Wendy Mackus PhD

Assistant Director - Research, career path 'Science and management'

'I may still have a future in academia but I know now that I have other options as well. Tenure isn't the be-all-end-all of a career in the life sciences. When I first realised this I suddenly lost all fear doubt about the future. My career at Genmab has given me peace of mind.'

Wendy explains the two sides of her job. 'As a scientist and as a project supervisor I'm well informed about several of the research projects at Genmab. I'm part of the team of researchers but at the same time I supervise the scientists and manage the scientific objective of the projects.'

'The knowledge and scientific insight of my team of researchers is essential to making business decisions. As the project manager and assistant director I get to shape the direction of research within the company. I love this dual nature of my job. I'm involved in the tiny details of our research but at the same time I give direction to the entire project.'

Wendy has a very driven personality. 'I realised early on that I wanted to do something about diseases. I want to help the affected, but I've never needed interaction with patients to motivate me. My research has always been quite fundamental. It's enough for me to realise that I'm working towards a good cause, an application of my research.'

At undergraduate level Wendy studied biomedical sciences. After graduation she took a job as a research technician at Colombia University, in New York, the United States. 'I choose to go abroad quite deliberately ad I didn't just want to continue my education, I wanted to develop as a person as well.'

'When I came back from the States I was offered a PhD position at the AMC, Amsterdam. I performed very fundamental research in cancer biology. Doctor-patient interaction has never really been my thing, but the thin line between fundamental and applied science fascinates me immensely.'

'But my PhD wasn't all fun and games,' Wendy admits. 'Some of my personal and managerial skills weren't recognised in academia, and I began to have doubts about a future as a tenured scientist.'

'Even though I had reservation about careers in industry, I decided to apply for jobs outside of academia. I had little idea about careers in industry and I wanted to gain some experience in that regard. Thanks to my strong background in hematology, immunology and cancer biology Genmab decided to take me on board.'

'I very much enjoyed my first job at Genmab. Ever since my experience at Colombia I had always done a lot of work behind the scenes. I enjoyed managing research projects, but I soon felt that I was ready for more.'

In a half-year-long career guidance programme Wendy was identified as a high potential. 'Policy making, organisational and people management skills, as soon as my employer and I had identified my intrinsic competencies my career got into the fast lane.'

'I'm very much at home in my role at Genmab, I fit in well with industry. It's different from a career in academia, off course there are downsides to it as well. You need to be flexible and be able to change the direction of your research at short notice. Sometimes a particular line of research is scrapped altogether. It's very result-driven, you need to let go of university politics. You should decide for yourself if that is what you want, but it certainly pays to gain a bit of experience. Changing from academia to industry has allowed me to fully explore and develop my scientific and managerial capabilities. My own switch has left me in a rather comfortable position.'