Oct 14, 2020 | E024 How to Launch a Career in Freelance Translation Services in Biomedical Industry as a Phd?

Dr. David Mendes completed his PhD in Cell Biology at the University of Coimbra (based on his research at McGill University). Since then, he has spent 9 years building his career in the medical communication and language services industry.

After his PhD, he worked for 4 years as a Medical Writer in a medical communication agency, creating content for pharmaceutical sales training materials covering a wide range of therapeutic areas. David has since started his own business offering translation, revision, and connected services in the biomedical domain. Now a father of two, he is interested in exploring the different ways people have juggled professional and personal life after completing their PhD. To the wide audience, he is known as Papa PhD, the host of the Papa PhD Podcast.

David’s LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/davidmendesdasilva/

Papa PhD Podcast: https://papaphd.com/🔥

Papa PhD Podcast’s Twitter profile: https://twitter.com/PapaPhDPodcast/

The episode was recorded on October 10th, 2020. This material represents the speaker’s personal views and not the views of their current or former employer(s).

Natalia 00:10 Hello, everyone. Welcome to yet another episode of the career talks by Welcome Solutions. In these meetings, we chat with PhDs and other professionals who build interesting careers and who can tell us how they navigate the job market. Today, I have the great pleasure to introduce David Mendez. He has completed his PhD in cell biology at the University of Coimbra based on his research at McGill University. He has spent the past nine years building this career in the medical communication and language services industry. After his PhD, he worked for four years as a medical writer in medical communication agency creating content for pharmaceutical sales and training materials covering a wide range of therapeutical areas.

He has started his own business. He’s offering translation, revision, and connected services in the biomedical domain. Now, he’s a father of two. He’s interested in exploring different ways people have juggled professional and personal life after completing their PhD. He’s known as Papa PhD, the host of the Papa PhD podcast. Thank you so much, David, for accepting our invitation. I’m very grateful that I could talk to you today. And I would now like to give the floor to you so that you can tell your story from your perspective.

David 01:34 Thanks a lot for having me, Natalia. It’s a pleasure to be on the channel talking about something very dear to me which is what careers we can have with a PhD, after a PhD, and sometimes during a PhD. This is the latest chapter in the story that I have. I’m now producing and hosting the Papa PhD podcast and it’s a podcast where I share the narratives of guests who have these types of different career paths that they carved after their graduate degree. But what’s the origin story? When I was very young, I was always very curious about nature, about how things worked. I like to tinker and build buildings. I always had that curious side.

Eventually, in high school, I was in Lisbon, Portugal and there were two choices for me of things that I liked that I was good at and that I enjoyed. On one side, it was languages. I like German and English too. But on the other side, it was sciences and mostly biology, chemistry. What happened after high school was that I had a decision to make, do I go to languages? Or do I go science? My parents pushed me a little bit towards sciences. And that’s how I went and got my degree in microbiology and genetics from the University of Lisbon in Portugal. I really liked especially the genetics aspect. I liked going to university. And at the end of university, I was not sure exactly that I wanted to go on to do a master’s. And some opportunities arose and I ended up spending a couple of years doing other things.

The first year, I worked for the Portuguese, the equivalent of the FDA, more or less kind of in Portugal. It’s the governmental entity that regulates drugs and things like that. At that time, they started a program to divulge and promote generic drugs. It was fairly new in 2000. In Portugal, there was some resistance on the side of the health professional in the medical community. What they did was they created a team of 15 20 recent graduates from a university with a bachelor’s degrees in different domains to go and deliver a presentation throughout the country in the different public clinics. I don’t know exactly the term in English. I did a year of that which was great. I myself by nature an introvert and this was the first time I was forced to kind of put myself out there in front of an audience to discuss with them and deal with objections.

It was a very informative year for me. And at the end of that year, one of the people who was managing the project was a professor in a university, a private university in Lisbon, and that project was closed because there was a change of government. But this person said, Look, we need the teachers for lab classes in biochemistry and cell biology. Would you be interested in doing that? And I’ve always been interested in explaining things about science. That was my second year of having a job. What happened at that point was I did enjoy a lot of the interaction with the students, the whole dynamic of giving lab class, etc.

