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Yitong Li, PhD.

Consultant at IQVIA

Yitong graduated from UNC in 2020 with a PhD. Interviewed by Jane Lee in December 2021.


Q: What are your main responsibilities as a Consultant at IQVIA?

At IQVIA, every junior member (ranging from Associate to Consultant) is staffed on 2-3 projects. Consultants are the project managers, who manage teams on small- to mid-sized projects. Consultants manage junior members, delegate tasks, and is the main contact for clients. If you have an established relationship with a client or if the seniors trust your presentation skills, you might present at important client meetings. There are times when the team gets stretched thin or when a project is high priority. In these situations, the Consultant will be more hands-on to ensure high quality by performing analysis, pulling data, making slide decks, and/or analyzing data.

Q: What excites you the most about your work?

The most exciting aspect about my job is seeing the junior members grow. Junior members require more hands-on supervision, especially if they are new employees at IQVIA. Over time, I get to see them grow and take on more initiative as well as responsibilities. The other exciting thing about being a Consultant at IQVIA is that you get to closely interact with clients. You get to discuss with clients directly on what they like or dislike about the project. When the clients appreciate the work and are impressed with the quality, you feel like you made a significant impact. It only takes 1-2 months to see the impact.

Q: How does your job affect your general lifestyle? Work-life balance?

In consulting, there are set expectations and it is not an easy job. At IQVIA 50-60 hours/week is typical for A-C levels; however, there are fluctuations with client expectations. For very demanding and high-impact projects, you might have 70–80 hours/week and additional work on the weekends. I get into this type of projects 1-2 times a year. To maintain work-like balance, setting your boundaries and communicating your availability with your team is the most important. You need to set your boundaries and they can change depending on what you want to bring to the table. This can depend on your career goals and drive. Personally, this schedule works for me: working late from Monday to Thursday, working normal hours on Friday, and keeping the weekend free outside of emergencies. In the end, it’s all about how you manage your time.

Q: What type of career development opportunities did you participate in during graduate school?

I participated in a technology transfer internship through UNC’s Office of Technology Commercialization (OTC). During the internship, I helped analyze the commercial potential of the existing patents. The work is similar to due diligence work performed by consultants. In addition to the internship, case competitions and consulting bootcamp were both helpful. I had a second internship at UNC Healthcare through the TIBBS ImPACT internship program. It was focused on data analytics, running R, and establishing a dashboard to help analyze the data more efficiently. The experience helped me hone my analytical skill sets. IQVIA has opportunities in data analytics under the modeling and web-app development team.

Q: What advice would you give someone who is considering applying to positions at consulting firms?

If you are interested in applying to a consulting firm, reach out and talk to people who work there and make sure you understand their expectations for the positions you are applying to. Make sure that you can understand big-picture questions for the clients. Case interview preparation help to some extent but too much case prep can make the applicant robotic and hide their thinking ability. Finally, make sure that you talk to as many people interested in consulting as you can and start to accumulate your network


Note: Yitong can write referrals for GBCC students interested in working at IQVIA Consulting Services. You can reach out to her via LinkedIn (


Jen Franks, PhD.

Scientist at Adrenas Therapeutics (BridgeBio Pharma)

Jen graduated from UNC in 2020 with a PhD. Interviewed by Shu Zhang in April 2021.


Q: You are a research scientist. How’s working at BridgeBio different from working in a lab when you were in graduate school?

It’s very similar in that I do a lot of similar assays. I’m learning new ones as well. I’m getting cross-trained in a lot of different procedures, which is great. I work with a lot of different people. In terms of differences, the management style is different. In grad school, you task one person with one project, whereas in industry there’s more cross-functional teams. I’ve worked with multiple managers that aren’t my direct manager. I’ll get pulled to work on a different project for a couple weeks, because they need bodies, like “Can you help us out with this?” or “We haven’t had anybody to figure this out and you have this experience”. This would probably not happen in academia. A PI wouldn’t snap a grad student from another PI just like that. I really like that because then you get to work with different people and learn different skills. It’s great in terms of expanding your own leadership and managerial capacities as a manager, but then also for somebody under them to learn those different styles of working with other people, which is really important. I can’t underline that enough. You don’t really get that aspect of collaboration unless you do it. This type of collaboration or diverse experience can be a little bit harder to get in academia since academia can be a little more siloed. That’s what I found in my experience.


Q: What is the structure and responsibility of your team?

My direct manager has multiple scientists that work with him, and he holds weekly meetings to assign tasks and divide up the work to ensure the projects keep moving forward at a good pace and everyone has a balanced workload. He’s not hovering over our shoulders for results. I finish the work as soon as I can and show him the results. There is a lot more communication. We also have weekly meetings as individuals in addition to our team meetings, but there’s not this sense of pressure to hurry up and get the data. It just kind of happens because people are efficient.


