• Aiva Ievins

    Aiva is part of our Inhouse Consulting Global Graduate Program. Through this renowned program, she has worked on projects in business strategy, market entry, launch planning, and external relations.

    In her first blog post for us, Aiva talks about her decision to leave academia and join us here in Inhouse Consulting.

Leaving academia: The “whys” and “hows” of my move to an industry career

My science career began with questions. I was always asking “why?” and “how?” in my biology classes, and a well-meaning teacher advised me to follow those questions to a PhD – a path that he thought would engage my curiosity enough to keep me interested.

It seemed like the perfect route. I worked on ambitious, interdisciplinary projects with researchers from diverse fields and pushed myself to develop an array of new technical skills. I loved learning about new research, presenting my work, and brainstorming with other scientists at conferences – the buzz of new ideas was intoxicating!

Why did I leave?

My rosy outlook didn’t last long. As my conversations with colleagues and other academic researchers turned more candid, the cracks in the system emerged. Seasoned scientists across different fields and universities complained about an intensely competitive funding climate and the pressure to publish hypothesis-confirming data. They resisted submitting certain projects to conferences for fear of being scooped, even when experts in the field might have provided valuable advice. When I asked about their lives outside of work, many boasted about nights and weekends spent in the lab, as if 24-hour shifts were a rite of passage. They sacrificed luxuries like hobbies and vacations in pursuit of a result that might impress a future review or hiring committee.

Wanting that success too, I became one of them. I spent long hours bent over a microscope, soldering wires thinner than a human hair to tiny circuit boards in early medical device prototypes. I would go days without seeing the sun, sitting alone in a dark room searching desperately for a fluorescent signal to explain an experiment’s inconsistent results. As the negative results piled up, my career anxiety grew. I felt like a car spinning its wheels in the mud, desperately trying to move forward even as the path ahead became less and less clear.

I needed a new road.

How did I find my way out?

I interrogated everyone I knew for directions.  A computational scientist let me try on a data science career on his team, a mentor brought me to a venture investment pitching round, and a friend helped me find work at the university tech transfer office. These experiences introduced me to people that had made the jump out of academia and succeeded. They showed me that my favorite parts of research – the constant learning, the interdisciplinary topics, the presentations – could also be found in careers beyond the bench.

Working in tech transfer felt like emerging from a fog. Writing and editing evaluations of university inventions exposed me to new technologies every week, and trainings and conversations with colleagues taught me about the technology commercialization process. I developed an interest in the business side of science, and after some extra classes and case study practice, I began applying to consulting jobs, hoping to eventually find a role in industry.

Throughout this time, I was still crowd-sourcing career advice from my network, and a friend told me about the Inhouse Consulting Global Graduate Program. Like many consulting jobs, it offered the chance to work with global teams on a variety of projects, but the science and technology focus and the opportunity to do job rotations made this program particularly attractive. I imagined myself exploring new career paths while helping to bring medicines and research tools to the people that need them most, and suddenly, I saw several new roads open in front of me.


Follow Aiva on LinkedIn if her inspiring story has moved you and be sure to check out our open positions if you are interested to work with us!


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