Career Center

In the Spotlight: Jessica Parra, Ph.D.

Achieving job satisfaction through thorough preparation, personal connections and unwavering persistence

Stanford Affiliation: Graduate Student
Department: Cancer Biology
Degree: Ph.D.
Industry: Biotechnology
Field Application Specialist
Affymetrix, Santa Clara

When I first arrived at Stanford, I knew that I wanted to pursue a job in industry without doing a post doc.  I loved science but I wanted to move away from the bench into a role that still utilized my scientific training without having to pipette everyday.  Most of the things that I heard told me that would be very improbable, possible, but improbable.  That’s why I spent my time 1) utilizing all the resources that the School of Medicine Career Center had to offer, 2) immersing myself in extracurricular activites 3) looking inward and finding out what I enjoyed doing and determining which job would best fit.

After months of submitting resumes, interviewing, getting rejected, and networking, I found the perfect job for me as a Field Application Specialist with Affymetrix. 

I knew that I liked helping people, working with people, teaching people, and thinking about science.  What appealed to me the most is how similar it is to graduate school.  I’m constantly learning about new technologies and being challenged.  I get to use all the skills that I’ve learned at school to perform my job from troubleshooting to giving seminars.  We have journal club and recommended papers to read in order to keep on top of the field.  And the best part is I have complete autonomy over my schedule.

Field Application Specialist:
A field application specialist (FAS), performs many functions.  The main job function is to promote customer satisfaction by supporting the customer’s technical needs within a geographical location.  They work from home and go on-site to train the customer on new products, answer customer inquiries, perform troubleshooting, and conduct technical seminars.  They represent the voice of the customer to the company to help identify and present the future needs of the customers.  Significant travel is involved depending on the territory that is covered.  The two most important skills that are necessary for this job is customer service experience and oral communication skills.  The average salary range for an FAS in the bay area is between 65,000-70,000. 

My job hunt:
During my job hunt, I applied to 40-50 jobs on Stanford’s Career Development Center,, yahoo hot jobs, craigslist, and biospace just to name a few.  I interviewed at 9 different companies and received 3 job offers.  I attended Stanford’s Medical School Biotech Career Fair in April and Biospace’s Bay Area Career Fair and found these two to be most fruitful in finding a job.  My first experience at the Biospace Career Fair was incredibly intimidating.  There were between 700-1000 people all looking for jobs who looked much older and had a lot more experience than I did.  Many companies would not even consider my resume because I did not have industry experience.  Most of the time I only had 10-15secs to make an impression with my “elevator speech” encompassing who I was, what experience I had, and what job I was seeking.  With persistence, I made several connections that led to interviews and ultimately a job offer. 

Overall, I love my job, I love what I do, and I’m really happy.  I look back at my time at Stanford and I don’t regret it at all.  I wish you luck in your search. 

Jessica Parra
July 2008

Footer Links: