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Atiya’s journey from Scientist to Product Manager

Atiya Sarmin joined the Healx team in February 2022, after completing her PhD in Biomedical Engineering at the Blizard Institute (Queen Mary University, London).
14 June 2022   |  
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Hey there Atiya! Tell us about yourself.

I’m a biomedical scientist by training. I did my undergraduate degree in Biomedical Science at The University of Southampton, and a Masters of Research in Cancer Biology at Imperial College. I really enjoyed learning different scientific research skills and wanted to continue contributing to science and healthcare, so I then completed a PhD at Queen Mary. My PhD project was on developing 3D bioprinted skin models to study wound healing and inflammation. During my studies, I was always participating in extracurriculars, which is where I developed a lot of my soft skills like leadership, listening and empathy. I wanted to combine these skills and interests in a non-academic role, which is why I also partook in business projects and ventures alongside my PhD. It was important for me to gain a broad set of skills and network to make different career paths accessible and I’m now a Product Manager at Healx where I can still talk science, do research, and make a positive impact in healthcare.

Why did you choose to go into product management?

I didn’t know product management was what I wanted to do next, but I knew I wanted to be able to apply my scientific knowledge and be involved in improving healthcare, while also honing my soft skills that I developed as a researcher. I have always been interested in the business side of science, so whilst doing my PhD, I got involved in workshops, competitions and conversations around entrepreneurship and start-ups in the biotech space. I also spent all of my 8 years as a student acting as a rep or a club and event organiser, which helped me develop various other skills that I wouldn’t have otherwise experienced in my degrees. This was, I suppose, the first step in my journey. From these experiences, I learnt business terminologies and processes, and I also learnt and developed important skills in leadership and decision making. But most importantly, I grew a network! This is how I met Hannah (now my manager at Healx), who was an invited guest to a QMUL Women In Science and Engineering Conference I was running. I spent time building a LinkedIn profile that reflects all my skills and interests, to help me identify relevant opportunities and to assist me when reaching out and asking my network for help. It was then all about being matched with an open role. Luckily, Healx was looking for someone with my skills and goals, and I applied!

What was the recruitment process like at Healx?

There was an initial call with a talent manager, followed by a longer chat with the product managers about my motivations to join the team. I then had to do a task and a presentation, followed by an interview that explored my and Healx’s values. There was also the opportunity to ‘meet the team’, where I got to chat to several current employees about their experiences at the company. It was quite a lengthy process, but I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to meet with lots of people in the organisation and learn about Healx’s values, as it made me confident that the company would be the right fit for me.

What was the onboarding process like?

There’s a two week schedule for onboarding where you get introduced to all the teams in the company and hear a bit about people’s roles. Everyone was very welcoming and eager to help, and there is a really friendly and caring culture which made it easy to feel part of the team quickly. As for settling into the product team, I had several short calls each week with Hannah for the first two months to ask anything I wanted. We also sent each other summaries of what we’d been up to in the day, so I could be exposed to the tasks Hannah does, which helped in the remote setting. I also met individually with the product team members to get to know them better on a personal level. I started two projects straight away which really helped me to understand the role and learn by doing, and I was always supported by the team of product managers, designers and engineers around me.

What have you actually been doing in the first 3 months?

I have been learning about Product Management and tech from Hannah, Sunny and other members from the Product and Tech teams. I am learning Google Analytics and other user tracking tools for my user insight testing project, and am also learning about NLP and Healx’s processes for one of my other projects. With the help from the team, I have created plans and run discovery sessions for both these projects.

What advice do you want to share to others who want to make the move from scientist to PM?

Get involved in things that aren’t part of your core work, in order to expand your network and build different skills you might not get a chance to build in your academic life. Further to this, be really inquisitive and curious, and try to talk to people outside of your niche. It’s okay to not know things and be vulnerable by asking questions to understand more – so even though this might feel like you’re revealing a weakness, it helps you grow much faster! Lastly, ignore the stigmas. Even when people say something may not be the best choice for you, they might not understand the move and your motivations. Grab the opportunities where you can – you’ll learn from them.

Which skills that you learnt during your PhD are you using now?

It certainly helps that I understand the scientific approaches and processes here, such as the different drug discovery stages, the scientific methods used and the various needs of the scientists. I also get to use my research and investigative skills to conduct user research and analyse the data, and I leverage my teamwork and collaboration skills to bring teams together towards the same goal. Another core skill I use regularly is communication. In my PhD, I had to communicate my research to different audiences in different formats and this is a skill I now use as a PM as I have to communicate scientific concepts to different team members in a way that is easy for them to understand. This helps with user research and designing and presenting projects to different teams.

We’re hiring! If you’re interested in joining the team, check out our careers page.

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