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Harvesting Your Future with Agricultural Biotechnology

A  panel of ag biotech company representatives provided a bumper crop of good advice at July’s jobs networking event titled Harvest Your Future with Agricultural Biotechnology

The speaker panel included representatives from Novozymes, BioResource International (BRI), Bayer CropScience and NCSU’s College of Ag and Life Sciences. These industry professionals and hiring managers discussed what it takes to get hired in their respective companies.

Sarah McHatton of Novozymes stressed the importance of “daring to lead.” She said resumes should demonstrate leadership by stating goals and showing follow through and initiative; taking pride in finding solutions with others (teamwork) and demonstrating professionalism. She added that it is important to “seek simple solutions fast.”

Giles Shih of BRI provided some unique perspectives on the qualities he looks for in prospective employees as the leader of a life science startup. He discussed what he calls the four Ps: People, Product, Process and Persistence. They're important in developing a strong company, he said, and told attendees they can apply these same aspects to their own personal brand. 

Shih discussed the importance of being self-aware; knowing your strengths and weaknesses to help you to continue to learn and grow (people); the importance of creating real value (yourself as the product). He said networking can lead to success (process) and stressed the need for persistence as embodied by Growth, Respect, Integrity and Teamwork (GRIT).  He added that people are hired for their skills but promoted for their traits such as optimism, enthusiasm, confidence, humility, flexibility and resistance.

Jolene Unland, who helps to lead the crop analytics lab at Bayer CropScience, shared information about how her team helps to support innovation and product development activities. She also provided suggestions for bringing experience to life when applying or interviewing for positions.

She specifically highlighted another piece of advice to job seekers coming from academic backgrounds - to  demonstrate “the appropriate sense of urgency.”  In other words, demonstrate that you  understand how important different tasks and jobs may be, and be able to show you can judge the necessary amount of effort and time needed.

Companies run on different time lines than academia, and it is important to demonstrate that you can meet deadlines without getting caught up in details that could bog down a project. In academia, such things may lead to a new discovery, but in business they could derail a project.

Deborah Thompson brought a different view to the conversation, as she is now leading engagement between industry partners and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at NC State. She recently left NCBiotech to take the newly created position of director of industry partnership development. 

Thompson reviewed the workforce development resources and activities at the College, and shared her thoughts on how young or transitional job seekers can better position themselves for target opportunities

The audience asked some great questions including the best way to transition into ag biotech with expertise from another area. The panelists responded that applicants need to demonstrate sincere interest on their resumes by showing that they have the transferrable skills necessary for leadership, as well as the understanding of the ag biotech sector. Leadership skills can be highlighted by emphasizing skills that are transferrable.

Demonstrate an understanding of the sector by getting some training or experience that specifically applies to ag biotech (or whatever field you want to transition to) through classes, internships, seminars, etc. and include this information in your resume and cover letter.

Don’t just list items on your resume; include enough description to demonstrate what you’ve done.  If you’ve tutored an undergraduate, you could use that experience to show leadership capabilities. Providing the right context and detail about presentations you’ve made can demonstrate other transferrable skills.

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