Apr 4, 2021 | E046 The Salmon Leap for PhDs: How To Smoothly Jump From Academia to Industry with Matteo Tardelli
Dr. Matteo Tardelli is a Postdoctoral Scientist at Weill Cornell Medicine in NYC and the author of the book “The Salmon Leap for PhDs: Swimming upstream a career from academia to industry”. To date, apart from doing science, he has assisted many researchers in gaining the confidence to launch new and diverse careers by taking part in career panels and volunteering for scientific communities.
Matteo’s LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/matteo-tardelli/
Matteo’s Twitter profile: https://twitter.com/salmon_phd/
The Salmon Leap for PhDs: https://amzn.to/3muK34Z/ 🔥
The episode was recorded on March 27th, 2021. This material represents the speaker’s personal views and not the views of their current or former employer(s).
Natalia Bielczyk 00:10 Hello, everyone. This is yet another episode of career talks by Welcome Solutions. In these meetings, we talk with professionals with interesting career paths who share the life hacks with us. And I have a great pleasure to introduce Dr. Matteo Tardelli today. Dr. Matteo Tardelli is a Postdoctoral Scientist at Weill Cornell Medicine in NYC, and the author of the book, “The Salmon Leap for PhDs: Swimming Upstream a Career from Academia to Industry”.
Natalia Bielczyk 00:42 To date, apart from doing science, he has assisted many researchers in gaining the confidence to launch a new and diverse career by taking part in career panels and volunteering for scientific communities. Thank you so much for joining us today, Matteo. Great to meet you finally, in person.
Matteo Tardelli 01:00 Happy to be here.
Natalia Bielczyk 01:02 We know each other from social media and from the online cloud. But this is the first time we have a chance to speak in person, so I’m very happy to see you.
Matteo Tardelli 01:16 Yeah, it’s very nice.
Natalia Bielczyk 01:17 Thank you, again, for accepting the invitation. I’m very curious how it all started for you. Could you tell us a bit about your career all the way from PhD to where you are now?
Matteo Tardelli 01:29 Sure, absolutely. I started my PhD in Vienna, in Austria, you know, back in Europe. And the PhD was like a very good time, like back in the days. I was doing research within adipose tissue inflammation and this kind of stuff, in regards to type two diabetes and obesity. It was a little bit of a mix between immunology and, you know, metabolism kind of stuff.
Matteo Tardelli 01:57 After that, what happened was that I finished my PhD and I didn’t really know what to do afterwards. And a collaboration came up just before I was done with it. And that was from another lab, just within the same institution. At some point, they decided to basically get me and that was basically, the start of my first postdoc.
Matteo Tardelli 02:23 It was still at the Vienna General Hospital; but, you know, just in another lab, basically. And this other lab was really more focused still on metabolism and, you know, kind of diseases connected to nutrition and overnutrition in practice. But with a focus on liver disease, basically. It was a little bit of something different, but very interesting.
Matteo Tardelli 02:52 After my first postdoc, I really wanted to, you know, have an experience in the US. What happened was, I was in a meeting in San Francisco presenting some science, and then, you know, approached who was going to be my new boss in New York City. And I will always remember the interview process there. It was, like, on a walk from a poster session to a talk session. And that was my kind of interview, on the way to this talk.
Matteo Tardelli 03:28 It was really very informal and very nice. And my former boss was very supportive with that. What happened was, I started my second postdoc in April 2019. And so, I moved to New York City, I started like a completely new life. And it was really interesting. I mean, the experience itself was pretty amazing. And, you know, some people will tell you many times that during your postdoc, you don’t really learn a lot of stuff.
Matteo Tardelli 04:01 But I think it wasn’t the case for me. I mean, it was a really like, massive learning curve in the first year, and also the second year. Already back in the days was something that was, you know, up in my head a little bit, was that I really wanted to start a transition within industry. I really understood the fact that probably not wanting to be a PI in grant, you know, was something that didn’t make a lot of sense for me to stay in academia.
Matteo Tardelli 04:34 Just to do like, to jump from one postdoc to the other. Just to give you a little bit of a background it was really something that was already, in my mind already, when I started the second postdoc. This was something interesting. But anyway, I enjoyed the second postdoc very much, until COVID hit of course. For everyone, it was a bit of a kind of wake-up call. I really decided to invest more time into finding a little bit and informing myself on what these, you know, industry careers or the careers in private, you know, is really like.
Matteo Tardelli 05:21 And there was a little bit of a process that started in fact, in March of last year 2020. And I think, you know, there was a good and bad because I had a little bit of time. We were doing a little bit of home office, of course. I could attend career fairs and I could speak with a lot of people. I do some informational interviews, just because of, you know, the amount of time that I had back for myself, and to inform myself about career prospects.
