiative a few years ago. And it’s now getting a lot of Steam, Congratulations, first of all. And please tell us a little bit more about the origins of this group. How did it come to your mind to start this group? And what were the beginnings? And where is this project right now? and maybe a little bit about the plans for the future?
Dr. Parag 28:03 Plans. I don’t know how much I can talk about, because that’s the future we know. Let me go back to the beginning, just a few minutes back, I said, I did this. And I went to join a consulting club. It sounds funny, I was having a conversation similar to somebody else. It was when I was realizing that I wanted to do consulting. It was a lot of learning and a lot of frustrations, a lot of failures, an immense number of failures to understand but a quick anecdote, the very first time I went into a consulting interview.
After interviewing me, it was for an internship, not even a full job. After interviewing me for 40 minutes, I asked him how was the interview, and how was the feedback. And that person was like, Have you heard of this book? I think you should read it. He was implicitly saying that you have no idea about consulting, and he asked me to go back and read this boring book about consulting and back then. I’m not going to promote any book here. But it was not the greatest book either. And I was like I have no idea what consulting is.
I did manage to crack some of the tougher interviews with the top firms. So that time made me realize that there was no resource or very limited resource. I shouldn’t say no, because I’ve been told by many people that there are resources. Yes, there are resources as you are building yourself, Natalia, you will know there are resources, but there are forgotten, there is a lot less focus on telling folks in universities who are in grad programs, whether they are masters, or they have already started their PhD degrees, there is no concerted effort to let people know what they can do afterward and some universities are doing it. It’s always, the best universities are probably doing it. And then it slowly comes down when it becomes a norm.
Universities that don’t always are considered to be great ranked but are also doing great stuff on this but it’s mostly individuals and a few groups here and there that are doing this. And now if you reverse to 2013, not many people were doing it anyway and so every time I picked up the phone, or I email somebody and I asked a question because somebody else told me to ask a question. I was like, this didn’t come naturally to me to ask a question. Other people and I knew everybody in my friend circle, who are all PhDs, they were all asking me questions. So we concluded that we need a platform. And, back in the day in 2012, and 2013, I started a blog that did not go anywhere. But I call it academic inertia. Because I thought it was it was the inertia that that was stopping us of like, I know academia, I know, research, let me do more research. And people weren’t looking at what else they could do.
Then I was told very politely by one of my very close friends who by the way, it’s his birthday today, and you will have seen him on the network, Anupam was like, dude, academic inertia sounds negative. And by the way, he continues to be in academia, and he loves it. That’s his passion. And then I realized, Hey, it’s not bad to continue in academia if you can. What is missing is an input of information, telling people how to manage their careers. And that’s what was missing. And I started understanding how can we do this, I ran a survey among my friends, What kind of information do you want to do? And that’s when I got the job, my first consulting job, and I moved to New York.
when I met a couple of folks who are trying to build something like this on Facebook and with them, I built what has grown immensely. Now. A network of peers primarily focused on Indian PhD students. And that is when I realized this is on Facebook, we need something on LinkedIn and I built this group back then. But nobody around within that circle was focusing on LinkedIn. I wasn’t because I was doing consulting. And after consulting, I did finance both of them were extremely taxing jobs in terms of you couldn’t spend a lot of time.
Finally, when I had a little bit of time, last Christmas, I realized, I want to channel more energy into this. And the group around that time didn’t even have maybe just about 500 600 members last December and so I started working on it. I started contacting folks that I knew and I started getting people who already had jobs. People who already had an idea about the transition, because if you want advice, these are the people that you would go to. More importantly, I am at a different part of my career now than when I was five years back. And I’m also trying to increase my network and understand am I wrong in certain biases? What am I thinking that is wrong? So all of that led me to kind of fill the group with a bunch of folks that have already done a lot of work in this including yourself. And, and then kind of the group kicked off.
I think, like any other group that has a prima, the mission of the group is very simple to help PhDs in their career progression. Now, when I say it that way it sounds dry because career progression is all about resume, cover letter interviews, networking, and especially academics and PhDs in general. We have a repulsion against word networking. Like I did, too. I’m an extrovert, but therefore I could manage somehow. But I know everybody around me doesn’t like the word networking. But my talk and the group that we have now there, our thought is, and I know you resonate with this make networking a simpler process because it’s not rocket science.
You’re only talking to somebody about something that they do and we know when people are asked about what they do, they will tell you. So the barrier isn’t about whether people will tell you or not, the barrier is will you ask them, number one And where will you find those people? So this group answers the second question first, which is, let’s bring a whole bunch of folks that have done careers outside of PhD and just keep there, and hopefully, there’ll be an organic conversation and now, I think to your question of what’s the plan? The plan is, how can you make those conversations happen? Because you can bring as many people but if people are still not crossing that barrier, those conversations will never happen.
