Maximiliaan Schillebeeckx, PhD

This summer '18 quarter we are very excited to feature Maximiliaan Schillebeeckx for our BALSA alumni update. He was one of the founding members of The BALSA Group and The BALSA Foundation. He also served as our President from 2012-2013. Currently, he is working as the Senior Manager at Pharma Alliance Management in Guardant Health - a California based company that focuses on developing non-invasive cancer diagnostic tools. It was great to catch up with Maxim as we got to learn about his career and his reflections from his time in BALSA.

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Please describe your experience with the BALSA Group.
I helped found The BALSA Group in late 2010/early 2011 and led the organization for several years as Vice President and President. During my tenure, I focused on building a strong presence in the Saint Louis biotech community and on gaining strong support from the WashU community. I also was passionate about institutionalizing the organization and streamlining daily processes from client lead generation to closing, project initiation, management, completion, and consultant on-boarding and off-boarding. I also helped establish the collaboration with the WashU OTM and led a dozen or so projects.

What do you do now? What does a typical day on the job look like?
I'm currently a Senior Manager in Biopharma at Guardant Health, a cell-free DNA diagnostics 'start-up' that’s grown from 200 to over 350 employees within a year. Along with managing alliances with roughly 20 biopharmaceutical companies, I lead an exploratory internal program that helps ensure cancer patients receive the right treatments (on-label and experimental). As the lead, I develop, standardize, and optimize workflows to scale the operations, monitor program metrics, and report on the health, business strategy, and potential of the program to senior management, including the President and CEO.

How did your experience in BALSA impact your career?
My time at BALSA brought significant clarity on what I did and did not want to pursue as a career. It helped me understand what corporate titles really mean (i.e. What does a product manager really do?; What is business development?; Who is a Chief Operating Officer?; etc.) and cemented my interest in entrepreneurial endeavors that allow you to iterate quickly and explore business models. I also learned how to build, motivate, and lead effective teams and drive projects to meaningful end points. Finally, I learned that everything in life is a pitch; being able to convince and sell (especially yourself) is vital to any career.

Any advice you would like to share with current and prospective BALSA members?
Getting to know the culture of a company can often times be more important than the role itself. During (informational) interviews, ask tough questions, such as: How fulfilled are you in your role? or How much do you believe in the mission of the company? Additionally, consider opportunities that will give you the freedom to operate and pivot roles within the company so you can adjust to other roles as they arise.  Finally, although grad school/post-doc can seem endless at times, don't take for granted the freedom academia affords to pursue any and all of your interests. And of course, leverage your BALSA alumni network.