Today, I walked out of my boss’s office and survived my first annual performance review ever. Wow, it has been more than a year since I landed this job in Shanghai. It was such an interesting year for me; it went by so fast and so many new things happened.
My thoughts went back to 2013. Around the holidays, I flew from California to New Jersey to help my wife with the packing before we moved back to China. We spent busy days trying to squeeze eight years of stuff into boxes and suitcases, but we still took the time to enjoy Christmas in the States. The family across the street put up a wonderful display of Christmas lights; passing cars even slowed down for a look. Every evening, we would put on our heavy coats and go for a walk to enjoy the scene. Back then, I was mostly thinking about what my life and work would be like in Shanghai.
As a Chinese person living in the United States for eight years, there are of course many challenges; but it was all minor compared to the things I gained. I wanted to get more experience in the drug discovery industry and I wanted to grow professionally in the field. I think my time living in the US helped me work towards these goals.
When I decided it was time to move home to China, it didn’t take me much effort to find this job. I actually met my current boss at the ACS meeting. We had a short interview and I was offered a job with a multinational pharmaceutical company soon after that. He told me that I could have the opportunity to lead a project within a few years if I joined his team, but I might have to wait for ten years if I continued working in the United States. This is why, I decided to return home sooner than I expected.
Many friends in the United States have asked me how to find jobs and opportunities in Shanghai. The world of pharmaceutical research in Shanghai is small; people tend to know each other. So the best opportunities will come from reaching out through your work network; get connected with someone in the area and see what comes out of it.
I have had a good first year of work here in China. My typical day starts by arriving at the office around 7:45 and catching up on my reading. I take the company van to a local CRO around 9am. Our company is using an embedded research model in the attempt to break the low research efficiency the industry experiences; as well as take advantage of local CROs. Simply put, we try to keep our internal team small so we can keep focused on our goals and move quickly. We use our internal team to do the core experiments and we design our other experiments so that local CROs can execute them for us. Although they are external CROs, we feel like they are part of the team since we see each other so often. When I arrive at the CRO, I talk to the project team to see if they have any problems and answer any questions. At the same time, I pass our new designs and ideas to them and make sure they understand the goals. After lunch I will go back to the office to continue with any trouble shooting and work to gather data. I also have the chance to collaborate with biologists on target identification, which provides me more opportunities to learn and grow. Sometimes friends from previous labs ask me what my new job is like. When I tell them they often respond, “How interesting!” That always makes me smile; I enjoy having such a fulfilling job and that was another big motivation to return to China.
A friend of mine, who also recently returned to China, said “the setup of things we are doing is bigger in China”. I totally agree with that idea. The field of innovative drug discovery has a short history in China, but it is growing on a large scale and there is room for more talent. Relatively speaking, there are more opportunities for young people to get training and to grow in their careers. Since we are doing “bigger things”, there are more opportunities to show your ability and talents; of course this means there is also more opportunity to expose your shortcomings. However, by taking the risk of larger responsibilities you will have the chance to learn and grow much faster. I feel like one year working in Zhangjiang was like two years working in the United States. There is much room for personal and professional growth among the fast development of Zhangjiang’s high-tech park.
Quan Zhou has studied and worked in the pharmaceutical center of Boston and biotech center of San Diego for eight years. He moved back to China in 2014 and started his career as a drug discovery scientist.