Careers rarely develop the way we plan them. Our career path often takes many twists and turns, with particular events, choices and people influencing our direction.

We asked Elaine MacDonald from St. Michael's House to give some advice for people considering this job:

 

Elaine MacDonald

Psychologist - Clinical

St. Michael's House

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  Elaine MacDonald

Make sure you are willing to go the full distance in terms of the time needed to train as a Clinical Psychologist – it’s typically at least six years academic study, and invariably this period is interspersed with work in a relevant field.

Do be as confident as you can that you’re happy being a “listener” and “observer”, as you will spend significant amounts of time in your work life as a Clinical Psychologist being in this role, as well as being in the “do-er” role and being in the limelight.

To have a good ‘fit’ with this career you’ll need to be happy working with people – as individuals on a one to one basis, with groups (e.g. families), and as part of a team in the workplace.

You need to have a good attention to detail as the job needs good observation skills, record keeping, and organisation skills.

Be prepared for learning and self-development to be on-going for the whole of your career because, as a Clinical Psychologist, you’ll be learning and using techniques and intervention approaches that are being constantly developed, and be working in accordance with policies and laws that are also constantly evolving.

The last piece of advice I’d give to someone considering this job is to be as sure as you can that you feel comfortable and even excited at the prospect of your career revolving around people and groups with all the varied, diverse, and unpredictable rewards and challenges that this brings!

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Steve Elliman - Research Scientist

Describe your typical day

Dr Steve Elliman, head of research at Orbsen Therapeutics, says no two days are the same at his Galway start-up. My chief function is to manage 11 research scientists in the lab. Another role is grant writing. We’re a start-up so we don’t have big chunks of money from the Government or investors. Also, a lot of my work is taking the data that the guys generate in the lab and looking for the work that is novel and patentable.

What do you like best about your job?

Every day is different. The most fun I have is sitting down with the guys and seeing what results have come out of last week’s work. Seeing stuff that nobody has ever seen before is probably the best part.

What are the main challenges?

Grant writing! It’s tough and it’s competitive. Typically, for every 10 grants you write, you get one or two. We have to write 100-page proposals to describe why we need the money and what it is about our therapy that might be useful. In the last 18 months, I have probably written 10 large grants. We have been successful and landed four grants worth about €20 million.

What subjects did you take in school and did they influence your career path?

I was lucky enough to have a biology teacher called John Stebbings who taught me about genetics. I had extra lessons after school as I was fascinated. That led me to do biology at A level and inspired me to do Genetics at undergrad level. I was quite diverse at A level and did Biology, History and German. I was a huge German fan and ended up working in the Max Planck Institute in Berlin.

What did you do after school?

I went to Queen Mary College in London to study genetics. Then I went to work at Max Planck in Berlin and Oxford University as a research scientist. I went to Great Ormond Street Hospital to do my PhD. After that, I worked in Novartis Pharmaceuticals in Boston for five years. Then, I came to Galway in 2008 to set up Orbsen Therapeutics.

What’s the difference between working in a start-up, a university and a big company?

From a company perspective, the questions come from the company. They will have a specific disease that they want to chase, such as diabetes. You’re part of a 200-person team. That’s great and I loved my time at Novartis but it’s not your question. On the other end side, you have academic research where it is your question. You might spend 50 years chasing the answer. The start-up is much more dynamic and you have to be flexible as there’s not a lot of money. You have to have the ruthless streak of a pharma company and the passion of the academic professor.

Article by: Smart Futures