My Story and Why I Started Outside The Lab

Batool Recent Professional

Hi everyone! I wanted to share my story and why I started Outside The Lab. All my experience, academically, professionally, and personally, led me to creating this website. My aim is to provide advice for science graduates on getting the right job for you outside of academia. I have had many experiences so far that have contributed to my career development. These form the basis of the content that I can share with you to help you progress in your career.

I’ll start with telling you about me from the time I was studying for my Biology degree until now. I chose to study Biology because I absolutely loved the subject during college. It was also where my strengths were and the subject I was getting the highest grades in. When I was at university, I still maintained this strength of interest in the subject. But I started to wonder what I would do once graduating. As I did experiments in the lab for projects, I didn’t picture myself staying in the lab after graduating. I’m sure you can relate to the sense of panic you feel when you lose clarity on your path ahead.

Studying a pure science subject, doesn’t lead to a vocation (as opposed to studying something like Medicine or Pharmacy). The options you have career-wise can seem very vague and blurry. I wondered whether I could do something science-related that wouldn’t involve me trying to steady my hand using a pipette!

Biology to...HR?

So I experimented by doing several internships in very different areas.  This included the charity sector, a social enterprise and a pharmaceutical company (GSK). I was pretty much taking a shot in the dark with each one to see what stuck! The first two were not science related at all, but gave me some experience in events and marketing. At GSK, I did a HR role, and was happy to work in a science-led organisation.

I also attended A LOT of careers fairs and talks, where I networked with many employers. Mostly, they were banks or consulting firms talking about science graduates going into these fields without a Finance or Management background. But I also discovered some interesting potential paths that I had never heard about before. Some healthcare-based charities came and spoke about roles in Science Policy. A patent attorney gave a talk about intellectual property and patent law being an alternative career path for scientists.

The more I spoke to people about these fields and did my own research, the more I discovered other fields like Science Communication, Science Education & Outreach, Life Sciences Consulting, Teaching, Clinical Operations, Regulatory Affairs, Business Operations….the list can go on.

Discovering all my options

Suddenly, there were almost too many choices for me as a Biology graduate! Luckily, I was able to extend my degree for a year to do an intensive management course. I knew this was the right option because I was sure I wanted a business-focused role. This also led me to do the GSK internship. I ended up landing a graduate job on their HR Future Leaders Programme. In the Pharmaceutical sector, I got exposure to an almost overwhelming number of roles you can do in the science industry. It’s surprising to see how many jobs you can do that keep you linked to the scientific world without you needing to get your Masters or PhD.

Working in HR in the Pharma industry was great because I built a foundation of business skills that I can now transfer to a wide range of roles across industries. It is also where my interest in supporting others with their development was ignited. I rotated around 4 different areas of the company before being promoted to a HR Manager role, so in total I did 5 roles there. This gave me a very broad exposure to the types of roles you can do in the Pharma industry. Mostly, I ended up working with Research & Development departments, which meant I could work closely with scientists and others in science-related roles. It gave me a sense of fulfilment to keep a link to my science background and support the work of scientists, without having to directly do the research myself!

How Outside The Lab started

I decided to leave GSK and explore different science-led industries through volunteering and networking. During this time I also started Outside The Lab. Through volunteering in the Cultural Events team at the Science Museum Group, I was able to discover more about Science Communication in museums. This meant I got an insight into the behind-the-scenes running of a museum and was able to contribute to planning and running events for families and adults. I now work in Research Grants & Funding at the National Institute for Health Research, supporting researchers to apply for funding for health-care related studies.

I started Outside The Lab to provide a platform that brings together all of my experience across science-led industries. My foundation in HR together with knowledge of these industries made me keen to share my experiences for others who want to get into these companies as an alternative to academia. I wanted to share my insights into successfully getting these roles as well as how to continuously develop in your career through building transferable skills, networking and finding opportunities to learn.

My intention is to share valuable content around these topics to give you an insight into various science-led industries and roles, as well as tips on building the skills to get into them. I also provide more tailored support for individual situations and have lots of ideas for various ways to provide these in the future! Let me know if any of you can relate to my experience and have similar feelings or hopes for your career. It would be useful to know what you would like to see Outside The Lab share and how I can help you. Please feel free to contact me on, send a message on Facebook or connect with me on LinkedIn.

If you are ready to take your career outside the lab and want to know how to start, book a Beyond the Lab Breakthrough Session here.

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