#CASTAlumSpotlight: How Laura Hatcher moved up biotech ranks with sheer grit
Laura Hatcher ’10 is a #Redbirdalum who wears many hats. After graduating from the health information management major at Illinois State University, she has made a name for herself in the biotech industry with over 10 years of work experience. She is an awesome full-time mom, describing her son as “so cute to look at and talk to that he takes first priority in the mornings.” We bet that statement made you smile too!
In this interview, Hatcher describes how she landed her dream job and successfully transitioned from college to the career world. The best part? We get a peek of what her day typically looks like. This interview is both fun and inspiring. Dig in!
Please describe your experience of transitioning from college to the career world. What were some of the challenges you experienced in that period?
During my time as a health information management student, we had to take an internship class as one of our final assignments before graduation. The internship lasted a little over a month, and we had to compile a report. It was typical to spend the internship at a doctor’s office, a hospital, or anywhere that dealt with medical records. Every year, a large pharmaceutical/biotech company (Abbott Laboratories at the time) extended the invitation to have two students from ISU intern with the data management department. This was completely different from any of the other internships, and I saw this as a fun opportunity. Back then, I did not know how difficult it was to break into the pharma/biotech world. Well, spoiler alert, this internship ended up being one of the best steps for my career.
I was extremely lucky during the transition to the career world. After concluding the six-week internship, Abbott Laboratories, now called AbbVie, offered me a job. As a recent graduate, I knew it was not the societal norm to have a job before I even walked across the graduation stage. I moved out of my parents’ home within a week and was working almost immediately!
The hardest part of my transition was how abruptly my seemingly easy college life ended. Bills, grunt work, and starting a new life were quite tough things for a 22-year-old. However, I believed that my effort would pay off. This path from college to “after-grad” life can also be lonely. While in college, you are next door to your best friend. After college, you are living either by yourself or with family (again). It can get isolating, and I still have this feeling to date! Therefore, one big challenge is finding the balance between your former college self, adult self, and career self. Side note: you will get there, I promise!
The best thing about transitioning to the career world is that once you start, the trajectory will most likely take you forward, and in most cases the more you put in good work, the higher your chances for success.
What advice would you give prospective and current #Redbirds interested in a career path similar to yours?
The health information management major is not for the faint-hearted. We started with 33 students in my class, and I graduated with 13. However, if you want to get into the biotech industry, I highly recommend this major. This industry is not for the faint-hearted as well. I work long hours but I am a full-time mom and sometimes, that means answering emails at midnight. After almost 10 years in the industry, albeit a large industry, I have been able to cultivate a name for myself. Working effectively and efficiently is very important to me. I believe that if you want to follow this career path, go into it with the full intention of sticking with it and staying committed.
My biggest piece of advice would be, “Do not be afraid to jump if you like the sound of another position within biotech, or even within your current company!” Most companies, as I have noticed, are very amenable if their employees want to try a different position in-house. In nine years, I have worked different capacities—a data manager, clinical research associate, senior clinical research associate, manager of clinical inspection readiness, trial master file (TMF) manager, and now in my current managerial role of being a TMF specialist! The beauty of working in biotech is that when you start at the bottom, you begin to hone a skill set, and it is very easy to move fluidly if you work hard for what you want. I am now lucky enough to work from home full time and have ended up at one of the best companies I could ever imagine. It took eight and a half years for me to feel like I finally belong to a company, and the journey and hard work were worth it!
What does a typical day in your life look like?
6 a.m.—Wake up, get my 2-year-old dressed, feed and play with him for a bit while it is still quiet. Look at some emails received overnight if necessary (but my son is so cute to look at and to talk to that he takes first priority in the mornings).
8 a.m.—Head to my home office to start my workday with coffee and breakfast in hand. Start answering emails.
9 a.m.—My flurry of meetings starts. At my current company, I am in charge of our electronic trial master file (eTMF), so attending meetings is essential. They range from giving instructions for filing in the eTMF to sitting in on team meetings to hear what is going on with the studies at the company. Some meetings include providing oversight for any outsourced eTMFs we are responsible for as well.
10 a.m.—Grab a handful of dark chocolate covered almonds and probably coffee or tea number two. (Sometimes those meetings can take a lot out of you!) This might also mean grabbing snacks that I should not be eating, but that is the downside of working from home. Hahahaha
12 p.m.—Grab what I can for lunch before running back to the office. (This is usually with a headset still on either listening or talking).
1 p.m.—Meet with the quality control (QC) reviewer I work with; give her instructions on what we might be dealing with for the day. This could include misfiled documents, documents we cannot read, documents for which we have not come up with standards. Then, we set the standards for the said documents, and so on.
3 p.m.—Have a break between meetings to get some work done. This usually involves putting together presentations, answering questions on our intracompany messenger, jumping on the phone to walk someone through uploading to the system or correcting an issue, and finally working on some documents I have put off to the side for these breaks.
4 p.m.—Wrap up for the day, dismiss the nanny, and hang out with my toddler! Yaaaayyyyy.
5 p.m.—Answer emails via phone and have a picnic with fake food on the floor.
6 p.m.—Start cooking dinner and talk to my husband about our days while our toddler chases the dogs around the house.
6:30 p.m.—Sit down to have dinner and try to tune out my phone that is currently sending me notifications for work emails to answer.
8 p.m.—Bedtime for the little one! I finally have a few minutes to watch a movie or a TV show, answer more emails, and fall asleep.
12 a.m.—Wake up thinking about work and the emails that came in between 8 p.m. and now. Answer if I do not fall back asleep first.
6 a.m.—Start all over again!