Q: Do you think you have a better work and life balance now?

Absolutely. The kind of work I did was very time sensitive, so I’d have to add drugs at certain times and harvest things at certain times. And so that kind of work did make it a little challenging to have a work-life balance, but in this job the work I need to complete can fit into a standard work day If you want to ten to six, nine to five, or eight to four, there’s flexibility to accommodate your preferred schedule, and they try not to have you work nights and weekends which was not the case when I was in grad school. So, in that way it’s been a lot better and I do appreciate that, but there is the reality that if there ever was a push to complete an objective under a deadline, they will ask us to put the work in to get it done. So, there’s the realization that we act like a small company, even though were part of the larger BridgeBio. We are nimble like a small company. When things need to be adjusted we just tag team and work with everybody so we can avoid having late nights and weekends.


Q: How did GBCC help you launch your career?

GBCC was helpful because it gave me the opportunity to interact with people that were in the positions where I could visualize myself hoping to be someday. I’m really excited to be at the bench as a scientist, but who knows where I’ll be in the future and it’s good to see that at my company the lead scientists are at the bench.


Note: The interview was done in Spring 2021. Since then, BridgeBio Pharma has changed its COVID policy and hired a lot of people.


Ian McDonald, PhD.

Consultant at Bain & Company

Ian graduated from UNC in 2020 with a PhD. Interviewed by Cody Sorrell on 3/5/2021


Q: How did you decide to get into consulting in the first place?


I probably have a similar story to most PhDs that want to get into consulting. Close to my third year, I realized I didn’t want to do research long term and I found I had an interest in the business. I found myself going to every TIBBS seminar I could find, and I ended up going to a consulting seminar with a life science consulting firm. They walked through what a consultant does, what a case looks like, and what the interview process looks like. It was a great overview of the field and I was sold pretty immediately on the idea.


Q: What activities within GBCC were useful for you getting your job?


I would start by saying really everything you begin doing early on is helpful in a different way. For students who are getting involved early, I would recommend just going to events. Some of the biggest drivers for why I was able to get an offer are probably due to (CG)2. Getting some real pro bono experience was important because it gave me the opportunity to practice what I had been learning during case interviews. It helped me grow and understand what I was getting into, helped build out my resume, and it was a good talking point for interviews. The second big part was the Cases & Cases group. Getting interview practice is very important and it is great for finding others who are on the same timeline as you and learn from each other that way.


Q: What are your responsibilities as a consultant and is the job what you had expected?


For the most part, it is what I thought it was going to be. The variety of work is what I expected and hoped for and what drove me towards consulting. I have been on the same case for 6 months now, but within that case, there is day-to-day and week to week variation that keeps it very interesting. On a day-to-day schedule, there are client meetings that are interspersed with team meetings and standups to help align everyone on goals and topics. In between those things, there will be work that needs to be accomplished, sometimes that might be making slides or running analysis. You have to learn how to adjust quickly between areas and balance multiple

tasks, which I find exciting.


Q: What led you to Bain & Company?


Through the ADvantage program I was able to do a short one-week internship at Bain and just the level of support within the team and office really blew me away. The way that people worked together and problem-solved felt like it was the right fit for me. It was a great experience and something I would highly recommend to everyone interviewing. Also, I would recommend to everyone to reach out to as many people as you can at firms you are interested in and talk to them. You can really get a sense of the culture and feel for a firm this way.


Q: What are your views on your current situation regarding work-life balance?


You do work a lot as a consultant for sure, but I think being on the other side of it as a PhD I feared it would be worse than it really is. There are stretches where things are very busy but at least at Bain, the teams and culture are so supportive that you are all going through it together. When things do slow up a bit there is a real conscious effort from managers to protect that work-life balance as best as possible. People additionally also wonder if weekends being protected is a real thing and in my experience that has been true.


Darmood “David” Wei, PhD.

Toxicologist @ FDA

David graduated from UNC in 2014 with a PhD in Toxicology. Interviewed by Michaela Copp on 12/16/2020


Q: Can you tell me a bit about your career path and how you found your current position?

I did my PhD at UNC in the Department of Toxicology. After I graduated, I went to the National Cancer Institute as a post-doc in Neurological Toxicology. I spent five years at NCI, and after that, I transitioned over to the FDA as a toxicologist.


Q: How did GBCC help you launch your career?

