Jul 25th 2021 | E062: From Neuroscience To Medical Writing

Ayaka Ando completed her PhD in the field of neuroscience and neuroimaging at The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, University of Melbourne, and University of Queensland, Australia. She then moved to Germany to pursue her career in academia, where she was appointed as a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Heidelberg University, Germany.

During this time, she also had the privilege of serving as the chair of the International Council of the Organization for Human Brain Mapping Student and Postdoc Special Interest Group. Through her experiences, she acquired a taste for science communication and community outreach, and she now works as a medical writer for a medical communications company.

Ayaka was born in Japan but has spent most of her life living in the land of koalas and kangaroos (a.k.a., Australia). She is now happy to have found a nice home in Heidelberg, Germany.

Ayaka’s LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ayaka-ando-2592b111a/

The episode was recorded on July 17th, 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. And today we’ll be talking about careers in medical writing; how to become a medical writer. What is this field? Is it as hermetic as some people say? And how does a daily life of medical writer look? Let’s see. If you guys like this channel, please subscribe and leave your comments and questions below. And I’ll commit myself to answer all your questions. It’s a free career advice. If it’s free, why not take it. 

Natalia Bielczyk 00:42 And today I have great pleasure to introduce Ayaka Ando to you. Ayaka is my friend. And we used to work together in the same student council organization for human brain mapping so we know each other very well. Ayaka completed her PhD in the field of neuroscience and neuroimaging at the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, University of Melbourne and University of Queensland, Australia.

Natalia Bielczyk 01:08 She then moved to Germany to pursue her career in academia, where she was appointed as a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Heidelberg University, Germany. During this time, she also had the privilege of serving as the chair of the International Council of the Organization for Human Brain Mapping Student and Postdoc Special Interest Group.

Natalia Bielczyk 01:29 Through her experiences, she acquired a taste for science, communication and community outreach. And now she works as a medical writer for a medical communications company. Ayaka was born in Japan, but has spent most of her life living in the land of koalas and kangaroos, aka Australia, she is now happy to have found a nice home in Heidelberg, Germany. Thank you so much, Ayaka, for accepting the invitation. And I’m curious to hear about your career from your own perspective.

Dr. Ayaka Ando 01:59 Not a problem. Thank you so much for inviting me. I guess my career started … Oh, my career not … I’m probably going to start with my life, how it began, I was born in Japan. However, I moved to Australia when I was maybe six and a half, and grew up in Australia, as you can probably tell from my accent; that’s where I actually call home.

Dr. Ayaka Ando 02:23 I grew up in a very beachy city called the Gold Coast. But I’m probably the only Australian that you would ever know that has never surfed, embarrassingly. And then, I moved to Melbourne to do my university and my undergrad, and did my honors there as well in neuroimaging. That’s where I started my career in academia. And I loved living there, I loved the research. I loved the human aspect of neuroimaging, as well as the, you know, the technical aspect as well. And I really enjoyed it.

Dr. Ayaka Ando 02:56 Before I did my PhD, I did work as a research assistant for a year, which I think is quite a common, you know, common way to do it. To just discover some new labs or some other labs and you know, other research methods. That’s what I did. But I did end up going back to where I did my honors to do my PhD, which was also in neuroimaging and I really enjoyed it. I think I ended up spending probably about 10 years of my life in Melbourne because it’s a beautiful city, and I would recommend anyone to go even though it’s pretty far from where we are now.

Dr. Ayaka Ando 03:32 And then, that’s where I met my now husband, who is German and that’s probably why … As corny as it sounds, that’s probably why we moved to Germany to live now, which is where I’m working at the moment. It was probably a risky move because we moved here and I was just on my tourist visa when I was looking for my first job here in Germany. But luckily, I did find a postdoc position here within my time where my tourist visa was valid. So luckily that happened.

Dr. Ayaka Ando 04:17 And I worked here at the university clinic doing research on Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, where still obviously doing neuroimaging because that’s what I was interested in. And then, that’s also where … I guess not exactly where I’ve met you. But we were doing Organization for Human Brain Mapping Student and Postdoc Special Interest Group during that time of my postdoc.

Dr. Ayaka Ando 04:46 Which was a very good eye opener for me. And that’s probably where it led, how I want to transition I guess out from academia and into medical communications and outreach. And that’s where I am now, I guess.

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Dr. Ayaka Ando 05:35 I work, I think, as a postdoc in Germany for maybe three and a half years and then I went on parental leave. And during my parental leave time I transitioned into medical communications. So that’s where I am now.