So how do you bring folks and start kind of you’re interested in, I remember the two examples from the group, there was somebody who asked about UX or user experience, and what to do. And it took me about 30 minutes, 45 minutes to go through the group and understand who was there who did UX, and just tag them in the comments to her post. And then suddenly, two of them who are experienced UX researchers come there and then give comments this is what you should do. That’s one example.
The second example is equity research. Somebody had a question on equity research. And I wrote a post, and I tagged the whole bunch of folks who are also in the group, and then some of them started commenting on there. So it’s a simple concept, get people who know about careers, and it doesn’t have to be academic or non-academic careers. It can be both academic and non-academic, which is why as I said, my friend, Anupam is an academician himself. He’s focusing on a career within academia. So he’s gonna, he’s looking at it from that lens, I’m looking at it from what can you do after a PhD, you can do consulting and equity research.
There are other folks in that team, who are biotech specialists, who have done R&D, and then in the group, there are friends like yourself, you are doing something, you did a PhD, and then you started a community of yourself, where you’re kind of giving your experience and providing a value to people who need that, who need to shave their career. There are a lot of fundamentally amazing people in that group and people should just be reaching out and finding their stories. That’s the story of the group and if you haven’t joined, please join.
Natalia 38:34 Yes, that was exactly what I was going to say. There will be a link in the description so that if you guys still didn’t join the group, please do as I can confirm it’s an amazing group, very supportive, and very vivid as well and a lot of interesting and useful information and very friendly atmosphere because Parag is the father of the initiative. Of course, it’s a very good spirit. Please guys check it out. For sure 100%, that’s obligatory.
After watching this movie, please check out the group and I have to say that I admire your perseverance because as you were saying, it looked like the dynamic was pretty flat for a long time, with not much movement for a long time and I liked the fact that you also pivoted, you try to bet to find the best platform for it. From the blog, you move to Facebook, and then you move to LinkedIn and I like that. I think it’s a very entrepreneurial thing to do. And actually, I am working on this perseverance right now.
And I can see that in many of these types of initiatives, the dynamics is exponential indeed that for a long time, there is like no movement and then you have to survive through that period, and keep on going and keep your vision alive and then at some point, you will be noticed, and your initiative will get noticed but you have to go through that period first. And recently, for the first time in 14 years, ever since I started blogging, I was invited to give a public talk about blogging and that was super surprising because I was thinking of quitting at this point, I will say, we don’t have any income from this, the audience is like growing too slow, I don’t feel this is a good way of spending my time.
I love writing, but I don’t really feel that this is the best way of allocating my time right now, and then exactly at the point the audience started growing, that was exactly almost like a week in a week, when I started having doubts. And that was exactly when it happened. I can tell that to anyone who has projects like this as you believe in something you do it because you love it and then keep on going. Because you never know, when you will get through that threshold, and then all of a sudden your initiative starts working. That’s absolutely great. That we’re so tough and brought it to where it is now. And now I would like to ask you something. Another comment I have is about the way this career advisor is being approached right now. So in 2013, indeed, there were almost no public resources on career advisory for PhDs. Now, I think most universities at least in Europe, take it seriously.
They start launching their own career centers and a lot of events for PhDs and the dedicated solely to careers after a PhD. I think, in my personal beliefs, and thoughts, independent people who are in the industry already, and they’re always unbiased and well informed as compared to university employees. I mean, it cannot be any other way. Actually, self-navigation and mutual help are better than going for these standardized ways that universities are approaching the problem right now.
That’s also why we liked this initiative because it really woke them up and in my view, it’s much more helpful and I’m sure that the members of the group will agree as well. Okay. Do you have something to add here?
Dr. Parag 42:38 I think what you said makes total sense. There is something to be told about the university. Because I’ve spoken and I’m speaking to many as you are to write and I’m speaking to many folks. Some of them are part of the group who are focusing on career advisory within universities. Let me put it this way. If I start, I don’t do it because I don’t see people as customers. But if you start thinking, if you think of it as a product, if you think of career advice as a product, so the product itself is the advice. The advice you will get is from people who have done something and who have made the transition. And the customer of that product who are thinking about a PhD, postdocs, who are in the middle of their careers, or have just started their careers, that’s the entire kind of supply chain of the product.
