Text by Parvez Syed and Megumi Hayashi
Images by Parvez Syed
Parvez Syed holds a PhD in biotechnology and pursues an MBA in service design. He also works at a biotech startup and as an intern at World Trade Center Turku. With experience from Sweden, Austria and India, Parvez Syed now lives and works in Turku.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO LIVE IN FINLAND?
I have previously lived and studied in Sweden (2005-2008) and I didn’t realize how much I appreciated living in the Nordics until I moved out of Sweden. After Sweden, I moved to Austria to pursue my doctoral studies in biotechnology in 2008. In 2012, I went back to India and started working as a postdoctoral fellow. Although I enjoyed my work in India, I felt that I should get back to the Nordics.
Finland has always been popular among biotechnologists for its contribution to the field. Turku, despite being a small city, is an amazing hub of biotech companies. So, I started looking for opportunities in Finland, and finally, it happened. I still remember the day I received the fellowship to start my postdoctoral work at the University of Turku. Probably, one of the best days of my life. Some of my friends, back in India, didn’t understand why I wanted to go back to such a cold place. But what they didn’t understand that there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.
Since I moved to Finland, my work-life balance has been great. I am happy with my professional life, and I spend more time with my family.
HOW DO YOU DESCRIBE YOUR JOURNEY FROM A BIOTECHNOLOGY POSTDOC TO WORKING FOR A STARTUP COMPANY?
Although I did enjoy working as a postdoctoral fellow at the university, I was looking for opportunities in industries. This is where it gets a bit difficult for a non-Finnish-speaking person. I applied for jobs in some companies and got disappointed. Then I realized my CV and my LinkedIn profile are way too academic. Years of research work have taught me a lot of transferrable skills. However, I was highlighting them neither in my CV nor in my LinkedIn profile. It dawned on me that I need to upgrade my skill set and develop business acumen. I started networking with people and enrolled myself for a part-time MBA.
And then I reached to an old colleague and a very good friend of mine who’s the CEO of a biotech startup. We met for a coffee, and he offered me a job. That made me realize the power of “asking”. I could have met him months ago and asked for a job. That made me realize a strong desire needs to be backed by action too. This sounds clichéd, but it isn’t.
As a person who only worked in academia, working for a startup has helped me grow as a leader in a very short span of time. The work culture is pretty relaxed yet highly goal-oriented. For me, work culture is very important. I wouldn’t like to see myself burnt out.
NOW YOU ARE STUDYING MBA AND DOING AN INTERNSHIP FOR WTC TURKU. HOW DO YOU SEE YOUR FUTURE, COMBINING YOUR KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIENCES IN BIOTECH AND THE BUSINESS?
I am currently pursuing MBA in Service Design. Service design is all about creating human-centric creative solutions. “Design” doesn’t necessarily mean making things look aesthetically pleasing. It is about making things work efficiently. I am the kind of person who complains a lot. Contrary to the popular belief, complaining isn’t a bad thing at all. It helps the service providers to improve their service.
The concept of service design has been in use in the software and other service industry. However, when it comes to the biotech industries, this avenue hasn’t explored much. I wish to see myself as that person who brings the service design concept to improve the biotech industry.
As an intern at the World Trade Centre-Turku, I communicate with the biotech companies in the Southwest Finland region. The aim of my work is to make the biotech companies in the region understand how WTC Turku along with the Turku Science Park Ltd. can help them grow internationally. Personally, working at WTC Turku, and in close collaboration with Turku Science Park Ltd., would help me grow my network and help in my career growth.
ANY TIPS FOR FELLOW INTERNATIONAL PHDS AND POSTDOCS IN FINLAND WHO ARE PLANNING THE TRANSITION FROM ACADEMIA TO A PRIVATE COMPANY?
Knowing the local language is one of the greatest assets while looking out for a job. However, learning Finnish while working full-time at the university is a mammoth task. That’s the best suggestion I can give. Having said that, I must admit that my Finnish language skills are rather non-existent. I wish to find time someday to learn this amazingly complex language.
However, I, certainly, can share few tips which might be useful for fellow international PhDs and postdocs to find industry jobs in Finland:
- Make a list of transferable skills you have. People who are doing PhDs and postdocs might have supervised a few master’s students during their time at the university. You are natural leaders. Make sure that your CV and LinkedIn reflect that among other qualities.
- Work on your CV and LinkedIn. Make them industry-friendly.
- Keep networking. But remember when you connect with someone, tell them why you are connecting with them. People like to hear good things about themselves. Before you meet someone and send a LinkedIn connect, google them. See what they have accomplished and more importantly, how you can be useful to them.
- This is the most important thing to remember. Never underestimate the power of “asking”. Let the people in your network know that you are seeking a job outside of academia..