Daniel Jones, PhD ’09 : Medical director at Biogen
Daniel Jones, PhD ’09, is a biotechnology professional with five years of experience working in medical affairs. In his current role as a medical director at Biogen, he leads a small team in support of the company’s multiple sclerosis portfolio. Dr. Jones completed his PhD in neuroscience at UCSF and a brief postdoctoral fellowship at Duke University Medical Center. He resides in the Boston area with his wife and four children.
Tell us about your path to your position as medical director at Biogen.
After spending a short time as a postdoc, I knew I was ready for a very different kind of intellectual challenge – a challenge that aligned well with my skill set as a strong scientific communicator and strategic thinker. I pursued a number of paths and ended up with two very strong opportunities: join Goldman Sachs as an investment analyst covering the biopharma sector or join Lundbeck in a field-based medical-affairs role where I could leverage my extensive background in neuroscience and epilepsy. Because of my passion for neuroscience, and in an effort to remain closer to my passion for science, I accepted the Lundbeck offer. It didn’t take long for me to realize that industry medical-affairs roles were an excellent match for my interests and skill set.
After a couple years at Lundbeck, I felt that the time was right to transition into a more strategic, in-house role that allowed for additional leadership development and cross-functional collaboration to help my career continue to grow. Through my UCSF LinkedIn network I came across a contact at Biogen who was a friend of a former UCSF neuroscience classmate. I asked for an informational interview, and we really hit it off. Within a few months, she hired me as a senior manager on Biogen’s medical director team. About a year later, I was promoted into an associate medical director role, and after another year, I was promoted again to medical director. The opportunities I’ve had at Biogen to learn and grow my career have been tremendous.
What was the best career advice you received as a UCSF student?
My mentor at UCSF helped me recognize that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to building a successful career, whether it’s in academic research or another field entirely.
What’s your advice for UCSF students and postdocs interested in going into the biotech field?
Biotechnology is an incredibly diverse field that covers a huge variety of roles, from medical affairs and clinical development to regulatory, marketing, business development, bench science, and beyond. And within each of those types of roles, there’s a tremendous assortment of backgrounds that people come from.
I suggest taking a hard look at your interests, passions, and skills to help narrow down the roles in which you might be interested. Then you can thoughtfully reach out to selected contacts in your network for informational interviews to learn more about their career paths and day-to-day responsibilities. By taking a systematic approach, you can narrow down your focus. Once you’ve identified potential roles that interest you, begin identifying your knowledge gaps, and work to address them by reading books, taking classes, etc. I also suggest continuing to build your network in that field; often, it’s your network that helps get your application past the initial HR screen to a phone call with the hiring manager.
What motivated you to join UCSF Connect?
I was excited to join UCSF Connect because my UCSF network has been incredibly valuable as I’ve navigated my biotech career, and I’m passionate about paying that forward. It’s incredibly rewarding to help bright, motivated scientists land their first medical affairs roles, and I’ve spoken at multiple university events to help educate interested students and postdocs about the transition to industry.
I see on UCSF Connect that you are willing to serve as a mentor. Any tips for UCSF Connect members interested in approaching someone about mentorship?
It’s always helpful to form a connection or find common ground with a prospective mentor. Fortunately, with UCSF Connect, we all have some built-in common ground – we all trained at the same place. Look at a potential mentor’s profile to see if you can uncover other shared experiences or mutual friends – anything to help you build an immediate rapport. It’s also important to frame your request appropriately. Have a clear story about what you’re looking for, why you’re looking for it, and where a potential mentor can fit in. This helps paint a picture of how he or she can provide value.
Within months of launching, UCSF Connect has reached more than 2,000 users! UCSF Connect Stories is a way to shine a spotlight on members of the UCSF Connect community and give us a chance to learn about them and their experience with the platform.
Interview conducted by Sara Ayazi, career counselor and program manager in the UCSF Office of Career and Professional Development.