Helping internationally educated professionals take the first step

Impact Story: Bioskills Recognition Reviewer Perspective

Nate Stepner knows firsthand the value of having someone in your corner. In the early stages of his career in the pharmaceutical industry, he was fortunate to work with a clinical scientist willing to be his mentor, who provided guidance and shared his enjoyment of drug development and research. Decades later, Stepner still credits that first mentor with helping him get his career off the ground.

That’s why he’s given freely of his time and expertise to help promising young scientists enter Canada’s life sciences industry throughout his career, and why he was pleased to get involved with BioTalent Canada’s BioSkills Recognition Program as a BioReady review board member.

“It’s kind of my way of giving back,” he says. “It’s especially important for internationally educated professionals who are new to Canada and don’t yet have the professional connections who can help them along.”

Connecting international experience and Canadian requirements

Stepner goes above and beyond to understand candidates’ experience and capabilities. He often seeks out more information about the companies they worked for and publications they produced in their home countries. This helps him better understand how a candidate’s qualifications relate to those required in Canada.

“Usually, you have HR managers looking at resumes, and they don’t have a lot of time for each one, and they’re looking for specific things that international candidates’ resumes may not have — even if they’re completely qualified,” he explains. “What I bring as a BioReady reviewer is the time and the knowledge to really dig into a candidate’s resume and background and draw the connections between their international experience and the requirements to work in the bio-economy in Canada.”

At the end of each review, Stepner makes a recommendation: the candidate either is BioReady or needs to fill some gaps. When not, he tries to suggest additional training the candidate might take — and is always pleased when he sees someone’s application come back with those suggestions taken, so he can deem them BioReady.

Putting in the work

While Stepner doesn’t get to meet the candidates whose applications he reviews, he has met and worked with plenty of IEPs. He says the most successful have usually arrived in Canada with realistic expectations and an understanding that qualifications in one country don’t always translate one-to-one into qualifications in another. He advises bio-economy professionals considering a move to Canada to be prepared to put in the work to make themselves stand out — and to find a mentor.

“The process doesn’t always move as fast as you’d like it to, and it can be easy to start to feel lost,” he says. “Having a mentor makes a huge difference, so I strongly advise seeking one out if you can.”