This video segment produced for Teachers' Domain features Andres Berrio, an associate scientist with the biotechnology company Biogen Idec. Andres talks about his career path, his background as an unmotivated student, the guidance counselor who helped turn his life around, his discovery that he liked learning, and what it takes to succeed in the biotechnology field.
For someone interested in pursuing a career in biotech, progression up the ladder means acquiring new skills and experience along the way. A high school graduate interested in a research track, for example, might start as a glasswasher, whose main responsibility is washing and drying glassware and distributing it to appropriate locations within a laboratory. Through a series of promotions, and further graduate and postgraduate education, his or her career may conclude as vice president of research and development, a person whose strategic and operational leadership responsibilities demand a salary upwards of $175,000.
The following quotes from Andres Berrio, the subject of this video, and his former boss, Jaya Goyal, reinforce some of the skills, qualities, and habits that can lead to a successful and rewarding career in biotech.
On choosing a career in biotech:
I didn't really choose this industry, the industry chose me. When I graduated from high school, my family was not financially well [off]. I sought methods to get my degree program otherwise. One of those options was getting a certificate in biotech.... It was just a nine-month certificate program, and it was free.
I didn't think much of it, but I said to myself, "You know what? This is the first step. Let me see if this is interesting, and if I like it, I'll pursue it."
On climbing the ladder:
You don't need to have a Ph.D. You don't even need to have a master's. You can start with a certificate.... When I started in Biogen Idec, I started as a temporary employee. From there, I became a lab assistant, and then a technician, and now I'm an associate scientist.... I knew I had to start somewhere, and I knew that it would be all worth it in due time.
Now [in 2009] I get to use some of the most advanced assay (analytical) technologies in the industry. I get to play with automation, and I get to work with live cells.
On qualities that breed success:
I've always had a positive attitude, and I always try to do the best work with the time that I have.... Even when you think nobody is watching, your work will be noticed, and it will be rewarded.
All you have to do is have motivation, and the willingness to learn and to succeed.... Here I am, the first generation [in my family] to graduate college. And all it took was a little elbow grease.
On doing meaningful work and having a cool job:
What's meaningful about what this company—and pretty much the whole biotech industry—is doing, is that... because of the medicines that we discover and manufacture, we can help people live longer and healthier lives.
I'd say my job is cool. I get to work with many different people from different cultures.... I get to learn new, cutting-edge technologies in the biotech industry. And I get to do this all while helping patients.
Praise from Jaya Goyal:
[Andres] started as a temporary employee taking care of our instruments—cleaning them, making sure that they were working properly, and ordering all the laboratory reagents for us to do the work in the lab.
We saw the drive and motivation in him. Although he did not have a degree, he wanted to learn. He would ask very intelligent questions. He was continuing his education.... He has great aspirations for himself. He sees himself always higher than where he is, and wants to be there.
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