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What I learned from working at ttopstart for one month – perspectives from an “outsider”

June 18 2019

We had the pleasure of welcoming PhD student Marina Augusto Heuschkel in our office for one month as a part of her ITN fellowship training programme, and we were curious to hear how she experienced her short stay with us and get a bit of an “outsider’s” perspective on working at ttopstart.

WHY I CAME TO TTOPSTART

I am a second year PhD student at Uniklinik University Hospital Aachen, Germany in the Marie-Curie Innovative Training Network INTRICARE. As part of my fellowship training programme I am encouraged to have secondments in other universities, research institutes or companies. Since INTRICARE and ttopstart are partners in the ITN grant application, it became possible for me to have a short-term (one month) secondment at ttopstart. Here, I had the opportunity to learn and gain experience on grants and proposal steps - starting from the strategy to general writing and review.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

My first impression of ttopstart was a team of very motivated and engaged people. Since my first steps inside of the building I was welcomed by everyone with strong handshakes and smiles. This impression, for sure, has stayed. The team was very friendly during my entire stay. Moreover, the longer I was in the company, the more the company’s motto “empowering biomedical innovators” made sense to me. My initial perception of the services offered were mainly grant writing and reviews. Later on, it became clear to me that there is much more to it. Although, a great deal of their work corresponds with my first perception, their work is really about people. The communication with, and the care and understanding of clients. Providing fresh perspectives, coaching, and fostering the innovation and commercialization of products. Sometimes, I would find myself reading proposals that were clearly breakthroughs, which could definitely make a big difference in patients’ lives, and that made me even more motivated to be part of the ttopstart team.

A TYPICAL DAY AT TTOPSTART  

At first sight, what really caught my attention was the fact that inside of the office there is no pre-defined working places. Meaning that, all the desks can be taken by anyone. This concept was new for me and at the same time kind of motivating, since every day I would choose a different spot to be in. This allowed me to exchange ideas with the entire team - from the managing team to business developers and consultants, so that every day my “desk neighbours” would be different and distinct conversations would take place. As a new member in the company, it made it easier for me to meet the entire team and feel like a part of it.

After that, and very importantly, I would make myself a very nice cup of coffee and then either continue with one of my assignments,  or have a meeting with one of my mentor consultants in order to discuss the further ones. I was positively surprised that all my tasks served a purpose for my development – whether it was writing a part of a proposal, looking critically on one or reading the EU guidelines. My mentors were always guiding me through those activities and giving me direct feedback.  I was also able to join a few client meetings together with my mentors, and directly learn and understand this very important task. During my entire secondment, feedback and discussions with my mentors were a key point that truly helped me to grow my knowledge.

THE BEST PART

The best part of working at ttopstart, was the constant feeling within the team (myself included) of supporting so many other researchers in so many different fields to make excellent science. Science was a constant presence in the office and it was a very nice feeling to have that outside of the university hospital lab. Another highlight, was the fact that I was surrounded by a bright and friendly team, always willing to help and share their knowledge.

THE MOST CHALLENGING PART

The most challenging part for me was being involved in a few assignments that included commercialization of products. For most of the PhD students in the biomedical area, this is not a subject discussed very often, and I definitely had a great deal to learn. It started with learning a new vocabulary (stakeholders, feasibility study, front end…) to the full understanding of the EU guidelines linked to it. Luckily, I had great mentors who encouraged me and gave me the necessary confidence to succeed. In this case, the challenging part became a strong point of interest for me, which definitely opened up a new view on my career perspectives.

WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER?

Honestly, it is really hard to point something out. My only point is that I would strongly suggest that other interns, students and new team members would also have the opportunity to  participate in the introduction/training week, which I attended. It was not only useful for the technical points but also understanding the practical parts of the company itself.

TAKEAWAYS

My main takeaway is that there are many ways that people can contribute to the development of science, and consultants can definitely contribute a great deal to it. Science is all about innovation and the best guidance for it.  

 

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