Joost Bakker PhD

Senior scientific writer and graphics designer, career path 'alternative science careers'

An academic career, with all that it entails, wasn't what Joost Bakker PhD was after. In industry he also took some time to find out what he really wanted. He's now going down the alternative science career path at Genmab. About his current job Joost says: 'my non-scientific skills finally get the attention they deserve.'

'I'm a scientific writer. I report on the progress of my team and write scientific articles and research reports, which are crucial for the final registration of our products. I work with scientists, technicians and a project manager. I let the company – and the scientific community  – know what's going on in Genmab's laboratories. To be able to report on our research I have to know exactly what's going on, so I'm very deeply involved in the science.'

Joost excitedly chatters away about his job at Genmab.

'Science writing is just one of my responsibilities though. I also produce videos for external communication and marketing. My job demands a lot of creativity,' he goes on. 'I love how I'm involved in many aspects of the company. As a member of the works council (medezeggenschapsraad) I take part in policy making as well. I didn't even know such activities existed and that you could actually make a career out of them.'

Joost designed these images for publication is several magazines. The image on the left is to be included in Mabs, a new scientific publication. The image on the right featured on the cover of Science. (Click images to enlarge.)

Joost is a scientist. His creativity is obviously one of his greatest assets. 'As a student I took part in a lot of activities. I designed posters and t-shirts for parties and events, I got involved in student societies, and together with some friends I used to make videos and cabaret. I had never thought that my creativity could form the basis of my scientific career.'

It took Joost a while to arrive at the place where he is now. 'During my time as a postdoc I was confronted with a dilemma. I could dedicate my life to research and take a shot at an academic career, but then I'd have to give up on my creative interests. In the rat race of academia only your scientific track record counts for anything at all; that and perhaps your skill with money, politics and networking.'

By the time Joost left academia he was 'very much ready for a change.' He joined Genmab in 2002 as a scientific writer. 'After a while I started to have second thoughts. I still felt and urge to express myself, to use up all my creativity. Did I give up on academia to soon?'

'I needed to find some answers and my employer was prepared to help. I was offered coaching and for the first time someone asked me what really excites me. What motivates you? What is your drive? What makes you focus? Nobody had ever asked me that before.'

When he'd identified his strengths Joost was offered to put them into practice straight away. 'Those videos that I used to produce as a hobby,' Joost continues, 'I now make them for a living. I would advise everyone to get to know their own strengths and build on them. There's room for such personal development at university, but in my experience there's also very little encouragement.'

You can find several examples of videos produced by Joost on the Genmab website.

When asked if he's ever again had doubts about his career in the private sector, Joost answers with a wholehearted 'no'. 'Politics, the rat race, these things all play a much greater role in academia.' Joost has big plans in branding and product positioning. 'Such 'professional' words may sound daunting for scientists at the start of their career, but I never realised they could have such a scientific spin.'