But I saw the professors, and they all had PhDs. It was at that time that I said I’d like to teach at another level, I think it’s the time to go back and try and get into a Ph. D. program. I’m going a little bit fast. It’s more or less of how it happened. I applied for a couple of great programs in Portugal. And I was accepted into the beb program at the University of Coimbra. That was the beginning of my PhD adventure. This type of program gave us one year of seminars and then told us, where we want to go for the research part of our project and it could be in Portugal or abroad. This is how I ended up here in Montreal. I did my research at the Montreal Neurological Institute, in the country lab. By the end of my PhD, I understood my first motivation to become a professor. And I might have to go for one postdoc, two postdocs, etc.

I think everyone kind of knows the story. And I wasn’t ready to do that. By the end of my PhD, I started looking at what people who were leaving the institutes were doing. This is how I heard about medical writing. I heard about an agency here in Montreal. They were actively hiring people from McGill. And with a little bit of networking, I got my CV presented to HR. I was called for the first interview and then the second interview. This is how my career started in science communication and medical writing domain. I don’t know if you have any questions yet.

Natalia 09:24 I may see the first question that I had when you were talking about your story so far. Didn’t your parents tell you to study sciences?

David 09:34 My mom specifically asked me to do so.

Natalia 09:37 she’s to blame. My question is also when your own kids ask you the same question, then what would you say?

David 09:45 That’s a good question. They’re pretty young now. First, my answer to you is as we are talking today, I want to tell them to follow where their passion is. If they were asking me when they were at the same place that I was, I would probably refrain from trying to influence them. That’s my answer. For now, let’s see how it is when they get to be 16, 17, and 18.

Natalia 10:24 I can tell you that when I was in high school, I had this problem that I was good in every discipline but I was not the best. I was not in the finals of these Olympiads for high school students. I felt that I’m good at everything. But I’m not exceptionally good at anything. And I wanted my parents to tell me something about where to go. But they were exactly following that strategy that you were just mentioning, so they didn’t want to advise me anything. And sometimes, I wish they would say something. Because I was a bit stubborn as a kid and I would probably do exactly the opposite of what they said. But they didn’t say anything. That was a curse for me to some extent.

David 11:12 Being a parent is a challenge. It’s interesting that, in your case, you kind of wish that they had given you a little bit more information.

Natalia 11:23 I have one more question about this medical writing. I feel that since we have this whole Corona crisis, the professions allow you to become independent of the location, for instance, to work remotely. And medical communications and medical writing is one of these areas. They become increasingly interesting and attractive to PhDs. I can see increased interest in this area. My question will be what do you believe are the best ways of entry into this field? I can see that there’s a great interest also from those who contact me for the company and the foundation. I would like to give them some good advice about the easiest way to get into this industry right now.

David 12:22 I remember seeing new colleagues arriving and the whole interview process went very successfully. And one pattern that I found was that, if you start right away during a PhD, either having a blog, where you write regularly, or contributing to a magazine, or be being on an editorial board, anything that’s related to writing or editing that you can then show on an interview. I’ve seen it. I’ve seen people who were on Reddit as Redditors. Someone else had a blog that they had been doing for a while. And because these people are these companies, they want people who write well, they want people depending again who they are, who their final clients are, the people who can kind of simplify science into more later terms if you can show things that are available online, and where they can see that, okay, this person has been writing already for a while.

They can assess the quality of what you write. I think that will be one of the first and main pieces of advice that I would give. First, find a way to start kind of creating a small portfolio right away. That’s going to be a great argument that can differentiate you from other candidates.

Natalia 14:05 Could I ask you how your business started in this area? And would you also advise PhDs to first go get hired in these agencies hiring medical writers? Or would you encourage them to try freelancing and starting their own business?