Those who are career advisors are also facilitators. Now, if we start believing that, you know, and which is sometimes the issue is that people feel overwhelmed that, Oh my God, I don’t know how to help somebody. But that’s not like most professors. I know, for a fact that many professors think this student that I have, is interested in a profession or a career track that I don’t know anything about. How can I help? That’s where folks like us should be coming in and saying, you don’t have to worry about it. All you need to do is to encourage your students to seek help. We will have a platform that will have people that can help them but if you think you’re the only one who should help and that’s a hero mentality.
If professors think that they are the only ones who will be able to help, like talking to career advisory groups, all you have to do is to encourage students to build their path. If you say that academia is the only thing you should do, or consulting is the only thing you should do, then that’s a mistake.
Natalia 45:30 I agree with you. I think there’s still this Winner’s Curse that sometimes affects professors. Unfortunately, not all of them, of course, but some professors believe that if something worked for them, it should work for you. This is slowly changing.
Dr. Parag 45:48 That is true. I will come to that because I have some things to share about that. But I just saw a question on the chat.
Natalia 46:00 The question is, how did you identify mentors outside of academia? I’m sure groups like the one you lead are excellent avenues. But back then, the group didn’t exist.
Dr. Parag 46:16 It’s such an excellent question. Thank you, Natalia, for asking this because the answer is just simple. You didn’t find a mentor. It has enough element of luck in it as well. I’ll tell you what I did. And this goes with what Natalia just said, you know, what works for me, may not work for everybody, right? Because remember, I came from India. I had one group of friends. I was in Chemistry and Chemical Biology. That’s also defined by my friends. Somebody else is coming from an engineering background, somebody coming from a sociology background, will have very different friend circles. But to answer your direct question, you talk to people as much as possible. How do you talk to people? There are three ways. Friends, family, and alumni. What are the first three places where you should be starting? If you are interested in anything, right, so let me take a step back. And, I can share my levels of the journey The first level, I think, is when you don’t know about all the options. That’s the time when you should be looking and you should be Google searching. You should be talking to your career advisor network. You should be talking to somebody within networks like the one I’m building, and finding out what all is there that you can do as a PhD.
But once you have kind of realized these two or three things that I can do, that’s when you go to friends, family, and alumni. You ask your friends, Hey, these are the three things that I want to do. Do you guys know anybody? Just let them find out. Remember, I came from India. My brother stays here. But he was also at that time a PhD student. He didn’t know many folks who would be able to help. Then I started looking at alumni. And I mean, LinkedIn doesn’t pay me to say this, but I will say that LinkedIn is an amazing resource to find mentors because mentors don’t start as mentors.
Mentors start off as connections that you continually engage and enrich with. Then you realize, wow, I can continually learn from some person. Many of my mentors don’t even know that they’re my mentors. They’re my peers. But I learned from them. I’m not gonna say who they are because then they will start kind of feeling weird about it but they’re my friends. I learned that this is how it’s shaped.
Once in a while, when I’m making a career decision, I’ll give them a call and say, Hey, I’m thinking about this. What do you think? Is this a good idea? Or is that a bad idea? There is an aspect of fear mentoring also. But going back to your original question, I know you’ve got into the alumni network. I know Cornell had one or another good database, that bad template. I think they have changed it now. And I don’t know. But at that time searching for that template was not the best. But LinkedIn has an amazing search when it comes to searching for people. LinkedIn has a really bad search algorithm when it comes to searching content. But searching for people is their strength. You look for a person in consulting, who is either part of your undergrad Institute, or Graduate Institute, or is in the same city as you, and LinkedIn will show like 350 folks. Now, you need to look at each of these 350 folks and realize where you have to do that and nobody else is going to do it for you. There’s no easy step when it comes to that because this is your career. You need to invest time in it.
That’s when you will start emailing them. Now one thing about emailing or connecting what we call cold calling folks where they don’t know you is to remember three things. This is what I do. And therefore this is what I tell folks that this is what I do. I don’t know if it will work for you. But this is what I do. And it kind of works for me. You need to have three sentences or three structures. Who are you? What are you doing? And why are you reaching out to that person? My name is Parag. And I’m a PhD in Chemistry and Chemical Biology. I’m interested in consulting. That’s what you’re interested in.
Second, I found out your name from the alumni network. And I would love to learn from you. You have to be polite and be very specific about what you want to do. I think, your experience is very much valuable, and so on. As you go up in your career. You should also add the word or the phrase, please let me know if I can help you with something. Because the very first step of networking is creating value for other people. These days, I would rather not gain or lose anything by connecting to people. I gain a lot because now those two people know each other. They have now created a network and I’m part of it. Adding value is important. That’s number one.
