Pharma 02/2023 - Theme: International recruitment Arnab Halder grew up in Midnapore in Eastern India, obtained his PhD at DTU and currently works at Ferrosan Medical Devices in Søborg. He believes that Denmark can afford to shout a little louder about our strong life science industry to attract more foreign talent. By Charlotte Kiil Poulsen / Photo Private On a grey November day in 2013, then 24-year-old Arnab Halder landed at Copenhagen Airport. The temperature was significantly cooler than he was used to from Eastern India, where the daytime temperature is usually above 30 degrees.  It was coincidences that brought Arnab to Denmark.  With a master's degree in chemistry, he had been working a few years as a researcher at the Indian Institute of Technology in Kharagpur, India.  When he decided to do a PhD abroad, it was the subject, not the country, that was decisive.  "I had something very specific in mind in relation to my PhD, and I actually applied all over the world. I found a good match in DTU. At the same time, I was also offered a PhD-position in Sweden and Germany. The project in Denmark was very ambitious, and really something I wanted to do in the future, so I chose it," he explains.   He liked the climate and the calmer atmosphere, and at the university they gave him a warm welcome.  "I really liked the cold weather and that it was dark and quiet. At the same time, I was incredibly well received at DTU."  You also listen to the junior colleague   In the beginning, Arnab devoted most of his energy to his PhD-project in biocompatible nanoconstructions for medical devices.  But along the way, he became more comfortable with the culture and with the people, made good friends at DTU and gradually felt that it had been the right decision to choose Denmark.  "People were very respectful and trusted that I could do my tasks. This very trust-based system was very different from what I had been used to. Here there was full confidence in the work I was doing. It really gave me motivation to do more and better research."  In contrast to several of the responses in Pharmanmark's survey among current international students, where few feel properly equipped to enter the Danish labour market, Arnab felt he got good support from the university, which he thinks helped him well both professionally and personally.    "The university really helped me. If I had ideas, they supported me. They helped me build my network. They helped me to go out and meet people from the industry and in the healthcare system. I worked in the field of medical devices, thus it was important for me to meet the doctors who worked with the products. The university helped me with that. It was absolutely amazing," Arnab recalls. Flat organizational structure surprised He could see that the meetings gave him a larger network and a better sense of the Danish work culture. Especially the flat organizational structure surprised him: "I was a little stunned by how easily you e.g. can get in touch with a chief physician at Rigshospitalet. You just send him an email and he will answer, and maybe you already have a meeting the next day. It's all very informal. People see you in a very equal way – I was just a PhD-student and he was an experienced doctor, and yet he took the time to meet," Arnab says and continues: "I experienced the same with people in high positions in companies. Everyone was very approachable and always very willing to help and exchange ideas. I really liked that." Although the informal culture surprised Arnab at first, he appreciated it. In his view, the unpretentious style makes the work much easier and more efficient. "In the beginning I was also surprised how easily I could reach out to my boss and not had to book a meeting first. It makes the work so much easier and more efficient. I really appreciate that. I'm not sure the Danes realize how well it works. But it's very clear when you've worked elsewhere." Another thing that surprised Arnab was that putting in a lot of hours at work not necessarily was rewarded. "Efficient work is recognized more than working long hours. In Denmark, you are expected to complete your tasks within your working hours, so it will also be more efficient and you will also have a better balance in relation to your private life."  Denmark beats most When Arnab finished his PhD, he worked for a year and a half as a postdoc at DTU. To gain more international experience, he then accepted a position in England.  However, Britain was a bit of an upheaval after five years in Denmark. "Both in the UK and in India, they have a very specific way of doing things. That's fine.. In Denmark, I experienced it quite differently. Here you are expected to give your opinion, even if you are the youngest man with the least experience. People still listen to your opinion." "I actually believe that Danish society works in an almost ideal way in many different aspects. That makes it a bit difficult to move to another place. When my wife and I moved to England, we kept comparing it to the Danish way of doing it," Arnab recalls. Brexit did not make the stay any easier, so Arnab and his wife moved to Sweden, where Arnab had found work in January 2020 – a few months before corona broke out.    The pandemic made it difficult to create a new network and make friends. When he was contacted by a headhunter with a job at the medtech company Ferrosan Medical Devices in Søborg, it was not difficult to accept. Arnab believes that one of the reasons why he settled so well in Denmark, and later also returned to Denmark, was a group of Danes and other internationals with whom he became close friends early in his stay in Denmark. "In the team I worked in, there were several Danes. And they ended up being my really good friends. One of the reasons why I came back to Denmark was actually, because I had made such good friends here. I actually have a better social life and a bigger professional network here."  