One of the things that I found helpful was the case interviews. When you give a case interview, you have to give a structured answer. One of the reasons for giving a structured answer is to be viewed as more intelligent. Practicing case interviews helped me learn how to give a clear and concise answer. What I took from those case interviews was how to think beyond the science of things and consider the business. Companies are ultimately developed from business decisions, not scientific decisions.


Q: What skills, abilities, and personal attributes are essential to success in your job/field?

Communication is the biggest deal, and one should definitely endeavor to be better at communication. This was heavily emphasized in my interview with the FDA, both verbal and written communication. I would highly recommend GBCC members improve their communication skills by seeking more opportunities to give talks and to write.


I was an introverted person when I started graduate school and scared of public speaking. My advisor was kind (or mean) enough to realize this was an issue, so he made sure to give me a talk at every possible moment. The first time I crashed and burned, but it made me determined never to do that again. I worked hard at my presentation skills and found a peer group that was willing to grill me during practice talks. Having gone through this process allowed me to be confident in my communication, and when you feel confident, it shows when you speak.


Q: What is the best way to network?

In the last several years of graduate school, I learned that networking is more building relationships than finding a nice job. Approach people with curiosity and seek to build a relationship. A common mistake when networking is approaching with the mindset, “If you can’t talk to me, I don’t have time to talk to you.” Finding a career is typically not about finding that first connection, it is about the second and third connection. A person you have networked with will know someone better suited to help you and can connect you, and more importantly, validate you to their network. I have landed my positions at the NIH and the FDA through referrals. Networking should be reworded to “building a relationship and friendship”.


Q: What advice would you offer to GBCC members?

Probably the best advice is to be curious. Don’t assume you know everything. Ask questions even when the answer seems obvious because the response is typically never as simple as you think. Other pieces of advice are to improve communication skills, take care of yourself (financially by putting money into a Roth IRA and physically), and try to build as many valuable relationships as you can.

Sarah Renner, PhD

Consultant @ Adivo Associates, LLC

Sarah graduated from UNC in 2017 with a PhD in Genetics and Molecular Biology. Interviewed by Taylor Enrico on 10/07/2020

Q: What are your main responsibilities as a consultant at Adivo?

It’s very different day-to-day. Our business model is slightly different from the Big Four or Big Three or other boutique consulting firms. We have great data and a great network of understanding very specific product lines. For example, I work on hemophilia, and we have networks to understand hemophilia markets across the globe. We have certain clients who are very interested in tracking those hemophilia markets. My day-to-day looks like: I talk to physicians, I learn about their markets, I learn what their needs are, I figure out what the hemophilia products are doing in those particular markets, and I write reports for clients.


Q: What excites you the most about what you do?

What excites me the most is getting to learn new things. Part of what drew me to science is that there is always something new to learn. One of the things that I enjoy the most about this job is that, even if I think I know a market 100%, there is always something else that I can learn about it. My job keeps my mind stimulated.


Q: How does your current job affect your lifestyle and what is your work-life balance like?

We have quarterly projects, so my tasks depend on where we are in the quarter. If I recently submitted quarterly deliverables, then I will have a less busy week or two, and then things ramp back up. During my time here, I have learned how to balance when to relax and when to really push. I’ve been at Adivo for three years, so I have gotten faster at things. At the beginning, I felt like I was working a lot, and I was. Now, I am very comfortable with what I’m doing, so I am able to manage my work-life balance, and I know how to complete projects on-time without working long hours. I think my work-life balance is good.


Q: Can you tell me about your career path and how you found your current position?

During college, I interned at a Pharmaceutical company called Barr Pharmaceuticals [now Teva]. As an intern, I worked in lots of different departments, which got me interested in a career in the biosciences. I graduated college in 2009, and I started working at a biotechnology company called Intrexon. I worked there for a few years. What made me decide to go back to school and get my PhD, is that the people who were making major decisions for the company had PhDs, MBAs, and I realized that if I wanted to do more, I needed more schooling. In graduate school, I knew that I wanted to go back to industry. By third year, I was facing challenges with my project, and I wanted to focus on something else. I joined the consulting club, and the rest is history. I learned that consulting was an option for PhDs, I went to club events, and I enjoyed the problem-solving aspect of consulting. I wanted to keep my mind busy, understand the business side of science, and build my business knowledge. Coincidentally, I found my job at Adivo because of a connection through the club. My fellow vice-president [of GBCC] received an email about an opening at Adivo and shared the information with me. This job was not posted on the internet where I would have found it on my own.


Q: How did GBCC help you launch your career?

