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Two Scientists Walk Into a Search Firm . . .

Posted by Bowdoin on September 26, 2022

From the perspective of two Executive Search leaders, Erik Rocheford and Aaron Harris, Ph.D. , who came from the science world and made the switch to recruiting.  

Why did we leave the lab and make the switch to Executive Search?

ER: I came up through NIBR and had a wonderful experience surrounded by great mentors and sound science. I could see the non-Ph.D. path in pharma, which was not attractive to me. I’m outgoing, and some aspects of lab life as a pharmacologist became isolatory at times. When I transitioned to running a discovery team at a CRO enabling startup pharmacology discovery, I fell in love with the startup vibe. There’s something special about entrepreneurs with seed funding and an idea – surrounding myself with that energy became something I wanted to be central to my career. As I became aware of the art and science of biotech recruiting, I learned that it’s mainly talking to these same entrepreneurs about science and strategy – sign me up!

AH: Our journeys to the Executive Search world certainly aren’t the traditional paths former scientists make, but is one that you’re beginning to see more and more. For me, it boils down to what I like to do on a daily basis – and that is to talk about science and its impact on human health and disease with those that are driven by that cause. As I was wrapping up my Ph.D. and thinking about what I wanted to do next, I kept coming back to the idea of finding a role where I could combine my passion for science with the ability to talk with people daily. Only a few options focus on such a combination, with Executive Search rising to the top for me. It’s a decision that I’m happy I made. 

How do we work together to build companies?

ER: While my role here is to lead Executive Search, I work consistently with the RPO team to educate the recruiters on technical roles, ensure that our sourcing strategy is directionally correct, and instill best practices of this art and science that we call recruiting. I started in fast-paced contingency search work, which taught me to be nimble, driven, and scrappy. I never want to lose that edge, and I enjoy giving what knowledge I can to the RPO team weekly.

AH: The interplay and transfer of knowledge between our Executive Search and RPO practices help to build teams and companies as efficiently as possible. By building relationships with decision-makers across all company levels, we glean organizational and cultural insights that allow our teams to source and recruit at the highest level. We can take learnings from an Executive Search and apply them to situations in our RPO practice and vice versa. Our success and ability to build companies in this manner requires a commitment to communication, internally and with our clients – something I feel we do very well here at TBG. 

I will agree with Erik, as well. We are committed to mentoring and building our internal team just as much as we are with our clients. Watching team members grow and take on new responsibilities is extremely rewarding. The more we can collectively learn from each other, the more we can help our clients build high-performing teams.

How do we stay scientifically relevant?

ER: Our seat in this industry is unique as it’s our job to be aware of market trends, understand what is new and exciting to investors in the intellectual property landscape, and genuinely know as many talented candidates as possible. It’s through those conversations that I keep up with the latest science. I ask a lot of questions, research what I don’t understand quickly, and am always open and honest about where my understanding starts and stops.

AH: I’ll give credit where credit is due. I couldn’t have said it better, Erik. The conversations we have and our question-driven approach to those conversations are the best way to stay up-to-date on the latest technologies and companies. We are very inquisitive by nature, so we’re constantly reading news articles and specific publications to help stay scientifically relevant.  

Why are we drawn to this type of work?

AH: One thing that gets me most excited when I look at my day is what conversations I am having and who I am having those conversations with. As Erik said earlier, we’re in a unique position because we are having conversations with those at the cutting edge of innovation, changing the way we think about medicine and/or making a difference for patients. The opportunity to speak with those people regularly keeps us up-to-date on new scientific developments and how the industry is thinking about drug discovery. We get to help push scientific disruption and better patient care by recruiting talent to those companies to do just that. 

Additionally, working within our RPO practice, we have the opportunity to become fully engrained with a client and create a true partnership. It’s rewarding to watch companies double or triple in headcount and know that we played a critical role. In RPO, we are on the roller coaster with our clients – navigating through rapid growth and periods of uncertainty. Being a strategic partner to them during those times will get anyone excited. 

ER: I love my role at The Bowdoin Group as I’m building a team internally, coaching and guiding younger talent, all while helping to build biotech companies externally. I’m pretty lucky that my interest in human health and my interest in professional growth have intersected with such a great group of individuals here at Bowdoin. I’m done generating data to bring a drug to market, but I’m far from done with recruiting talent to exciting companies that can get a new drug to patients in need.

To share your thoughts, connect with Aaron and Erik on LinkedIn.