David 14:26 It depends. If you have been doing all these other things during your PhD and you have a lot of things to show a lot of experience already. You may just try and go get clients on your own immediately. In my case, I liked being hired into an agency, especially because at this agency, the training was great. They taught us a lot. If they got into it because they know how we write any academic papers, you know, thesis writing, etc. At this particular agency, they were already very drilled at bringing the person in and teaching them what style they needed to get into.

You should feel that there’s a learning curve that you need to go through to feel comfortable offering your services and then go get a job in a team where you can learn. But again, if you are already a writer, and you contribute to this publication, I think it’s a step that you don’t need.

Natalia 15:56 I’m very curious about how your professional life looks at the moment. Since you have your own business, are you working on your own projects all by yourself? Or do they also have some joint projects with other writers? And how does this look like? How do you look for clients? I would like to know, what does the week of Papa PhD look like?

David 16:20 It’s a very good question. When I was working as a medical writer, I got this opportunity to go freelance and to go back to the kind of first love that I mentioned, which was languages. And someone that I knew at a company told me, Well, they need a translator for there’s a lot of work. If you want, you’ll be freelance but it’s gonna be a full-time job. And that’s when I leaped. What happened is that this client needed me to have some sort of structure and I registered a company name and I got the tax numbers to be able to do business with this company. The company is me and my clients. What a week looks like, well, there are emails from clients that pop up during the week with different projects, be the translation or transcription.

One of my clients is constantly sending me transcription of videos. It’s in French, again, in the biomedical domain. I also do a lot of work with the World Foundation for hemophilia. For them, it’s slightly different because they have translators but they need me to manage translation projects. I do some translation project management for them. In my case, my wife has the nine to five job and everything has changed with COVID. Now, her office is here. But, in my daily life, I go take the kids to school, I come back, check my emails, and start working on different projects that I might have for clients. And then I have deadlines. I have timelines of things to have deliverables to prepare, etc. And then today, because of the podcasts, I always tried to fit in a little bit of time to take care of that, be it social media.

Once you start on one of these platforms, if you want to be seen, if you want to be found, there’s a lot of work to do daily apart from some deadlines and deliverables. There are also interviews for the podcast and I try to have a couple of interviews per week on specific days. And then, you know, beginning of the afternoon, around 3:30, the workday ends because I need to go pick up the kids. If there’s some big rush, you work after they’re asleep. That’s in a nutshell.

Natalia 19:48 It looks like a really busy life because you have to play so many roles at the same time. Is there anything like about proper PhD that no one knows about, you know, something beyond all these roles, work, kids? Is there anything else? Is there anything secret that you do behind closed doors that nobody watches?

David 20:12 I don’t publicize it because of my kids. I started doing karate. I always liked martial arts. And for a lot of years, I had stopped. And now because of my kids as we put them in a karate class. I picked that up. I would say that martial art is something that is kind of a love of mine, that I don’t talk a lot about. I also like music. I’ve learned to play the clarinet a little bit as an adult. It’s been years since I’ve picked it up. There are two things, martial arts, and the clarinet.

Natalia 20:58 Okay, let’s proceed to the question that you expect. How did the Papa PhD project start? And what was the philosophy behind it? What is the big mission behind it? And what is the plan? I would like to know everything.

David 21:17 It’s expected but that’s why I’m here. And I think your mission statement must be similar to mine. But I defended in 2010. And ever since I defended, I’ve been invited to take part in a handful of career panels, some conferences about careers for PhDs. I’ve always wanted to give back to the community to help and answer questions and doubts that people going to their PhD today are dealing with. One of the things that I felt throughout these years of taking part in these events was that some of these anxieties that come after the uncertainty, kind of also the realization that not everyone gets to be a tenure track professor.

Last summer, I had time because I had a big project with Portugal that ended, and then my freelancing didn’t pick up right away. I had some extra time for projects. I saw that there was an ad somewhere, probably on Facebook saying, why you should start a podcast in 2019. And I dabbled with audio for a while. I published an audiobook in Portuguese on Audible a few years ago. Once I saw this ad, it rang a bell. That was the moment when I said, you know, instead of just going to events and talking to small clusters of students here and there, why not start a platform where I, every week, can share stories that will help and inspire students and graduate researchers and young researchers out there.