In addition to the networking opportunities, it really gave me an understanding of business. A lot of business is common sense, problem solving, and critical thinking. [GBCC] helped me to hone those skills in a way that made me more employable, and a better candidate in interviews. As a PhD student, we learn to think critically. Through GBCC, I practiced case interviews, competed in case competitions, and worked on a pro bono consulting project with (CG)2. All of these things showed that, not only could I think critically, but I also was interested in business. When I look at candidates applying to Adivo, I am looking for someone that, if they do not have an MBA, that they are showing an interest in business.


Q: What is one piece of advice you would offer to current students?

Do as much as you can, learn as much as you can, and make as many relationships as you can while you’re in grad school. While you’re in school, focus on career development and making professional connections when you have time. If you are in the middle of qualifying exams, maybe that is not the best time for networking, and that’s okay. You will have time, and you can do so many different things with your PhD, that if one thing does not work out, something else will. You are going to be okay.


Patrick Kurunwune, PharmD

Senior Consultant @ Deloitte

Patrick graduated from UNC with a dual MBA/PharmD, and has supported work aggregating spending and utilization data for high volume medications for large health systems. Interviewed by Xiaorui Fu on 9/30/2020.

Q: Why did you choose consulting?

I always knew I wanted to work on the business side of healthcare (i.e., pharmaceutical companies like Lily, Pfizer, etc.). However, while in business school I participated in a business case competition (sponsored by Deloitte) and this is what piqued my interest. Concurrently, I had the pleasure of meeting my now mentor Swati Patel, MBA, PharmD who is a Managing Director at Deloitte. She is the individual who explained to me the many different areas that pharmacists can provide value in the consulting space. The combination of the case competition coupled with the insights provided by Swati influenced me to apply for a summer internship at Deloitte.

Q: What do you like about Deloitte?

I really enjoy the working culture and the people I have been exposed to. As a pharmacist, my diversity of experience is highly valued and I genuinely feel that my recommendations are not only heard, but also implemented. Even as an intern, I had opportunities to engage and share my insights with our senior level clients.

Q: For students who only possess a PharmD, what are some of the hurdles they may face early on in their consulting careers?

The only disadvantage for PharmDs is the learning curve associated with working in a primarily business setting. While the PharmD will set you apart in terms of your knowledge surrounding medication related opportunities, there may be a deficit in some of the technical skills and business knowledge needed to perform at a high level. With that being said, most firms have resources in place that can aid their employees in any knowledge gaps that are present.

Q: In your opinion, what are the top 5 skills consulting firms are looking for in a PharmD?

  1. Good Communication Skills: Most clients don’t have the bandwidth for extraneous information, so you are expected to present insights to clients that are clear and concise.
  2. Time Management: You will be asked to balance many different tasks (sometimes different workstreams) and being able to prioritize your time is paramount.
  3. Professionalism: Consulting is a people-facing position, so firms will not hire anybody they don’t feel comfortable placing in front of their clients.
  4. Adapting to Sudden Change: You move at the cadence set by the client. Therefore, you must be ready to make changes on the fly.
  5. Conceptual Thinkers: As pharmacists, we are taught to learn on a differential – guidelines are the basis of what we use to make our recommendations. As pharmacists in the consulting space, our value is amplified when we can think “outside of the box” and present recommendations that are novel and impactful for the client.



Franklin Roye, PharmD

Co-founder and President @ IndyCare

Franklin graduated from UNC in 2002 with a PharmD. Interviewed by Taylor Enrico on 9/17/2020

Q: Can you tell me a bit about IndyCare and what it means to be a healthcare hub?

Indy care is a retail health model. I think healthcare has always been a “we build it, and you come” model of service. Retail health flips that and makes healthcare more accessible, more individualized, and more on the terms of the customer or patient.

Q: What inspired you to start IndyCare?

An old friend of mine, that I graduated pharmacy school with almost 20 years ago, pitched me the idea. After school, my friend opened, operated, and owned a lot of his own pharmacies, while I was in the business/industry/corporation world. Some of [my friend’s] pharmacies were located next to an urgent care, and he started to see the potential of combining the two businesses. He recognized that he had done a lot as a small business owner, and the skillset that I had from my experiences is what he needed from a partner to take this thing from a local small business to a scalable large business. It took about a year of convincing, but we have a long history, and there was a lot of familiarity, trust, and friendship that made it easy to partner up.

Q: What was your career path leading up to starting IndyCare?

My career path started while I was in school. I worked at Michael Jordan’s restaurant and as a bouncer for a bar at the Jersey Shore. I worked under the COO for a long-term care pharmacy company. I interned at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in marketing, and that internship led to me taking a job at GSK when I graduated. I started in marketing, moved to sales, sales training, and then hospital account management. Next, I got interested in an opportunity to work overseas. I found an opportunity through a market access and medical communications consulting firm that I worked with while I was at GSK.  They were expanding, and I started up their sales, business development, and commercial function in the Asia Pacific region. I did that for 5 years, and it got me experience with doing business in that region. That led me to take a job with PPD [a contract research organization based in Wilmington, NC], where I worked in a business development role for the same region of the Asia Pacific. I was there when I made the choice to move back to the US and start IndyCare.

