This week’s blog is an interview with Manager of the Permanent Division, Christian Steenkamp, about his experience working with Panda, including how he began his career in life sciences recruitment and what is on the horizon for Panda.
Here’s what he had to say.
Christian began his career with Panda four years ago in January 2018, starting as a trainee right after studying – a Bachelor’s in Business Administration in Amsterdam – which became his first professional job.
After travelling for a couple of months once his studies were completed, Christian was approached by Panda and started as a Trainee Recruitment Consultant, working his way up to Consultant in four months!
The rapid development didn’t stop there, though.
A year and a half after that, Christian reached Senior Consultant, and after another year or so, reached Manager and Partner as well.
Like many other people who completed their studies, Christian wasn’t originally certain about what he wanted to do in his career.
“I didn’t really know what to do, and business administration is quite a general and broad study. It wasn’t really clear what to do. I knew that I liked sales, and I like to be entrepreneurial – what I experienced at Panda is when you start in recruitment and get the opportunity to build your own desk, it’s actually quite similar to starting your own company within a business.”
For Christian, joining Panda was a decision rooted in the potential to be able to learn a lot, benefit from fast-track development, experience Panda’s culture, and work with like-minded people.
In terms of specialism, Christian’s team has a range of expertise around medical devices – including quality assurance and regulatory affairs within this specialism – and also clinical research within pharma and biotech.
With four people currently, Christian’s team comprises of two other senior staff and a junior who started this month focusing on the clinical research market.
“Now we are actively looking to grow the team. For this year, we’re looking to add another five people to the team.”
The life sciences industry has the appeal, to Christian, of being highly innovative and offering the opportunity to work with startups that are developing drugs that aren’t even on the market yet.
“One company right now is, for example, specialised in cancer diagnostics and they are developing a diagnostic to detect cancer in the very early stages with new technology. Another company is working with ventilators for Covid patients in intensive care.”
The work that many of these companies are doing is making a positive contribution to society, and therefore has the appeal of allowing you to contribute as well.
“It’s very cool to at the same time do your sales job, but also make a contribution to the whole life science industry, and patients – it’s the combination of the two.”
For Christian, the best part about working at Panda is his colleagues, as there is such a good group of people who have become friends over the course of working together.
“We hang out every week, I think that’s the most valuable thing, especially now in a lockdown when there’s not many things to do and you still have your colleagues you can hang around with.”
The atmosphere and culture are also great, but another area that Christian notes as exciting is being able to work in such a booming sector, which means you can achieve big things for yourself.
This is particularly evident when considering the difficulties that many other people Christian’s age (26) have, such as buying a house.
“I’m 26, and while most people are struggling to buy a house somewhere…, I was able to buy a house last year, for example. There’s a number of things that you can realise that are rewarding.”
“I’m not easily proud of myself, I have to say. But I’m quite proud of myself that last year was a very good year, it was a record year for me, with the year before being the first time with Covid when it was panic-mode in the market with hiring freezes everywhere.”
Though this was a difficult time for Christian mentally, having a record year after this and learning lessons from it was something he was very proud of.
“The culture is very vibrant. There’s a lot happening around you and every day is a lot of fun. I think we’re all like-minded… We’re working hard but we also want to have fun together.”
Something that ties the team together as well is what Christian describes as a healthy competitiveness, which is very valuable due to the nature of recruitment.
“There’s a healthy competition, so we all want to win, but if someone does better then we’re still fine with that and happy for that person.”
Panda’s goals for growth are ambitious, but in Christian’s opinion, completely achievable.
“In the coming five years, we are aiming to grow to two hundred people and also expand to other countries within Europe. For example, we have an entity in Germany and Switzerland now, but we’re also focused on Scandinavia and Boston, so I think that next to the growth in terms of employees, we’re also growing geographically.”
For people who started out as juniors, or those who were graduates like Christian, Panda is an interesting opportunity due to the fast development.
“I can’t imagine any other job where I would learn as much as I have already.”
The rewards and incentives are also equally appealing, such as the monthly lunch clubs to get to know your colleagues, and trips (such as their trip to Dubai!).
Out of these benefits, Christian’s favourites are the growth opportunities, as Panda is always looking for people that can grow with the company to take it to the next level.
Working long hours sometimes means that the social aspect of the job – after work drinks, lunch clubs, OneFit sports subscription – and even partaking in sports such as padel, which is a mix of squash and tennis, can truly bring colleagues together.
For recent graduates, Christian’s experiences at Panda are an example of how fast development and a thriving company culture creates a career that is rewarding and fulfilling.
Do you want to be a part of the Panda team? Take a look at our vacancies and start your bespoke career path today.