Secondly, this is just now I’m moving away from mentorship and going into networking. If you have an expertise, as Natalia does, you know, in psychometric analysis, or you know, understanding career progression, put it out there, get it checked, get it reviewed by other folks, get it reviewed by your friends or anybody who has commented it and put it out there on LinkedIn, put it out there. If you’re on Twitter and see who’s following you, there will be folks who will give you advice. You will suddenly meet strangers who now have become mentors.
And it has happened to me. Friends, family, and alumni are the first step. Move it back to LinkedIn. Create content so that you get more people into your content and then start chatting with them. That would be the best way to kind of look for mentors. And one thing I was going to say is that the Cold calling success rate is about 10%. If you’re sending 100 folks cold calling email, and even if that email is perfect, you will probably hear back from 10. And that’s not because, you know, they hate you or that’s not because, you know, the email was, if the email was bad, that number might go down to five or one or zero.
The value of that email is super important. But once you have a good email, don’t expect too much. If you have 24 people replying to you, then it’s amazing. I’m not gonna say what the number for me was, but I can tell you initially that number for me was five. Like I send out a pretty well-constructed networking email to hundreds of folks and I got maybe five replies. Then that started increasing because I realized, oh, I need to make this better. I don’t know if that answered your question. But that’s an excellent question. Thank you for asking.
Natalia 55:09 I can add something to that. I couldn’t agree more with anything you said. If I could add just one comment, then I think, it’s also good to keep in mind that every company is a little bit different. And every company culture is different. If you create these bonds with mentors, it’s good to remember that they take a look from their own perspective. If you have a really important decision to make, it’s always good to have this broad network of mentors. And think about that situation, who is the best five people or 10 people to approach with this question and never take the advice just from one person? Because I was doing this mistake a lot in my 20s, I think I was listening to advise. I might have a network of mentors but that was too small. Sometimes, I was following an advice of one person, and then it worked for me because of this reason that every environment is different. I think it’s good to mitigate that issue by always waiting for comments and opinions from multiple people that you have respect for as mentors.
Dr. Parag 56:29 I have a question for you. And Natalia, this thing that you just said, is amazing like having a bigger group of the network, and you realize why I’m asking the question very soon. Recently, somebody asked me, is sending a follow-up email a good idea after an interview? When you have finished an interview, should you send a follow-up email or not? If you don’t know their email address, you should ask them for it. Let me hear your answer to that first.
Natalia 57:04 Okay, let me tell you what I know about the differences between different cultures because then I have to tap into these differences between the North American ways of doing things in recruitment versus European ways. In North America, to my knowledge, this is a habit that you’re even kind of expected to send a follow-up email to politely thanked you for the interview and expressed that you’re still interested in the job. And this’s a common habit. In Europe, no one ever heard of this. In Europe, we don’t have that tendency to send emails. And if you send that email, like a follow-up email, then you will likely be the only one. I hope this is what you meant. I would dare to say that in European culture, this is not practiced. I think the fact that you will send us emails and it makes you stand out.
If I was applying for a job right now, and I was going through the interview, I would probably do it just to make that additional good impression. I would probably email the recruiter, and if they don’t have an email, I’ll have to think for a while about how to process this. But I think in all the jobs I was applying for, there was always an email exchange already before the interview. It would be a weird situation if I don’t have an email, at least from the recruiter. I would say, whatever email I have, I would send that email to that address. That’s my answer.
Dr. Parag 58:52 I was surprised because some people started saying, oh, you know, sending a thank you, a follow-up email makes you look desperate. And it doesn’t. The funny story was that when I was at IMS or IQVIA, the consulting firm that I worked for, I was doing career talks. I went to Cornell to give a talk about IQVIA and how PhDs can transition from PhD to consulting. And that first talk was only two PhDs. Then another separate day, I had a similar talk, but now two MBAs. And I’m speaking as a consultant, and I’m talking to a bunch of MBAs about how IMS is as a company?
This will be I mean, I don’t know if you’ll be surprised at it or not. Imagine the group size as being the same, the number of folks who reached out within 24 hours of me giving that talk was about 95% in the MBA Group and was about five to 10% in the PhD Group. If that’s a metric of understanding what folks do to kind of keep networking, then you should always be politely thanking people because they took their time and interviewed you. It doesn’t hurt.
But anyway, that’s an example of if you only speak to two people, and they both think, oh, it’s a sign of desperation, then it’s a problem. You need to be expanding the number of folks that you talk to another reason why having a group and asking a question in a LinkedIn group destroys a lot of these notions. Because, you know, there are 5000 people.
Natalia 1:01:14 It’s hard to disagree with you because everything makes perfect sense. He’s making this discussion hard because the way I do these webinars are usually I just try to reach a point where there’s some discussion point, so there is some difference in opinions And it’s really hard to disagree with you. You make it hard for me.
