Kerry and Riley describe their IMNIS experience as an historical play, with each reflecting on their experience chronologically. It was developed iteratively, with Riley kicking off first, then back and forth between the pair. The process allowed both parties to remember the IMNIS experience and reflect on the benefits and challenges.
Riley – February-March, 2018
In February 2018 I was nearing completion of the 1st year of my PhD at the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute and I suddenly visualised a long and tedious road ahead. I had launched myself into a PhD with the expectation of following down the standard career pipeline, with a post-doctorate to follow. However, I quickly identified that research wasn’t something I was passionate about. Fortunately, an opportunistic email popped into my inbox one day inviting me to participate in the IMNIS program. I had read of the valuable experiences of other mentees, so I jumped at it without hesitation, full well expecting that this program and my mentor (please gawd give me a good one!) would be my saving grace. A few weeks later, I’d been accepted into the program. Now the wait to see who my mentor would be…
Kerry – May-June, 2018
I saw this invitation from IMNIS in my inbox inviting me to be a mentor…guilt consumed me. I really should do this but I don’t really want to if I am honest. I had heard good things about IMNIS from industry colleagues, but I was already giving back as a mentor and heavily invested in a new start-up. How much time was this IMNIS thing going to take? Am I going to get some puppy dog nerd who pesters me all the time, or a sloth who doesn’t listen and act? (I am a nice person…really!). Anyway, Marguerite Evans-Galea is hard to say no to, so I accepted, thinking dear gawd, please give me a good one!
Riley – June 2018
Fast forward a few months; the start date was quickly upon us. Emails regarding induction sessions and Mentorloop (the online mentoring platform used by IMNIS) littered my inbox. And then *bing* the one I had been waiting for – “you have been paired with Kerry Hegarty”. Almost instantly, Kerry messaged. A mixture of excitement and panic set over me – Kerry was the real deal and super keen to get this moving, great! Realising the enormity of this opportunity, I quickly scoured the internet to evaluate her and her professional accomplishments – she had run some successful start-ups and was retired…eh…this really wasn’t what I was looking for. Nevertheless, I was too enthusiastic to let this opportunity slide, and after a few messages back and forth, our first meeting was scheduled for mid-July with the proposal for an “end-of-day beer”…hmm…maybe Kerry was more than I first thought.
Kerry – July 19, 2018
Hmm…good to hear Riley thought I was keen!
I didn’t want to jump in and meet Riley until I knew more about his work. I asked Riley to send me a one-page description of his PhD. I read it…my eyes glazed over…IL-11 cytokine signalling, Jak/Stat3 signalling cascades, transgenic mouse models, tumour microenvironments, etc. How was I possibly going to contribute here when my background is in diagnostics? We set up our first face-to-face (F2F) meeting, asking Riley to my CBD office. We used Mentorloop to communicate as advised, but I was annoyed to have to use another platform. (Not a fair analysis in hindsight). In time, we used emails to communicate – I think it was easier, but never asked the young bloke what he thought. Anyway, it’s July 19th and in walks Riley… I’ve got homework for him little does he know…
Riley – July 19, 2018
Prior to our first F2F meeting in July, Kerry and I had introduced ourselves via a phone call, where we spoke about our family, our career paths, and what each wanted to achieve over ~12 months. My objective was simple – I wanted to be exposed to as many different areas of the biotechnology industry as possible. I was excited and relaxed on my way to meet Kerry. During our initial conversation, I could hear her enthusiasm leak through the phone. She sounded genuinely keen to hear about my journey and was passionate to help. It felt like a new chapter was beginning in my professional life. I was welcomed with a coffee on arrival and our meeting took place in a beautiful old meeting room with large, comfortable leather chairs…I could get used to this! Our first meeting was fluid, comfortable, and direct. We specified what each sought from the program and one another. Clarity was key (albeit some of the occupations and terms that Kerry mentioned flew over my head, I wouldn’t dare tell her that, but I’d do my homework later!) The meeting ended with Kerry calling Cameron Smith, a Partner from the nearby patent firm FB Rice, who quickly joined us. Funnily enough, I had met Cameron before. I immediately recognised the importance of a network – the benefits of IMNIS were beginning to be felt.