Matteo Tardelli 05:51 What I also decided and noticed with time was that the topic is so big; and you know, perfectly. In academia, they don’t really, you know, explain to you what to do next, so that you can be attractive for industry. That’s why I got to, you know, put together my book, “The Salman Leap for PhDs”, that I was thinking it was something really useful for the community to kind of summarize a little bit some aspects and tips to start looking into a ‘leap into private’ basically.
Matteo Tardelli 06:30 And this was then part of my journey, also back in the US. And what had happened was, I was, you know, applying myself for a bunch of jobs back in Europe, because I was planning to come back closer to home. And to be honest, also the fact that in the US, if you want to have a career in private, it’s a little bit of an issue because with a visa situation. I used to be on this J-1 visa, and that’s a visitor, researcher and Professor, whatever kind of visa.
Matteo Tardelli 07:05 And you’re really kind of dependent on your sponsor. Basically, back in the days, Weill Cornell was my sponsor, my university sponsor. And I could not really, you know, … I could apply for jobs, but it was, you know, obvious that I was not going to get it on that visa; I was having. I think, also like with that, I understood a little bit of the system. I understood the fact that if I wanted to stay in the US and have kind of a career in private, I really had to invest into a new visa first of all, like something like a green card or something like that, or an H-1B visa, just to be able to access the market in such regards.
Matteo Tardelli 07:53 I was like, ‘Since I don’t see myself, probably, for such a long term.’ You know, I really decided to just focus, you know, my search into the European market. You know, I took a little bit of interviews and stuff, and it was kind of a long process, but it was at the end very successful. Right now, it’s been already a month, I started a position as a scientist in a discovery department at a pharmaceutical company here back in Vienna BioCenter.
Matteo Tardelli 08:31 Of course, I had to relocate back to Europe. Everything was a little bit of a challenge with COVID still around and everything as we experienced, I think, is very differently from the US to the EU. But I think overall, it was a very good choice and I’m really glad that I did it so far. I think, you know, it was an interesting journey, I would say. But, you know, we’ll see where it takes me next. This is it, in a nutshell.
Natalia Bielczyk 09:08 Great. Did you disclose to your employer in the process that you offered the book about getting jobs or not?
Matteo Tardelli 09:22 Not really. We didn’t really talk about this. You mean my employer back in the days, in the us?
Natalia Bielczyk 09:28 No, your new employer?
Matteo Tardelli 09:30 Not really, we didn’t disclose that. Anyway, that was something that happened, you know, far before the start of my employment.
Natalia Bielczyk 09:41 I was curious, you know. If being an author of such a book, does it actually help you in getting, in landing a position or the opposite?
Matteo Tardelli 09:52 That’s a good question. I’m not really sure to be honest, if that helps. To be honest, I didn’t really put in on my CV. That was not on my CV.
Natalia Bielczyk 10:02 But you know what happens? Every recruiter Google’s you these days.
Matteo Tardelli 10:07 They’ll totally find out. I should ask him.
Natalia Bielczyk 10:13 I’m curious, you know. Because I’m thinking, you know, if I was employing someone for the company and I knew that they are an expert on how to get through an interview with flying colors, then how would I look at them?
Matteo Tardelli 10:31 That’s a good point. I will ask them; you gave me a good idea.
Natalia Bielczyk 10:39 Could you tell us a little bit more on your new job? Or is it still secret and you’re not supposed to talk about it?
Matteo Tardelli 10:47 It’s a secret. I’m not supposed to talk about it. But I can tell you a little bit of, I think, what I’ve been noticing so far. I think this will be useful to the audience quite a bit. I think the main difference I found out so far is that you know, whereas during my postdocs, my two postdocs and also my PhD, what happens in academia is that you have your own projects and you’re like pretty much the only person responsible for it.
Matteo Tardelli 11:18 What happens is, if you go on a holiday, it’s not that you know, your research is going to go on by itself. You are pretty much the only one responsible. Of course, you collaborate with colleagues but not to such an extent, at least in my experience. And what I’m noticing already in industry is that everybody’s really pushing towards one direction. You know, I have my part of the project of that really aligns with my expertise.
Matteo Tardelli 11:49 But I’m really you know, collaborating with the other colleagues. We’d really, I don’t know, share cell lines. Just to give you an example, that was never the case for instance, back in academia. Everybody’s got his own cell lines, everybody’s got their own media and stuff. We’re really kind of, working more as a team and I think that was the first big difference that I found.
