Carys Howell

Portfolio Manager at Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)
PhD Biosciences, 2020

""Please tell us a bit about your current role

I work in the Business Interaction Unit at BBSRC as a Portfolio manager. The role involves working on BBSRC's collaborative R&D investments, I am involved in engagement with industry and academic partners on these awards, as well as other activities such as development of future investments. As a team, we regularly engage with industry to understand their needs to identify areas for potential future investments and funding opportunities.

The recruitment process was a CV and cover letter, followed by a competency based interview with a short presentation.

Carys Howell

PhD Biosciences graduate, 2020

“I am not sure what I would be doing now if I had not received such useful guidance from Careers Network.”

What motivated you to do your postgraduate research course?

I was working as a research scientist in a biotechnology company and many of the more senior staff around me had a PhD. I could see how valuable the skills they had learnt from their PhD were for problem solving in the lab and that I might not develop those skills if I stayed in industry. In addition, I had also wondered about careers outside of the lab and specifically chose to do the MIBTP programme because of the opportunity to learn bioinformatics as well as do a 3 month placement of my choice that was not in the lab. I knew that, at that point in time, completing a PhD was the best choice for my development and future career.

What do you enjoy most and what do you find challenging about your role?

I really love discussing the research projects we are funding with academics and industry, it is so great to hear about what exciting research is happening and the breakthroughs that have occurred, without being in the lab! The most challenging part of my job is that we often handle difficult situations and conversations, this is something that we are able to receive training for.

Have you faced any barriers during your career journey, if so, how did you overcome them?

I could see that if I did not complete a PhD, that I would miss out on the opportunities and choices that are available to me now.

How did your time at Birmingham help you prepare for this role?

My PhD course included a significant amount of training in the first year. If had not chosen the MIBTP programme at Birmingham I would not have developed those valuable skills that have been useful to my research and career. In addition, my supervisors were incredibly supportive throughout my PhD, without their guidance, I would not have developed into an independent researcher. Working independently and the ability to problem-solve, is very important in my current role. As well as this, my supervisors gave me the opportunity to manage several undergraduate and masters students in the lab, allowing me to gain valuable experience, which was highly useful to this role where I will eventually line manage.

Of course, there is Careers Network, I was very unsure about the career path I wanted to take after my PhD, but I knew that the lab was no longer where I wanted to be. After spending time discussing my options with Holly, we narrowed the options down to those that would really suit me. I started to do some research and reached out to individuals through LinkedIn after Holly’s advice. Everyone I contacted was incredibly helpful and happy to discuss their role me with me, ultimately helping me to decide the line of work I was really interested in. I am not sure what I would be doing now if I had not received such useful guidance from Careers Network.

What advice would you give to postgraduate researcher students interested in getting into your industry or role?

Using the STAR approach in your application and interview is very important. Being able to explain that you meet the key competencies associated with a role using examples is highly important. In addition, never underestimate the importance of a 1-week training course to an application, I referenced the Business Enterprise Summer School throughout my job applications, I had no idea at the time how useful that module would be to my job applications!


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