"My goal is to learn as much as possible."


Six years of studies, five years of doctorate – and still the molecular medicine scientist Mathias hasn't had enough of learning. The logical next step for him: the start-up-program Medical Functions at Roche Pharma AG in Grenzach. In the interview he reveals what his everyday life as trainee looks like, and how it came about that he drank wine with the senior management after work.

How did you join Roche?

I was already in contact with Roche for some time: during my doctorate through e-fellows.net I had participated in the event "Clear on your Career" in Grenzach, where Roche had also introduced its trainee program. After this event I received an invitation to a leadership workshop from Roche Diagnostics in Mannheim and was accepted in the "Roche Evolution" development program for students. Although I was already quite advanced with my doctorate, I was still able to utilise two advantages for myself: I was able to spend a day accompanying a field staff employee and I met a senior manager two or three times who coached me as mentor.

I initially started my professional career with a different company, with a service provider that provides market analyses for pharmaceutical companies. But then I saw the job posting for the Trainee-Program Medical Functions from Roche and put in an application for it.

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e-fellows.net-Alumnus Dr. Mathias Bernhardt (33) studied molecular medicine in Ulm and was then involved in research as doctorial candidate and Post Doc at the cancer research centre in Heidelberg. Since October 2016 he is trainee in the Start-up-Program Medical Functions at Roche Pharma AG in Grenzach.

What induced you to change your job again so soon after your career entry?

The Trainee-Program had already fascinated me previously. I found it a great perspective to work in different stations and to thereby see and learn a lot again. At the same time, as a trainee at Roche you however already have a fixed contract and you don't need to worry that will you end up without a job at the end of the trainee program. And in addition to this as globally involved company, Roche of course also offers good long-term perspectives.

What are these perspectives specifically?

The trainee program trains us for a position in the area Medical Affairs. The first job subsequent to the program will therefore most probably be in a department in this area in Grenzach, for example in Medical Management. On the basis of this a lateral development would then be conceivable, meaning a change from one department to a different one on the same level, or a vertical development, for example to team management. And in addition to this there is of course also the possibility of changing to the headquarters in Basel.

As trainee you change to a different department every three months. Are you even able to take over own projects in such a short time? Or do you mainly participate in the daily business?

That is different from departement to departement. In the team for clinical research it is more beneficial to take over partial tasks in various projects. Because in this way one gains a better insight into the individual phases of clinical studies. Usually we trainees are as strongly involved in the everyday business as is necessary for a good general overview, and additionally receive a project that goes beyond the everyday business.

What does your appointment schedule look like for next week?

I have just newly arrived in a department again and therefore have several training appointments, which involve familiarising myself with the tasks that the department has, which projects are just underway and which tasks I could undertake. Apart from this next week I will participate in a further development workshop on new products that are coming on the market. And finally I also have an appointment with my mentor. I meet him regularly every three to four weeks and discuss my development with him or ask for tips for the next rotation.

You used to stand in the laboratory, today you sit in meetings. What do you like more?

The work in the laboratory was frustrating especially when experiments failed in the end after weeks of preparation. And when one has pipetted 100,000 times then this is also no longer quite so exciting. So that is why I don't really miss the laboratory work. Now my tasks are much more diversified and the learning curve is very steep - after all I continuously have new challenges and meet new colleagues.

What would you say is your greatest professional success until now?

My successes as trainee are naturally very difficult to measure. Because my goal is of course to learn as much as possible from the stations and to take this learning with me. There is however one project that I would actually call a success: A few months ago those responsible for the trainee program held a workshop to acquire our feedback and to ask us what could be improved in the program. Thereby the idea cropped up of preparing a handbook for the job orientation of the trainees, in which the learning content from the individual departments is represented in a clearly laid out way - and I then implemented this. Although in itself this was only a small project, but it brought me into contact with all departments across the company in which we trainees potentially rotate, and I will soon be able to introduce the finished product to the medical affairs management team.

And what was the biggest surprise that you have experienced up to now at Roche?

I was surprised how quickly one can also gain a foothold in such a large company. The fact that all Roche employees who are new in Grenzach and who do not live close by can stay at the so-called Boarding House during the first six months, certainly contributes towards this. We cook together in the kitchen in the evening, drink a glass of wine, watch football together and thereby very quickly come into contact with people who are all currently in the same situation. And these are not only young professionals – once we were also sitting together with someone from Senior Management.

In closing do you have a tip that you would like to pass on to other gratuades on their journey?

Make use of the opportunities for making contacts in the company as early as possible – above all if you are studying a natural science. Only through this will you get an idea how a career in industry is different from an academic career, and find out what you enjoy doing.

©Roche with e-fellows.net

Tags: Career Blog, Germany