Arnab is pleased with the work at Ferrosan Medical Devices, which developes and manufactures haemostatic products, used by healthcare professionals to stop bleedings during surgical operations. He lives with his wife and toddler, and they plan to stay longer in Denmark.  "I really want to use my broad technical skills in chemistry and medical devices to make a difference in people's lives. Denmark's life science industry gives me better opportunities to work with what I am passionate about." Positive publicity and branding can help The good career opportunities in the life science sector in Denmark are something that Arnab believes could be better communicated abroad.    "Denmark has a really good life science industry. But it is not very well known anywhere else in the world. In India, people typically know about Switzerland, Britain, Germany, and the US. They don’t know what is happening around Copenhagen. So maybe Denmark should do a little more branding for the Danish life science. They have a really good industry and very good living standards, so there's plenty to advertise for."    He also believes that the new positive signals regarding international students will make a difference in attracting and retaining talented foreigners.  "Nowadays, you hear far more often that there is a need for international talents. You didn't hear that when I came to Denmark," he says and continues: "Foreigners had a hard time staying here and getting a job, and they never heard that anyone wanted them to stay. But now it has changed a lot. There are suddenly many people in the industry and politicians who say, 'we really want you to stay'. It helps a lot, I think, that people feel welcome." He also recommends both Danish and international people to read Kay Xander Mellish's blog 'How to live in Denmark', which helped Arnab understand the Danish society, and which he still reads from time to time.  Other articles in English from Pharma 2/2023: Lundbeck: We need more than just Danish talents Friends and student jobs are vital for your stay in Denmark The best match was Chilean International students generate big gains Magazine: Pharma 02/2023 (in Danish)  Event on 16th of March: Educational session in cultural diversity  Pharmadanmark hosts an educational session in cultural diversity. The meeting is for anyone who is interested in perspectives on cultural intelligence and wants to learn about cultural diversity.  Working across cultures has become a central part of modern companies, and in nearly all aspects of international cooperation, culture is present. And it can certainly create challenges – from fundamental cultural biases about what is considered good leadership to individual interpretations of tone, looks and body language. The speaker is Signe Ørom, Ph.d. in language and culture, and author of ’Did You Get The Point?: Cultural Intelligence and Diversity in Global Cooperation’, a data-driven book about collaboration and leadership in multicultural teams. The event takes place on the 16th of March 17.30-19.30. More info about the event
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Pharma 02/2023 - Theme: International recruitment Greek Thanos Arvanitidis has lived in Denmark for almost 12 years. Danish friends and study-relevant work were crucial for him settling in Denmark after completing his studies. He now works in Valby at CMC Biologics, Lundbeck. By Charlotte Kiil Poulsen / Foto: Arvaway Photo When Thanos Arvanitidis had completed his bachelor’s degree in chemistry in Athens, he wanted to work in pharmaceuticals. He looked abroad for a place, where he could study his master’s.   “To start with, I looked primarily in the US, because I have family there, and in Switzerland, because it is so acknowledged. But then I heard about DTU. They had just started the study program ‘Pharmaceutical Design and Engineering’, which was really interesting.”  The Danish master was attractive, because, unlike Switzerland, it was in English, and opposite to America, there was no student fee for EU citizens. When Thanos started looking into Denmark, he was positively surprised by the scale of the Danish pharmaceutical industry.  “I was very surprised by the size of the Danish life science industry, especially when compared to the size of the country. It was essential for my choice of Denmark. After all, it gave me good job prospects, when I finished my education.”  Group work and open books Thanos began his master’s degree at DTU in 2011, and because the field of study was completely new, he was the only foreign student. He believes it gave him an advantage in terms of getting in touch with the Danish students. It isn’t always easy to make friends, when you have reached the master’s: ”Most Danes already have friends from their high school and bachelor years. Working in teams helps somewhat, but if it isn’t fixed groups, it’s difficult. The good news is, that if you succeed, then you also make real friendships, that lasts,” says Thanos who made close friends during his master’s degree.  Student life in Denmark is different than in Greece, but suited Thanos well. "I really liked that you were encouraged to work in groups. Group work makes you aware of what you are good at and what you may need to work on a little more, and you learn a lot about group dynamics and interaction in small groups. It's definitely valuable when you get your first job,” Thanos says and continues:   “There wasn't as much memorization as I had been used to. You are allowed to have your books open in class, because it has a higher priority, that you understand the content rather than learning it by heart. Those were two things I really enjoyed." A student job is important According to Thanos another important factor in relation to staying in Denmark after graduation is having a student job while studying. Through one of his Danish friends, he got a student job as a lab assistant, because she recommended him for the job. “It is a good example of, how valuable it is to have Danish friends, because they can help you a lot, especially in the beginning, where everything is new, and you don’t quite know what to do, and whom to deal with. I really think it is more likely, that you would stay in Denmark after graduation, if you have friends and network here.” In his current work Thanos represents Lundbeck at student meetings and networking events, and here it often appears, that international students feel it is difficult to compete against Danish students, when it comes to student jobs, because they neither know the language nor have the same network. Pharmadanmark’s survey among current international students shows the same pattern. Two out of three international students do not think that they have the same possibility as a Danish student to get a student job.  