Evolve People Behind The Brand: Michael Young


Today, we sat down with Michael Young, our Senior Principal Consultant at Evolve. We chatted all about his years in pre-clinical science and his transition into recruitment, personalized medicine, and driving cars way too fast. 

Tell us about your journey to Evolve.

I was a scientist beforehand. I really love science and what I was doing, but I needed to change from the actual bench and I’ve always been a people person, I’ve always been a talker. So, it brought me to another industry back in 2013 and I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do but I knew it had to be something to do with working with people.

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go into sales or sell a device, services, or contract research and that’s when the recruiters found me. I was with a large staffing agency first and they brought me in as a business development manager and my territory was right around where I live, which is San Diego, California. 

I worked for them for a couple of years and luckily, I had a couple of outstanding mentors, one of them being my friend Chris. He was the one who told me that I’d be better as a permanent recruiter, as opposed to just staffing and he was right.

That brought me to a few different perm firms that I worked at for several years which evolved into retained search, and then that’s what eventually brought me here, to Evolve. I was recruited by Evolve to help build this arm of the company, which is exciting! 

That’s really why I came – to start something new. I’ve never started in a new Life Sciences firm before, where I could shape it and be one of the first three employees. 

Before shifting your career into Life Sciences recruitment, you spent 15 years as a pre-clinical research scientist. Tell us a bit more about working in that space. 

Most of what I did was in-life research. The drugs that pharmaceutical and biotech develop, be it biological type drugs, chemical type drugs or drugs that are small molecules. We don’t want to just experiment with them on humans, we want to see how they work in biological systems before we ever put them into humans.

I bounced around a little in my early career to a couple of different companies and then I ended up at Novartis, where I spent the majority of my time (about 13 years). I loved working with some of the smartest minds in science – a couple of Nobel Prize winners being some of them and I have a few publications out there myself but they’re old. 

You often highlight that there are life science recruiters who have never even touched a pipette before, whereas you have 15 years on the bench. We’ve heard you say, “I’m finding another me, for you” – Tell us how that gives you an advantage over others in the industry.

The first advantage is that I’m relatable. 

I can talk to these scientific people about the basics of their science, be it immunologists – which I know the most about – over to metabolic research. 

I’m always only one or two links away from the people that I want to work with. We all know someone and then they know someone else and that’s the one that I need to talk to. It’s more about who I know, and recruiters can do that as well and build up that network. 

When it comes to words like ‘pipette’, they don’t know exactly what it is, and as recruiters, we can get around that as we talk to people, but a lot of times they don’t get into depth. I love to get into depth with them and get that feedback, especially if they haven’t looked at my background. They’ll be like, “Hey, wait, how do you know that?” and I usually say, “Well, I was 15 years at Novartis.” I guess that’s how it makes me more relatable.

What attracted you to Science in the first place?

Well, it’s going to be funny to hear, but I’m not a writer. I figured out how to write emails and thankfully, due to the AI-type programs that recognize how bad my English is, I look a little bit more professional.

I didn’t like English but I loved social studies, history and learning. I was interested in how organisms worked and I was good at maths but having that desire to go into biology, is what made me interested in going into life sciences in general.

Not only that, but I had a great biology teacher in my high school. He was amazing in how he taught and made us all interested in it, even those who didn’t have a passion for it. He was just a great teacher, he was really funny and he would get us so excited. 

He also just had the perfect name for a science teacher – Mr. Peabody. 

What’s the biggest challenge?

The biggest challenge in my current role is getting those contacts and getting that trust for them to use us and provide our services to them. It’s just getting in front of the right people, and the markets are a little slow right now but it will pick up, and it’ll pick up quickly – it’s just making those right contacts. 

The recruiting part isn’t hard for me because I can find those people and I can look at resumes very quickly and see what this person does. In less than a minute, I know whether or not they’re a match. Then it’s just digging in to see what I want to present about that person or tell that person, “I don’t think you’re right for this position and here’s why…”

I always try to give that feedback to any candidate because any of these candidates, especially at the higher level, can turn into hiring managers just like that. We have a lot of those conversations but the biggest challenge is actually building this company, and also staying away from messages on Slack.

What is something that you wish you’d known at the start of your career?

As I got out, I had a bachelor’s degree and starting with a bachelor’s degree, you just have to start at the bottom and move your way up, as you do with advanced degrees, master’s degrees and Ph.Ds. but what I wish I knew is how much further you can get with a Ph.D. If I had known that, I would’ve done more internships and probably would’ve done grad school. 

What is the most exciting movement happening in the Life Science space right now?

That would be personalized medicine. 

Some people would say AI, which is great, but I would say figuring out how to treat patients with personalized medicine. Personalized medicine is treating individuals so we can do that with biologics. Sometimes it’s even genetic manipulation, or it’s designing biology from what comes out of your body. 

They do this a lot in oncology and get your immune system to attack those cells that are just dividing in the wrong ways. That’s what cancer is. We can design antibodies but you can’t always do that with generalised drugs because those drugs that we have, do a lot of damage to your body. 

Whereas if we can design specialized biologics that come off of your cells, your genetic material and your nucleic acids, that’s what we can use to go in and fight exactly what those diseases are. Now, that’s very expensive and you’re working with specific people, so it’s not up to where it needs to be when it comes to personalized medicine but that’s the most exciting thing coming out.

How do you feel about joining Chay Carter in kick-starting this new brand?

The excitement that comes from our team is great, especially working with Chay. 

He’s a great person to lead us on what we’re trying to do and he’s the type of person that can build the iron structure of the building and I can fill it in. Terry’s building in the concrete and I’m trying to fill in the rest. We are all trying to find the people to go into that building.

Enough about work; do you have any hobbies? Side hustles? What are you passionate about away from your desk?

I’m always at my desk, that’s all I do is work. I’m joking, we have got to get away from our desks. 

Well, this is going to be a little bit embarrassing, but I love to bowl. I bowl in two leagues, Monday and Wednesday nights, with my friends. I have a bowling team and that’s my release – it’s nice to have a release on Mondays, right? 

Some people like to swim with sharks, jump out of airplanes or bungee jumping. What is the most adventurous thing you’ve done?

This is a tough one, not because I have too many adventures, but because I’m not usually adventurous.

I have swam with sharks and I’ve scuba-dived at night, mostly because it’s very hard to find parking near the beaches, but I’ve never been skydiving and never bungee jumped – I would love to do those though.

What I’ve done that I would say is the most adventurous besides deep diving, is driving cars way too fast on racetracks. 

If you weren’t working in Recruitment, or Clinical Research, in another life what do you think you would be doing?

I would either be working at the zoo, where my wife works, but on the public side where I’m doing talks and telling people about what they do. 

I was a bus driver at the San Diego Zoo driving the double-decker buses and I loved it, it was right after college so it was a great summer job. If it paid a little better so that I could live in Southern California, I probably would still be doing that. 

I would love to work with cars if I could do high-end car sales. I don’t think of myself as a salesperson but in recruitment, I guess we are. For me, it would be learning all I can about those cars and then just informing people as to what they do and what every button does.

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