Q: A lot of students want to know about starting companies. What did starting IndyCare entail?

It’s a little different when you’re 40-years-old, and you’ve worked for 20 years, and then decide to be an entrepreneur, because you’re a bit more risk averse. I spent a lot of time doing my due diligence. I wanted to feel confident that there is a strong market opportunity, and that the business value proposition had legs. My business partner and I met with pharmacy owners and soft pitched them on the idea to get a sense of their reactions. I went to conferences in the urgent and convenient care industries to understand where things were moving, and what challenges and growth opportunities exist.

Q: What does your current job entail day-to-day?

A third of my day is focused on things that will help move the company forward. So, what is our expansion plan? What is our financial performance looking like? What is the strategy to improve financial performance? What is our strategy to raise capital? Another third to half of my day is focused on operations. And 15-20% is more blue sky and innovation. We are constantly evaluating opportunities to innovate and add services.

Q: What excites you the most about your work?

This is the first time in my career that I’ve moved to the frontline of healthcare. Of course, if you work in Big Pharma or for a contract research organization that operates clinical trials, those things make an impact on peoples’ lives, but it’s different than when you really touch a life, personally, and give people care.

Q: What advice would you give to UNC students getting ready to start their career?

I would say, try everything. Make as many relationships as you can, branch out, embrace learning. Develop your professional relationships, because those will always come back and pay you in dividends. Whatever job you do when you leave school, chances are, you won’t be doing that 20 years later. Don’t worry about your first job being the perfect stepping stone, because you’re going to grow, and learn, and see things in business that interest you that you didn’t realize exist.


Kristen Biernat, PhD, RAC

Regulatory Scientist I, CATO SMS

Kristen graduated from UNC in 2018 with a PhD in Chemistry. Interviewed by Taylor Enrico on 9/3/2020

Q: How do you define regulatory affairs?

It is an industry that oversees how drugs and medical devices are developed and manufactured so that they are safe for human use.

Q: What does your current job entail day-to-day?

I’m a Regulatory Scientist at CATO SMS, and we provide regulatory and scientific guidance on drug development issues. My job involves a lot of different responsibilities including writing regulatory clinical documents, like safety reports, pre-IND [Investigational New Drug] packages, and informed consent forms and protocols. I also help manage regulatory submissions to the FDA.

Q: Can you tell me a bit about your career path and how you found your current position?

About halfway through grad school, I started to realize that bench science was not for me, so I began researching careers that did not involve benchwork. I became interested in regulatory affairs, because I read that it involves a lot of project management and medical writing, and those were the types of things that I enjoyed during my PhD. I was able to get a [TIBBS ImPACT] internship at CATO SMS during graduate school that I really enjoyed. So, I applied for CATO SMS’s fellowship program, and I was lucky enough to be accepted. After one year in the fellowship program, I was offered a fulltime position as a Regulatory Scientist.

Q: What was the process of getting your Regulatory Affairs Certification (RAC)?

At CATO SMS, everyone that was interested in taking the RAC exam met once a week to go over a couple of chapters in the RAC textbook. I also independently read the textbook and sought out online resources on the topics in the book. I started preparing 3-4 months before the exam. I took the U.S. exam, which covered both drugs and device regulation for the U.S., but now the exam format has been changed. There is no longer a U.S. exam; there is a drug exam or a device exam, and those cover regulations in the United States and Europe.

Q: What excites you the most about your work?

I am doing something new every day and I am working with novel drugs. At the end of the day, it is nice to know that my work may end up helping someone and improving lives.

Q: How did GBCC help you launch your career?

I was one of the coordinators for the Beyond the Bench Seminar Series. One of the first speakers we invited worked in the regulatory affairs field, which got me interested in the career. The Beyond the Bench series also allowed me to explore other careers, identify what I could potentially see myself doing, and what I thought I might not enjoy doing, which really helped me to pinpoint what I wanted to do.

Q: What is one piece of general advice you would offer to current GBCC members?

Talk to as many people as you can about their careers. It will help you determine whether their career might be a good fit for you and will help you to build relationships with people in the workforce.

Q: What do you think is the best way to network?

I would search for jobs on LinkedIn that I am interested in pursuing to find people to talk to. If I have a mutual connection, I might ask my mutual connection to introduce me. If I didn’t have a mutual connection, then I would cold message the person. Most people are very willing to talk about their career.

