Dr. Jenni Crowley is a Management Consultant with Campbell Alliance Group, Inc. Jenni has a PhD in Immunology from the University of Pennsylvania and undergraduate degrees in Biology and Chemistry. A self-professed “science geek,” she does business consulting for pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, helping them work through business issues related to marketing, sales, and managed care.
Did you do any advanced training or graduate work to prepare yourself for this field?
My job requires a mixture of scientific and business knowledge, so I prepared myself in grad school through PhD research and business classes. In addition, I worked as a consultant with several small biotech start-up companies while I was in school to get “real world” experience understanding the business side of science.
How did you decide to get into this field? Is there a pivotal moment during school (undergraduate or graduate studies), during an internship, or during a conversation with someone that led you to this area of work?
I discovered early in my PhD work that I didn’t want to be a “traditional” academic scientist and professor. I didn’t feel that my personality and interests were aligned with what it took to be successful as an academic. I knew that if I didn’t truly enjoy what I was doing, I would never be successful or, most importantly, happy. I started looking around for other career possibilities and stumbled across management consulting as an alternative career option for PhDs. I have to thank my business school friends for providing me with the support and coaching I needed to dive into this non-traditional PhD career path.
When did you start thinking about your post-education career? How did that influence your academic choices?
I started thinking about my career early in grad school because I wanted to find another option from the traditional academic route. I was able to adapt my grad school studies to include work for a biotech company and picked up business classes to help prepare for my transition to consulting.
Describe your experience searching for your job – how early did you start looking, and how long did it take to land your job?
I began actively job searching the summer before my PhD graduation. I was fortunate in that many consulting firms visited my graduate institution in search of good candidates. I was able to meet representatives from prospective consulting firms at career fairs and landed many interviews with top firms.
What is your typical daily schedule?
I don’t have a “typical” day per se, but it normally consists of a flurry of e-mail activity first thing in the morning, followed by meetings with clients regarding work I’ve already done for them or plan to do. The rest of my day is spent delivering on the promises I’ve made to clients and juggling a constant flow of e-mails and phone calls. My days are long—typically around 12 hours. I report to a manager, but mostly, I work independently and manage my own time. I’m now starting to mentor new junior staff members, which I really enjoy.
With regards to travel, I go where my clients are, so if I’m staffed on a Bay Area client project, I can sleep in my own bed. If my client is based in NYC, I’m in NYC. Thankfully, my firm has many clients in the Bay Area, so I don’t travel nearly as much as my colleagues in other consulting firms.
What are the top 3 things you like or enjoy about your job?
First – Career options. The great thing about consulting is that you get a taste of many different types of jobs and functions. For example, I may be working in a marketing role one week, and a sales role the next. No other job gives you such great exposure into these career options. What’s more, as a consultant, you work very closely with and advise the leadership of these teams, so it’s basically a ‘no-brainer’ for a future organization to hire you into a management role when you leave consulting.
Second – The money. Yes, it’s not a myth. Consulting pays well, especially when compared to my grad school stipend or a post-doc salary.
Third – The people. I work with brilliant leaders of top biotech and pharma companies. These people are extraordinarily talented and truly amazing to watch and learn from. I’ve learned a tremendous amount about effective leadership.
What are the 3 “lows” of your job – what do you like the least about what you do?
First – The hours. An ‘easy’ week for me is 60 hours and a ‘rough’ week is 100+ hours. I’d hate to know how many additional hours are spent thinking about work. It’s very difficult to keep a good work/life balance when so many of your waking hours are spent working.
Second – The intensity. Working for top-notch professional requires top-notch energy and mental stamina. It’s very exhausting to always be ‘on’ and poised for action.
Third – The unpredictability. Consulting is a service-based industry. You are at the service of your clients and at the mercy of your management staff. You never know what the next client meeting may bring or where your next project may be located. You have to learn to adapt to change very quickly.
When thinking about the transition from college to professional/work life, what took the most getting used to? What strategies did you use to adjust to the differences?
The constant need to be ‘on’ and mentally poised for action was the biggest transition for me. I remember taking naps between college classes or going for a long walk during an experiment in grad school. I don’t have those options anymore!
How do you define success in the workplace?
Success for me at my current job will be establishing my own client base, selling project work, training a staff of junior team members, and executing successful project work that pleases clients and helps contribute to the success of their business. In addition, I want to be seen as a thought leader in the healthcare business world.
What does “work-life balance” mean to you, and how do you maintain a work-life balance?
Haha! Don’t ask me! See “lows” above.
What advice do you have for recent college grads and new employees? Any words of encouragement or advice to offer?
Consulting is really hard, but very rewarding. Don’t dwell on the lows or the highs. My PhD advisor always told us that we had “24 hours to get over an extreme low or high.” As a consultant, I’ve reduced that time to 24 minutes.—
Get my monthly newsletter, not available anywhere else: The SKP Monthly.