One of the most frequently asked questions I get is, “How can one obtain a position in the industry like mine - Chief Science Officer for a multi-million dollar supplement company?” The answer I give people the most is that you have to differentiate yourself from everyone else who is trying to do the same thing.
The industry is saturated with people whose background is in exercise science/physiology. So what would set you apart from everyone else vying for the same position?
This is not meant to knock on exercise science majors, as many have gone on to have great careers in the industry. But if your end goal is formulation/product development, that degree may not be your best route.
A key way of differentiating yourself is your education, which will effectively become your skill set. What can you bring to the table that the next candidate cannot?
Having a background in one of the hard sciences- biology, chemistry, or physics can add value to yourself by giving you credibility in an industry full of “bro science.” I combined my passion for chemistry and working out to get where I am today.
I hope this article can help someone unlock his/her true vision for career and life goals as it did for me.
The Guerrilla Chemist Story
I’ve always loved bodybuilding and the whole fitness lifestyle. When I first started working out, the biggest supplement on the market was creatine monohydrate.
I knew nothing about supplements or what they did, I just believed the marketing hype: take this and get big and strong! But, how do these actually work in the body to make you big and strong? That question is what got me really intrigued.
I was always fascinated with the fact that if you have a headache, you can take a pill to help it go away. Only when I applied that way of thinking towards bodybuilding did it really plant a seed that would take seven years to fully blossom.
The more serious I took bodybuilding, the more I researched supplements (and eventually androgens) and how they work in the body. However, as you know there is a lot of bad and even flat-out incorrect information online.
It was around this time that Patrick Arnold, the “godfather of prohormones,” had made a gigantic splash in the industry with the release of 1-AD. Patrick was a chemist, and really the only chemist in the industry to my knowledge.
I started reading different articles he had written, message boards on which he posted, his column in MD, basically anything he put out I tried to read. He was really the first person to give a chemistry perspective and explain the differences in all the different prohormones that he brought to market. For example, he would write about how 1-AD is different from 4-AD and what happens once these molecules were in the body.
I was hooked, to the point where I would know when the magazine shipment arrived at the school bookstore just so I could read his column as soon as it came out!
I vividly remember one particular issue of MD where Patrick wrote about a selective 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase inhibitor that he brought to market, 11-oxo. This was the first orally active cortisol inhibitor and it worked really well.
One night after I got off of work at a night club around 4am, I was sitting on my back patio talking to one of my best friends about this very article. I was explaining how 11-oxo worked, the chemistry behind it, and how fascinated I was.
At that moment, he said something to me that changed everything: ”You love this stuff, why don’t you go to school for it?” And just like that, it all clicked.
The very next day, at 26 years old, I went over to the University of Central Florida from where I had graduated with a Marketing degree 4 years ago. I reapplied for admission and began my journey to earn my Bachelor’s of Science in Chemistry.
The hardest part was knowing how much school lied ahead of me: three years of undergrad coursework, and then at least 3-6 years in graduate school before I could even think about trying to get a job in the industry.
Despite that timeline, I made up my mind that this is what I’m passionate about and this is the road to get there. So, 7 years later here I am.
I attained my educational goals, as well as my career goal of formulating nutritional supplements for major companies in the industry. I've become friends with many of the bodybuilders I looked up to.
I wrote this article with the hopes of inspiring someone who thinks it’s too late or they don’t have time or whatever excuse he or she comes up with. I worked 30 hours a week in undergrad and grad school, on top of classes, teaching, grading, lab work, course work, etc.
If you want something badly enough and you believe in yourself, it can be done. Find your passion and the rest will take care of itself.