Q: What advice would you offer to students interested in pursuing a career in regulatory affairs?

I would try to use all of the resources that you can find to learn more about regulatory affairs. I know that Duke offers a regulatory affairs class; I took that. I would also recommend going to seminars where someone who works in the regulatory field is presenting. And I would reach out to people working in the field and talk to them about their career.


Anthony Arceci, PhD

Biopharmaceutical Leadership Development Program, Pharmacovigilance, Reata Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

Anthony graduated from UNC in 2019 with a PhD in Molecular Genetics. Interviewed by Taylor Enrico on 7/10/2020.

Q: What does your current job entail?

What I’m doing day-to-day is pharmacovigilance. I am playing the role of the safety risk management scientist in that group. The company is submitting two NDAs [new drug applications] for our two lead products in two different indications. As part of that, we develop a safety risk management plan. What that entails, is describing and categorizing safety concerns at a very high level, and also areas where there might be missing safety information that we need to gather. For ongoing clinical trials, part of our job is to make sure that the regulatory authorities get all the safety information and patient narratives.

Q: You rotated through multiple positions at Reata. What was that experience like?

My last rotation was in product strategy, which entailed two things. First, was looking at current clinical data. I was there when we wrapped up a couple of phase III clinical trials, so we examined that trial data and what it may mean moving forward. The second part was looking for newer indications that might be a good fit for products in our pipeline that are earlier in development, or products later in development that can be applied to a different indication. That was a pretty cool experience, because I happened to rotate through that group as we’re transitioning from being a mostly clinical pharma company to having products on the market. I got to see everything that was going on at a high level, and now, through my role in pharmacovigilance, I get to see the development at that end too. For my next rotation, I’m going to corporate strategy. It’s been a good transition, because I went from hardcore bench science, to science-related, to operational.

Q: How did you find your current position?

I heard about Reata at the Friday Center Career Fair. I learned about the program, and the rotational aspects of it, and I did a bit of research about the company. I thought, this is really cool. Also, the products focus on the ubiquitin proteasome system, and obviously I know a thing or two about that. [Interviewer’s note: Anthony studied the ubiquitin proteasome system as part of his PhD research].

Q: What excites you the most about your work?

I think what excited me the most is that we are at a unique time here, and I get to make a pretty big impact for someone in a more junior position. There’s a lot of push to get things done, so you need to get involved and you get to contribute to important initiatives. I would say the other exciting thing is the ability to be flexible within the company. I’ve gotten to see different sides of the company, and how they think about things.

Q: How did GBCC help you launch your career?

For me in particular, if there were events or speakers that I thought would be interesting, I always went to those. Also, networking with everyone in GBCC was huge. We were case partners and colleagues going through the grind together, so developing those relationships was super helpful. As our careers go in different ways, this will come back. It’s really important to have a club like this and to stay in touch over time.

Q: What is one piece of advice you would offer to current GBCC members?

My advice is keep doing what you’re doing with extracurriculars. For my position, another cool thing is that we got to participate in the recruiting cycle for the next class. When you’re looking at resumes, everyone has a PhD. So, if that’s what you have and some papers, you end up not standing out. But if you’ve done really serious work in extracurriculars, like, if you were involved in consulting, or you did a 3-month summer fellowship at a company, or you have patent experience, we consider those things when looking at your resume. Things like being involved with GBCC and organizing events are getting you real experience that puts you ahead of the pack, more so than the impact factor on your paper. It makes interviewers think “Wow, they did all this while getting a PhD? They have papers out, presented at conferences, and they were able to do this? This is a real go-getter and someone who might add a lot of value to the company moving forward.”

Orrin Stone, Ph.D.

Associate Consultant @ McKinsey

Orrin graduated from UNC in 2018 with a Ph.D in Pharmacology and served as President of the Carolina Graduate Consulting Group. Orrin was interviewed by James Meyo.

Orrin has been a McKinsey associate consultant for 1.5 years and has really enjoyed his experience. He values the mentorship and supportive culture that is facilitated by the flexible staffing model at the firm. McKinsey’s staffing model accommodates for the onboarding process by exploring the possibility of pairing new hires with experienced mentors from the same office. Orrin also values the diversity of experience working in teams on numerous projects, ranging from pharmaceutical medical products to operations for drug development and clinical trials.

Q: How did the GBCC help Orrin advance his career goals?

Orrin fondly remembers his time with the GBCC, previously the Science & Business Club where he enjoyed learning from career seminars and organizing the annual Duke/UNC case competition. In addition to preparing him for a consulting career, the GBCC also helped Orrin make great friends who share similar career interests. Presently, Orrin keeps up with GBCC current events such as GBCC networking socials and career seminars via the regular posts updated on the GBCC LinkedIn page.

