Life of a Consultant Series

Life of a Consultant by Carla van Alem

Carla van Alem, consultant at Catalyze, shares some insights into her usual working day.

The focus is on building a project that benefits everybody

When I first started as a consultant at Catalyze in 2019, I expected to be writing up grant applications for innovative life science projects for 50% of the time, and spend the other half of my time on client contact, consortium building, and administration. After a while I realized that while submitting a full proposal is the final product, the actual writing only takes about 20% of my time. The bulk of the work is in talking with the client and all consortium partners on how to build a project that benefits everybody and gets the job done. This means asking a lot of questions to all parties involved on their aims for their own company/research, and how they want to achieve this.

When this general concept is built, it’s on to drafting the text, creating graphical elements, going through several internal quality controls, and assisting all partners in completing the necessary documents (budgets, business plans, participant information) on time. In the end, this results in a very varied daily schedule.

A typical working day

Of course, when I started at Catalyze, I went to our office in Amsterdam where I would interact with my colleagues and our day would have natural breaks for coffee and joint lunches. Since the corona pandemic, my daily schedule has altered a bit. For me, this is a typical day:

  • 06.15: Instead of an alarm at 5.45 to catch the train to Amsterdam, I now wake up to the natural sounds of a screaming toddler.
  • 07.50: After a relaxed family morning I start up my laptop and start my day by going through my email and prioritizing my to-do list for the day.
  • 08.00: I have a call with a client to discuss the review I have done on their business plan, and the alterations I have recommended.
  • 09.00: For a Eurostars project I am supporting, I perform a partner search and send out emails to potential partners suggesting a short meeting.
  • 11.00: I have a call with the project team for a BBI application to discuss the client’s eligibility, which is based on a number of factors. We discuss our findings from the last few days and make a plan to inform the client.
  • 12.00: Lunch break with my husband, who is also working from home. I really like this extra quality time.
  • 12.30: Call with a potential consortium partner for the Eurostars project I am supporting. They seem interested but have some questions about the generation of joint IP. I offer to send them a few example sections of a consortium agreement on how joint IP can be managed, and we agree to set up a conference call with the projects main applicant to discuss the proposed project activities.
  • 13.00: I dive into old consortium agreements to find the relevant sections on joint IP and send these to the potential partner I’ve just spoken to.
  • 13.30: Editing the business plan to incorporate the changes I have proposed to the client this morning.
  • 16.00: Virtual coffee with one of my colleagues
  • 16.30: Call with the client to discuss their eligibility for the BBI project. Unfortunately, there are a few factors in play which cannot be overcome before the application deadline. We decide to cancel their application for now and revisit their plans next year. The business developer managing their account ensures them that she will update them as soon as a new funding opportunity presents itself.
  • 17.00: Process the emails that I have received throughout the day and do some work on the communications training I’m following as part of my personal development goals.
  • 18.00 My husband has picked up our daughter from daycare, which is my cue to shut down my laptop.

 

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