Matteo Tardelli 12:15 And secondly, I can say I think so far, I think somehow you feel a bit more valuable. If you understand what I mean. I think that there’s a little bit more respect for your role. Whereas, you know, I remember also in academia back in the days especially you know, possibly doing my PhD as well. You’re not really regarded as like a kind of a high-skilled workers. Whereas, I think maybe it’s more the case in industry in a private setting where you know, people respect more your job.
Matteo Tardelli 12:58 And I think possibly, this is just my experience. You know, there’s a lot of respect in academia, this I understand as well. But I don’t know, it feels like there’s another vibe around, there’s another atmosphere so to say. And also, I think the work times are a little bit more structured. It’s a little bit more like of a 9 to 5, 9 to 6 kind of job. And you can do your extra time or whatever, that’s no problem.
Matteo Tardelli 13:28 But your days are a little bit more structured. It’s not that, you know, someone comes in at 10, then someone comes in at 11, someone comes in at 6am. It’s not like that. All the team is like sitting at the desk pretty much at 9, so that fosters also I believe collaboration as well. If we all get in at the same time, we will be all like a team. And you know, everybody moves towards common directions.
Matteo Tardelli 13:56 Whereas, what I found out also back in the days during my postdocs, since everyone is so independent, you know, they just come in whenever they want. If they get up at 10, they start at 10 or 11. I think that’s something also that I like a bit more about, you know, my experience so far, but I’m fresh right now. So far, so good.
Natalia Bielczyk 14:23 So far, so good, great. Alright, since so we cannot really talk about this topic too much. Then I’d like to ask you about your book. How did you take the decision to write a book, and from what I understand, it’s your first book as well? You are self-published, isn’t it?
Matteo Tardelli 14:47 It was my first non-academic publication. I mean, it was a little bit challenging to like, think about the audience as well. I was really targeting post-PhD or pre-PhD, kind of professionals. Because I really found out, in myself, about this confusion about, you know, kind of transitioning into industry. I don’t know, I think in Europe, we are still kind of backwards in these regards. I mean, some universities are really good.
Matteo Tardelli 15:26 Also in Netherlands, there are some universities, they’re really like forward thinking in this regard. They try to put together some, you know, kind of meetings and stuff where they explain to people, what’s out there for them. But I think especially back in the days in Vienna, there was not much buzz around it. After my PhD, I really had no idea what to do afterwards. I mean, for me, it was just, you know, I’ll do a postdoc. It’s just a natural development of things.
Matteo Tardelli 16:01 I think that’s a bit of a shame. And I mean, myself, I had to go through it, because I literally didn’t know what to do next. And what it will be like in an ideal case scenario, it would be really nice to know this in advance, and know what kind of skills people really needs in advance to get, and also have a better overview of the job market. And this was not the case for me, back in the day. I acknowledged this to myself. And I understood that also, a bunch of my colleagues, like the vast majority of my colleagues were also in the same situation.
Matteo Tardelli 16:44 They had no idea what to do next. And they were just, you know, in the hamster wheel of; you go to work, you do your lab stuff, maybe you apply for grants, then at some point, you continue that. And then once you wake up in your 40s maybe, and you’ve been doing a bunch of postdocs here and there.
Matteo Tardelli 17:06 That was my fear. Because I was thinking that, for instance, ‘Is it a waste of time? Or is it not?’ I think it wasn’t a waste of time for me. I think the postdoc in the US was a really great experience and I would do it again, you know, all over again. But I really thought that I should have not transitioned into industry too far, you know, I had in my life.
Matteo Tardelli 17:36 Because, you know, it takes a bit of time to really adapt to a new working pace, and also a new your organizations and stuff. It’s better if you do it earlier than later. This came to the fact … I came to this realization very slowly. And then I was really like, trying to push myself into getting to know a little bit more about, you know; what kind of industries are out there for PhDs, what kind of positions are out there for PhDs.
Matteo Tardelli 18:09 I also encountered these much of acronyms and stuff that they’re really impossible to understand if you’re not in the field regularly and CMC scientist’s quality control. I mean, I was like, ‘What is this?’ And then, you know, you can apply for that. Obviously, no one is going to, you know, call you up because you don’t really understand the meaning of the job description.
Matteo Tardelli 18:34 Because nobody’s really, uh, you know, kind of explained to you. Also like your mentor, if, you know, has been all in academia, how would you expect them to be your mentor in your transition? If they have, you know, no idea themselves. I mean, it’s fair; I’m with it. But I was like, really trying to develop a little bit of knowledge and a little bit of understanding on how to approach my CV prepping, also my interview, and this kind of thing.