Q: What is Orrin’s advice to current GBCC members?

Orrin emphasized on the importance of networking to identify experienced mentors who can help guide you as you explore your career trajectory. He encourages you to actively seek opportunities to learn more about careers you are interested in and strongly recommends applying for the summer consulting internships that many firms offer. In particular, McKinsey offers the McKinsey Insight summer program. Additionally, Orrin advises that having a support group of peers with shared interests is important to keeping up with your professional development goals.

Q: How does the McKinsey culture accommodate and nurture diversity?

Orrin highlights that McKinsey has numerous diversity initiatives at multiple levels to accommodate for the wide range of employees at the firm. He encourages students interested in summer internships to explore the McKinsey Diversity Connect program, and those applying to full time positions to learn more about numerous programs at the firm, including Women in the Workplace, GLAM and McKinsey Black Network


Jake Green, Ph.D.

Strategy Insights and Planning Associate Consultant @ ZS

Jake graduated from UNC in 2018 with a Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry and was President of the GBCC. Interviewed by Shannon Speer February 2020.

Q: What does your current job at ZS entail?

A: A lot of what I do involves market research, qualitative and quantitative market research. Right now, I am working on conducting market research for Pharma companies.

Q: What is your day to day like at work?

A: Most of my day to day activities are market research at ZS in Philadelphia. While I have traveled a little of these past six months and had opportunities to go to San Francisco, Seattle, and Houston most of my work has been done in Philadelphia. A lot of the market research I do daily is involved in oncology.

Q: How did you find your current job?

A: I found my current job through a friend I played hockey with at UNC for one year, and three years later I realized that my friend from hockey worked at ZS and he ended up introducing me to the company and giving me a referral.

Q: What excites you about your work?

A: The variety of what I do on a day to day basis keeps things fresh and the ability to work on different projects has kept my work interesting and exciting.

Q: How did the GBCC launch your career?

A: GBCC helped me forge connections with people that had similar experiences to me. My involvement in GBCC helped me get experience in consulting and allowed me to demonstrate that interest to companies.

Q: What is one piece of career advice you would give to current GBCC members?

A: Don’t be afraid of trying new things and reaching out to people. Academics that go into consulting are so willing to help others break into the consulting arena.

Colleen O’Neil, Ph.D.

Business Insights Lead @ AstraZeneca for Tagrisso

Colleen graduated from UNC in 2016 with a Ph.D. in Analytical Chemistry and was President of the GBCC. Interviewed by Jedediah Seltzer February 2020.

Q: What does your current job at AstraZeneca entail?

A:  At AstraZeneca, I work as a business insight lead for the Tagrisso drug unit. My role is to develop market insights for this specific therapeutic unit that allows us to develop and optimize marketing strategies for the product. We use primary market research, interviewing physicians, patients and nurses, as well as secondary analytics, to make informed decisions for Tagrisso. I am part of the development team as well and help translates the insights into strategy moving forward.

Q: What is your day to day like at work?

A: In my day to day I have three main areas of work that can take place at any time. These functions are:

  1. Initiate manage and optimize any research projects reviewing discussion material, meeting with vendors, and developing key insights for the product portfolio.
  2. Performance tracking of Tagrisso, such as monitoring the opinion of physicians and tracking sales.
  3. Work with the brand team performing product diagnostics and working to align internal stakeholders.

Q: How did you find your current job?

A: While I was at IQVIA this type of position was on my radar as a potential career step and was a natural career trajectory from consulting rule. I found this position through my network.

Q: What excites you about your work?

A: In my role, I can bridge the gap between internal and external departments to make a functional unit and move our product forward. Being able to translate insights into an impact that influences the brand is exciting. I appreciate the exposure to cross-functional business partners which allows me to see how the big picture.

Q: How did the GBCC help launch your career?

A: I give the GBCC credit for landing a consulting job. I was able to figure out what consulting was and what it looked like in life sciences, with a Ph.D. The GBCC also provided networking opportunities and helped me obtain information interviews to build opportunities. The GBCC allowed me to develop softer skills and concrete examples of outside of lab experiences that I could use in my interviews.

Q: What is one piece of career advice you would give to current GBCC members?

A: The first answer is to network. The second answer is don’t think your first job out of graduate school is all there is and stress about it locking your life in a certain trajectory. The focus of transition out of grad school should be on the skills you want to develop at your next position. You can always pivot careers and use your first position as a building block.

Robert Sons

Associate Principal at Fannin Innovation Studio

Graduated UNC in 2015 Ph.D. in Cell and Developmental Biology and co-founded the GBCC. Interviewed by Jedediah Seltzer October 2019.

