By Ragoo Raghunathan
During your professional transition, you may find yourself finding new avenues. You may find yourself following a different path from what you were trained. It is OK to pursue such passions and make a career out of it. This issue we talk to Dr. Rajaneesh Gopinath about how he pursued his passion in writing and communication after a PhD and postdoctoral research in the field of molecular and cellular biology.
Thanks for taking the time to share your experiences with our audience. Having had an extensive experience in research you seem to have taken a serious turn in your career path. When did you decide to venture into science communication?
I always had a flair for writing in my formative years as a scientist but hadn’t explored it thoroughly. Back in 2018, while trying to transition out of a postdoc job and work within the limited networking options I had, I met the CEO of GeneOnline. At the time, the company had already built quite a reputation as a fast-growing biotech media in Asia. They were looking to expand into the global market using their new English platform and replicate an identical growth curve. Although I was more interested in business development and similar such client-facing positions, I decided to give science communication a go. So, I began freelancing as a scientific editor and helped them curate scientific content. That was when I realized I could excel at this job and have fun presenting readers with a unique perspective.
How did you end up as a business development manager?
I would say it was great timing because my plans almost aligned with the ambitions of the company. GeneOnline was waiting for an opportune moment to initiate operations in the US. So when I decided to move to the States, the company proposed a tempting offer where I could work at the intersection of scientific editorship and business development. I just grabbed it with both hands. There is a bit of serendipity in all this, but I would also attribute that to clear communication. I made my interests known to the company right from the start and even took initiatives whenever possible.
What did you learn from this transition, and how do you define success?
I am fortunate to assume a position of leadership in my current role. Just like a scientist, I acquired different skills through trial and error. I have learned a lot in the past year, but the biggest takeaway for me is the realization that “done is better than perfect.” Most researchers are natural perfectionists, but “success” is adhering to deadlines and keeping clients happy, and I am still striving to master it.
How do you find gratification in your job?
I have slowly started innovating with visual storytelling. I am trying my hand at infographics and small videos to communicate science visually. I have also transitioned into a senior editor role where I try to enhance the scientific content that my team of writers come up with and help it become the best version it can be. There is an immense gratification in mentorship and giving. I hope it takes me closer to leading a team of science communicators who cater to people speaking different Indian and foreign languages.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Writing is very similar to some forms of art, which gets better with practice. So, I urge aspiring writers to hone their skills as early as they could. There are several courses available for writers today, but there is no substitute for learning-by-doing. It’s also essential to handle several writing projects at once and adapt to the demands of each within a strict timeline. Therefore, an internship or voluntary work is worth its weight in gold. In addition to validating the individual’s decision to switch to science writing, a short stint informs whether one is suited to the lifestyle.
How do you look back on your transition journey?
I am glad that I transitioned and wish it could have been sooner. My role allows me to brush shoulders with eminent professionals from both academia and the industry. If I have to give a piece of guidance to my younger self, it would be that academic research is not the be-all and end-all of science. A scientific ecosystem exists outside of the academe, and one can find nobility working for the biopharma industry, or regulatory agency, in science policy or even public outreach.