If you want to move into the dynamic and rewarding biotechnology sector — or if you are already in the biosciences and want to advance your career — here are the 5 essential skills you need to make the switch and effectively manage in these emerging industries. 

1. Change management 

Change management is the process by which you orchestrate and bring people together to advance an organization to its next stage. Gene Schneller, professor in the Department of Supply Chain Management in the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, ranks this skill high on his list. “The question is,” Schneller says, “how do you manage across the lifecycle of an organization, from startup all the way until it’s mature?” 

It involves the ability to work with a diverse group of professionals, including physicians, clinicians and biomedical engineers, as well as a variety of internal and external stakeholders, to integrate new ideas, technologies and ways of thinking within an organization.  

2. Scenario planning

Effective managers in the bioeconomy think through alternatives, game out possibilities, and apply strong evaluation tools to assess potential outcomes and make decisions. “It’s not looking at just one alternative,” Schneller says, “you want the capacity to look at the universe of alternatives and understand the implications of each.” 

Scenario planning is essential for determining issues such as product design and marketing, distribution and logistics, materials sourcing and resource allocation. “It’s also applicable to organizational design,” Schneller points out, “whether it’s better to centralize or decentralize, for instance, to carry out your company’s mission.” 

3. Risk identification and assessment

Biotechnology managers must be able to recognize the factors that impact their organization and may prevent it from achieving its goals. Risk identification and assessment requires anticipating and planning for contingencies, and putting processes into place to mitigate them. Risks exist for companies, employees and customers alike. 

“In the bioscience and technology industry, when you don’t account for the risk associated with your products, the end-user may suffer,” Schneller says. This skill is essential in nearly every area of management, from choosing the right suppliers to the logistics of delivering your products and services to the marketplace. 

4. Information and knowledge management

The biotechnology industry generates an enormous amount of data. Keeping track of it all is a major managerial function in itself. Finding ways to categorize, memorialize and utilize knowledge requires extensive technical training and experience, especially as sophisticated new technology designed to manage accumulated information comes online. As Schneller points out, “Increasingly knowledge management comes into such issues as how would you use artificial intelligence to go through the kinds of knowledge your organization has put together to be able to make better decisions, and get better outcomes from what you know.” 

5. Supply segmentation and sourcing

A critical function in supply chain management, supply segmentation and sourcing involves aligning the demands of your customer channels with supply capabilities that optimize your net profitability across each segment of the value chain. More simply put, segmentation comprises looking at the market, locating materials and products, understanding the logistical issues associated with acquiring those supplies, and making well-informed decisions about allocating expenditures to maximize value. “One of the things we’ve seen is that sourcing has become global,” Schneller says, which adds complexity to developing sourcing strategies that work efficiently in the bioeconomy.

Preparing to manage in the bioeconomy

These foundational, functional, and frontier technical tools and organizational capabilities must be acquired if you want to lead effectively in the bioscience industries. So how do you acquire them?

Managing in the New Bioeconomy is one preparatory training program, currently in discovery by ASU CareerCatalyst, that provides professionals, scientists, engineers and clinicians who are seeking to move from the bench to the executive suite in biotechnology companies a comprehensive understanding of the skills required for leadership in the industry. If you want to learn what you need to know, a program of this caliber is an excellent place to start. 

Biotechnology is a new economic space — and it’s rapidly expanding. It requires novel forms of management from multiple disciplines, each coming together to lead and direct in a new economy. For scientists, entrepreneurs, and management professionals, it represents a rare opportunity for career growth. If you’re prepared, the rewards are well worth the challenge.