I was born/grew up in: I was born and raised in Edmonton, Alberta
I now live in: I live in Winlaw, British Columbia
What I do at work
I help biotechnology companies tell their story to a variety of audiences by developing communications strategies and materials. I work remotely from a small town in British Columbia. All I need is my computer and internet access! While I work on my own, I hold regular virtual meetings with my clients. It is important to nurture those relationships.
My knowledge of science and biotechnology helps me understand my clients’ business. For example, many companies I work with are developing very complicated product candidates. These can include vaccines, medical devices or biologic therapeutics such as monoclonal antibodies. My job is to help clients explain their business and the benefits of their technology to different audiences. I have to understand what they are developing and how they are developing it, so I can help them.
When I begin a client relationship, I determine their communications goals. For example, their goals may be to increase awareness of their company. On the other hand, it might be to attract potential investors. I then determine the different audiences my clients should target to achieve their communications goals. These could be the general public, shareholders, investors or the media.
The next step is to develop a communications strategy. This is usually based on the schedule of the news my clients expect to publish (or “news flow”). News flow is often driven by my clients’ reaching certain development milestones. These are points in the development process in which their audiences are interested. For example, beginning a clinical trial is an important milestone.
The schedule is then boosted with more ways to get their news out. For example, pitching a story to journalists and posting on social media. Finally, I develop the materials to carry out the strategy. These materials include things such as articles, press releases and presentations. They can also be website content and social media posts.
My career path is
My career path did not go as planned. I wanted to go to medical school, but my desire for work-life balance kept me from following that path. I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree not knowing how I wanted to apply it. I had an entry-level job in healthcare administration but found it to be unfulfilling. I decided I needed to improve my career options. I returned to university and completed a Master’s degree in Biomedical Technology.
Once I completed that degree, I started an internship at a biotechnology company. Here, I worked with their business development team. I took on the investor relations role shortly thereafter and have been in that field ever since. Investor relations (IR) a specific type of communications. It focuses on existing or potential investors.
After a couple of years at that company, I joined an IR firm in Calgary. Here I worked mostly with energy companies. It wasn’t until two years ago that I joined an Ontario-based IR firm focused on biotechnology companies. I recently started my own firm. I work with companies that do not have the resources to hire a full-service and/or full-time IR firm but want the same level of quality communications services.
I am motivated by
The most interesting part of my job is learning about emerging technologies. I am fascinated to see how companies are using biotechnology to make new drugs, treatments and devices to help patients. I also enjoy the communications aspect of my job, as I like to write and edit. I love the challenge of turning complex concepts into easy-to-understand messages. I find it rewarding to hear that my work has helped companies reach a broader audience, or that it helped them get the funding they need.
How I affect people’s lives
A mentor of mine once said, “I’m making a difference by helping companies who are making a difference.” The companies I work for are developing technologies that could benefit many people. I’m happy to help them on their journey to success.
Outside of work I
I am passionate about permaculture and spend my time tending to / planning my garden. I enjoy snowshoeing in the winter and hiking in the summer.
My advice to others
If you are interested in a career like mine, make sure you take courses in both science and technology as well as communications (business courses will help as well!). I have always been a good writer, but I learned about communications planning on the job. It would have been helpful to have studied this discipline in advance. Also, make as many connections as you can and nurture your business/professional relationships. These are invaluable and will play a greater role in your success than you may think.