That’s how it started. The mission is to try and help them not fall into pitfalls that I may have fallen into while I was in the PhD, and inspire them and give them ideas on how to navigate this transition from the research life and into the Graduate Research real-life to the professional life to navigate it more successfully and more peacefully. It was a whole experience. I just started going through my network and reaching out to people who had been my colleagues when I was in the PhD and having them behind the mic, sharing the story, and asking them some questions. That’s how it started.

Natalia 24:30 That’s very interesting. In my case, it was a little bit different. I may add something to the story from my side. In my case, the fact that I’m recording those conversations is a bit of a side effect of the corona crisis. I used to talk to people and I think I can listen and that’s also how I wrote my book. I talked to a lot of people. And then I noticed a lot of patterns. Then I put these patterns together. I made a story out of it and I put it in the book. Last year when the corona crisis broke out, I started the company, and, the business model was based on courses and in-person courses in Amsterdam. I started developing these courses last year and since January, I was doing them. But then the crisis started, and this whole project got frozen.

At the same time, it got online and there is a big competition in terms of online courses. It was hard all of a sudden to conquer that market. It’s like, well, what can I do to not lose this time. Before the crisis ends, I keep on developing what I’m doing. At the same time, I create some good content and I just continue developing what I did before. It came to my mind that, Hey, you talk to a lot of people, and most of them are very interesting people with interesting careers behind, actually all of them, why don’t you just record what you’re doing and put it online because maybe it’s of interest to more people. At the same time, you raise awareness of what you’re doing and other things you’re doing. It was very practical. It was just bringing online what I was already doing.

Now, when I look back, probably if you told me a year ago that I would put myself on YouTube, I was just laughing hard. Because it’s exactly the first thing on the list of things I don’t want for my life. I was always very private. I never really wanted to show my face to any large audience. At the same time, I enjoyed writing. I always dreamt about writing books. And I never thought about this that if you write books, no one will know about them unless you show your face here and there. I came to this realization once I already put my first book out. And then I just told my friends through social media. That was the end of my promotion. And then, of course, after a week, sales dropped to zero because no one else knew about the book.

So I was like, oh, that’s misfortunate. But it means that as an author, I have to become a little bit more recognized. Otherwise, I will not be able to do this for a living ever. That was a painful realization because I didn’t want to trade on my privacy but at some point, I was like, Okay, you either go this way and take this with the inventory and agree to compromise on your privacy, or you have to resign and just get yourself a job that you want or enjoy 100% doing what you dreamt about but your privacy is, is protected. I had to make this choice. I really want to write books. I was like, Okay, this is what you have to do. It was very different.

David 28:24 I imagine promoting a book traditionally takes a lot of in-person events. I have this idea of authors coming with books to different venues to promote them and today, we can’t.

Natalia 28:43 I think it’s also very different if you are self-published compared to being published by an influential publisher because I was fully self-published and I didn’t have any budget for promotion. I had to think about okay, how can I make it grow organically, and how I can start because I feel that, especially if you don’t have any budget for promotion, then books just spread on the market by diffusion. Some non-critical mass of people has to notice it and read it so that the good news spreads and they recommend it to other people but you have to get this initial boost and be able to transmit your message to this critical amount of people to start this cascade. That’s what I didn’t have. And I felt okay, it’s either that I just let it be and just find myself something else to do in my life or I just find a way to induce this process.

David 29:55 And now we are here on YouTube.

Natalia 29:58 Let me ask you a little bit about your vision at the job market for PhDs nowadays, the things you learned also from doing your webinars, and your overall outlook on the other problems. My first question will be, what in your mind is currently the biggest problem with the job market for PhDs?

David 30:32 One big issue is that I’ve heard a large percentage, sometimes 50% of PhDs, depending on the country don’t end up having a tenure track professor career. They do end up having careers in university, you know, academic careers in different aspects of the university. With the current situation with COVID, the universities are being closed. In the Netherlands, hiring now is very affected by this situation. The universities that have large employers with PhDs in different capacities are now in this crazy stressful situation of now bringing courses off-campus, online, etc. That would be the first one. Then the thing is, the PhDs are affected to the same extent as other people are.

