Careers Options Seminar at Sheffield University

9 Dec 2013

25 chemistry students at the University of Sheffield received an insight into working in business when they attended SCI's Careers Options Seminar on 27 November 2013. The one-hour session in the chemistry department was followed by a meet and mingle opportunity where the students could talk to the speakers directly.

SCI's organiser and chair for the day, John Stanford, said 'We've found these seminars are a great way of exposing the students to areas they have probably heard little about. Most, for example, have never heard of the opportunities in Knowledge Transfer although the university employs many people working in the area'.

The speakers were Matthew Thornton from technology consultancy Net Composites, Becky Wood from the Chemistry Innovation Knowledge Transfer Network, Patent Attorney Dan Woollaston from Harrison Goddard and Foote, and process development scientist Simon Yates from AstraZeneca.

A consistent thread for all the speakers was the importance of personal skills in working in business - being clever is not enough on its own. All of the jobs feature high levels of interaction with all kinds of people such as production workers, inventors, senior management, commercial and research staff. It was a revelation to hear the often bold steps the speakers had taken to develop their careers - 'sometimes you have to make a leap of faith,' said Simon Yates.

Matthew emphasised the importance of student placements, getting work experience in as many places as possible, knocking on doors to find what's available. Beccy stressed trying things out to identify what you want to do, then working out the path to get there. As a teenager she had accompanied both her parents to work, in an office and in a power plant, and found she thrived in the factory environment.

Dan described the commitment needed to become a patent attorney, lots of exams and tough patent deadlines, but stressed the benefits in terms of an intellectually stimulating and widely varied job. In an entertaining talk he illustrated some patent issues by considering the transmutation of lead into gold!

Simon talked with great enthusiasm on the challenges of working in process development, being at the hub of a lot of activity, and on how his self-confessed geeky interest in working with data had evolved into him becoming a leader in the chemical development automation group.

The speakers, in their different ways, made it clear that there are many different ways to work with chemistry in business, and that it is possible to find your way into careers that match your personal aptitudes, be that working with data, dealing with complex new science, meeting a lot of people (including royalty!) or just being paid to talk to people!

The presentations can be downloaded below:

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