Matteo Tardelli 19:08 Once I really put this much information together, and I was really trying to push myself out there. And I really tried to attend as many career fairs as possible. We were transitioning to online events. It was really easy for me to attend stuff on a tight schedule. And also, somehow people on LinkedIn were, also back in those days, probably it was because people were more at home maybe, they had more time. I don’t know.
Matteo Tardelli 19:42 But everybody was really, you know, willing to help and willing to jump on a call for a very short informational interview. And I remember back in the days, I had my first informational interview with a girl who was doing a Clinical Research Associate kind of role. And I was like, ‘I don’t really get what she does on the everyday basis’.
Matteo Tardelli 20:07 Because I was really still a little bit in between, ‘Shall I go fully non-bench or really, should I still work at the bench as a scientist’. I was really trying to understand the different kind of position in the market. I was having a lot of informational interviews and stuff with real professionals, like real life professionals. And all I did was just putting some notes on the side, I did some further research, and then I really decided to, you know, put these together in something that is a bit of a funny book.
Matteo Tardelli 20:40 And it’s not really a romance kind of style, it’s just more like bullet points type of advice for your career. I think there was, overall, a funny journey itself. And it was useful, first of all, like for myself, but also for other people as well to hopefully, guide them a little bit through this bumpy path that is your transition between academia and industry. That was my point, also trying to help others and my colleagues.
Matteo Tardelli 21:15 In regards to the self-publishing stuff, it was kind of easy. I mean, I did it through Amazon. And it was kind of straightforward to just upload your manuscript after a little bit of copy-type of stuff, to get it right. And then I asked a designer to design my cover. And then, the upload path on the platform was very straightforward. That was also good, something very seamless that I did not have to approach a publisher. Maybe, you know, put some money up front and stuff. And so this was, I think, also a good idea for now. But let’s see if I’m going to do it again.
Natalia Bielczyk 22:07 I also chose to self-publish a book. I mean, I knew that in the case of self-publishing, you know, all the burden of promoting a book is on your shoulders. That’s the downside, of course. On the other hand, there are also benefits. One such benefit is that if you self-publish, then you don’t need to wait, you can publish a book at the very moment when you feel like you’re done with your manuscript.
Natalia Bielczyk 22:46 And whereas with a publisher, a publisher has a lot of control over your book. I couldn’t even choose my own book cover. And I know that my style is not what they like to see on self-help books. Because most self-help books are just a title in like, you know, capital letters. Like a really flashy cover, like yellow and red, just something that attracts attention straight away.
Natalia Bielczyk 23:16 And it’s like, I didn’t like the style, I wanted to have my own style. And also, I knew that I don’t want to be censored. I spent so many years in academia, when every editor and every reviewer could tell me how I should write my manuscripts. And sometimes I had to take compromises and introduce changes that I didn’t believe were good ideas eve. But I had-
Matteo Tardelli 23:43 This time you were, like, ‘I’ll do it my way.’
Natalia Bielczyk 23:47 My book, my way. I mean, it’s my life, you know, I was good by myself.
Matteo Tardelli 23:52 I totally agree with that.
Natalia Bielczyk 23:56 And I think it was a good decision; it’s a longer journey. Because again, you’re not supported by the publisher to really distribute information about your book. But in the end, Amazon also has global reach, it pays better. It’s very friendly for authors because it pays better royalties than most publishing houses. And so, you get better deal and it’s greener because you only print books on demand.
Natalia Bielczyk 24:28 There is no such thing as so you know, stock of your books that is waiting for on the shelf to be sold. But rather, it only goes to the printer once someone presses the button to goodbye. And only then, the book actually arrives. I think it has so many benefits for the environment and for you as an author. It’s hard to just skip over this opportunity.
Natalia Bielczyk 25:04 I am happy also, about my decision. And I think if I finished my second book, which I’m working on currently, then I will do exactly the same to self-publish. As authors, we can maybe agree on this point, that this is a good way to try. I agree it’s much easier technically than most people think. It’s surprisingly easy. I mean, it’s very easy. But in this case, the difficulty is not in releasing the book. The difficulty is in making people know that you a book.
Matteo Tardelli 25:42 Exactly. There’s a little bit difficult part of the self-promotion, because you don’t have anyone behind you backing your marketing, so to say.
Natalia Bielczyk 26:01 It’s a long topic. But I think it’s also, if you want to build a name as an author, most authors don’t succeed with their first book. They just have to keep on writing, keep on, I wouldn’t say hustling. But keep on talking about it, keep on spreading the news, accept invitations to little talks then to some TEDx conferences and to larger talks.
