“If you stay humble and keep networking, opportunities will come up.”

Investment banks play an indispensable role in transforming academic discoveries in to innovation. Dr. Evelyn Pau is a PhD alumna from the Department of Immunology at the University of Toronto (Class of 2013; the Wither lab). Dr.Pau is currently Vice President at a healthcare-focused investment bank, Bloom Burton Securities Inc., and previously served on the Board of Directors of the McMaster Innovation Park.

Could you please explain what Bloom Burton does and describe your role in the company?

Bloom Burton is Canada’s leading life science-focused investment banking firm. We work with two main types of clients.Thefirstisinvestorslookingforinvestmentopportunitiesinhealthcareorganizations.The other is organizations that are looking for capital. Bloom Burton & Co. works across a wide spectrum of healthcare organizations, including different stages of development (start-up to publicly listed companies) and different types of organizations, such as biotech, pharmaceuticals, digital health, hospitals, and universities. My role is focused on consulting. I support my clients within our scientific banking team to provide strategic advice, launch new business development initiatives, and engage in M&A transactional work. Whether we are looking for a new drug target or disease indication to pursue, or identify new products or companies to acquire, we assist our clients base donor insights from healthcare investors to ultimately get our clients to achieve a monetization event.

What do you think is the current relationship between the investment sector and academia in biotech?

There is a strong and long relationship between the biotech investment sector and academia. Usually, academia is where the idea starts. However, initial academic discoveries address very specific problems, and rarely emphasize key information for commercialization. This includes understanding the market, competitors, and clinical impact. Academic discoveries with good potential for commercialization are funded by investors. Oftentimes, investors attend academic conferences to communicate with academia, and to learn new ideas and discoveries.

During your graduate studies, what motivated you to pursue consulting in the first place, and ultimately investment banking?

I was actually interested in the business of science even before entering the PhD program. I embarked on my doctorate to build my scientific foundation and train problem-solving skills, which in my opinion may be much more difficult than building business acumen.

During my PhD, I did various extracurricular activities to learn business skills: business case competitions, healthcare consulting projects, and working in a med-tech start-up company. Throughout these experiences, I improved my analytical and communication skills that are important for client engagement. I chose investment banking because I can participate in shaping and funding companies to grow while remaining in contact with cutting-edge scientific discoveries. I find it very impactful to bring new products and drugs to Canadians in a timely manner. As an investment banker, I see the full spectrum of the value creation process covering the strategy, execution, and implementation.

What was your perception of consulting and investment banking before you started your position? Have they changed so far?

Initially, I thought the role would require more financial and accounting skills. However, now I learned that it is much more scientific than what I anticipated at least within my role. I read more academic papers in the first month at Bloom Burton than during my graduate studies. Understanding academic discoveries and presenting key information to the audience in a precise and timely manner is very important. For example, reading a piece of scientific literature takes only seconds for me.

Reading papers must be critical as you said. What are some additional skills that would be important but was not extensively covered during your graduate training?

Learning information beyond your academic expertise is a good skill. For example, I read scientific papers from various fields other than immunology all the time. I find that journal club presentation is a great method to build this skillset with clients. This includes writing professional emails, speaking concisely as well as confidently, and asking critical questions in real time regarding fields of which you are not necessarily an expert. Such level of confidence often requires training over time, but is very important for consultants and investment bankers.

I am an immigrant myself, and my partner is a small Asian woman. We often discuss difficulties that are faced by people in visible minority groups. If you have any advice for graduate students seeking industry positions who are in visible minorities, could you please share with us?

I can speak from my experience as an Asian woman who is petite and introverted. The financial industry is still mostly male-dominated but is changing. I usually connect with female professionals in networking events. For a short woman like me, it is more challenging to speak with tall males especially in loud environments. And, because many ladies wear heels it is more natural for me to invite them to sit down at a table. This makes it easier to engage in conversation with eye contact in a more relaxing atmosphere.

Please share with us any career advice for graduate students.

I would recommend to always participate in extracurricular activities to find your career passion and to learn what is not covered in graduate training, like interview skills. If you stay humble and keep networking, opportunities will come up. For PhD students, your third year is a great time to start this process.

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