Sophie Flynn '20 Finds Her Place in the Biotechnology Industry
Sophie Flynn '20 discusses her internships and gives valuable advice for going after big opportunities.
Can you tell us about your co-op at Biogen? What were your duties?
At my previous full-time co-op with Biogen, I joined the Organization Effectiveness team within Human Resources. This team develops the company’s high potential leadership development programs for the top 10% global talent at the company. I collaborated with internal stakeholders and external vendors to develop curriculum and logistics for these programs. Attending these mini-MBA leadership programs with our biotech executive cohorts — consisting of individuals from around the world — and participating in the sessions was truly rewarding. It was amazing to see the results of months of work!
At my current co-op, I oversee a project plan for an enterprise-wide, culture-model global campaign. I run our weekly team meetings and ensure campaigns, events and programs are implemented.
How did your coursework at the School of Business prepare you for this co-op?
Having a basic understanding of organizational structures, finance, marketing, and negotiating provided me with a strong, well-rounded foundation to further develop myself within a large firm. Aside from the coursework, the School of Business professors also gave me excellent guidance and mentorship as I was figuring out the feasibility of a full-time course load on top of working full-time.
What are the most valuable lessons you learned from this experience?
I’ve learned that I love the fast-paced, ever-changing, innovative, mission-driven nature of the biotechnology industry and would like to dedicate my career to this space. I've also learned that I'm capable of meeting goals and dealing with challenges in effective and timely ways.
During my time at Biogen, I noticed a need for development opportunities for junior staff at the company. I developed a leadership program for this talent pool and even pitched my idea to the Chief Human Resources Officer at the company. Not only did she approve of the idea, she is sponsoring me to continue developing the program pilot. I also learned that working a full-time co-op on top of a full semester of coursework is not easy, but possible, especially with the support of the faculty at Simmons. I'm excited for other students to experience these types of opportunities.
What did you learn from your internship experience for the Simmons Leadership Conference?
I learned a ton in the three years that I've been a part of the Simmons Leadership Conference team. The team is composed of five full-time employees that develop and execute executive events for up to 3,500 attendees. The intensity of the work and dynamics of this extremely efficient team has taught me the importance of using individual skill sets to reach a common goal. I’ve worked events in Boston, Geneva, and Dublin, allowing me to experience executive events and the unique challenges that come with cultural differences.
Will you do another internship before graduating?
I just signed a 6-month full-time co-op opportunity with Vertex Pharmaceuticals to join their Talent Management team. I'm excited to increase my exposure within the biotech/pharma industry and gain more experience at a top firm. I also plan to continue my internship with the Simmons Leadership Conference. I believe that external opportunities and work experience are just as important as coursework.
What is your advice to current/prospective School of Business students?
The most crucial piece of advice I can offer is that nothing is handed to you — if you want an opportunity, you are your own advocate and have to put in the time and effort to earn it. If you don’t get an internship or job you applied for, don’t be discouraged. Other (and probably better suited) opportunities will come — that’s the beauty of pursuing your college career in Boston.
In addition, I believe in the power of networking. It is especially important to grow your network while at Simmons — we are fortunate enough to be surrounded by knowledgeable professors who are experts in their fields. Make an appointment with your favorite professor and ask if they have any connections with organizations you're interested in. If your professors suggest a person to connect with, obtain that individual’s contact information and ask to have an informational interview with them.
Lastly, take positive risks to develop yourself — have coffee with that executive your professor suggested, research and attend networking events and conferences in the Boston area, or create a LinkedIn profile. One of the greatest benefits of being a student is that we're eligible for financial support to attend professional development opportunities — take advantage of this! The more professional exposure you have and the more knowledgeable you are, the more relatable, valuable, and marketable you will be as a developing leader in the eyes of recruiters.