Kerry – July 19, 2018
Riley is right. We did some important pre-meeting planning for our first F2F. Riley, the eager beaver, walked in all smiles. Thought he might politely reject my offer of a fresh coffee, but instead he said he’d love one! Off to the kitchen I go… Our conversation was relaxed, with both parties wanting to get a sense of goals. I realised Riley had a strong degree of self-awareness (he was 24 y.o.), but uncertain about his future (understandably). He wanted passion in his work. My view of how this year could be meaningful was starting to take shape. Relieved. In short, Riley simply needed to meet the right, inspiring people in our industry, and to learn more about his Venn-self.* Our visit was satisfying, new homework assigned, and I didn’t offer him a second cup of coffee…
Riley – August, 2018 – June, 2019
Kerry and I routinely caught up over the next ~10 months predominately F2F at her office, which is essential to maximise your output from the program. During this time, I met a range of people from different sectors of the biotechnology field , which helped to shape my Venn-self, and guide my long term goal of determining what area of work I would like to transition into following completion of my studies. I’d also come to appreciate my commitment to Kerry and to IMNIS over the past 12 months. My goal was achieved and the end of the program was a perfect time to reflect on my progress, as well as my relationship with Kerry. And what better way to sign off our official IMNIS experience than to be treated to an exquisite meal of modern Japanese – thanks Kerry, I’ll get the next one!
Kerry – June, 2019
In addition to the emphasis on networking (various friends in finance, business development and intellectual property were generous), there were mundane tasks (e.g. Riley’s LinkedIn profile (man, how do I tell him to ditch his current picture?), his CV presentation, his thank you notes to those who offered their time, his attention to keep folks informed, etc. I refer to these tasks as “mundane”, but they are actually essential ingredients to building a career. If you don’t have etiquette and follow-through, industry folks will quickly lose interest in supporting you. Riley was keen to meet others, prepare his questions, take notes, and dogged in devising the next steps forward. Always, coming to meetings with succinct notes and astute questions. Being prepared is the key to a successful mentoring relationship for both parties.
Riley’s reflection on IMNIS
IMNIS was exceptionally rewarding and an essential complement to my PhD. I gained invaluable insight not typically integral to the PhD world. Upon reflection, when I first questioned Kerry as a mentor, I truly didn’t have a good appreciation of the type of mentor I was looking for, nor what makes a good mentor. I now know. A mentor is someone who guides you to find your true passion(s) by instilling confidence in yourself and your ideas. Kerry was generous and put trust in me to share her professional network, which culminated in being given the opportunity to complete two invaluable internships: one with Alex Tzanidis and Mark Roberts at Davies Collison Cave and another with Christopher Boyer at Bio-Link Australia. These outcomes gave me the experiential basis to know what I wanted to do next. Bingo! And whilst our IMNIS engagement concluded in June 2019, Kerry and I continue to stay in close contact, an added bonus.
Kerry’s reflection on IMNIS
In the end, Riley found his passion and identified a career path that excited him. It was a pleasure to help and plot this evolution. Riley’s diligent work and genuine curiosity was the recipe for success. Riley was always prepared for meetings and was faithful in his respect for others. His youthful enthusiasm and smarts was appreciated, and we all wanted to help. If I am right about Riley making a difference to our industry in the future, then imagine how many times IMNIS has made this difference! I was lucky to be paired with Riley – the only thing he needed was a sincere conversation and a vision of the opportunities ahead.
*Venn-self is a technique that Kerry used when constructing her own career transitions. It’s a diagram comprised of three named circles, each comprised of a knowledge sector – two that you feel some competence in, and one where you want to grow. As a young PhD student, you may not feel fully competent in any areas, but you will have technical expertise. Constructing and reviewing your Venn each year allows you to grow and swap in and out one sector every 1-2 years to keep the growth and passions alive. By early April 2019, we could both see Riley converging on an interest in IP and possibly business through his Venn-self.
About the authors:
Dr Kerry Hegarty, Experienced Director and CEO, Investor, Advisor. Born in the US and completing her PhD at Columbia University, Dr Hegarty started her professional career as a researcher at The University of Melbourne, and was a founder of one of the first technology spin-outs in 1987. She has since worked with early-stage technology assets over the last 35 years, building teams and gathering support to take selected opportunities to the global market. Most recently, Kerry has been active in the healthcare sector, and prior to that, energy innovation. Her interest in commercialisation of early-stage technologies lies in the challenge of identifying gaps in the value proposition and the joy of gathering a team to navigate across the inevitable road bumps of product development. She does not dip in and out of companies and is known for her commitment and energy. Her startups include such companies as Geotrack International, Sienna Cancer Diagnostics and Incisive Technologies.
Riley Morrow is a 4th year PhD student in the Cancer & Inflammation Laboratory at the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute/School of Cancer Medicine. His PhD, titled “Therapeutically targeting Myc in gastro-intestinal cancers”, incorporates the use of a variety of novel stomach and colon cancer transgenic mouse models, a design that will allow insight into the pro-tumourigenic role of Myc in both cancer cells and the tumour microenvironment. By understanding the mechanism, his work will also provide the basis of resolving new therapeutic opportunities. His work has been recognised throughout his PhD, with multiple oral and written prizes, including most recently receiving a highly competitive and well-respected Tour de Cure PhD Support Scholarship. Riley plans to complete his PhD in late 2020/early 2021 and transition into a trainee patent attorney position at Davies Collison Cave.