Natalia Bielczyk 05:50 Okay, great. Perfect. As mentioned before, we met each other in the student board of the Organization for Human Brain Mapping. I remember these times. These were my favorite times after I left my contracts; my PhD contracts.

Dr. Ayaka Ando 06:11 It was a great time; I had a lot of fun.

Natalia Bielczyk 06:14 It was a great time. Also, perhaps one reason was that we were all volunteering. the charity work, so there was no pressure of, you know, selling your time for a paycheck; You only donate your time. I think it feels different when you work this way. But also, it was a bit of a self-organizing group. And I remember your style of management was more like less fair style. But I thought you were a good leader, natural leader. I was also surprised to find out that you chose a career in medical communication.

Dr. Ayaka Ando 07:03 Because it’s a support role, medical communication. But I mean, first of all, thanks for saying that I was a nice leader. I’m happy to hear. But I think what led me to it is because, you know …. I think maybe what made me a good leader. Thank you, like, thanks for the humble comment. But I think what led me to be one is that I like to be organized, first of all. And additionally, I didn’t mind that. Like, for me, what was important is that the team functioned really well and that we were collaborative.

Dr. Ayaka Ando 07:38 And that there was a nice atmosphere so that people were willing to be passionately working on the project; rather than that I wanted to lead them. I think that was my aims, I really wanted to create a nice environment. And I think that’s what I still do in a way. And I don’t care if I’m leading, or if I’m, you know, supporting. It’s just that if it’s a nice environment that is created, and if people are willing to do their things, then I think that for me, is what’s the most important in a workplace.

Dr. Ayaka Ando 08:10 Like for me, the more important is not the work itself, but the people. And I think that’s really how I lead. I mean, obviously, you have to be passionate about what you’re doing, obviously. But for me, what’s important is also the people. That’s how I think that our team then, worked really well together as well.

Natalia Bielczyk 08:30 Well, that’s interesting, then you’ll probably would be a contributor, like in the Odyssey.

Dr. Ayaka Ando 08:36 Yeah, exactly. I think I am. Yeah.

Natalia Bielczyk 08:39 Yeah. I would be curious, if you take the test, like, what would come out. I have a clear hypothesis.

Dr. Ayaka Ando 08:46 I think I did. I think, I would be like the contributor and only I would lead if that’s the necessary skill in the group. I would. I would happily do it. But I’m rather a contributor/supporter, I think.

Natalia Bielczyk 09:00 I thought you are, you have these leadership skills. It’s just that you make people feel that they take decisions for themselves and that it’s their idea to go for tasks. You don’t really ever give that feeling to people that they are managed, but they are managed in some way. They are organized and they are managed. It’s just that they don’t really feel that on their skin. And I think that’s really skillful of a leader to do.

Dr. Ayaka Ando 09:32 Thank you so much. That’s really nice to hear from someone who, you know, … we worked quite closely together for two years.

Natalia Bielczyk 09:41 I think, you know, I myself, I don’t really enjoy being managed normally. That’s also why I started my own company and you were one of the exceptions to get the position of who was the chairperson before you. You guys were the exception, so one of the very few leaders that I was following. It’s a good example, because also there is a lot of debate if female leaders are healthy or they are toxic to their female employees

Natalia Bielczyk 10:28 In this case, I was not your employee, but there was your team member. There was a lot of discussion of how the culture and atmosphere in teams led by women looks, and if it’s healthy. And I think in this case, it was the healthiest team I’ve worked with.

Dr. Ayaka Ando 10:49 I mean, I think it’s not. For me, it’s not probably the person, like the woman or man per se. But rather the person and their motive or what their underlying of how that person is. Maybe if that person is competitive, then maybe they would naturally just like, you know, subconsciously create a competitive environment potentially. Or maybe if they’re, like, quite controlling, then maybe it’s not really the woman or the man per se, I think. But how the style of that person is.

Dr. Ayaka Ando 11:23 And I think what I tried to do really is that I learned quite a lot, too. And it’s more so the, … The world I was trying to create was that I realized that different people need different guidance in a way. Then I think for you, it was very clear that you were creative, you had your ideas, and you were really, you know, wanting to go for it. So then, why would you stop that?

