Dr Abby Guillermo – Admissions Office at the Schmidt Science Fellows

What led you to your career as an Admissions Officer for Schmidt Science Fellows?

After finishing my PhD in Biochemistry, I felt like there was a strong expectation to follow through an academic career, but I kind of knew it wasn’t quite right for me.  I still gave it a chance by doing pursuing a postdoc position in Singapore.  After that postdoc stint, I was sure that I wanted to “retire my pipette” and leave academia.  I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to do but I knew the ideal position would be somewhere that I can use my scientific training, be exposed to creative scientific projects that attracted me to doing a PhD in the first place and fulfilled a certain sense of purpose.  I chanced upon an admissions position at the Schmidt Science Fellows (in partnership with the Rhodes Trust) and even though I didn’t quite fulfil all points in the job description, I took a pint and applied anyway.  I got the job, and the rest is history!

Do you feel as though your postgraduate degree has provided you with skills and expertise you now use in your current profession that you otherwise would not have developed?  If so, what are they?

For sure.  As an admissions officer for a STEM-based interdisciplinary postdoctoral fellowship, I needed to be aware of and quickly learn about a breadth of scientific disciplines and be able to talk to all levels of stakeholders in the field.  Having the scientific background and understanding the career trajectories within academia certainly helped.

What would you like current postgraduates to know about the career paths they could possibly take?

Given the amount of time and energy spent on our education, it always feels like there’s this pressure to stick to academia.  I was hesitant to “jump ship” because I thought it’s a failure on my part if I didn’t make it as a PI or professor.  But the academic path isn’t the only career you can choose and certainly not for everyone.  I’m lucky to have found my current job but I wish I had started exploring alternative career options much sooner.  Take advantage of the resources available to you – Careers Service, fairs, open days…

Do you think bioscientists have an ‘edge’ that means they are particularly employable and/or sought after in your profession?

Yes.  Even if you leave sciences completely.  I think we’ve been trained to be quick on our feet, learn about new things in record time.  In doing a PhD, you’re pushing the boundaries of knowledge and constantly adapting to new things.  You’re already equipped to handle unknowns and to think rationally about how to approach a problem – that’s an advantage in any job.

Additionally, anything else you care to mention that I have not mentioned.

Don’t be afraid to apply for jobs you’re interested in, even if it seems like such a drastic pivot.  You’ve got nothing to lose, and you never know where and when the opportunity presents itself.