Dr. Parag 1:01:40 I’m gonna say that don’t send any emails and don’t apply to jobs at all.
Natalia 1:01:49 Since you mentioned MBAs, I was going to ask you another question. And I think you talked about it in the past and from what I remember, you also have that vision to help PhDs by also leading the group on LinkedIn to help build this culture of helping each other career-wise after graduation because this is certainly the case for MBAs. In leading universities, they have these alumni circles and in MBA space, these are going on for a lifetime and it’s very strong peer support. Could you also talk a little bit about this?
Dr. Parag 1:02:34 The strong word here is community. People have asked me, like, why didn’t you do an MBA? Initially, it was a silly reason because I thought, Oh, I’ve already done a PhD, I don’t need an MBA. That was an arrogant thought because you always learn from new education. But after spending two and a half years in consulting, other two and a half years in finance, and now, two years in corporate business, you start realizing that people value you. When they understand your expertise, they gauge your expertise.
If I was talking to somebody who finished their PhD in anthropology, I was talking to somebody a few weeks back, you know, I know that for the five or six or seven years that they have done their PhD. I know the concept of thought, the idea of how they’ve created a research proposal, then went to understand and test their hypotheses, come back with some form of data or observations, and then written about it in their thesis because I did the same.
That level of understanding is there. Now, I don’t know what anthropology is. I like observing people when I’m at airports. But it doesn’t mean that I know anthropology like it’s a different thing. But I understand the concept of research. I understand what that person might have gone through for five years, within MBAs or any other circuit. There is that concept of understanding that if this person has gone through this degree, they have gone through a similar set of experiences. Now the issue with PhDs is number one, and this was true for me too. I can say this. But anybody who takes offense at this, please talk to me separately, and I can tell you what I mean.
But PhDs are often arrogant. They’re arrogant about what they know best. Whereas five years of experience train you to understand one thing, which is that it took you five years to reach where you are. And every year, you learn something new. That means you can continue learning something new.
Many PhDs have this barrier. Can they help somebody? Or can I get help from somebody? And that is something I think, is at the crux of how do you change people’s psyche to make them realize that there are these 1000s of people who will understand what you tell them when you say, go and talk to a career counselor, something as simple or if you’re preparing for r&d jobs, these are the four questions that somebody will help you.
That kind of community doesn’t exist. What do exist are some communities that will say, if you are part of our community, we will refer you automatically to jobs. I don’t see the value in it. I don’t think you should be doing it. Just because you have paid membership for a community. You shouldn’t be just referring anybody talk to that person and builds a relationship. If that person needs to be referred, create one reference. But you know, going back to your original question, I think that the level of uniformity doesn’t exist across subjects. A Chemistry PhD thinks that they cannot relate to an English PhD, which I disagree. Now, there are very big differences between STEM and Non-STEM. There are very big differences between people who want to pursue academic careers versus non-academic careers.
But at the crux of it, everybody has gone through a period where they disagreed with their bosses, and they agreed everybody has come to a point where they were working with a junior researcher, and that person was slowing the research down, or a collaborator who was not working properly. These are all things that have happened to all of us. That person’s PhD is in sociology. And it’s not the same. I don’t think so. If you ask some of my friends who are in academia, or who are in non-stem subjects, they say that your experience is very different. Our work like History or English, or, you know, anthropology doesn’t often have quantitative inputs. You can’t relate. I’m not disagreeing with that. But I do think there are common threads where you can match up.
Natalia 1:08:28 I believe this is quite an interesting phenomenon. What I believe is that scientists or researchers are naturally empathic and many of us go to PhDs in the first place because we want to make projects useful for society. And this is a large part of the motivation. It’s a really complex problem about how to then let this empathy express. If you’re born empathic, it’s still you need to help other people. It’s also a craft. You also have to work on your ability to do that. It’s all on some mental level. This is not forgiven and you will not be useful to other people. Because you were born empathic, you have to actively work on this.
Dr. Parag 1:09:28 I think that people make the mistake of two things when people are helping other people. They either make the mistake that this has worked, as you said earlier, if this worked for me, it should work for you. It’s not always the case. You should just say, hey, this worked for me. You can also try. Then the second thing is that most people don’t understand the questions. I have often heard people saying, Hey, I went and spoke to that person and that person didn’t understand what I told him or her. Maybe the issue is not that person. Maybe the issue is that you didn’t simplify what you were saying enough. It happens to me all the time. And I, therefore, try to simplify as much as I can. Sometimes, I cannot. And that’s my problem of not being able to simplify something.
