John Hughes

What is your current position, and what do you do?
I am the Director of the Chemistry Section of the Australian Pesticide and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA)

What made you decide not to pursue/to leave research?
I have been a regulatory scientist for over 23 years and I have spent about 10 years in the pharmaceutical industry on top of this time.

How did you transition into this current role from a science degree?
I undertook a Masters in Chemical analysis to gain recognition and qualification in chemistry that I had been doing for a very long time. The Masters I gained from UNSW was so much fun, I had a great time and learnt lots and also provided some knowledge from industry that was lacking in the course.

How have you used the skills/knowledge that you acquired, from studying chemistry, in your current role?
I use my knowledge on a daily basis by providing expert chemistry advice to both internal stakeholders and industry representatives. I have not stopped learning, but my knowledge has again exceeded my qualification.

What has been your biggest challenge, career-wise?
Dealing with individuals that have zero risk appetite. Very frustrating, especially when those individuals are in seats of power and are too comfortable.

What achievement are you most proud of?
I have represented the Australian Government on two OECD committees developing international standards. It was surprisingly well organised and collaborative.

What are your interests outside of work?
I am a 2nd Dan Black belt in Judo, a former Australian Title holder and represented Australia. I also fly remote control aircraft.

What advice would you give to students starting their science careers?
Be patient, learn new techniques and especially have a good understanding of those techniques and why they are being used. Once you do this you can take your skills to the next level.

What helps you achieve a work-life balance?
Resilience and the ability to say 'no' with respect.

Is there anything you would like to share?
One of the most important talents you can learn now is to be a great manager, take note of those managers you will have over the life of your career. Take note of the good and bad. When you become a manager, take the best of each manager and don't emulate those that didn't stack up. You have a choice to be the best manager, and mentor others to be better than what you were at the same stage of your career. Recognise talent, recognise those that no other person notices, they are worth the time and effort.

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