This article was written for our sponsor, BioCryst Pharmaceuticals.

Since the pandemic began in 2020, 20% of workers have made a career change, according to a survey from Prudential. Additionally, data from Microsoft show that another 46% of people are at least thinking about changing their careers.

Around the Triangle, the biotech industry has proved an unlikely destination for so-called “career-jumpers.”

“When I moved to North Carolina about three years ago, I was serving and bartending. Shortly thereafter, I transitioned into a marketing role with the same restaurant and was able to get more hands-on experience with business-related things — but at that time, I didn’t know exactly where I wanted to take my career,” said Malia Crumb, talent acquisition operations specialist at BioCryst Pharmaceuticals, a biotech company based in the Triangle. “When I joined BioCryst, I didn’t have specific experience in HR or talent acquisition, but I was quickly able to gain experience by working with so many people across the company. Here, there’s a lot of opportunity to come in and work on different projects, wear multiple hats and see where you can thrive.”

When Crumb applied to BioCryst, her role was advertised as a contract position. Based on her experience during the interview phase, she was able to envision how the role could be a stepping stone to a career in human resources. While she came into the company as a recruiting coordinator, Crumb has had the freedom to explore different aspects of talent development, and she has received training that led her to transition into her current full-time role in talent acquisition operations.

Jessica Pierce also came to BioCryst without a background in biotech. After serving as a secondary school teacher for a few years, Pierce pivoted and decided to pursue a law degree. An internship program with her law school matched her with an opportunity at BioCryst in 2018, and she’s been with the company since then.

“I learned several lessons from teaching, such as the importance of having a positive workplace culture and a company’s responsibility to care about its employees and build a collaborative atmosphere. In speaking with Alane Barnes, the chief legal officer at BioCryst, I saw firsthand how important collaboration and knowledge-sharing were to her, as well as her commitment to opening the door for another future attorney,” said Pierce, who now serves as associate corporate counsel. “I didn’t have experience in biotech, nor do I have a science background, but people were always willing to share their knowledge and sit down with me and help me understand what they were working on — and that’s still true today.”

While Pierce did not have industry experience at the start, many of the lessons she learned during her teaching career were relevant for her transition to the biotech industry.

“I really appreciate my time teaching and harnessing how to convey knowledge to others, thinking about how people learn and how people can best receive information,” said Pierce. “Sometimes when I’m speaking with a new colleague who joins BioCryst, I’ll break things down to simplify them, because you never know how people learn best. For example, it’s important to remember that not everyone understands all the jargon and acronyms we use.”

By recruiting talent with various professional backgrounds, BioCryst strives to foster a unique ecosystem of diversity — one that is challenging for many companies, biotech or not, to have.

“Having that professional diversity helps bring other ideas to the table and allows people to provide different perspectives. It helps prevent us from operating in silos by bringing in people who can problem-solve based on their unique ways of thinking,” said Crumb. “At BioCryst, each colleague really has an impact on what we’re doing for patients. It’s not only the people in our labs or our commercial team — it’s also those of us who are in the background, bringing in talent, marketing, managing the systems we use and many other functions.”

This sentiment resonates with employees across the company — including Pierce. While they may not be on the front lines of research, their roles in BioCryst are still helping the company change people’s lives for the better.

“It’s not all about the science — it’s also about the service,” said Pierce. “If you’re a person who is willing to serve a greater good, then there’s a space for you. You can work in HR, legal, supply chain or our other support-oriented departments. Many of us do not have traditional academic and/or scientific backgrounds in our current roles, but we have the willingness to engage and strive towards our company goals.”

“I would encourage people to not be intimidated by something that’s unfamiliar,” she finished. “If you have the willingness to learn, even if you’re coming from a background that doesn’t have a clear-cut connection to biotech, there’s still a good chance that there’s a place for you here at BioCryst.”

This article was written for our sponsor, BioCryst Pharmaceuticals.


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