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Career spotlight: technical writer
Takara Bio attracts top talent from all over the world. Many of our employees started out as biology researchers in academia, but decided to go the industry route. If you are a candidate with a biology research background, you may want to apply for scientist positions—but we also recognize and encourage your potential to flourish in positions within marketing, sales, technical communications, and many other departments. If this sounds appealing, we would love to hear from you. You very well might be a perfect fit for our team.
One of our employees with a research background found her calling at Takara Bio USA, Inc. (TBUSA) as technical writer. Laurel Barchas wrote a blog article for an organization she leads called the Student Society for Stem Cell Research, and we're guest posting it here. We hope you'll learn that no matter your passions, you can find a great career at Takara Bio!
Career spotlight: technical writer
Stem cell parental advice—you can grow up to be anything!
I was one of those students who, since high school, knew I was destined for the lab. Throughout some of high school, and all of college and graduate school, I had internships or positions in amazing labs that warmly took me in and trained me how to be a scientist. I loved designing and carrying out experiments on my stem cells, presenting at lab meetings, writing theses, and teaching others about my work through undergraduate lectures and presentations at local high schools. My participation in the Student Society for Stem Cell Research hugely supported all of my efforts; it even enabled me to get one of my first jobs as a contract curriculum writer (a project manager role) with the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, which launched my writing career.
Four years into my biology Ph.D. program, it became clear that I didn't want to do research anymore. I couldn't handle the failure inherent to doing research. I wasn't able to put in the time and focus necessary to do big experiments—then repeat them over and over. Although I loved science, I wasn't meant to be a career scientist like many of my colleagues. I was a science communicator. Realizing this, and taking into account my personal struggles, my advisers and I decided the best thing was to get a terminal master's degree. (Some reading this might say "awwwww, too bad, she was so close to that Ph.D." and some might say "that's a major accomplishment and you can do a lot with that degree!" Both are right, but I choose to believe the latter, as I am so much happier now that I released myself from the allure of lab research and went into science communications. We tend to hold science and medicine up on pedestals; however, science communication facilitates almost all interactions between academic and industry scientists, clinicians, and the public. An understanding of and engagement with new science is critical to promoting a healthy democracy with citizens who can make informed decisions about their society's future.)
Differentiation—finding the right path
I struggled for a while finding a job that suited me. I worked as an education consultant writing materials directed at teachers and students. I worked as a marketing communications and operations assistant for a real estate group. I looked for jobs as a teacher, curriculum developer, and science education program coordinator, but none felt quite right for me. Although I had extensive experience in school developing materials for teachers and giving presentations to students, and I knew education could be a rewarding career path, I wasn't sure I wanted to be in the academic world anymore.
Finally, I found some listings looking for technical writers. I didn't even know what that was at the time. Various biotech companies had their feelers out for entry level writers with advanced degrees in biology or STEM fields—and a master's degree was just fine. It turns out I was a perfect fit for TBUSA. Surprisingly, many people in our "tech com" (technical communications) and "mar com" (marketing communications) departments had a similar experience; they didn't want careers in research or the medical professions, so they chose communications.
Life as a technical writer—feeling like a glial cell
As a technical writer at TBUSA, I have many responsibilities beyond writing and editing user manuals, application notes, and diagrams. Tech writers are much like the oft-forgotten glial cells that "glue the brain together." I manage each project from start to finish, and I get to work on all types of technical documentation and marketing collateral with a team of company scientists (R&D), graphic designers, marketing specialists, coders, product managers, and other writers. Often, I have major creative input on the content, design, and development of marketing campaigns. I enjoy starting with ideas—maybe a few bullet points or a rough draft—and building colorful, captivating content. It feels like solving a complex puzzle.
Science writing allows you to present interesting information in creative and effective ways. I've gotten the chance to write articles on human induced pluripotent stem cell-derived beta cells for a drug discovery publication and to create portals for our website. I've helped make booth panels and printed resources for conferences like the International Society for Stem Cell Research. Most importantly (to me), I've managed to stay within the field of stem cell research/regenerative medicine. I am the main writer for that product and service line, so I can use my expertise and experience (plus, knowledge of my audience) to present products that advance my audience's basic, translational, and clinical research.
I love my job. It pays well, has regular hours, and gives me a sense of belonging to a team. It's fast paced, I'm working on a new thing every day, and I get to learn and write about the latest advancements from our R&D teams around the world. I could go on and on, but suffice it to say that the job fits like a glove, and I can see myself doing this long term. Also...I get to live in Silicon Valley! (Pros: great food, culture, people. Cons: cost of living, traffic.)
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