Devin Scannell is an engagement manager at McKinsey & Co in San Francisco. He works as an advisor to pharma, medical devices and health insurance companies as well as academic medical centres, health systems and public health organisations. Devin primarily focuses on personalised medicine and “Big Data” in healthcare.
Describe your typical day
As a consultant, I work with global public health organisations. I also do some high-tech work. For example, a company has three molecules that it could put forward for clinical trials, but can only choose one. I help them decide which to choose. At the start of a project I do a lot of research. Then I have meetings with experts, including doctors and scientists. After that, I meet with the people within the company. During a project, you address specific questions and build a consensus as to whether molecule one, two or three is the best.
What’s cool about your job?
Each project lasts six to eight weeks. I’ve also a lot of control about what projects I work on. Every eight weeks, I learn about something that is fairly new to me.
What are the main challenges?
I work to very strict deadlines and the hours tend to be very long. It can be very fast paced and sometimes it is a little bit stressful.
What subjects did you take in school and did they influence your career path?
Everything I do now was set by subjects I studied in school. I focused on physics, applied maths and chemistry.
What did you do after school?
I studied human genetics at Trinity College Dublin. After that I did a PhD in Trinity, building on the genetics base but adding more computers (bioinformatics). Then I moved to University of California, Berkeley to do a postdoc in the same area. How did you transition from being research based to being a consultant? The company I work for recruit directly from PhD programmes and it does a certain amount of retraining on business topics.
What advice would you give to students considering a job like this?
I would say get a solid foundation in maths and science. Really become a master of your domain in a certain area. Take responsibility for a technically demanding project. Also, maintain interest in the bigger picture, like how that technology or field of science fits into the wider world.
What inspired your love of science?
When I was about seven, I thought it would be really great to be a doctor. At around 12 years old, I realised that a doctor could only see a certain number of patients every day. There is someone behind them inventing the medicine. The person doing that would be helping millions of people. I decided I wanted to be a scientist and try to help develop cures.