If companies are now asking people to stay at work at home, some in some areas are not hiring anymore or laying off people, this will affect the PhDs who work in these domains, then there’s kind of another side of it, which are companies in r&d. It’s probably now a moment from what I hear, where there’s opportunity out there to be hired if any work that has to do with treating COVID, be it, you know, the biotechs that are working on vaccines, and those specific domains, I think the problem is worse. There is an opportunity now to get hired. But this is a disclaimer and not the majority of PhDs that are out there. That’s kind of the feeling I get. COVID is putting a lot of pressure on the system. The other thing that I’ve heard is that although there’s this pressure, companies now do need people who can creatively address issues and find creative solutions, new solutions to problems that are also very new.

And I think that this again goes on to the side where this represents more opportunity for PhDs to find jobs or to carve themselves a career path or to define a new position in a company to solve this new problem that the company had to deal with before and that this candidate will now be able to take care of. I don’t know if this answers your question the way you expected, but I think it kind of resumes the conversations that I’ve had lately.

Natalia 34:19 I think that there is no such thing as perfect or the right answer to the question because there are so many different problems at the same time. I was just curious, what is your point of view? What do you think is the biggest problem? And I agree with everything you said. I also think that independently of the crisis, the fact is that there is such an avalanche of PhD graduates in recent years. This is also a big problem because there is a rapid increase in the number of PhD graduates in a short time in the recent few years and that’s also maybe why we see an increasing amount of initiatives on behalf of PhDs. These both are the universities but also private, like bottom-up initiatives such as ours, that kind of started popping up in the last two, three years in large amounts.

Because it’s such an exponential growth almost. If you’re a PhD who has a degree in STEM sciences and you’re searching for a research job in the industry, then there’s an institute in the Netherlands that is investigating, what are the statistics? What are the career trajectories of PhDs in the industry? They released a very interesting report based on the 1600s of participants in the survey. It turned out that most of the PhDs in the industry still do research. They just do other types of research. And the research is the commercial research of some kind. There is a strong research component but at the same time, the executives don’t trust our management skills, so they don’t like to see PhDs as managers. Of course, it happens. But it’s a very rare phenomenon to see straight after graduate school being hired as an officer and have any type of management opposition.

If you want to continue in the same direction, I think there are options. But if you kind of figure out during a PhD that your soft skills and your management and logistics skills are your strongest side, your core competency, then it’s much harder to make that smooth transition because of the stereotypes and reluctance to give someone this credit to manage other people. I think this is also a problem that we are very well just categorized, classified, and boxed into someone’s box. And how to get out of this box once you once you’re in the industry? That’s my question.

David 37:22 It’s true. It’s unfair to put everyone in the same box because PhDs can be so different, right? A PhD in social sciences and humanities literature versus a PhD in any of the STEM domains can be so different. And it’s unfair in a way to be lumped together. I just interviewed Chris Humphrey. He has a website called jobs on toast. And he has a PhD in medieval literature. But his big break now has brought him to be working in banking was actually kind of the opposite of what you’re saying. It was an employer where he was working who saw in the way he dealt with problems. He saw in him the potential to manage this team of people working on this specific problem in this specific project. But again, this is a case when you’re talking about a kind of preconceptions that are kind of deep-seated in the employers at large.

I understand what you’re saying. And I agree that it’s an issue and I feel that width. Again, as you said, the number of PhDs that are coming out every year will have to subside and employers will know better and better about what people coming out of PhDs represent for their team, for their organization. They will know better and better because there are more and more of them out there. Unfortunately, this image that you were giving and these preconceptions about PhDs are still very much alive today.

