PhD student mentees in the NSW MedTech-Pharma program of the Industry Mentoring Network in STEM (IMNIS) connected with some dynamic individuals over breakfast last November at Meet the Entrepreneur. Held at Creative Space 99 in Sydney, Australia’s highest recommended IP licensing lawyer, Rob McInnes, led an engaging and interactive discussion on being a STEM entrepreneur. High profile founders and inventors shared their entrepreneurial adventures, highlighted their successes and challenges, and shared their top pointers for collaboration and key advice for entrepreneurs-to-be to kick-start their careers.
Working in the Australian biotechnology industry since 2007, scientist and entrepreneur, Dr Dharmica Mistry, shared the challenges she faced in moving from basic research to translational research and co-founding BCAL Diagnostics. With a PhD from Macquarie University, Dharmica is an inventor on one of BCAL Diagnostics’ founding patents and manages the scientific operations of the company. Dharmica also shared what she learnt with the NSW Health Medical Devices Commercialisation Training Program. Her take home messages to mentees were “Get connected, use your mentors to help you network, upskill in different areas, communicate your science and take risks”. Importantly, Dharmica told mentees to value failure since it is the best way to learn and develop new skills.
Dr Alan Taylor is a scientist, investment banker, entrepreneur and investor who is very active in the Australian start-up area. He has extensive experience investing in, advising and taking an active role within a number of early stage companies. Alan is the Executive Chairman at Clarity Pharmaceuticals, a company focused on developing radiopharmaceuticals for the treatment of cancer and other diseases.
Alan shared his passion for the translation of Australian science and technologies, and told mentees that the skills he developed during his PhD in medicine at UNSW and his Graduate Diploma in Applied Finance ensured he had strong foundations for what he does today. Recognising his love for interacting with people and working within a diverse team, Alan’s mantra was “When you love what you do, it isn’t work”. His energy for sharing ideas, translating applied research, investing in promising startups and making a difference to those living with disease was highly contagious!
Finally, Sarah Griffin, founder of Medtechnique Consulting, confessed to mentees she had never planned her 25 year career in medical technology and that it had all been “quite random going from physio to business”. With a bachelor of applied science in physiotherapy from the University of Sydney, her expertise spans health economics, health insurance, health policy and legislation, medical finance reimbursement systems and government relations. Her experience has made her strongly committed to good mentoring and she mentors several young professionals both in and out of the IMNIS program. Her No. 1 piece of advice was to network since “You never know where the next lead will come from!”
Students were immediately on their feet to ask questions centred on the transferable skills needed to succeed as an entrepreneur and the core expertise they would need to develop, as well as advice on how best to transition from academia to being an entrepreneur. A number of our esteemed IMNIS mentors also shared their insight during the Q&A. At the post-event networking session, students keen to connect and learn more immediately surrounded each panellist. It was their opportunity to have direct access to an outstanding entrepreneur!
This event was a particular success with both IMNIS mentors and mentees actively engaging in discussions and networking.
IMNIS Executive Director Dr Marguerite Evans-Galea with the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering said, “It is excellent having both mentees and mentors at events like this so everyone can connect in person, and as students learn about a new area, they can approach mentors to answer their questions, and mentors can then share their insight and experience with mentees. It’s mentoring in action!”
Mentees expressed a strong interest in this area and were grateful to gain some knowledge and advice from experienced industry mentors about where to start.
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