Dina Suarez has been on quite a journey. Starting out as a biology student in Colombia, she now holds an important position at one of the world’s leading pharmaceutical players. Having worked as a Yacht professional at this company for a year now, Dina has her goal in sight: to conduct research into immunology for the development of concrete solutions in health care.
From Colombia to Groningen
In her home country Colombia, Dina obtained Bachelor’s degrees in biology and microbiology from the Universidad de los Andes. “I then did clinical research into immunotherapy at the National University of Colombia in association with the Andes health foundation for three years. It was my dream to pursue a Research Master’s abroad. The University of Groningen offered me a unique opportunity, even providing me with a scholarship.” During the programme, Dina conducted extensive research at the university and the University Medical Center Groningen.
To the pharmaceutical industry via Yacht
In May 2020, Dina started the next leg of her journey. “I very much wanted to work in the pharmaceutical industry. Because that’s where you can really contribute to the development of vaccines for virus infections. And by contributing to such concrete applications, I can leverage my background to tackle health issues”, says Dina.
Still, trying to join a major pharmaceutical player is no walk in the park. “Yacht offered me the opportunity to work as an assistant scientist in clinical immunology. As all seconded staff at this company follow the same training and development programme, we are a tight-knit team. Everyone gets the same opportunities. And this company is strongly committed to diversity and inclusion, on which we attended a seminar just recently. It’s really important because, although my colleagues are Dutch by birth, they trace their roots back to different countries.”
Important work: clinical research into vaccines
“I carry out laboratory research in the Clinical Immunology department. We evaluate the immune response after vaccination, based on clinical research samples. That’s how we contribute to the research into the effects of vaccines on serious virus infections.”
Ample coaching for personal development
Dina receives coaching from both Yacht and the client, which is extremely beneficial to her career development. “My manager keeps in close touch with me and I feel truly supported. Also in terms of my wellbeing and health. Whenever I have a questions, he responds immediately and all the while I learn new things. Yacht has, for instance, facilitated me to learn to speak Dutch. This is important to me as it will help me communicate better with my colleagues. Yacht is also committed to strengthening our community with online meetings, WhatsApp groups, a newsletter. And I’m a member of Yacht’s Science team, which meets once a month. Currently online, of course.”
“At the pharmaceutical company, I receive career counseling. My coach advises me about what I need for my current job and for what I plan to do next. In my current job, I’m learning to analyse critically to enhance my performance. It’s not the test results that I analyse, but the testing process. I’m also being coached for my next career step. I’d like to do research in an industrial environment, as the pharmaceutical industry offers plenty of research opportunities. For this I’d like to improve my scientific writing skills.”
Working in the Netherlands
Not only does the client offer fantastic career opportunities, the company also pays a great deal of attention to personal health and the work-life balance of all its staff. “What impresses me is the importance the Dutch attach to this balance. They exercise a lot and they know how to say ‘no’ to ensure they can spend time on their hobbies. In the beginning, I was struggling with this, but I’m starting to learn.”
Dina has many hobbies. “I like art and enjoy visiting museums and travelling. But I also love dancing: Colombian dance including salsa. Another thing I like is hiking in the mountains, which I mostly do when I’m in Colombia.” Despite the work-life balance enjoyed in the Netherlands, Dina does notice something peculiar. “If you’d like to meet up, people immediately start checking their calendar. It’s usually not possible to meet the same week. Things are very different in Colombia.”
Dina’s brothers and parents live in Colombia. “I was really pleased that I could go and see them in Colombia last December. And I’m glad they have already been vaccinated, because that’s not as easy as here, in the Netherlands. People live far apart and the Colombian population is far larger than the Dutch.”
Of course, she misses her family, but Dina does intend to continue her career in the Netherlands. “Here, the demand for research in my field of study is far greater. To grow professionally, the Netherlands offer plenty of opportunities for me. Fortunately, my family is very supportive.”
Fully dedicated to achieve goal
“Yacht has given me chance to make the move from the scientific world to the industrial environment. And to gain knowledge and experience in this environment, which differs widely from university life. I’m deeply grateful to Yacht for this and the way I’m being coached.”
Each career step brings Dina closer to her goal, to which she devotes herself 100%. She would like to advise students to do the same. “Always give your all. You won’t always succeed and that’s alright. It’s just that you won’t have any regrets. Being happy with what you do is, of course, very important. If you’re not, you won’t be able to dedicate yourself to your goal. I’m on the right track. My next step is to grow as a researcher. That’s how I’d like to contribute fundamentally to resolving health issues, leveraging my background in immunology and immunotherapy!”