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I am Seán Mac Fhearraigh and This is How I Work

Today I am interviewing Seán Mac Fhearraigh, PhD in the “How I Work” series. Seán was a PhD student at University College Dublin & a post-doc a Cambridge University where he studied mechanisms of cell division. Currently Seán run’s an ELISA assay company where you can find some great information on ELISA assay protocols and ELISA kits.

Current Job: co-founder of ELISA Genie
Current Location: Dublin, Ireland
Current mobile device: iPhone 6s
Current computer: Dell

Can you briefly explain your current situation and research to us?

Recently I’ve started a biotech company selling ELISA assays and cell tools, before that I was a PhD and Post-Doc for over 6 years. I carried out a PhD in regulation of cell death during mitosis and carried on to a post-doc at Cambridge University looking at regulation of microtubule attachment.

Now I am setting up a Biotech company, I’m a marketer, website developer, sales rep and designer all in one. However, my PhD really helped me with the logical brain to promote these skills and the approach to learning new skills.

What tools, apps and software are essential to your workflow?
WordPress – we’re building the whole site on this platform. If you’re starting off a website, it’s a great place to start. More recently we’ve started to use to outsource some of the tech work we can’t do. If you’re a student and are having problems with data, excel, or programming, this could be a great resource to find someone to cheaply help you.

What does your workspace setup look like?
So at the moment it’s a mix between the office and home. Since I am in charge of the website and development, I try and stay away from the distractions of the lab and focus on working on the site. During my PhD I wrote up my thesis at home. I found doing a mix of both can really help. Finding two spots to work that keep you motivated is better than one.

What is your best advice for productive academic work?
I’m a big believer in starting work early, 9 am if you can. This sets up the day with the right focus.

I also think exercise is a great motivator for work and can help you work through your problems without staring at a screen and provide a great hormonal boost to keep you motivated. It also reduces your stress levels.

How do you keep an overview of projects and tasks?

I try and keep it simple and do one thing at a time. Recently met with a colleague who provided an example of how multitasking can really slow down your work rather than speed it up. Since then I have been one task at a time.

Besides phone and computer, do you use other technological tools in work and daily life?
Fortunately, not, giving yourself some device-free time is a better tool than any.

Which skill makes you stand out as an academic?

I wasn’t a great academic, but I did read a lot of papers – probably more papers than I should have. I think this helped me a lot with thinking about the problems I had. It also helped me keep up to date with competing labs and techniques that I could be working on. A great example of that was my boss in Cambridge, she was a great reader and journal clubs were a real insight into her detailed knowledge of the area. No wonder she had Science and Nature papers.

What do you listen to when you work?

I do listen to a lot of podcasts when travelling, but nothing at work. At the moment I’m a big Gary Vaynerchuk fan, he is great at providing motivation for people in all sectors and I can resonate to what he says as a scientists. i.e work hard and you’ll get there.

What are you currently reading? How do you find time for reading?

At the moment I’m reading “A random walk down Wall street”, it’s about the stock market, but gives a great insight to markets, which has a lot of parallels in the scientific world. People concentrating too much on one idea, resulting in people losing originality, which can be detrimental to the market and in this case scientific ideas.

I think it’s important to read: bus, train, lunch break I try and have a book with me.

Are you more of an introvert or extrovert? How does this influence your working habits?
I am ENTJ according to Briggs-Myers test, which means I’m an extrovert – wouldn’t have thought so, but the test says I am. I think it helps when I meet new customers and scientists at conferences. I always like asking people about their work so being an extrovert removes some of the shyness when walking over to introduce myself.

What’s your sleep routine like?
8 hours every night. Can’t live without them.

What’s your work routine like?
At the moment, 9 – 5 pm, then 8 till late. If I get time at the weekends a few hours too.

What’s the best advice you ever received?
My favourite quote is “He who says he can and he who says he cannot are both usually right!” I found it in a youtube video under “why do we fail”, best line I’ve ever heard.

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