Dr. Ayaka Ando 11:51 If you were going for it, then what’s the point of managing that in a micro, you know, like micromanaging that, I thought. I think, you were motivated enough and just go for it, I think so. I mean, I’m glad we worked out very well, because I think we made a very good team and that we had a really successful congress then.

Natalia Bielczyk 12:17 That’s true. I’m type of a creator, that’s for sure. But I mean, not every leader understands this. That’s also the point. I’m glad to hear that you also enjoy the role you have today. And I would like to learn a bit more about the field of medical communications; also, there are lots of urban legends around, simply put.

Dr. Ayaka Ando 12:47 Is there? Okay, I would like to know.

Natalia Bielczyk 12:49 It’s quite hermetic. At least during the Netherlands, it is quite hermetic, it’s hard to get in. It’s also partially because it’s hard to get in if you don’t speak the local language. For expert PhDs, it’s very hard to find a first job in this field. But could you tell us a bit more how the daily job looks for you?

Dr. Ayaka Ando 13:17 A day on in a medical communications role. Usually, we are very time orientated, because, you know, we work within billable hours. We have to be very conscious of how we use our time and how we manage our time and also be efficient with it. Because we also don’t want to, you know, overcharge/undercharge. I think you work quite efficiently and its very team orientated, and everyone is very conscious about their capacity.

Dr. Ayaka Ando 13:50 And the great thing is that because it’s teamwork, you know, when someone don’t have that capacity, because their deadline for something else, you know, is coming, then someone else would pick it up. And as medical writers, I think people write really good briefs of what they have to do, and it’s really organized. You know, we know where to find things; we know how to continue. I think that’s the great thing about medical communication.

Dr. Ayaka Ando 14:20 I think generally people are very organized. But what I think a general day would be that you have to attend a few meetings. It could be internal, a lot of them also external to talk about projects. And additionally, a lot of the things that I personally do is making congress abstracts and posters as well as oral presentations. I also work on ad boards sometimes as well as advisory boards for pharmaceutical companies.

Dr. Ayaka Ando 14:54 We also work on obviously manuscripts, writing manuscripts but it’s not only the doing part. But also, the communicating to your client’s part that is quite a majority of the job and, you know, being very neutral within that whole project, I guess. And being the relationship person between the authors and the client, for example. It’s quite a lot of that as well, which I find interesting. But I think it also takes a while to get to know the politics behind it as well.

Dr. Ayaka Ando 15:35 But I guess a typical day would consist of dealing with many projects. And so, you have to also, not only time manage, but also be organized. And you know, be able to quite switch your head because you might get some email to do something quite quickly for a client and you do have to do it right then. That’s probably a typical day. There’s a lot of, … you know, I only just mentioned briefly the congress reports and advisory board that I work on and manuscripts.

Dr. Ayaka Ando 16:05 But there’s a lot of different type of medical communication types, I guess. There’s, you know, people who write clinical trial reports, as well as people who do independent projects with, you know, non-pharmaceutical clients. We also work with a lot of educational materials. It’s an interesting job, because you get a variety of indications, as well as a variety of types of communication methods. I guess.

Natalia Bielczyk 16:39 Very interesting. I presume that that also requires salesmanship skills isn’t that true? Because to communicate with clients, I guess, one of the KPIs for you as an employee is also the deals you make. I don’t know, I’m just making presumptions.

Dr. Ayaka Ando 17:00 You are absolutely right. It is very client based. However, luckily, at our company, we do you have an account management role. People who are more involved in their budgets, and the, you know, organizing the business side of things. And I’m more involved in the scientific content side. Luckily, I’m not too involved. I mean, that’s the good thing though. We always are in constant communication to each other, and we work together closely.

Dr. Ayaka Ando 17:28 We always know what’s up, except we don’t have to, you know, organize it. And I think that’s why it also works quite well, you know, compared to academia. In academia, literally one person has to do all of these things, I think. You know, whereas in industry, people who are good at that does that. And people who can write does this, and people who can project manage, does that.

Dr. Ayaka Ando 17:55 Because we are shared in the way where, you know, we blossom the most. I think that’s also why it’s organized first of all. And we if we’re not trained, then we can ask someone who is trained in that respect. I think that’s why … Not like, you know, not saying academia is bad, you learn a lot. And you sometimes are just put in the deep end, and you just have to really, you know, do it yourself.

Dr. Ayaka Ando 18:23 But I think in industry that’s a little bit different, because there’s usually always someone you can ask, in academia as well. But there’s someone more professional, not professional, who has more experience than you that you can always refer to and you can always ask for support. And it’s not just on you really to, you know, do all of the parts.

