Learning the Language of Science and Business
Profile of Colin Coros, PhD, MBA
“I was always interested in science and how science can change the world,” says Dr. Colin Coros, currently Vice-President of Operations at the Delta Genomics Centre in Edmonton, Alberta. He admits, however, that it was a long journey for him to understand how he could use science to change the world through commercialization. “It took me a while to realize how big a difference you could make by translating science into something practical.” Indeed, along that lengthy journey towards his current role, Coros earned a BSc and a PhD degree in Biochemistry at the University of Western Ontario and performed postdoctoral research at the Wadsworth Centre (NY State) and the University of Calgary. Veering from his career path, which up to then was focused on basic research, Coros decided to do his MBA, specializing in technology commercialization at the University of Saskatchewan, eventually landing a position at TEC Edmonton. As Coros puts it, he deliberately sought to work at TEC Edmonton, a technology incubator in Alberta, for the experience it would provide him. “They commercialize technologies at TEC Edmonton and I wanted to be part of that. My goal was to be part of a start-up company and I figured it would increase my chances of actually getting an opportunity if I was working in that environment.” Coros now works at Delta Genomics managing all of the operational aspects of the organization, including financial systems, business development, human resource management, and other day-to-day operations. Being a start-up company, his responsibilities are extensive and diverse, but he sees the positive impact his role and his company can have. “What’s exciting is when I actually see technologies being adopted, especially disruptive technologies. Seeing how an industry adopts technologies that were just a few years earlier only found in the lab and seeing those tools really make an impact, that’s kind of fun for me.” While reflecting on the benefits of his educational background towards his current career, Coros recognizes the value of his PhD and MBA training. Considering the benefits of his PhD, Coros states, “One of the first things that a PhD helped me learn was the language of science. Speaking science and learning about what things mean is a big part of what science is all about. The second part is the critical thinking skills…it’s really about learning to think critically and I think that’s one of the greatest long-term skills that I’ll always have from my PhD training.” On considering the benefits of his MBA training, Coros says that in addition to providing him the vocabulary needed to understand business terminologies and concepts, it’s provided him a host of other practical skills. “It’s given me a lot of tools to help manage people and processes. Some of the leadership training we had in the MBA helped frame how I look at problems and solutions especially when it comes to managing people, which is one of the biggest parts of any manager’s jobs.” As Coros contemplates his business training, he highlights the more profound impact that the degree has had on his life. “It’s affected how I approach work and life. For example, understanding how to motivate people to succeed is a skill that can be used in so many ways.” Coros exemplifies some important and notable leadership qualities found among a new breed of scientist-entrepreneur. While his scientific and business management training help him credibly engage different stakeholders, the softer skills that both areas of training provide him seem equally important to his success. The people management, communications, negotiations, and critical thinking skills all appear to be consistently used by Coros whether he’s working with academic researchers, policy makers, or livestock farmers. In short, Coros possesses a unique perspective informed by his deep scientific training and more pragmatic training in business.
Coros is optimistic about Canada’s future, but believes more can be done to support scientists who are interested in becoming entrepreneurs. “We need to help create opportunities for them to become entrepreneurs,” and he adds, “We have to make sure that we can fund start-up companies and fund ideas. We have to have money so people can give entrepreneurship a shot. It’s about building a bio-economy, whether a big or small company. We have to support the growth of those types of companies in Canada.” In addition to applying his leadership towards changing the world through science, Coros also finds time to coach his daughter’s soccer team and volunteers on the Board of Directors of his son’s daycare. Asked how he finds work-life balance, Coros acknowledges that he relies a lot on the support of others. “I’d say that I have a strong team at work and I have a great wife at home that makes sure that my life is as balanced as I can make it.”