Natalia 39:39 Now, I had some stories when I was looking for jobs some time ago. It’s been a while now but I still remember I had a really hard time. I saw the way I wanted to be seen just because of this miss judgment. Okay, I was just curious how your point of view might be similar or different. I agree with everything you’re saying. Okay, so let me ask you a little bit more about your podcast. You could also review some behind-the-scenes notes. I would like to hear about what you learned about the do’s and don’ts of doing podcasts so that I learned something for myself as well.

Maybe, there were some bloopers. Maybe, you met someone who was quite eccentric. What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think about the whole year in your podcast?

David 40:47 When you just started, it’s the first time you’re interviewing people behind the microphone. The first thing that I remember, and it wasn’t anything super serious but it’s having the feeling that let’s put it another way if you’re someone in, we’re talking about a person and in-person interview, when the person in front of you, you ask a question, and then they close their eyes, and they start answering, and they’re not looking at you anymore. This has happened. It led to me having because then I had no visual cue to tell the person that I wanted to interject and ask a question. It was still a very good episode. And it was the episode where I had to kind of go through some large chunks of the person’s story, cut, and then come in as a narrator. And now in season two, I’m doing that purposely because I think it’s an interesting way to reach the listener.

But the first time it happened to me, like, someone just starting to talk and not stopping and me having no way to tell the person that I kind of wanted to ask questions. There was one moment I won’t forget and it was a bit stressful. Then there’s the classic. Because I mentioned that the podcast is clean. But it has happened to me in one interview that there was some cursing that happened and then I had to go and kind of edit it out. But when guests sometimes curse because that’s how they express themselves and they do ask at the beginning of the interview, then that is fixed.

Now bloopers or things like that have happened to me. You know, to be like maybe two, three minutes into an interview and then looking at my recorder and see him saying that I didn’t hit record. I think that’s a classic with podcasters. You have to hit record before you start. I think one of the things I have gained with time is more confidence to kind of cut into something that the guest is saying if I feel that maybe there’s been too much time dedicated to certain questions or that I want to kind of steer towards something else. This is something I’ve gained now a year after. And I do still feel that I’m kind of a newbie interviewer. But I’m improving.

Natalia 43:47 Do you usually have like a list of questions prepared for the guests? Or is it that questions come to your mind during the conversation?

David 43:57 That’s a very good question. And it’s a behind-the-scenes thing. I send every guest list of questions. It’s the same list of questions I’ve sent since day one of the podcast. But the difference is today, I tell them these questions kind of show them what interests me and what I want to share with listeners. But I’m very clear with them today that I won’t be asking those questions and depending on where the conversation goes, I might jump some questions. But what I do is that at the beginning of the interview, I do ask them about the list of questions that I sent you is there like one or two that you feel that we do want to talk about specifically, and then I do go back there. But today, we start a conversation, the person tells their story and from their story, I start picking up interesting elements and it’s kind of bringing the listener specific and very personalized answers from the guests.

Natalia 45:11 What I do at the moment is that I sent some orientational list of questions that just saw the general direction. But I’m rarely asked these questions. It’s just also a Plan B, the questions in case the conversation is not going anywhere but that would never happen. But I think every interviewer has their style. The way I see this is that the interviewer is a bit like a photographer. You want to capture the individuality of this other person, but you also want to show them in a good light. I also try to always figure out what are their main interests? And sometimes I asked some neutral questions in the beginning because I want to see where they naturally go towards.

Okay, some time ago, I had an interview where I asked the guests abstract questions. I just wanted to surprise them. in the beginning, I asked them something completely out of the blue. And then they started talking about their own business. I was like, Okay, that’s what this interview is supposed to be about there. Because that’s why they interview in the first place. The rest of the webinar was almost nothing about their PhD. It was mostly business, and it was not a very interesting interview. But this is where they naturally direct all their thoughts.

David 46:46 There’s a very funny episode and it was cool. I was talking with him. And, you know, the same as you see different things behind me, he in his on webcam, there was walls, you know, he was very busy like me here. But there was one thing that I was seeing, which was part of a bicycle. And I found if in the frame of his webcam, he wasn’t able to not show a bicycle, let me ask about this bicycle. In the end, it led us to talk about how he did the competitive competition. He biked competitively during graduate school and then how that eventually led to a job in an anti-doping organization. Because of just this small piece of a bike that was appearing on the webcam and it looked random at the time, and then it ended up developing into a whole conversation and into a whole discussion about how activities that you do on the side of your PhD may lead to jobs and to networking later on in your life.