Natalia Bielczyk 18:44 But what is the biggest challenge?

Dr. Ayaka Ando 18:46 The hardest to learn was maybe … First of all, when you’re in academia, you’re really concentrated on a very small part of research. You are such a proof that one particular thing. However, when you go into industry, I think you have to have a broader knowledge of a lot of things. And that’s maybe that’s one of the … I guess, it’s a challenge that was also interesting because you learn something new and I’m still learning something new, you know, every day. In academia, you do as well.

Dr. Ayaka Ando 19:28 It was a difference, I guess. I suddenly wasn’t in this, you know, little bubble of neuroimaging. But suddenly, I was working with many new indications, many pharmaceutical products, you know. It was like a little bit of a, … You know, it was a bit different, I must say. That probably was a little bit of a challenge. What I really like also is the that it’s so easy to ask someone if you don’t know something. And that’s what they said as well at the company.

Dr. Ayaka Ando 20:09 First of all, just ask someone because that’s probably the best, you know, the easiest the fastest way you can get an answer. And if they don’t know then you can always, you know, search for it yourself. They have a very open atmosphere where you really feel comfortable to ask people. I think that the challenge is also you know, alleviated in a way by being able to refer to people,

Dr. Ayaka Ando 20:36 Great. How does your career path look like in this environment?

Dr. Ayaka Ando 20:44 I guess, I am an associate medical writer at the moment. So then, you become like the actual medical writer and then you have this like senior, and then you go up, up and up and up. But you can also do sort of like a sideways transfer in a way, where you go to maybe account management roles as well if you’d like; if that’s what you’re interested in.

Dr. Ayaka Ando 21:10 But I think what we do is when you start, you also do a lot of variety of different types of projects. And you also then realize, first of all, what you’d like and second of all what you are good at. Then I think you really can sort of nourish that skill set in a way. And they’re also open to you saying, ‘You know, I actually want to try something new. Can I work on another advisory board instead of working on congress reports?’, or something like that.

Dr. Ayaka Ando 21:46 It’s quite a fluid environment, I must say. In terms of like direct career path, I guess you would be doing similar things. But I think also because we do billable hours, your time would cost more as you get more senior in the role.

Natalia Bielczyk 22:11 When you are in this role, do you also feel that you have some pressure to brand yourself next to working for your employer? What I mean is, today in many fields, professionals feel compelled to also build a personal brand next to their job. Build their personal website build a LinkedIn presence. That also becomes a part of career development more and more. But it’s not always the case. Do you feel that next to your daily activities you still have to do a little bit of hustle on the side to kind of build your brand as a professional? Or this isn’t not what other professionals in your field are doing?

Dr. Ayaka Ando 23:08 Not really. I think that’s a really good question. I think I felt more pressure while I was in academia because then you’re really sort of … maybe I should say left on your own, but you’re sort of ‘I’ in a way you. You know, you have to find your own money and you have to have your own ideas and projects, and that has to be funded. Whereas here, I feel like I am fairly protected within the company in a way that you represent them to clients too.

Dr. Ayaka Ando 23:46 It’s not me per se. I guess, if I make a mistake, I feel bad for the team rather than myself, that I maybe represented them not the best way for example. I have never felt a bit of a too much pressure really to build any presence otherwise.

Natalia Bielczyk 24:10 Great, interesting. This is interesting and that’s also what often happens in IT. And I can see that friends from like Master’s, who are now working for Facebook and some other respected companies in IT, and they kind of build really good careers. They almost don’t have any online presence. Now it becomes like two groups of professionals; some of them go really hard on online presence and try to get as much following as possible. And the rest is almost absent online.

Natalia Bielczyk 24:55 I’m always wondering, what is the best strategy, like how to best allocate your time. Because your day only has 24 hours. Like in my case, what I want to do for a living is mostly writing books and creating materials and tools for other people to thrive with their careers and potentially in the future also solve other types of problems. But I want to be a problem solver, creating new tools.

Natalia Bielczyk 25:23 Deep work is what I want to do for a living but of course, this type of activity requires online presence. Because when you start from scratch no one will ever buy your book, when they don’t know about you. That’s also what I learned the hard way. I wrote a book, I was very proud of it, I put it on Amazon. And then in the first week or two, maybe 100-euro worth of books were sold and I was like, ‘Hey, it’s awesome, why doesn’t it sell?’