Natalia Bielczyk 26:28 It’s long years of development before you can call yourself an accomplished author. Something I was also not considering when I was starting; I just like the process of writing. I don’t know how you feel about it, which part of the process is most enjoyable for you? And for me, it’s writing itself. I did it for the sake of this creative process. But then it turns out that 80% of the time is promoting what you do and not writing. That was a little hard.
Matteo Tardelli 27:07 I think, I really enjoyed that, you know. I can resonate with what you said. I really enjoyed the writing process, so that’s really nice. You’re very correct with the stuff that you need to hustle a bit. But I think I really like the process itself, because it gets you like out of your comfort zone a little bit and you get to speak and to know a lot of people. And this I think, I find it wonderful to be honest.
Matteo Tardelli 27:36 I mean, it’s an easy way to network with others and it’s always nice to get to know people too. Like, I really enjoyed the process so far and I’m sure it’s the same for you. You get to speak with a lot of people, get to know their stories. And some are more interesting I guess; some others are less. But you know, it’s cool just to just speak to people.
Natalia Bielczyk 28:01 It’s like bringing, I would say, the different dimension to your life because you put yourself out there as an author. And people start reaching out to you; people who you never like heard of before. And like 99% of this eye contact is positive and or maybe 99.9%. Once in a while there is someone who thinks you’re just smug and too full of yourself, and then they try to spoil your day.
Natalia Bielczyk 28:33 But usually, it’s only good stuff. I also think, in general, I feel like I live life for real more than before when I was an employee; with the good and the bad. It was a good decision. But it’s also a long, long run. It’s like a marathon run, having been many years of self-development before you can comfortably live off from what you do. And feel that okay, I’m stable in this type of living.
Matteo Tardelli 29:13 I think, this is any way the case for any kind of self-employment type of work. Whatever you do, if you’re a designer, if you’re a graphic, whatever. In the beginning, it’s bad. But you decide the rules and you’re the boss, which is pretty amazing, if you think about it.
Natalia Bielczyk 29:33 I’m a good boss. I don’t know about you.
Matteo Tardelli 29:38 Easy to say.
Natalia Bielczyk 29:46 It’s also that I require a lot from myself. I don’t forgive myself as many mistakes, as I forgive other people. It’s also sometimes a lot of self-whipping. But still I think, if you have that soul of an entrepreneur, then you should definitely try at least once in a lifetime to see if it would be happier this way.
Matteo Tardelli 30:16 That’s true.
Natalia Bielczyk 30:18 What do you think is your personal style of writing? Did you already like develop a style that you can feel, ‘Okay, this is the side in which I will be writing my other books in the future,’ or are you still on this self-discovery path?
Matteo Tardelli 30:40 I know, pretty much myself writing, I think it’s very friendly and very uncomplicated to be honest. But what I think I’m not really good at; I think I’m not a good science communicator. Although, I really learned through the years to like, making or getting very complex type of things and data to be accessible; kind of vocabulary and stuff.
Matteo Tardelli 31:13 And I think this was very good along my postdoc, when people from the outside the lab were asking me, ‘Why you do …?’. You need really to get to the point without overcomplicating things. And that’s many times not the case with PhDs; they really lose themselves into details and stuff. And I was like that back in the days as well. I can recognize it, looking back at myself back in the days.
Matteo Tardelli 31:41 But I think slowly, I really tried to, you know, get more to the point and summarizing in an easier language of what I do and stuff. I think that was helpful. But as I said, I think I’m probably like a decent storyteller and I think I can write about it. I’m really also like decent at summarizing stuff, like very analytic kind of way, like bullet points and things. This is, I think, easy for me.
Matteo Tardelli 32:19 But I think I’m not really good that probably doing pure science communication. You put me like in front of a paper and I need to tell you stuff. I mean, I’m able to do it, but probably is not my favorite thing right now. The Scicom career is over for me already, I think. But writing the book itself, I think it was interesting overall. Because it’s not really, you know, science-related so much. It’s more about career and self-development.
Matteo Tardelli 32:51 And I think I can really resonate with that a lot. And I think especially COVID, we got really into that. I mean, we really got into a bit of self- developing. Also looking inwards at yourself, because of course, I mean, you cannot meet anyone. It was at the beginning, especially, like you need to invest more time in yourself. And I think journaling was something really that helped me out.