Natalia 48:10 I’m sure it’s also that you probably also make new contacts and a lot of new friends doing these podcasts. I mean this is the experience for me that I became much more befriended with the people I interviewed. That’s a big benefit of doing something like this. They sometimes also bring other people so they have a suggestion for another guest. It kind of spreads naturally. I think I have a picture, but in general, I feel that it’s a very positive experience for you. My question would be, what is your vision? How do you see Papa PhD usually in a year or five years?

David 49:06 I want to bring always better and better guests already this season. I’m trying to bring in the three episodes that are out and to bring guests who either have a very inspiring story, but also work and have specialists in terms of careers and skills development. One of the objectives is to bring it to make the content bring more and more value, you know, per ounce of conversation to the listener. Now, the thing you’ve talked about in your book, I have been told that I might want to take all of this insight that I’ve been getting in the interviews and write something that I’m considering I haven’t ever done it yet but it might be interesting to kind of distill the year or two years of podcasts into book form that could be interesting.

The next other thing is that I’d love to not only be behind the, you know, we have a webcam behind the microphone talking to listeners out there, but to around me here at universities around me be able to go and, and have some sort of interaction or training, to give training or give coaching to young researchers out there. That’s something I’d like to develop and do. But right now, it’s still just on the drawing board.

Natalia 50:58 Okay, great. I think about writing books. I have a lot of things to tell you. Once I was about to start writing, I had plenty of ideas. But I found two or three other books online about this topic. But I didn’t realize how many how much content there is already. And this year, there were quite a few books that came out. I recently tried to make a full list and I ended up with almost 20 different books. It was much more than I originally thought about. I think that there’s still space for more content. I’m very curious about your content and book. If you’re interested in self-publishing, then I can tell you a few things about it. Because I made a lot of mistakes initially. I can share my failures with you. That’s a good experience. I still recommend it. I myself do coaching as well and also working one on one with people. It’s very rewarding.

David 52:29 That’s what I imagined. That’s kind of what I envisioned. But you know, there’s also a lot of people out there kind of offering similar things. I need to be sure that I’m going to bring real value to my listeners and potential coaches.

Natalia 52:50 Can I ask you some quite standard questions because I think you’re the proper person to ask this question. From your own experience that you gained during recording your podcast, what are some pieces of advice you might give to PhDs who are now finishing their contracts?

David 53:20 The first one would be, independently of the stage right of your PhD, like last year, for your fourth year, the third year, start thinking of plan A and plan B of what comes after right away. That will be the first thing and starting with a kind of introspection of what you envision of the thing that you would love to do. If you’re thinking of being a tenure track professor because the percentage of people who get to those positions is fairly low, do intently think of a plan B and look at what people around you are doing in university apart from tenure track professorship, but maybe also going through your network, outside the university, what are people who followed your path? Where are they today, in which of these journeys enticing to you in a way or do you feel that you’d be fulfilled for that?

The first thing is to start thinking about it right away. The second thing is to network. And I think you’ll agree with me about this. Today, it’s fairly easy to go on to something like LinkedIn and reach out to people. You’ve probably heard about it. When you’re looking for looking at job postings and you want to know about a certain position, a lot of us have been advised to go to have to call someone who works in that position and try to hit and have coffee with the person and ask them pointed questions and try to understand what the reality of that job is. Today, a lot of us are stuck at home. And there’s no coffee taking. There’s no sharing physical space with someone but I’m thinking of LinkedIn because it’s geared towards jobs and business.