But telling somebody or giving somebody a piece of advice, or just kind of asking folks, hey, do you need help for your career? Or how can I help you? It’s a question that you should be asking. And one other thing I will say to anybody who’s listening to this is to just find five people that you have never met before in your lab, or like in your surrounding. Just go and ask them what they’re doing with their careers. If you can help them, just try it and see how can you help? Even if it is on LinkedIn, just post, hey, here are the things I can do. How can I help?
Natalia 1:11:25 It’s fantastic advice. I have a question that just came to my mind once you were speaking about the group and about, you know, PhDs helping others PhDs. My question is, as a category, how important part of your mentality is when you think about yourself like what comes first? And where is the PhD in the equation?
Dr. Parag 1:12:07 This’s a philosophical question. Don’t get me wrong. We have been talking for about an hour or so. Does this mean that my definition or who I am is determined by PhD. No, my experience as a person is very much shaped by where I grew up. And then I grew up in Calcutta, which is my hometown. And then I went to Delhi, in India, which is a very different place for those who know. Then I spent five years there. And then after that, I went to Ithaca, in New York, when I am not even kidding, and some of you will call me stupid. But I saw on the Cornell brochure, Ithaca, New York. And I was like, Oh, this is New York. Ithaca is five hours away from New York City. When the bus was kept going for more than two hours, I was like, Oh, my God, this is not the city. This is a small town in the middle of nowhere, that shaped me. I came from two very big cities in India, Calcutta, and Delhi. That’s I was coming from big towns.
And I went and spent five years in the middle of a beautiful town for four months of the year. But the rest of it is pretty much snow. But I loved it. And it was my first experience of realizing that researchers both externally and internally, like undergrad and masters, you study, especially in India, you just study, you don’t do much research. I did research internships, but that was just to kind of get to know people get to know institutes never really did research. Then you’re here for PhD. Your job is research.
But suddenly you realize that research isn’t going to a lab and spending time in research is thinking. And what it taught me was to think about not just my work, but think about myself, and think about people, how do I analyze information to come to a hypothesis and test the hypotheses, and then come to a conclusion, that processes other people gain through other ways. I’m not going to say that a PhD was necessary to come to that process.
But for me, those five years sharpen that skill, that here’s data, here are the potential observations and interpretations. Here are my hypotheses. And here is how I can take away from my time in consulting. I learned how to break a problem down. In finance, I realized how to translate qualitative information into a probability of success because you can learn as much as you can but finance works with the probability of success. How can you translate it? There are things that I’ve learned differently? I’m not going to say that, who I am, is only defined by me as a PhD candidate or a PhD student. That was what taught me rational thinking.
And, you know, analytical thinking that we always use on resumes like I’m an analytical thinker. Before 2008, Parag was a good enough thinker, after 2013, is when Parag could claim that he was an analytical thinker. Now, I apologize if there are folks that are watching who have not done a PhD? This doesn’t mean that you need a PhD to be an analytical thinker. It does not mean that. But for me, that’s what it was. I don’t know if that answers your question at all.
Natalia 1:16:38 I’m very happy with this answer. It’s a very hard question. But I have a special set for you. I thought like normal questions will not work here because you’re a first-class specialist here and a very involved person, so I have to try with harder questions than usual. I know that we are already over time but I would like to ask you something. If you don’t mind, I still have a question for you. I would also like to encourage the audience, we still have a chance to ask your questions.
My question, for now, would be, since I myself have a company, I always look at these little signs of entrepreneurial spirit in other people. I feel there are a lot of uncovered talents among PhDs and people who would be successful company owners. Since you were talking a little bit about your plans for the future, then you mentioned that you’re thinking about getting to a more senior level in your current professional career, but at the same time, working more on your group, but you didn’t mention about your experience with startup culture.
What I know is you also had some fears with the startup culture. My question would be, aren’t you thinking also of starting your business at some point? And the reason I’m asking this is I feel that you come across as very authentic. And I work a little bit on how in different working environments, the so-called star quality differs. Depending on where you go on the job market, different qualities are valued and you decide about eventual success. And I think that, especially in the startup culture, and in entrepreneurship, that feature of being authentic is crucial. I have a friend in blockchains who always tells me, you know, you’re so authentic, and I’m like, what does that mean?
You know, I don’t even know what the definition is, and he’s like, you’re so authentic. And I feel that this is true. Although it’s hard to define. This is, indeed something that always comes across when entrepreneurs speak, especially those that got somewhere. I have that feeling when I speak to you. My question would be, have you ever thought about one day starting your own business as well?