Natalia Bielczyk 25:55 And then I discovered that like what you do is not everything. You also have to have ways to get to the potential buyer and persuade them that this is a good solution for them. Then I have to increase the amount of time I had to spend on building the online presence and the brand. And this is kind of a must, if you’re an author or content creator.

Natalia Bielczyk 26:25 If you write books, if you create educational materials then this is what you have to do. I don’t really feel like I have a choice. But if you are employed in a field where you’re a specialist, then you have a choice. And the question is maybe it’s not worth your time to really build a presence.

Dr. Ayaka Ando 26:53 Also, I think if you’re interested in building a presence, then I think go for it for sure. Even if you’re in medical communications, I think go for it. I mean if you’re freelancing as well, then it’s really important probably to have a presence online. I think if you’re employed and I I don’t feel the need to as much. And I’m not the best at it, I think. I don’t know. I mean, I like looking at them but I don’t know if I’m the best at …

Dr. Ayaka Ando 27:34 I think, I’m not as creative as you for sure and I really like you know enjoyed reading your stuff or editing them. But I never thought that I could like write from scratch suddenly something like you wrote. It’s I think it’s totally dependent on what you like and what you do. In either way, I think having an online presence as well as some marketing skill is like it’s only going to benefit yourself in any way.

Natalia Bielczyk 28:06 Yes, for sure. But it eats up so much time that there is this trade off of how to best spend your time. Online presence is something that you cannot really drop out of. Because once you drop out and stop creating, stop communicating, then everything you’ve built up to that point kind of slowly goes to dust. When you have a blog, you have to update the content once in a while because otherwise you’ll get downgraded by Google

Natalia Bielczyk 28:42 It’s not something you can suddenly, you know, stop doing. Good to know. That’s good news, that there is this “Green Island” somewhere in the job market where you don’t have to hustle and work peacefully.

Dr. Ayaka Ando 29:07 I don’t know. Maybe I’m just in the bottom, so maybe that’s why. It’s like more time pressure than anything, I think, when it comes to what I do, I guess. But maybe it’s just within my little umbrella, I’m not sure. There is definitely time pressure but there’s no pressure about online presence.

Natalia Bielczyk 29:31 That’s what I dream of. I dream of finding my doppelganger who would just go and hustle. I’ll just peacefully sit and write. Maybe I get one, one day. Maybe if you could also share, what is the favorite part of your job today? You mentioned that you have to multitask; you have multiple types of duties. What is your favorite part of the week?

Dr. Ayaka Ando 30:03 I think it’s when you have a little bit of a social interaction as well as, you know, interesting work. And I, you know, started work during COVID, which means that we all started online. I think it’s hard to just go to the, you know … It’s not like you can go to the kitchen and while you’re making coffee, you just chat with your colleagues, that doesn’t happen. It’s quite nice when you want to ask someone something and you call them, and you end up chatting about just whatever it is, like, you know, even if it’s like about the weather.

Dr. Ayaka Ando 30:46 That’s quite a nice part of the job. Or like, rather, something that we have to, … It’s a time that we have to create nowadays, when you can’t just bump into people. When you have that accidentally, you know, and then you realize that you get along with that person. That’s always like a nice part of my day at least. But it’s also quite nice to be able to be flexible in my work. And you know, I’m have to be thankful for the home office situation at the moment as well.

Dr. Ayaka Ando 31:16 Because my daughter goes to a daycare that is just like, literally, around the corner; it takes me two seconds to get her for example. I can finish at three, pick her up, play with her until dinner and then I can work again, for example, if I need to. The flexibility I definitely enjoy with my work. Although there is time pressure, and people respond very quickly.

Dr. Ayaka Ando 31:45 Things happen very quickly in medical communication, so you have to be very onto it. However, you do have the flexibility of choosing your time. And that’s a really nice part of it, as well. It’s been quite interesting starting within a lockdown. However, I think we are all trying to make the most of it. There is online events that we can participate in as well. That’s always a nice social aspect to the work as well that we can, you know, try and bring during this online mode.

Natalia Bielczyk 32:28 Interesting. I’m curious about the culture. Do you feel that it’s flatter, that you communicate, like on equal level? Or is it more a rocky call that you have clear deliverables, and there is a clear …?

