Six Tips for Scientists on How to Survive a M&A

Six Tips for Scientists on How to Survive a M&A

By Harvey Yau

In October 2017, Kite Pharma was acquired by Gilead Sciences, Inc. A few months later, in March 2018, Celgene completed its acquisition of Juno Therapeutics. These are just two of the big mergers and acquisitions (M&As) that have occurred recently in the cellular immune therapy space. Unsurprisingly, these ongoing mergers in the life sciences industry are having an impact on many scientists. Fortunately, it’s possible to survive an M&A, whether you’re laid off or not. 

To help survive the challenges posed by an M&A, keep the following six tips in mind: 

  1. Be prepared to relocate. While the new company will most likely want to keep some employees on, it might not retain all of the same functions in the location where you currently work. As a result, your job might be at a different location — and if you want to keep it, you’ll have to move.
  2. Be ready to make a cross-functional move. If you’re a mid-career scientist who’s been cross-trained, there could be an opportunity to leverage skills you don’t use in your current position. That way, even if the new company decides to shut down your lab, you might be able to move into a different function within the new company.
  3. Be prepared to reapply for your position. Oftentimes, employees have to compete for their jobs with employees from the merger company or the organization that was acquired. You should take this as seriously as applying for a new job, so update your résumé and update your list of references. Make a list of your accomplishments throughout your career, including things like what molecules you’ve worked on or what type of design and planning you’ve performed. If you possess any leadership skills, list in which projects or positions you used them.
  4. Try to assimilate into the new company’s culture. The culture of the new company may or may not be a good fit for you. Even though you might be doing the exact same work, the culture of the lab could be very different. For example, in some cultures, colleagues don’t interact with each other after hours, while in others, teams are tight-knit and celebrate every milestone together. While it’s challenging to know ahead of time whether the culture will be a match for you, it’s advisable to at least try it out before making any major decisions — especially since assimilation is critical to your long-term success with any company.
  5. Be prepared for change management. With the new company, many things will change not just from an HR standpoint, but also when it comes to operations. This will have an impact on your day-to-day functioning. For example, you might have to get used to a new dynamic with a remote manager, learn a new data management system or work with a new set of vendors for instruments and services. Since these things can slow you down, you need to plan ahead to ensure the change doesn’t adversely affect your performance. 
  6. Be ready to find a new job. Start talking to recruiters as soon as the M&A is announced. That way, if you’re laid off, you’ll have a head start on your job search. A good recruiter can advise you about bringing your résumé up to date and help you find positions you otherwise might not hear about.  

Surviving an M&A isn’t easy, but it’s possible. Keep in mind, however, that even if you wind up looking for another job, all of the tips above apply because everything can potentially be different in your new company as well.