Dr. Parag 1:19:25 The short answer is yes. I see Natalia, you’re now asking the tough questions. The long answer to why it hasn’t happened is a mixture of things that I believe are my shortcomings. I believe that there are things that I don’t do well which is why I haven’t started something. One of the main reasons is that I’m right now in the US and I still don’t have my green card. Immigration is a big issue when it comes to starting up something. But other than that, one of the things that I tell myself is that I have to shed about 80%. But I still have about 20% of this academic mentality of perfecting something till it is ready to launch. When you ask about startup culture, you have mentioned my bio, you read that I am a mentor for lab in NYC.
And I love doing it. Because I can provide the gaps of knowledge that entrepreneurial folks can take and then do it themselves. By myself, there are ideas that I’m working with, and working in the LinkedIn group where I’m always thinking that I want to take it to a certain level and then I will go into startup culture. I don’t know if that perfectly answers. But other than laziness, there’s also a bit of laziness in it. I know that entrepreneurs cannot be lazy. I’m not saying that I am lazy. But I’m not.
Natalia 1:21:38 Indian people who cannot be lazy in the first.
Dr. Parag 1:21:42 I don’t know about that. I think you should talk to my wife about me being lazy. I think that’s a better way to answer that. I think the other part of it is that I’m very curious and focused on leadership and followership. And building a company is all about people. It’s less about the product. Don’t get me wrong. It is about how you are building the product or service. But it’s about the people as well. I want to work with folks that feel passionate about something as much as I do. When I start a startup, I have ideas, I have not taken them into place because I haven’t met the right people yet. I would kind of say that it’s a bad answer.
Natalia 1:22:52 I think it’s a very good answer. Because one of the main reasons for startups failing is conflicts or disagreements between the founders. Sometimes, these disagreements come out after years of working together. It’s the same as it’s like finding a company with someone like marriage. It consumes your life to a similar extent, so you have to be sure. That’s also one of the reasons why I started my company as a sole proprietorship, and I’m only planning to extend the company to start our regular, limited company after I meet the right people. I see your concerns. I think it’s very wise of you that you’re waiting for the right people. And I’m on the same page here.
Dr. Parag 1:23:45 The philosophy there is that how will you find new people if you don’t pitch your idea. It’s like talking to a bunch of folks. I wouldn’t know about your company. I wouldn’t be able to provide value to your company unless I met you. That’s where you’re kind of opening up the network and talking to as many people as possible. But yes, I’m going back to your original question, am I interested in a startup? Absolutely. Other ideas that I’m interested in? But I think it’s got to be with folks that I feel strongly with. It has to be a different level where and the reason why I say that is because a startup requires a lot of what is called intrinsic motivation. If you don’t have intrinsic motivation, you don’t spend late nights. I’m not saying that you have to spend late nights but there are certain times when you need to work beyond hours just because you’re passionate about it.
If you’re the only one who’s working in a group of three, then you feel kind of like I have the same day working with my dream. But they don’t. They don’t think the same way. I don’t want to feel like that with friends or people. It’s tough. And I think that there’s no right way to find the right people. But we’ll come back it.
Natalia 1:25:23 You know, you succeeded with your marriage. Let’s be hopeful that you will succeed again. I want to see that happening. I will be tracking what you’re doing next. I have one more last question from my side. I’m still waiting for the audience. Guys, you can still ask your questions. I have one last question. I told you that the set is special. I won’t ask you anything that I usually ask people the regrets and things like that because I think the questions are too easy for you.
Let me ask you this one. I’m thinking a lot these days about this magic age of 30. When they crossed 30, they want to find a safe place. I see that happening a lot. They want to know what you know, their place in the world is the value and at some point, they start new initiatives and no longer go out of their comfort zone.
And of course, not everyone, but many people who did PhDs when they reach a certain age, stop challenging themselves by going out of their comfort zone. It’s obviously what you do because you just became a leader of like a big LinkedIn group that is still you know, like, 5000 members and counting, and you have big plans for it. I liked the fact that you keep on challenging yourself. My question would be, how to stay forever young and how to keep on challenging yourself? How not to get old after you hit 30?
Dr. Parag 1:27:14 This is a tough one. I don’t even know if that’s what it’s called. I’ll try to answer this because I don’t even know if I am the right person you’re asking this. But thank you for thinking like that. I think the question is when I go to career panels, and people are asking me about like, you know, how did you get a job? One of the things that I often tell folks is that I didn’t get a job. I changed my career three times. I moved from science to consulting and then from finance to Pharma. These are almost 90 degrees. But these are terms and I did it because I came to a point where I need to do something new.
I don’t think that is because of attention deficit. I think it’s more about and it’s a negative quality. I’ve been told by different people in different parts of my life. After I’ve done something, I realized that this is now done it’s like I love mystery movies. You watch them once and you’re done. You know the story. You don’t want to read it again. It’s kind of that certain careers tracks. If you have done it once, then you know the mystery.
