A special thank you to the Presenting Partners of the Life Sciences and Biotech Career Fair, the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Philadelphia and the CEO Council for Growth, with additional support from Amicus Therapeutics.
Have we mentioned how Philadelphia is consistently ranked in the top five regions as a life sciences hub? Or how booming the life sciences and biotechnology industry in Philly is, with companies like Adaptimmune, Amicus Therapeutics, CSL Behring and so many more currently hiring college students and recent graduates for the recession-proof jobs of the future? Oh, and how incredible it is that all of this innovative, inspiring work is taking place right here in our region?
Earlier this week, Campus Philly hosted its first career fair of 2021, focusing on job and internship opportunities at companies within the Life Sciences and Biotech industry (view the full list of companies here). The career fair included a special live panel discussion featuring two young professionals with careers that are innovating the industry and saving lives every day. Moderated by Campus Philly Event Host Ayannah Kamryn, the panel featured:
- Tosha Nesmith, Clinical Trial Assistant at CSL Behring
- Carrie LaGreca, Manager of Cell Manufacturing at Adaptimmune
You can watch the full recording of the panel here, but we’ve also included some of the best interview questions, and Carrie and Tosha’s advice and insight, below.
The team in Cell Manufacturing at Adaptimmune is growing. What is it about the field of cell and gene therapy that has led to an increase in new hires?
Carrie: Cell and gene therapy is a booming field. It’s growing, and at Adaptimmune, which started as a small-scale biotech startup company, we’re now getting into a place where we’re scaling up, expanding rapidly, and looking to commercialize one of the products that we’re currently working on. We’re bringing more people on board to make that dream a reality.
As a Clinical Trial Assistant at CSL Behring, what’s the one question you get asked the most about your job?
Tosha: (laughs) I always get asked, ‘What IS a clinical trial?’ It’s essentially a research study that’s performed where we can find out whether a particular product or study that we’re working on can help ensure someone’s safety or ensure the expectancy of their life. I work in clinical trials for the Transplant therapeutic area. It’s fun to be able to see someone get a kidney transplant and actually come out stronger than before.
What’s the most rewarding aspect of working in this industry?
Carrie: What really brought me to Adaptimmune is my interest in having a direct impact on patients.
I get to see some of the results of people that are in our clinical trials and having responses, and see that it’s having an impact on their quality of life.
Tosha, you’re currently pursuing an MBA, graduating this fall. What inspired you to pursue this path?
Tosha: In my current role, the career opportunities are endless. I wanted to pursue an MBA to have further career advancement and some day be a project manager, or even a senior project manager. In that particular role, I would be the leader and facilitator for the entire trial, and that’s why I want to take the next steps – to further my career in the next 2-5 years.
What has been the most challenging aspect of your career so far?
Tosha: Task management. I’m constantly pulled into a number of different angles, and on a daily basis there’s always something that’s urgent or needs to be done immediately to make sure that our patients get the things they need. It’s important to really prioritize in order to plan my day. That could mean staying late, starting early, or skipping lunch – it’s important.
Carrie: The ability to adapt is really important. There are a lot of things that come your way that don’t go as planned, so the ability to shift gears as new information comes in has been really important, and one of the skills that I really had to hone in on in my role.
What can applicants do to stand out to employers among the others?
Tosha: Time management is key. Show your employer, management team, and support team that you’re reliable and that the deliverables you provide are amazing. Ask questions, and smile. When interviewing, make eye contact, and read the job description to make sure you fully understand the role. That way, when you’re asked specific questions, you can answer promptly.
Carrie: If you’re still early in your career journey and haven’t had professional experience yet, having any experience in any kind of job is helpful, and those skills are translatable. I worked at a Dairy Queen when I was younger, as well as a Lowe’s and a grocery store.
Every job has something to teach you, and those skills will follow you into the internship or role that you’re applying for.
Volunteer for EVERYTHING when you first start in an internship. Pack the beginning couple of years of your career with skills that will follow you throughout your career. No matter what you do, be all about it. Put 100% of your energy into it and it will serve you very well.
As students start applying for jobs and internships in Life Sciences and Biotech, what’s one last piece of advice you’d like to share?
Tosha: Confidence is key. Ask questions, and your opportunities are endless. Don’t shelter yourself, and don’t think that you can’t do something. It’s OK to get something wrong. It’s so cliché, but I believe that’s how you learn and experience things and grow. And don’t give up on PowerPoint and Excel! That’s one thing from college that I use Every. Single. Day.
Carrie: As you prepare for talking with recruiters, or just interviewing in general, be sure to know about the company you’re applying to. Do some research and know what they’re all about. Make sure they align with what you believe in and what you want to be doing.
And to reiterate, be all about it. Whatever you’re doing, give it 100%.
Tosha Nesmith is a Clinical Trial Assistant for the Transplant therapeutic area with CSL Behring. She is a company liaison and asset to the industry and its consumers. Tosha assists and supports with all study management activities. She has a unique role in helping to save lives every day. Tosha has worked in various disease areas such as Endocrinology, Hematology, Oncology, CNS and Medical device trials. With a total of 9 years and counting in Clinical research, Tosha continues to advance her expertise in strategic leadership and teamwork. Building her career at InVentiv Health Clinical and PRA Health Sciences, she now can flourish her knowledge with CSL Behring’s Research and Development Transplant team. A native of Philadelphia, Tosha has an undergraduate degree from Philadelphia University, and will be graduating from Grand Canyon University’s, Colangelo College of Business, with her MBA, in the fall of 2021. In addition to being dedicated to her growing career Tosha is a “extreme couponer.” Aside from that she loves to travel to the world with her Fiancé Stephen and their daughter Kaylee. The trio is spending the quarantine rediscovering the joys of family and creating new memories.
Carrie LaGreca is the Manager of the T-Cell Manufacturing Team at Adaptimmune. She is a leader and coach for her team and is responsible for staff management/development, planning and scheduling of day to day operations, and strategic forward looking planning. Carrie started her career at Wuxi Apptec- another Philly biotech company- as a Laboratory Technician working on cell banks, cell therapies, and medical devices. After several years in the Manufacturing organization, Carrie followed her keep attention to detail and transitioned into Quality Assurance where she was involved in batch review and release both at WuXi and later at UPenn. After strengthening her knowledge in cGMP Manufacturing and QA, she returned to WuXi in a supervisory role where she honed in her people management skills. With a desire to be closer patient impact, Carrie finally landed at Adaptimmune where she uses all her acquired skills to work towards treatments for solid tumor cancers. Carrie grew up in Northern NJ and moved to Philadelphia for school in 2006. where she earned a B.S. in Biology from Temple University- Class of 2011. Outside of work Carrie likes to train in partner acrobatics, cuddle her cat Lloyd, and is actively engaged in self-development. Another passion is traveling and hopes to return to world travel once pandemic conditions allow.