Dr. Ayaka Ando 32:46 There is a clear … So, we have line managers, but it’s extremely flat in that. I mean, they are definitely more senior and they have more experience. But the whole aspect when I started, I was told even before I started. I think during the interview, they were saying, ‘It’s not meant to be hierarchical; you should be able to talk to anyone.’ Obviously, there is a hierarchy because I think a company functions with a hierarchy, but it doesn’t feel like it at all.

Dr. Ayaka Ando 33:16 And in Germany, you know, actually a common language is English, because we have, you know, it’s a very international company. But in Germany, for example, there is two types of words to say ‘You’ and one is ‘Z’ and one is ‘Do’ and, you know, Z is like the formal form. And when I was at uni, you had to call the professors and you know, people above use Z. But here when I started, they were like, ‘Oh, we don’t use z, like we just don’t have that hierarchy system.’

Dr. Ayaka Ando 33:48 And I think it’s quite new age as well. I think a lot of companies are doing that now, which I like and you know, even the shops are doing that, which is great. I really appreciate it. Also coming from Australia, you know, you never call your professor something. It’s just like, ‘Oh, Hi, Chris’, you know, whatever. It’s just very casual.

Dr. Ayaka Ando 34:08 I come from that atmosphere. And I really like that casual atmosphere where you obviously, you’re going to have respect. I think how you talk to them is not the way you show your respect. I mean, obviously you have to be polite or whatever, like, you know, diplomatic and so on. But I don’t think calling people ‘Z’ versus ‘Do’ like, that’s not, for me, the sign of respect that I want to show.

Dr. Ayaka Ando 34:36 It was quite a nice change, for me, to not have such a hierarchical structure and to really feel like you’re working in a collaborative team. Rather than, ‘Oh, you have to report this person’ or you know, it’s just a really refreshing change. Sorry, I’m just going to go back to your other question about what I like about my job. I do like creating something with people generally.

Dr. Ayaka Ando 35:11 When you then finish something that looks pretty in the end, and it’s so visually or aesthetically pleasing, it’s a bit of an achievement you know. It’s like, ‘Oh yeah, we’ve made something that looks good and it carries the message that you want it to carry.’ And also, the nice part is that you get acknowledged for it. It’s like, ‘Oh! You know, great job. Thank you so much for your work.’ And I think that’s just a really nice thing that you may not get in academia as easily, I think. Because how many eureka moments do you have.

Dr. Ayaka Ando 35:55 That sounds great. If you could give advice to PhD graduates and all the other young professionals who don’t have formal experience with medical writing just yet but come from medical sciences and are trying to get into the field. What do you think are the best entry points?

Dr. Ayaka Ando 36:17 I think if you have freelance experience, that’s always a great idea because then you have some experience. Language is always going to be an advantage obviously. But that’s something that potentially you can’t help too much because you’re never, you know, you can’t be. You can be fluid at a language because you live there but you may not be classified as native, for example. I don’t know.

Dr. Ayaka Ando 36:45 But language is always, I think when it comes to medical communications, probably an advantage. But I think having experience is also always going to be an advantage. If you have the chance to do some freelance work, or just helping your friends edit their work for example, you know, just going through their thesis or their manuscripts or whatever.

Dr. Ayaka Ando 37:09 I think that is also just for yourself. I think it’s good to know if you like that sort of thing. And generally, I think knowing a little bit of knowing how to make something look pretty. It’s quite a nice thing to have but you know, that can also be learned as well. But for me, what the advice really would be to follow your gut in a way. If you think you want to go in a different direction and if you want to try it, I feel like you should go for it.

Dr. Ayaka Ando 37:52 You said that it’s quite hard to penetrate, like this job market; it’s had to hard to penetrate. But in Germany, it’s not too bad, I think. It also really depends on where you are, I guess, so this is probably not the best advice to be honest. I mean, for example, I have a friend … When I started working here, I messaged my old supervisors from my PhD stay, ‘Oh, just letting you know that I changed my job. I’m no longer working at the university, but work here.’

Dr. Ayaka Ando 38:33 And one of them came back to me saying, ‘Oh, by the way, one of my postdocs is wanting to also do medical communication and she’s doing a Master’s in it.’ Apparently, you can also do Master’s in it as well. I mean, obviously having these experience or education is always going to be a plus for you. I think for me, what helped was the experience that I got at our HBM, Organization for Human Brain Mapping, that was definitely a help for me. And it also was helpful for my CV I think as well.