You have learned it. You know the answer. You can read it over and you. You can find new answers and you can understand. That’s awesome. When you work with different people, different personalities are different things. That kind of changes when I have a new person. But I think that’s what it is where you know what, let me take a step back and let me answer this in a much more structured constructive way.
I think there are three reasons why I do this right. I’ve now realized and I’m not being arrogant about it. I am happy about it. But I’m super curious about things. This was to a point where I put my finger inside a plug point and got caught electric shock because I was told by my parents that I did that very early on, maybe that’s the reason why my brain has completely changed. I don’t know. But curiosity is something that I hate.
When people say that they are no longer curious, then there’s nothing more that I need to know in life. Have you spoken to anybody outside of your field? If you can know everything about one thing, that doesn’t mean that there are no other things to know. And I’m like that it just like, I don’t know the size of anthropology and things like that. That’s a very curious thing for me. It never comes to me that I’m done.
That doesn’t happen which is bad. The second thing is that I will take the joke that you said about Indian people being lazy. Trust me enough, Indians are lazy, including myself. Trust me on this. My friends will confirm that. There is a context of immigrant mentality like there’s the context of me coming from a different country in a different place. I have so many things that I can do. Can I also do this now?
Because remember, back in India, when I did a bachelor’s, I could pick six courses. It means that I had to take those six. I didn’t get a chance to choose the courses for my bachelor’s. This is something that folks here in the US will never understand. Because it’s very rigid. But over here, when I come here, I’m like, Oh, I can do consulting. How can I do consulting? Let me try.
And I have been grateful to my mentors. I’m grateful that I put in the hard work to do it. I’m not saying that it’s easy. It’s tough to make those transitions. But you can do those transitions. The third part is that I’m scared that if I typecast, so curiosity is a good thing. Opportunity is a good thing.
But the last part of it is that I’m scared that if I just do one thing, then if I do it badly, people will be like, Oh my God, he’s bad at what he does. This is my way of avoiding that. It’s like, oh, I did this. I also did that. Then I did that. The negative part of it is some people think that you haven’t gotten enough depth. I disagree. I think the amount of depth you can reach is how much information you can retain.
Natalia 1:33:55 One comment here, I think you’re a typical generalist, and you cannot blame a generalist for being one. Some people have like natural preference to go deep into one subject in life and become a world-class specialist in a very narrow discipline. And some people prefer to just try to understand the world and go towards the breath, as you initially explained and I think it’s great and life is not easy for generalists because of the way the job market is structured. It’s not easy to start a career as a generalist, but I think it’s great to be one eventually. I think you’re a clear example here.
Dr. Parag 1:34:40 What’s one of the books that was who’s one of the CEO, and one of the better leaders I’ve seen in recent times, he recently suggested a book called Range by author David Epstein. And basically, the book talks about how generalists can survive. That’s what I’m reading now. I haven’t read enough of it to comment on it. But thank you for asking the question. It makes me feel good that I’m doing something good.
Natalia 1:35:21 Okay. I think also something that often comes to my mind is that some people just turn out to be good at something very early on in their careers, often in high school. The teachers spot their talent. Then people put on one track and then they keep on learning about that one particular thing. But, like the whole job market, and the whole scope of all the possibilities and all the things you might be doing with your life is like a multi-dimensional landscape that is very complex.
If you also decide, then what is your career path? And what is that one thing you want to be good at? You might also end up in some local minimum of this complex field of potential. I think, exploring for longer also results in a better outcome because you might end up in your global minimum or maximum. It depends on how you see it but sometimes growth is slow and exploring is good eventually.
Dr. Parag 1:36:29 It’s like this is your curve. And you are on the upper side, and all you can see is that little hump. Where are you in that curve? And I feel like if I’m on top of it, then that means there’s a dip coming out, like, I don’t know how to explain it but you’re right.
Natalia 1:37:02 Okay, great. I don’t see any more questions from the audience and we already spent almost two hours talking which was great. I think it’s time to wrap up. I would like to cordially thank Parag for joining us and for all your detailed responses to all the questions. It was wonderful to have you here. Thank you so much, again, for accepting the invitation. I’m sure this material will be very useful for anyone who watches and I can give you one last chance to say goodbye to the audience.
Dr. Parag 1:37:38 Thank you. I think what you’re doing is awesome. You didn’t talk about your focus here, but I think it’s beneficial. If people haven’t checked her out, definitely check her website. If folks have any questions, let me know. Reach out to Natalia. Reach out to me. I’m always happy to help you. Thanks a lot, Natalia. This was awesome.