Life Sciences in 2020: What Skills Will You Need to Succeed?

Life Sciences in 2020: What Skills Will You Need to Succeed?

By Deb Briffa, Vice President, Global Client Lead at KellyOCG

As we prepare for a brand-new decade, blending digital and soft skills has never been more important.

Can you believe we are about to close the chapter on an entire decade? As 2019 draws to a close, there is plenty to look back on in Life Sciences. From leaps forward in stem cell research and our understanding of the structure of the brain, to advances in 3D organ printing – the first 3D-printed model kidney was successfully transplanted in Belfast in 2018. But as the rate of progress intensifies, so do the skills we need to succeed in Life Sciences. The industry has rapidly digitized since 2010 and digital literacy is now an essential skill for everyone at every level of expertise. However, soft skills are also a vital part of the toolkit for Life Sciences professionals. I take a closer look at the skills needed to succeed in 2020 and beyond, below. 


The pace of advancement, both of human knowledge and human technology, is astounding. It can be easy to feel like you are being swept along by a continuous wave of change. But the most successful Life Sciences organizations will be those that can apply this new expertise and technology in creative ways. Machines, as of yet, can’t match the unending creativity of humans, and this skill came in at number three in the World Economic Forum’s top ten skills for 2020. 

Digital Literacy 

Digital literacy has been important for a long time now, but what has transformed is the size of the working population that requires a comprehensive digital skillset. The rise of automation and smart factories means that people at every level of the Life Sciences ecosystem must be digitally confident. The good news is that software is becoming increasingly user-friendly, making it easier for everyone to join the digital age. 


All that change means that Life Sciences professionals will have to learn to move fast and think flexibly. Think about how much the world has changed since 2010 – that was the year the very first iPad was released. Adaptability sounds intuitive, but it can be difficult when the world is moving so fast. Being able to take key skills and apply them in different situations will be vital as we move into the twenties. 

Commitment to Lifelong Learning 

Graduates now face a world where much of what they studied at the beginning of their degree course may become obsolete by the time they enter the workforce. The rate of discovery and innovation has accelerated, and we all have to keep up. This means continually refreshing knowledge and skills at every stage of your Life Sciences career. 

Relationship Management 

However far we advance and however automated our workplaces become, people will always be at the heart of Life Sciences. Research breakthroughs and drug development are very much team sports, and relationship management is not a skill that Life Sciences professionals can afford to overlook. Knowing how to connect with, motivate, and listen to the people around you will be as vital in 2020 as it was in 1920. 

A new decade brings with it huge challenges and huge opportunities. And it’s the blending of expertise, technology, and soft skills that will help us to overcome barriers and achieve amazing things in the coming years. I can’t wait to see what’s next for Life Sciences. 

To discuss this topic further with the author or to learn more about our life sciences and healthcare expertise, contact us today.

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