Q: What does your current role at Fannin Studio entail?

A:  At Fannin, my main focus is on determining the appropriate path towards commercialization for a technology within our portfolio. I obtain and maintain an understanding of: scientific concepts driving a technology’s mechanism of action, competitive landscape, potential future clinical trial design, and intellectual property position to make preclinical development decisions. I also obtain non-dilutive funding via grant writing, and provide search and evaluation recommendations for our business development activities that are similar to the above analyses, but for technologies we’re contemplating in-licensing.

Q: How did you find your current job?

A: I was representing the National Cancer Institute’s Technology Transfer Center at a partnering conference, and met one of Fannin’s leaders. When Fannin advertised a fellowship opening I applied.

Q: What excites you about your work?

A: I’m responsible for learning new biology and technologies that are potentially relevant to the treatment of disease, and helping to develop some of these technologies for the potential future benefit of patients. This combination excites me because it’s an excellent distillation of my original motivations for pursuing a scientific career.

Q: What is your day to day like at work?

A: A lot of learning – time spent reading basic and translational research articles, having conversations with experts in academia and industry, and keeping abreast of industry developments. Building upon this foundation, I spend time identifying which experiments need to be done next for a particular project, designing them with contract research organizations and internal staff, and analyzing the resulting data. The next largest use of time is meetings – discussions with internal and external collaborators, management of tasks in progress by internal technical research staff and interns, and organization-wide updates on project development. Finally, I spend time writing grants to obtain nondilutive funding.

Q: How did the GBCC help launch your career?

A: It helped me begin to learn what was outside of academia, and take the steps to pursue a career I desired.

Q: What is one piece of career advice you would give to current GBCC members?

A: Embed yourself within a potentially desired environment. For me, this meant volunteering my time, as an intern within a startup company and working on project for UNC’s technology transfer office. Whatever these environments of potential interest are for you, take the time during your Ph.D. to explore different ones to find the best match for your strengths and interests.


Will Black

Business Insights Leader at AstraZeneca

Will Black graduated from UNC in 2016 with a Ph.D. in Analytical Chemistry. Interviewed by Xiaorui Fu in September 2019.

Q: What is your current Job: brief description?

A: My title is Business Insights Leader in the Oncology business unit of AstraZeneca. I support the oncology commercial team (marketing, sales) in gathering insights and information about our market by conducting primary and secondary market research.

Q: What do you like about your current job?

A: The thing I enjoy most about my job is that it’s very cross-functional. I am able to have visibility into many different areas and functions of the oncology business at AZ, including marketing, sales, access, medical, and diagnostics. I also enjoy that I have a high amount of autonomy and support to pursue projects and solutions as I identify challenges for the business.

Q: How did the GBCC help you launch your career outside academia?

A: GBCC helped in numerous ways. First of all, it expanded my knowledge and preparation for careers outside of bench work. GBCC was invaluable in my preparation for interviews in careers outside of academic. Second, serving as the president of GBCC provided an opportunity to both demonstrate and hone my leadership skills.

Q: What is one piece of advice you to students pursuing a career outside of academia?

A: Network as much as possible and don’t be afraid to play the ‘student card’. When I was at UNC I found many people were very receptive to speaking to me about their current careers and career progression. Ask your friends, family, neighbors, etc. – you never know who will have a connection that will be valuable.


Laura Rowley:

Director of Life Science Economic Development at the North Carolina Biotechnology Center

Laura Rowley graduated from UNC in 2014  with a Ph.D. in Genetics and Molecular Biology. Interviewed by Jen Kernan in August of 2019.

Q: What is your current job? Please provide a brief description.

A: Laura Rowley is the current Director of Life Science Economic Development at the North Carolina Biotechnology Center. In this role, she partners closely with North Carolina’s economic development community, various universities, and community colleges to support life science companies seeking to expand their operations or even relocate to NC.

Q: What do you like about your current job?

A: What she most appreciates in her current role is the abundant opportunities to collaborate with her NC Biotech colleagues and NC’s life sciences community.

Q: How did the GBCC help you launch your career outside academia?

A: As the former co-founder and vice president for GBCC (then the Graduate Consulting Club), this group provided Laura with early experience in project management and organization that she still utilizes today. Through peer mentorship and invited guest speakers, GBCC also expanded her exposure to resources and opportunities that she then leveraged as she pursued her career options beyond the bench.

Q: What is one piece of advice you would share with students pursuing a career outside of academia?

A: “Make time to get off campus! While your research should be a top priority, take advantage of every opportunity you can – including networking events, informational interviews, internships, volunteering – to gain exposure and experience beyond academia.”