Matteo Tardelli 33:21 First of all, in trying to understanding more of myself. And then, also like getting back into the writing because I was keeping a diary and stuff. You know, everyday journaling was really great for that. Apart from the fact that for yourself, you know, it calms you down. And it’s good for stuff you want to put your day together and reflect on it. Reflect on the stuff you’re grateful for. But also reflect on the fact that you can change; the things that you didn’t like that you want to change.
Matteo Tardelli 33:51 I think this was, also with COVID, a good thing. Try to really, you know, develop yourself a little bit better. Try to have a healthier life, so spend some more time outdoor, like, do sports and stuff. And then these was related, I think, to the book itself and to the writing, like more stuff for reflecting, because you have less interactions and less distractions from the outside. I think that was really kind of related to that.
Natalia Bielczyk 34:26 Great. I can relate. Writing is also a type of Zen-mode activity. I completely forget about the time sometimes. It’s just one of those activities when I just sit down and after seven hours, I realized that seven hours have passed. I thought it was half an hour, and it was seven. I can relate and it’s very pleasant.
Natalia Bielczyk 34:56 Exactly. And to my demise, it’s one of those activities that are very hard to get income from, at least initially. It’s so much harder than writing code, for instance. I can code, but coding is the opposite for me. Half an hour passes by, and it feels like seven hours. I decided, regardless of wage, it’s just not something I will be doing. I just don’t care, you know.
Matteo Tardelli 35:23 Okay, now if it seems like you don’t really enjoy it. It doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Natalia Bielczyk 35:27 But regarding writing, like, I think that maybe writing a book for PhDs is a good school of writing. Because PhDs are just demanding, you know, by nature. We learn to be critical. And I think, if you can survive that, or if you can survive reviews from PhDs, then you are set. And I think that getting the right balance is really hard. Because on the one hand, what PhDs expect to hear is genuine advice and information; they want to get content out of it.
Natalia Bielczyk 36:12 You can’t really fill in a book with just anecdotes, because that’s what they’re expecting. And they will just point you out, if you don’t provide that content. But it cannot be too dry, on the other hand, because people lose attention very quickly. It’s really hard for me to get that right balance. And also, the same with sense of humor.
Natalia Bielczyk 36:35 Sense of humor like, making some jokes or anecdotes, it keeps people’s attention relatively well. But it’s not necessarily that they share your sense of humor. On one hand, it makes most people happier. But on the other hand, it also once in a while there is someone who completely doesn’t buy it. You have to make sure that it’s on the safe side. Like, some time ago, I was doing a lecture for one of the major Dutch universities and organizers shared the feedback with me.
Natalia Bielczyk 37:19 Feedback from the participants, and there were like 30 people in the room. And there were only, like, scores of 10, or 1 out of 10. For me, so a vast majority of people who gave me like 10 out of 10, or 9 out of 10. And like 1 or 2 people gave me one, saying that my sense of humor is horrible. You know, this whole lecture is an atrocity, and they never want anyone else to hear it again. It was funny, but I was really invited.
Natalia Bielczyk 37:53 You risk your sense of humor. And the second thing that is really hard to balance I feel, is when you have to kind of, at the same time, balance facts and balance opinions as well. If it’s only facts, and you give any opinion of yourself, in terms of like your own interpretation, then it’s like Wikipedia, you know. It’s just a bunch of facts.
Natalia Bielczyk 38:00 You have to interpret what you learned and summarize it somehow, and give your honest opinion. But if it’s too opinionated, that’s also not good. For me, it’s also hard to get the right balance. It’s like some of your own contribution and interpretation, but it doesn’t sound too opinionated. How do you feel about that one? Like, is it hard for you to get that?
Matteo Tardelli 38:59 That’s what I wanted to jump in talking about, again, storytelling; it’s all about it. And I think that’s, first of all, in the writing, of course and while you’re presenting as well. That takes a lot of storytelling, and it takes a lot of exercise to get the decent at that. But also, that’s something that is required most of the times in interviews as well.
Matteo Tardelli 39:25 I think that’s something that anyone should really work on. Because it’s really you know, it’s really a skill, a soft skill that in life is really needed in work life from private life. I think that I can really, you know, I really agree with you. I think it’s what it’s all about it. Like while you’re writing, while you’re presenting, it’s very important to convey a story that resonates with your audience as well. As you were talking about your example.
Matteo Tardelli 40:04 Of course, probably some people didn’t get your sensor you more. You probably should have, I don’t know, been a little bit more cautious with that; more neutral. To just be more understanding of your audience a little bit better. And they would’ve also have understood you a little bit in a nicer way. But you know, that I guess, some work that every one of us needs to do a bit more.
