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Sarah Enouz, research grant manager at Imagine Institute

Ludovic Fery

As a researcher in biology, Sarah Enouz decided to change her career path and became science project coordinator. She is still working closely with the laboratory but not on experiments: she is now dealing with communication activities and the design of management tools for researchers. In her current position, she is in charge of making the biomedical research process flow easier and ensuring that deadlines are met by all the stakeholders, especially for clinical trials.
Her voluntary work helped Sarah Enouz greatly with her career change. She keeps working on a voluntary basis for the life sciences network ForumBIOTechno.

What do you do as a scientific project coordinator at Imagine Institute?
Sarah Enouz (SE): I am scientific project coordinator / grant manager at the Institute for genetic diseases Imagine, in the laboratory led by Professor Cavazzana and Dr. André-Schmutz that works on human lymphohematopoiesis. Around 30 people are working here. I do a follow-up on all running scientific projects, apply for national and European fundings, write scientific reports related to these fundings, develop and implement cooperation agreements with industry.

How does your daily work look like?
SE: It depends on the different deadlines we have to meet. There is a lot of writing, follow-up, communication with all the staff involved in the projects such as technicians, engineers, clinicians to be up-to-date on the project status and their needs for documents.

What do you like most in your position?
SE: I enjoy talking with a lot of people, from the head of laboratory over the regulatory manager to the clinician, all of them helping me in the writing of scientific reports. I also play the role of an advisor or organisator with scientists by reminding them of important deadlines. Especially when I help implementing project for clinical trials, there can’t be delays. Another interesting aspect is about negociating the research outcomes. Sometimes, industrial partners submit proposals that don’t acknowledge fully the scientific work. My role, together with the department for research impact and technology transfer of Imagine Institute, is to make sure that researchers’ work is valued correctly, for instance by estimating the number of hours dedicated to the research done before a clinical trial. It includes negotiation phases in which I take part as an observer for the moment, but it is an activity I may develop in the future. I feel more comfortable in my current position than I was in academic research. I love being in touch with researchers, I have not totally left research!

Can you please tell us about your transition from your PhD to your current position?
SE: During my postdoc, I realised I didn’t want to pursue in academia and didn’t want to keep doing lab experiments. I decided to commit myself to community projects I heard about through internal mailing lists from Institut Pasteur. The first was “Pint of science”: it was a good opportunity to market the soft skills I developed during my PhD, mostly in communication and popularization of science. The second project was the organisation of a career fair, Forum BIOTechno, in 2015. This one was a real challenge for me: being able to organize in a few months and on my free time, with the support of fifty voluntary workers, a one-day event. Nothing in our PhD project prepares us to do so! Everything in the project, that required a lot of teamwork, was exciting: designing a programme, getting funded by negotiating sponsorships, inviting speakers…
I also contacted MAASCC, the department for career development and professional counselling that was created in 2014 specifically for the researchers of Institut Pasteur. I went there just two weeks after its opening, with so many questions to ask! At that time, I had some ideas about what I could possibly do, mostly in science communication, and a list of things I didn’t want to do anymore in my job, but no real clues about my opportunities after a PhD. I benefited from a one-year coaching: every month, I met my career advisor and, between the sessions, I had an action plan to implement, like for example developing my network, a detailed analysis of a job position, writing a cover letter…

ABG played a big part in your transition, especially with a specific career development workshop for postdocs, Postdoctoriales. Why did you take part?
SE: I discovered ABG thanks to MAASCC, I never heard about it before. My career advisor recommended me to check out the website of ABG, where I discovered job ads, training sessions and that’s how I learned about Postdoctoriales. One session was planned in June 2015 in Institut Pasteur, I was part of it. The three days I spent there were a great help to better define my career goals and use my network. I became aware of the fact that I wasn’t the only one who wanted to leave academia, without really knowing what else I could do. The workshop was very intense, we met a lot of professionals, we discovered a lot about the job market for PhDs and we also learned how to market our research experience outside of academia. Among the speakers, there was a science project manager, whose activity was pretty close to the one I had when organizing Forum BIOTechno. After my discussion with her, I was confirmed in my decision to work in scientific coordination, an idea that had been already generated after my coaching sessions at MAASCC.

When you think back of this time, what was the most difficult thing you experimented?
SE: The transition is a very difficult phase that is related with many questions: am I going to miss the lab work? Am I capable to do this job? ... It is very important to count on your network and to benefit from a moral support, which I found in my voluntary work at ABG where I spent three months! On a personal level, a transition is an opportunity to meet many interesting people: I am still in touch with most of them.

Many doctoral candidates think about a career transition: which advice could you give them to anticipate their next step?
SE: We should help early-stage researchers be more proactive in their career development, even if I understand that some of them don’t want to think about it during their PhD. It would be helpful if supervisors or professors told us that a career in research requires a lot of perseverance, that not everyone is tailored to get a permanent position as a research engineer and then as a research director. For the moment, doctoral candidates are left alone in getting information about their opportunities after a PhD. They are not necessary going to ask themselves the right questions, which is a shame because there is another world outside of academic research, and it can lead to a broad range of positions.

ABG is a French non-profit organization. Our missions are :
  • To facilitate the transition of PhDs (whatever their field and seniority) from academia to the private sector;
  • To help companies recruit PhDs.

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