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Navigating the Science and Business Program and Interning at F. Hoffmann-La Roche

The Science and Business Program is a unique program that offers students distinct opportunities to work in interdisciplinary fields. Sarah Qutaishat, a 4th year student at Waterloo’s one-of-a-kind program, is grateful to have taken part in so many interesting encounters where she had the chance to apply her knowledge into real-world applications. Through her discussion, she shares that her post-secondary journey has challenged her to be a life-long learner as a former intern from F. Hoffmann-La Roche and Biotechnology enthusiast.


How have you found your Science and Business (SciBus) study experience?

Sarah: “I have absolutely loved my SciBus experience. Firstly, with the blend of different science and business courses you take, I never get bored of studying one subject and I now know a little bit about a lot of unique fields. It has also helped me figure out my interests with taking so many different courses, or at least understand what I don’t like to learning”

Who can you reach out to in the Science and Business program if you ever have questions about your program?

Sarah: “Literally anyone! Our SciBus Professors, Professor Kashif, Professor Jean and Professor Okey have always been a huge help to me; I can ask them any question without judgement, or talk to them about a wide variety of topics as they are also well-rounded educators who are avid about topics such as politics and travel. Upper years have also been a huge help when it came to co-op, academics and extracurriculars, in fact, I would not have gotten my first co-op at Johnson and Johnson without the help of Kyle Takeda Chan, who was an upper year in the program and now an alumni.”

What specialization did you pursue and why?

Sarah: “My specialization is Biotechnology; initially I only wanted to do biotechnology for my undergrad because it is a field I’m highly interested in. SciBus allowed me to take on additional courses to make myself marketable.”

What is your favourite part about this program?

Sarah: “A highlight is definitely the community. I see my friends in all their programs (excluding engineering) and they barely know who’s in their program, and really lack that sense of community. With SciBus, you get to make friends, connections and just be a family even if you’re not close to everyone. The Science and Business Student Association (SBSA) and Science and Business Ambassador Team (SBAT) that we have in the science hall which further enhances this sense of togetherness, where people just go there to chill or study, and everyone is ready to help! So overall, it is great to have this sense of balance and hardwork in SciBus!”

What is some advice you have for incoming students into this unique program?

Sarah:Make the most out of it, and really embrace that community feeling! Reach out to Kashif, Okey and Jean even for non-academic questions to talk about, reach out to your classmates, reach out to upper years. You have a whole community around you to help you succeed, don’t view them as competition, view them as a helping hand!”

Coop Experiences

→ How did you prepare for the application process mentally and physically in terms of sharing your skills?

Sarah:At first I prepared very little; I had a resume and took PD1, a course presented by the University of Waterloo, but that wasn’t enough.

The best piece of advice I got was to get my resume reviewed by as many people as possible, and never stop. After over 5 people looked at my resume, mostly SciBus upper years, I was able to get 10 interviews in a week of application.

Kashif helped me prepare for my interview and gave me a motivating talk that boosted my confidence! SciBus has always been filled with insightful peers.”

→ What did this internship at Roche encompass and what did you learn from it?

Sarah: “For this opportunity, I would take projects all across the organization. I did many process development projects where the whole point of these operations was to help figure out the next step and then come back to find out the next step in Roch. I learned stakeholder management, project management. I worked with different groups from Switzerland, San Francisco, and Canada. I also took part in the recruitment of the company when gathering patient insights, such as patients providing information about service. Additionally, I delivered the internal donation setup project which compelled me to understand project logistics, maintain nonprofits collaboration, and develop tableau skills which are collaborations with others to solve problems.”

Furthermore, I dove deep into bioinformatics such as corporate R and D, future recruitment such as getting more students abroad at Roche and agile methodology which got students to work on leadership skills to achieve successful company results.

→ As you mentioned about tableau skills, can you share a little bit more about this skill you have developed and how it is helping you pursue future goals?

Sarah:I developed this skill during my co-op at Roche with the help of co-workers. It helped me learn all about data visualization and a bit of SQL. It helped me realize that I do like the technical aspect of projects which I didn’t think I liked. Tableau is very commonly used in workplaces and being a bit skilled in that definitely increases my competitive advantage. “

What was it like working in a professional environment?

Sarah:I really enjoyed it; it took me a bit to get used to having real responsibilities that actually affected a corporation, but they have a really strong support system that is there for you to grow and thrive. After every co-op, I came out almost a different person because each experience helped me learn so much about myself, the world and meet a lot of new people.”

→ What skills do you believe you have learned from your past experiences that you could apply to your coop?

Sarah:Excel from Waterloo’s CS100 (Introduction to Computing through Applications) course was really helpful, but in my co-ops technical skills didn’t really matter if you had it before (of course it was a plus); they really focused on soft skills when recruiting and encouraged learning technical skills during co-op.

Communication, team work, time management and most importantly taking initiative were really key in every single co-op I had. I developed those skills through extracurriculars such as being the President of Fusion: Science, Business, and Technology Conference, Orientation Week Leader, volunteering with refugees and more.”

→ How has the use of technology influenced your work? Does this include any ties with working in biotechnology sectors as well?

Sarah: “The present and future is tech; in each evaluation I would have with my managers they would ask me to identify areas where I want to grow, and every time it was being more technical. Biotechnology itself is heading in that direction as bioinformatics is greatly contributing to the field. Technology hasn’t just influenced my work - technology in its different complexities IS my work.”

Future of your career

→ What are your next steps? How did people figure out their next steps?

Sarah: “I’m hoping to work in the Market Access department of a pharmaceutical company. It took me over 4 years to figure out where I want to be next so it’s okay if many students don’t know what they want to do now. I figured out my next steps by trying as many things as possible through projects during co-op and extracurriculars and crossing out what I didn’t enjoy, but also highlighting what I did enjoy. It doesn’t have to be the exact position you want to be in, just for example you enjoy working with data, or enjoy creating dashboards, or very strongly dislike creating websites. Talking to people in different departments incredibly helped me too, especially by asking them the question of what your day to day is like, this actually made me rule out what I thought I wanted my next step to be.”

→ What skills are you working on to get to your dream job?

Sarah: “I need very strong presentation and negotiation skills, as well as focus which is something I’m currently working on. I also need to have a better understanding and knowledge of Market Access and be able to conduct the analysis.”

→ What fields are you exploring specifically?

Sarah: “I’m currently exploring Market Access and emerging markets. Throughout my co-ops I’ve explored quality, supply chain, learning and development, emerging markets, patient experience, market access, project management and more.”

It is through Sarah’s experience that they have given her the confidence to continuously be a lifelong learner. Through constant exploration in diverse topics, she learns to appreciate all her learning encounters and the people that have helped her during her university years. Sarah definitely has a bright future ahead in the field of biotechnology and we can’t wait to see all the amazing work she achieves!

About the Writer:

This discussion was conducted by Jessica Ng, a BSc Biotechnology/Economics candidate at the University of Waterloo. She enjoys collaborating with others of the same energy and passion in the Science and Business program such as Sarah, and would like to thank her for all her support in completing this interview! As a lifelong learner, Jessica is interested in exploring how biotechnology can improve the standard of living for all. Through her experiences on the Science and Business Association and the Fusion Conference Planning Team, she hopes to work with people that inspire her to optimize new experiences to develop her career and help build biotechnology’s bright future!

Contact Jessica Ng using the following social media links.



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