Zoë Ayres – Part 2 – Being a Research Scientist in the Water Industry

In Part 2 of my conversation with Zoë Ayres, we discussed her experience transitioning from an industry-led postdoc to her current position in the water industry. We talked about the application and interviewing process and about best practices at this important stage, about what you bring to the table as a candidate when you have a  PhD, and also about Zoë’s experience so far as a research scientist.

Zoe Ayres

Zoë is an analytical scientist by background. She did her undergraduate in forensic science, before pursuing analytical chemistry, and going on to do her PhD research on the development of electrochemical sensors at the University of Warwick in the UK. She is now an R&D scientist in the water industry, having made the transition from academia to industry just over two years ago. Zoë is also an active mental health advocator, raising awareness around mental health in graduate school and beyond..

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • You seldom fulfill all the requirements on a job posting – this doesn’t mean you’re not the right person for the position
  • The importance of reframing your experience and making your case
  • Outside of academia, no one looks at your publication record – they’re interested in your story, in your skills
  • Project management, team leading, and communications skills are PhD strong suits
  • Zoë’s experience of the industry culture
  • The myth that work in industry is devoid of creative freedom is false
  • Career progression in industry

This episode’s pearls of wisdom:

“When I was writing my CV, I remember thinking “Gosh – my publications aren’t really relevant.” For me, I tried to really reframe my experience in a way that would be appealing.”

“For my CV, I really made sure that I was drawing on the fact that we think that when we’re in the lab and we’re doing a PhD and we might be looking after un undergraduate project, for example, and you can write that you supervised some undergraduates. And you can write that as your experience of that supervision, and that you are capable of going into a role where you lead people.”

“One of the things I remember someone saying to me is that you will not be creative like you are here, in academia. And I remember thinking ‘I actually enjoy being creative – is that something that I’m going to lose?’ Because even though I had industrially sponsored PhD and posdoc research, it was primarily academic. And so I kind of toyed with the concept of whether or not I’d actually have the freedoms to do what I wanted to do – and think it probably varies company by company. But I’ve been very lucky that I have the creative freedom that I do and that everyday I get into work and I actually enjoy doing the research. It does get me out of bed in the morning, so I think it’s a good thing.”

Zoë’s links: LinkedIn.com/in/ZJAyres; Twitter – @ZJAyres; www.ZJAyres.com.

You might also like the following episodes:

Dana Murchison – Science Outreach: PapaPhD.com/1

Jonathan Weitzman – Professorship and Industry: PapaPhD.com/46

Liliana Vitorino – Biomedical Industry: PapaPhD.com/31

Simon Moore – Postdoc to Industry: PapaPhD.com/18


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