Biomedicine alumna Tanya highlights the importance of transferable skills

Name: Tanya Malik Syed
Degree: Master's in Biomedicine,
Graduation year: 2010

Alumna Tanya Malik Syed

Tell us your story!

I was born and raised in Stockholm and my parents are from South Asia. I chose the biomedical programme at KI because I wanted to work in the life science industry. There was no bioentrepreneurship programme at that time, so I applied to the biomedical programme and complemented it with business courses. The programme was the 4th best biomedical programme in the world at some point during my studies so it was exciting to be in this internationally renowned environment.

KI has helped me build a network and the biomedical programme has prepared me for my career. Especially people from abroad react positively when they hear about KI, so alumni SHOULD highlight that they studied at KI. People know that it is a reputable university with connections to the Nobel foundation.

KIBAA and BEACON reached out to me a few years ago to get some insight into running a volunteer organisation and coordinating events at KI because I used to be involved in BioN (the Biomedicine Network). I mentored young professionals and students from KI in my free time. I encouraged alumni and students to reach out to KIBAA, KI Alumni & Friends and KI Career Service, as well as follow KI on social media.

I graduated from KI not long after Astra Zeneca did layoffs which had a cooling effect on the life science job market. I complemented my biomedical programme with business courses such as “Science to Business” and “Popular Sciences Communication” at KI and set a goal to learn as much as possible in 2-3 years.

My goal was to gain cross-functional knowledge and transferrable skills which would give me a competitive edge in the Swedish life science industry. During these years, I joined volunteer organisations such as AIESEC and BioN (the Biomedicine Network) and did paid internships at the United Nations in South Africa as a project associate and at Hjärna.Hjärta.Cash in Stockholm as a project manager. When I returned to Sweden in late 2012, I gave myself a deadline of March 1st 2013 to sign a contract at a life science company: I got a contract at Wilson Therapeutics by that deadline.

Because I joined Wilson Therapeutics when it was still a start-up in 2013 and stayed in the company through the milestones (start-up stage, investment rounds, IPO preparations, Nasdaq introduction, Phase I-III clinical studies, acquisition by another company), I have gained cross-functional experience in finance, marketing, legal affairs, vendor management, intellectual property, patient outreach, clinical operations etc. My cross-functional experience was very helpful in my clinical operations role and each day was different. The clinical operations team consisted of three members that worked strategically and operationally with the clinical studies.

As an employee of a small company, one of the greatest benefits was that you gained cross-functional experience and met new people all the time because you had to be more resourceful and hands-on. This translated to valuable transferrable skills and a wider network that you can bring into any future clinical operations role. Gaining knowledge from working cross-functionally with many different departments and vendors. As a biomedical professional, you connect the dots in the life sciences and this certainly holds true in a small company and is helpful in clinical operations.

One of the most exciting milestones of being part of a start up from its initial stages of development was to be a part of the team that prepared the company for an IPO (initial public offering) on the Stockholm Nasdaq stock market in 2016. I could never have imagined working with something as exciting as an IPO only three years into my career.

What is your advice to students

Learn transferable skills! Because of the Astra Zeneca layoffs, I knew I would have to compete for work with other recent graduates and people with 10-15 years of experience. To stand out from the competition, I took 2-3 years to gain much needed transferable skills and cross-functional experience.

Note: one of the most underestimated transferable skills among students is contract negotiation but it is important in almost all job positions.