During his own student job, Thanos realized that there is a completely flat hierarchy in the workplace, where it is accepted that the student assistant also participates in the discussions.   "I could talk to my immediate supervisor, but I could also talk directly to the chief executive without it being seen as an attempt to go behind my manager's back. You could also have discussions on different topics. It was really cool, because you felt that you were part of the group. I also like the informal tone and the fact that everyone speaks to each other by first name. I think that leads to good cooperation. This is not the case at all in Greece, where it is very hierarchical."  It wasn’t just the student job that gave Thanos an insight into the Danish way of speaking.  “You already discover it at the university because you talk to your professor in a very informal way. And when you attend the exams, your teachers are very friendly and encouraging; it’s very pleasant and fair.” According to Thanos, you get a good cultural understanding, when you study in Denmark, and therefore it’s a huge advantage, if you study in the same country, that you end up working in.  “I quickly caught on to the fact that it's okay to be unpretentious even in formal settings. It would have been a bigger shock, if I had entered the Danish labor market directly from Greece, no doubt.” Danish network helps When Thanos finished his master’s degree, he continued in a PhD position at DTU. Here he expanded both his circle of friends and his network.  "I did an industrial PhD, so I worked for a company at the same time, and that was a big advantage." By chance during the PhD Thanos discovered DTU’s student clubs and joined the photo club.  “Being in a club or association within a field you think is fun, is probably the best way to make friends. That’s why it was a shame, that I discovered them so late. I think that the university probably could do more regarding information about these clubs and associations, and how valuable they are in terms of getting to know people.”  After his PhD Thanos considered working as a postdoc in another country. But because of the large pharmaceutical industry in Denmark and Thanos’ good friend he chose to stay.  He has held various positions in Denmark, among others at AGG Biologics and Nordic Bioscience.  The first real job in Denmark was the hardest to get. Thanos took various steps to put himself in position after his PhD. He participated in the student organization ‘synapse’ and in different events to connect with people in life science. He also participated in a mentoring program and courses in relation to writing applications and resumes.   “I tried to find areas, where I could increase my chances of getting a job. I had a lot of conversations with my mentor about what was expected, when you apply for a job, and my mentor also gave me feedback on my applications. It was very beneficial.” It is Thanos' belief that every small step helps you on the right path.  "You don't get a job at your first networking event, but everything helps.” International challenges Thanos hasn’t experienced any negative episodes because of his foreign background, but he has experienced a feeling of being left out, because he didn’t know the language. Thanos speaks a little Danish, but expresses himself better in English.  “You are not forced to learn Danish in Denmark, because you can get by in English. But at some point, it will be a barrier, if you don’t speak Danish. For example, during lunch, people sometimes switch to Danish. I totally understand it, because it’s their break, but it can be challenging. I understand Danish well now, but if you are new in Denmark, you can easily feel left out.”  Thanos emphasizes, that he never felt, that people have done it to be unpleasant, but rather because they forgot, that there were people present, who didn’t understood Danish.  The Danish humor and sarcasm can also be difficult to understand and accept for some foreigners. According to Thanos, his humor suits the Danish humor well, but sometimes he has to intervene, if a joke is misunderstood between a Dane and an international colleague.  For Thanos, Denmark has become a second home despite the fact, that his whole family are still living in Greece. “I have been here for almost 12 years, so now I feel a bit torn between Denmark and Greece. But the good thing about coming from Europe is, that the distance between the countries isn’t that far. After the corona crisis, companies have also become more relaxed in terms of allowing work from the distance. So it's flexible and I can visit my family."  According to Thanos, the biggest advantages of working in Denmark are the work-life balance and the flat hierarchy at the workplace.   "I would definitely recommend internationals to come to the Danish life science industry. There are so many benefits," Thanos says.  He currently works in the CMC Biologics department at Lundbeck in Valby.  Other articles in English from Pharma 2/2023: Lundbeck: We need more than just Danish talents Denmark should boast a little more The best match was Chilean International students generate big gains Magazine: Pharma 02/2023 (in Danish) 
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