A man wearing a white shirt smiles at the camera with his arms folded. There is a wooden-panelled wall behind him.
Barry Heavey. Image: Connor McKenna

What skills do you need to work in life sciences?

28 Nov 2023

Accenture’s Barry Heavey discusses what it takes to work in the life sciences sector and the importance of continuous learning.

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Last month, we covered the latest quarterly jobs monitor from Morgan McKinley, which highlighted the hiring trends of Irish employers in the third quarter of this year.

The results showed that despite a slight decrease in the number of professional job openings across the majority of professional sectors compared to the previous quarter, some sectors were unaffected. One such area was the life sciences sector, which saw an increase of 24pc in hiring demand compared to the previous quarter.

The hiring surge in life sciences also coincides with data released by the Irish Venture Capital Association in September, which revealed that life sciences was one of the top three sectors that attracted investment in the first half of this year, accounting for 10pc of total funding.

With all this in mind, it seems this sector is definitely one to consider for professionals looking for a new career path. But what is it like working in the life sciences industry?

To find out, SiliconRepublic.com talked to Barry Heavey, head of life sciences at Accenture.

Innovation and variation

According to Heavey, the pace of innovation has “rocketed” in life sciences in the last few years, while the number of new drugs being approved is “doubling” every year.

“We’re seeing a lot of emergence of new types of drugs that haven’t been on the scene before, such as the RNA-based products that were used in Covid, but also lots of other new modalities that are really kind of exciting for diseases like cancer.”

While you may assume that to work in this sector, you need a background in science, Heavey says that this isn’t necessarily the case.

“Biology is a complex science, there’s lots of data that’s required to be analysed so people with skills in bioinformatics can be interesting,” he says, “but we also see people who come to Accenture and work who have maybe a background in computer science, don’t have a background in sciences, but find it really interesting to work in sciences.”

Heavey explains that a “broad variety of skills” are required for working in life sciences and that Accenture puts people with a variety of different skills into teams together.

“We need people who have really strong coding skills or data analytics skills and then combine them in teams with people who have strong biology skills to work together to solve problems for clients.”

Looking ahead to stay ahead

So what advice does Heavey have for those potentially interested in this sector?

He advises that you should try and see where the future is taking the industry and continue learning as the technology advances.

“Diversifying your skills and looking at adding new strings to your bow is always good advice for anyone.

“I know that’s what I did myself over my career, I had a student card for about 10 years because I was constantly studying. I think continuing to learn and diversify your skillsets is really good.”

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Colin Ryan
By Colin Ryan

Colin Ryan has worked as a copywriter/copyeditor with Silicon Republic since January 2023. Coming from a background in creative media and technology, Colin has previously worked as a researcher and camera operator. He enjoys watching films, listening to music, and befriending every dog he meets.

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