Natalia Bielczyk 40:34 Great. It’s hard because if I didn’t have a way of connecting with the audience, then I wouldn’t get this 10 out of 10 reviews either. That’s the point. To find this golden, you know, like this point, golden needle; where you are in a safe zone, and you really engage people work. Like very hard.
Matteo Tardelli 41:05 I guess it applies to the writing as well, so it’s not just presentation.
Natalia Bielczyk 41:10 For me, I came from blogging. I started blogging on the second year of my PhD of my Master’s study; it was like 15 years ago. And I kept on blogging casually, first in Polish then in English. And I think that’s where my style came from, as well. I guess it’s very different then. It’s much more casual straightaway.
Natalia Bielczyk 41:40 Maybe now, since you’re also an expert in career advisory for PhDs. Maybe let’s talk a little bit about your general career advice that you might give to PhD candidates who are now thinking about the future, and would like to make some decisions or take some steps to improve their career opportunities in the future.
Matteo Tardelli 42:06 Absolutely. First of all, I’m not an expert in career advisory, trust me. You’re obviously much more of an expert than me. It’s just that-
Natalia Bielczyk 42:17 I really like this episode.
Matteo Tardelli 42:20 I bet you do. But I’ve just been through it, as simple as that. I can really, you know, … It’s not that my experience applies to everyone, of course. But I can tell, like, looking back at what mistakes I was doing as well, and I can see these mistakes in everyone around me. My first thing. My first advice will be for sure, like, get informed. Definitely, get out of your bubble lab, kind of, everyday routine. This helps a lot, and I think I was there as well.
Matteo Tardelli 43:07 I was getting really comfortable in academia. It’s a great place to be comfortable at. Because it’s like, I get my contract every year. Probably next year, if I’m lucky enough, I get it for two years. Probably next year, again, maybe I get the grant. I think it’s an easy place to be sometimes. Sometimes it is not. Of course, it really depends also on your PI and everything.
Matteo Tardelli 43:32 I think experience themselves; they really change. It’s really different. But first of all, I will say; pretty much get out of your comfort zone, start talking to people, get these informational interviewing a little bit going. Because you really want to connect with new people outside your comfort zone outside the lab. And also, you want to know what to do next. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.
Matteo Tardelli 44:02 Slowly, for me also, it took a bit of time to get to know how to use LinkedIn as well. Just on how to use LinkedIn, on how to connect with people and many people are doing it very wrong nowadays. Because it takes a bit of effort to be honest, to just get in touch with people and to bring value in the conversation as well. I think we have amazing, very wonderful, kind of means to get in touch with people like LinkedIn.
Matteo Tardelli 44:34 We can do calls through messaging and get to have an informational interview, or like very informal chats with these people, these professionals. I think these are the two basic things that I will start with. And these are not guaranteed. Because like a lot of people you know, also looking back at myself, back in academia, I wasn’t doing that enough, obviously.
Matteo Tardelli 45:05 You know, if I’d done it back in the days, maybe right now it would have taken me a little bit less time to do my career transition itself. Definitely start with that. I think that’s a very good idea to just get out of your bubble a little bit. I think in life to be honest, not just in career. Just to try to risk a bit to something new. To try something new, it’s always nice. And other than that, I think once you started this process of getting in touch with people, maybe attend some career kind of meetings or fairs. There’s a bunch out there and they’re all for free.
Matteo Tardelli 45:47 Because right now, everyone is on Zoom. I really can attend a career fair back in New York City. I mean, that’s literally not a problem. There’s a lot that can be done in this regard. By following of course influential people, for instance yourself. And people that are really interested in it and they think about, … I know you like it; you like this episode.
Natalia Bielczyk 46:12 I should like, invite you to this channel.
Matteo Tardelli 46:16 Sorry, say that again?
Natalia Bielczyk 46:18 I was kidding. I’m just saying I should re-invite you for another episode.
Matteo Tardelli 46:21 Yes, it is true. But people that genuinely really care about this topic. And as far as I understood, like, you know, you are one of those. It’s really nice people can follow you. I can understand a little bit, you know, what you’re also offering, or what you’re talking about. Or just attending and watching these talks, for instance, brings in a little bit of new perspectives. I think that’s something that can be done as well.
Matteo Tardelli 46:56 And then once you are into this process a little bit, since this process started. I would say, then, it’s important to work a bit on the application material. And try really to understand what’s your next challenge is like; sort of the next job is like. If you want to become a science communicator, or if you want to become a writer, if you want to go into investing like banking, or if you want to go into whatever.
