Before the IEGPA’s fourth professional skills workshop on Networking and Relationship Building, The Stork sat down with Dr. Marcos Gallego Llorente to ask about his life and his advice for IE students’ professional future. He urges them not to be afraid, to take opportunities and gather as many experiences as possible, never forgetting: “You have a lot to offer.”
Stork: Thank you, Marcos, for meeting up with me and speaking to me before the event. Let’s start off with you telling us something about yourself! You are a Senior Consultant at Vintura and an adjunct professor here at IE University. What are your responsibilities at Vintura and what subjects do you teach at IE?
Dr. Gallego: At Vintura, I am a life scientist and healthcare consultant. I work with big pharma and hospitals on deciding their strategies to either become more efficient, or ensure that their patients have a better quality of life throughout their treatment and their journey as a patient. Actually, that is my background; I did my Bachelor’s in biochemistry and pharmacy, and then my PhD in genetics at Cambridge. I became involved with IE three years ago by helping the Center for the Governance of Change for the project on the future of healthcare. Since then, for the last three years, I have been teaching the BIR (Bachelor in International Relations) students an elective on the future of healthcare here in Madrid. I was also teaching MID (Masters in International Development) on healthcare in low and middle-income countries, and, this year, I teach an advanced seminar on biotech entrepreneurship. But this workshop is actually on how to develop relationships better with senior stakeholders from international organizations.
Stork: Thank you, that sounds very interesting! You already mentioned the workshop and explained what it is about. What would you say are the main takeaways that students should take from attending your workshop? Or even for those that cannot attend the workshop today.
Marcos: I think there are two main takeaways. The first one, and the most important one, is: don’t be afraid. Write emails to whoever you think might be able to help you, irrespective of what title they have. Don’t be afraid to search for an email if you don’t have it, don’t be afraid to try to even guess an email from how the email address works in that institution. Essentially, don’t be afraid to reach out, introduce yourself and show that you are keen and eager to participate and learn more. The second is that once you actually have a meeting, and hopefully start working or collaborating with this person, really ensure that they know that you have a lot of value as well. You are a student, maybe a recent graduate, you are young, but you have a lot of things that people in higher positions do not have. For example, you have a really good understanding of what young people care about, what young people are actually working on, what start-ups are there, and what things are happening. So, suddenly, you can become a great help. Ensuring that you are able to offer this value going forward is super important. So, I really think these are the two key takeaway points: don’t be afraid, write those emails, and ensure that the value goes both ways. You have a lot to offer.
Stork: I think a lot of students, like you said, are afraid of reaching out and writing those emails. Many feel uncomfortable in networking situations. I also believe a lot of students struggle with impostor syndrome, doubting their own skills and being unsure of their own value. What do you think students can do to actively fight those insecurities?
Marcos: We have all had impostor syndrome. When we have to learn something new, especially today where you increasingly learn on the job, you will do things wrong. That has happened to all of us, and that will continue to happen to all of us. What I have learnt is that you should own your mistakes. If you had a tough day, or a tough week, and you know you made a mistake, or could have performed better, instead of waiting for your supervisor to give you your feedback, be the one to ask for it. Explain that the week was tough, and ask how you can improve next time. Be the one to say that you would like to apologize because you were a little bit distracted, or it was the first time you did a task. Be the one to own your mistake. If you are the one who proactively reaches out to the supervisor, then suddenly you are partners again with that person. They will really appreciate it and know that you still have a lot to learn, obviously, and they will know that you are somebody who is keen to improve. So I would say: own it. Own your mistakes and don’t be afraid of making them.
Stork: I think that is very good advice. It is just about being honest at the end of the day and we tend to forget that it is not a bad thing, even if you are talking to your supervisor. You have explained we shouldn’t be afraid to write that email and own our mistakes. But what advice would you give to students that are not sure which career direction they want to pursue? How can students find out what career they want and what would work for them given their skill set?
Marcos: I would say that the only way to learn what you want is by actually doing it. If you are a second year student, and you still have two or even three years left as an undergraduate, then you are going for summer internships. There. you can explore, you can be as wild as you want. And because you can be as wild as you want, it doesn’t really matter what you do. Don’t think about it too much, because if it doesn’t work, then you still have two or three other summers left to try new things. You don’t have to be upset if what you are doing in your summer in second year is not what you want to do for the rest of your life. That’s nonsense. So, don’t be afraid of trying new things. You don’t have to be sure you want to do it. Of course, once you are in your final year, you may have to pay a little bit more attention to what you are going to do. But then you already have all of this experience, so you will have more guidance on what you want.
Stork: Thank you, Marcos. I think the students will really appreciate this advice, and it will be lovely to hear more about that in your workshop!