Graham C.

Associate Director - Corporate Development
Happy to mentor
Happy to be contacted

About me

Graham C.
Research Postgraduate
United Kingdom

My employment

Associate Director - Corporate Development
Science and research
Medium-size business (50-249 employees)

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A day in the life of a Associate Director - Corporate Development in Canada

Our work environment is very collaborative and inspiring. Everyone is eager to get involved in projects and help wherever they can, even if that means working a few extra hours.

Briefly describe the organisation you work for

AbCellera is an antibody discovery company. Our technology allows us to scan millions of antibody-secreting cells in a matter of days. With a suite of proprietary microfluidic single-cell assays, we can identify rare antibodies with whatever properties our research partners are looking for.

What do you do?

My role involves helping the company grow by identifying new strategic opportunities and partnerships. I support our board by leading reviews, analyses and the approval processes of corporate development projects, essentially assisting in our company's decision making processes.

Reflecting upon your past employment and education, what led you to your current career choice?

My academic background was heavily biochemistry and pharmaceutical research focused, but after completing my MSc I'd lost my passion for the lab. I still enjoyed testing hypotheses and analysing data, so I decided to take this and my scientific knowledge into the business world. Business consulting within the pharma industry was a great first step after graduating. It helped me build my financial acumen and project management skills, as well as learning lots about the industry. I then got really interested in how companies make big decisions. Supporting corporate decision making has been my focus for the last few years.

Is your current job sector different from what you thought you would enter when you graduated?

Not really. From a young age I recognised that the world around me and technology was evolving fast. I therefore thought it would be smart to think about careers and industries that the world needed, that would survive in the long-term. Industries like food and agriculture, biotechnology, medicine, energy. I didn't want to dedicate myself to a sector that could become obsolete (like my grandfather did in the cotton mills of Lancashire!). The biotechnology and pharmaceutical sector has evolved lots since I graduated 13 years ago, but it's still fundamentally the same, and provides lots of career growth potential.

Describe your most memorable day at work

When I was working as a business consultant I was transferred to the San Francisco office. I was very excited to move to a new city, but I was also nervous as I didn't know much about the business in the USA - I barely knew which side of the road to drive on, nevermind how their healthcare system works. On my first day I was asked to join a meeting with a big client and told that I would be managing a project to help them understand the potential impact of President Obama's healthcare reform on their business. I was initially terrified, but quickly found out that there were many experts on this topic in our USA offices. This was a very memorable period for me as I learnt that in order to manage a project well you have to collaborate with experts and work as a team, and not try to do everything yourself!

Are there any challenges associated with your job?

There are always going to be challenges in any job. As a Dad of two young kids my biggest challenge now is managing my work-life balance and making sure I dedicate plenty of time to my family. Flexible working hours and ability to work from home has been key to that.

What’s your work environment and culture like?

Our work environment is very collaborative and inspiring. Everyone is eager to get involved in projects and help wherever they can, even if that means working a few extra hours. We also work hard on team building and have lots of social events and an annual retreat. I started my career in the UK before moving to the USA and now Canada. I haven't found a huge difference in culture here vs. home. The biggest difference I noticed was clothing! People in North America are a lot more casual, no need for a suit or tie here. I felt London was a lot more formal.

What extracurricular activities did you undertake at university and what transferable skills did you develop through these?

At York I was very involved in the Karting Club and received half colours. We competed in the universities karting championship, which was great fun and I learnt a lot about working as a team in a competitive situation. Being on the committee of the club was also good experience. I learnt the effort required to run a club and coordinate events, as well as how to manage budgets and work with the student union.

What would you like to do next with your career?

In the next few years I'm hoping to take on more leadership focussed roles where I use my experience to mentor others, help manage larger teams and direct the overall growth of the company.

What top tips do you have for York students preparing for today’s job market and life after graduation?

Today's job market is very competitive. It's becoming increasingly harder to distinguish yourself from other applicants on the basis of academic performance alone. My advice would be to try and get as much experience as you can during summer holidays and possibly look into taking a sandwich year. Not only will this look good on your CV, it will also help you eliminate options that you are not passionate about. Being passionate about what you do is key to a successful and enjoyable career. Soft skills are also really valued by employers. So don't forget that building a rapport with your interviewer and demonstrating your soft skills with real examples from your past work experiences is critical during the interview process.

What topics from students are you happy to answer questions on?

Career development. Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology industry. Management Consulting. Business Consulting. Decision Analysis.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?

I benefited hugely from people mentoring me and sharing experiences when I was graduating. I'm excited to pay it forward.

Next steps...

If you like the look of Graham’s profile, the next steps are down to you! You can send Graham a message to find out more about their career journey. If you feel you would benefit from more in-depth conversations, ask Graham to be your mentor.

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