Matteo Tardelli 47:29 There’s a lot of stuff that you can do with a PhD, of course. Try to really tailor and target that industry and that niche. You’ll say, ‘Okay, I want to go into venture capital for PhDs’. There’s a lot out there. A lot of venture capital firms that are really consulting firms, they’re really hiring PhDs, because they want to understand. They want to gain a better understanding on, you know, the Biotech kind of landscape for these kinds of things.
Matteo Tardelli 48:03 You will think like, ‘Okay, you know, I just want to go into consulting. What is it like working as a consultant as a PhD’. You do your search on LinkedIn, it doesn’t take a lot of time. Maybe you’ll do a PhD and consultancy, or something like that. You find a bunch of people; you try to reach out. And then I’m sure at some point, people will be, ‘Okay, let’s have a chat’.
Matteo Tardelli 48:30 In such a way, you understand a little bit what the job is like. And if you really like it, maybe you can build some skills towards that direction. And then that applies to your CV as well. You know, next time you see a vacancy that you really like, then you already have decent material that you can apply with. Now, you really know what you’re going to do there.
Matteo Tardelli 48:56 Or you have a better understanding of what you’re going to do. I think these are the staples to start looking into, you know; a leap into private. That’s definitely the case, but there’s a lot that can be done. That’s why there are also, like a bunch of very good career coaches out there, and they really help with this transition, especially targeted and tailored for PhDs.
Matteo Tardelli 49:24 Because it’s a special niche of highly skilled kind of professionals. You need to show them the way sometimes how to do things because nobody’s teaching us basically in academia. That’s the core concept.
Natalia Bielczyk 49:46 I have to say that, here in the Netherlands, it’s slowly changing. There are more and more PhD candidates who embark on to graduate school with that thought in mind that they might finish their career in science after PhD. And I can see that there’s a big mental shift towards treating PhD as just last stage of the education process.
Natalia Bielczyk 50:13 I have a housemate who is now in the first year of her PhD. She doesn’t even consider a career in science; she aims for PhD. And that also takes a lot of burden off from her shoulders. Because then, you don’t really have to struggle to try to write another nature paper, but rather, focus on the skills you want to get. And I can also see that the culture in academia also changed
Natalia Bielczyk 50:42 When I was starting my PhD back in 2013. The first courses I was taking were academic writing, academic presentation, things like that, and laboratory skills. And today, people start their PhDs from project management courses, and I can see that there is a big difference there. And here, in the Netherlands, universities tend to create their own career centers today and try to incorporate transferable skills and building these transferable skills into the PhDs already.
Natalia Bielczyk 50:47 Those are good changes. And about networking, I couldn’t agree more. I think that also some people like to you know, bitterly say that they didn’t land the position, someone else did because they had a better network. I mean, we all are born with the same network which is zero. People who are better connected, they just made more efforts to build their network.
Natalia Bielczyk 51:49 There is networking in networking and you have to know how to do it properly. And this is not something you can build overnight, it’s all about the way you make decisions in daily life. A person on Friday night, a person will just get a beer and sit in front of Netflix for 5 hours and just binge watch a TV series. And another person will go out with a group of friends and just call everyone and say, ‘Hey, let’s go to a bar and chit-chat’.
Natalia Bielczyk 52:13 And then those people eventually after 20 years, if that’s your habit, then you will have a broader network than if you were binge watching a TV series. It’s all about making everyday decisions smarter. There isn’t any secret that will all of a sudden completely change your game. There is no one winning move that you have to make, to make your network really influential.
Natalia Bielczyk 52:50 It is more about the way you behave in daily life and make decisions about how you spend your time. Because this is also the advice we often get. We get this advice a lot about network, but there are so many different ways of networking. And to make sure that your network is built effectively, it’s just a completely different level of difficulty then.
Natalia Bielczyk 53:21 It’s probably material for another conversation. But I totally agree with you. It’s such an important part of the process. And you can only just learn about yourself if you compare, in some ways, when you try to find people similar to you; then you get to know yourself better as well. Putting yourself out there is, I think, very crucial to find your tribe.
Natalia Bielczyk 53:52 On that note, I would like to cordially thank you, Matteo, for being with us today. And sharing your great insights and your story with us. And to you guys who haven’t seen the book, “The Salmon Leap”, please take a look. I will link the book here under the episode. Please take a look at Amazon and have fun with it. I hope you like the book.
Natalia Bielczyk 54:20 And thank you so much Matteo for coming over.
Matteo Tardelli 54:23 Thank you for having me.
Natalia Bielczyk 54:25 Thank you, guys, for watching. If you would like to get more of this type of content, please subscribe to the channel. And we would like to welcome your comments and questions. If you have any, please post below the video. Thank you so much and have a nice day.