Try to start in concentric circles first closer to you, and then go further and further to get in contact with people who, when you look at them you say, okay, this is interesting, I had never thought of this. And especially if it’s out of the box. The more out of the box it is, the more I advise you to go and talk with that person. Just widen your horizons and maybe start kind of drawing or writing up kind of a plan of what can happen. Long ago, there was a podcast called the happiness lab. There was a story about a swimmer, an American guy. This year, you know, he broke a record with water in his goggles. And what happens is that in his training, he did some training with water in his goggles. And he had already laid out the plan of what he would do if that happened and the day that it happened, it very important competition.

He already had his muscle memory. He very naturally knew what to do and he won. And where I want to go with this is that you may have this plan that you’d love, but you will gain by having put some work on plan B. And I think these would be the two main things because then we can go into more well-known things like tailoring a CV for different employers, really preparing and rehearsing for interviews, preparing stories for the interview setting. Before we get there, just start thinking about it right away and start drawing kind of a blueprint of at least two alternative universes that might happen, and that you will be happy in.

Natalia 58:05 Okay, great. Thank you for your advice, David. What can we wish you for the future? What can we wish for the Papa PhD?

David 58:21 I did not expect this question. It’s a very nice one. You’re making me think about what I kind of envisioned for myself. One thing that I would love is to have the podcast grow in the future for sure and I wish that we’ll be able to improve it to make it better and better so that it will reach more and more people and it’ll resonate with more and more people. You know, for a podcast, you want ears, for a YouTube channel, or a TV show, you want eyeballs. In my case, it’s ears that you want. If anyone who is watching the episode, listens, likes Papa PhD, and shares it with a friend or two that will be great. If I’m able to find, again, a way to offer something directly to young researchers to add value to the offer that’s out there to allow them to navigate more smoothly the transition to their professional life, be it you know, webinars, or coaching. If that materializes, I’ll be happy for sure.

Natalia 1:00:07 Okay, great. Of course, there will be a link to the Papa PhD podcasts below this episode. Please check it out. I can highly recommend Papa PhD. I think we are coming to the end of this episode. Is there anything else that you would like to share with us, David? Or shall we say goodbye?

David 1:00:34 For the viewers, if you like podcasts, if you are curious about what people do after the PhD or even during their postdoc, that is not strictly science, just go to Papa phd.com, or look for a PhD on your favorite podcast platform, and you’ll find Papa PhD. If you want to follow up with Papa PhD on social media, you can go either on Twitter or Instagram. It’s at Papa PhD podcast. You can also find our page on Facebook and then you’ll see all things pop up over there.

Natalia 1:01:18 And I guess if you know someone who has a PhD, and is a good person to speak to, then, of course, suggests to David.

David 1:01:29 If you know someone science slash entrepreneurship-slash, professional hero of yours that you’d love to hear their story and some questions about how they carved their paths, go on social media and reach out, I’m always open for suggestions.

Natalia 1:01:54 You know, who would be my dream guest, James Franco because right now, I’m just waiting for him to talk about it.

David 1:02:09 I didn’t know this. For me, I’d love to have my Bialik on the show. She’s a neuroscientist. She has a PhD in neuroscience. And of course, she was on the TV series, The Big Bang Theory. We will need to talk with their agents, though.

Natalia 1:02:37 Okay. Have you seen the disaster artists? I recently saw it with my mom and she was laughing so hard.

David 1:02:50 Okay, I’ll have to go watch that I haven’t yet.

Natalia 1:02:54 I highly recommended it. You will laugh hard but you have to watch the room first. The disaster artists is another movie. It’s half of the movie, the room which is known as the worst movie in the history of Kenya. Okay. It’s amazing. You should see it.
All right, well, I’ll try and watch it as soon as possible.

David 1:03:27 Okay, cool. Thank you so much, Papa PhD, for joining us today. I’m very happy that we could see you and we could hear some stories from behind the scenes. And for everyone who would like to ask Papa PhD, I think that it’s good if you contact him through LinkedIn or any other media. And of course, don’t forget to check out the webinar on the podcast. I would like to thank you for watching. Please ask us questions if you’ve any. We will take all your questions. And again, thank you so much, David, for being here with us today. And goodbye.

David 1:04:29 Thank you. It’s been a great pleasure.

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