Dr. Ayaka Ando 39:10 I think just whatever you … And who knew that during the HBM experience that I would get an experience in this sort of you know, editing or writing but I did, so who knows what’s there really. I think if you have any chance to be involved in something other than just your academia, but something else on this side, then I think you should just go for it. But also, I think you just have to follow your gut feeling and your heart when it comes down to it. I think you just have to do what you like. And I’m sure that if you persevere, which we’re all very good at from academia, then you find a way I think

Natalia Bielczyk 39:53 I think if you’re fighting, you already won. And the worst thing that can happen is regretting things you didn’t do.

Dr. Ayaka Ando 40:04 Yeah, absolutely. You’re right.

Natalia Bielczyk 40:07 And intuition is a very powerful type of intelligence in fact as well. It will always … Now, I also changed my way of making decisions, compared to five or 10 or 15 years ago. I used to be this logician, like the very logical person who always knew take logical arguments into account. And at some point, I realized that it only works in short-term. But in the long term, I don’t navigate myself well, this way. Doing only what my logical mind tells me and going against intuition was probably the worst decisions I ever made.

Dr. Ayaka Ando 40:52 But now you know, at least.

Natalia Bielczyk 40:55 Now I know. I always try to, when I make a decision, I always try to ask both my mind; my rational mind and my intuitive mind. And if they disagree, then I go with the intuitive mind.

Dr. Ayaka Ando 41:09 But that’s very good of you to know the difference in a way.

Natalia Bielczyk 41:14 Yeah, I see the difference. The difference is that your gut is telling you something, so you feel it, you know, in your body. It’s a bit different. It’s easy to tell the difference, I think. But yeah, I agree with you. 100%. Because like your story sounds like a lucky escape. Like, it’s a good ending, you’re happy. But is there anything that you would do differently if you had the chance? If you look back at your career last 510 years, is there anything that you think, ‘Well, if I knew beforehand, like certain things, I would just do it differently?’

Dr. Ayaka Ando 41:58 I wouldn’t say so, not because I regret anything. Like I mean, obviously, I’ve done things that I didn’t like. You know, and not all the places that I worked have been, you know, great. I think there’s always going to be ups and downs within one project as well. You know, within your PhD within your postdoc, there’s always going to be a high and a low. However, I think I sort of live by the rule where I want to make the most of what I have.

Dr. Ayaka Ando 42:37 Whatever it is, I would want to make the most of what I have. Even if it’s not the best situation, I would try and make the most of it. And if it’s not working, then you obviously have to find something else. And I think that’s probably why I sound like this, too. You know, obviously, it’s not all shiny; that’s clear. I think in academia as well as in industry, there’s always going to be a negative side, or there’s always going to be stress, there’s always going to be pressure for something.

Dr. Ayaka Ando 43:14 Even though they’re not the same pressures or stress, whatever. But I think, you know, … I’m not saying that you have to be positive all the time, because I think that’s stressful and it’s probably not healthy for you. But I think to be self-aware, and to really listen to what you are feeling. And therefore, like follow your gut also, but think logically as well. But to really reflect on yourself and be self-aware and think about how you are feeling in that situation or in that atmosphere.

Dr. Ayaka Ando 43:54 And if you’ve tried and if it still doesn’t work, then it’s okay to change or it’s okay to go somewhere else or whatever it is. I mean, I wouldn’t say that I’ve always had the best work atmosphere but I’ve tried to make the most of it. I think and if it didn’t work, then that’s okay, I just go somewhere else. And I think I really had to listen to how I’m feeling as well that, ‘Okay, like this is now not making me happy or this is not going anywhere.’

Dr. Ayaka Ando 44:31 Or it’s like, ‘Okay, I feel anxiety over this thing or something like that’, you know. And then, I’ve had to really learn to listen to my feelings. And that’s really made me aware of, you know, aware of how I want to lead my life, I guess. I want to do something that makes me happy that I’m passionate about. Medical communication is something that I passionate about and it’s great.

Dr. Ayaka Ando 44:58 But most importantly, the people that I work with are really nice and that’s what makes my life now really nice. On top of, you know, all of like my family and everything like that. But just in terms of my profession, that’s what makes my life nice now.

Natalia Bielczyk 45:17 Perfect. Okay, great. On that note, thank you so much, Ayaka, for joining us today and for your wonderful insights. And for all of you guys who would like to get more of this type of content, please subscribe to the channel. And we are looking forward to your comments and questions, please post them below. We’ll answer each one of them and till next time.

Dr. Ayaka Ando 45:42 Thank you so much.

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