The power of storytelling

Photograph of Bruce Seet, PhD'07 standing in a hallway.
By Jennifer Parraga, BA’93

Bruce Seet, PhD’02, believes in the power of stories. How they engage people. How they inspire and connect people. How they empower people. It’s one of the reasons why he created the Science To Business Network (S2BN), a national, multi-chapter, non-profit organization that supports graduate trainees as they plan their career paths.

Seet established the Network alongside a group of like-minded scientists. Their goal was to provide outreach and networking events and professional development opportunities for trainees to complement their academic training.

Through the S2BN, he and his partners aim to provide scientists with the opportunity to build a competitive edge in both the academic and business job markets and foster a more innovative and entrepreneurial culture in Canada.

They frequently hold panel discussions allowing professionals to share stories about their career journeys, before jumping into discussions on innovation, science policy, commercialization issues or a variety of professional development topics.

Seet serves as the Director of Medical Affairs for Sanofi Pasteur. He is also an adjunct professor, teaching and mentoring graduate trainees, and has held several senior industry roles. These professional experiences have shaped his perspective.

“Like many scientists, I have a sense of curiosity and wonder, but it extends beyond science. I’m fascinated by people’s diverse career paths and their own unique journeys,” said Seet.

This outlook has served as the driver for his path through his undergraduate studies, his graduate training and his career in industry. “The S2BN is a platform that allows us to share stories and connect scientists and other professionals in a meaningful way.”

Seet and his identical twin brother, Bryan, arrived at Western University’s campus in 1993. While the rest of Canada was watching Jurassic Park, listening to UB40 on their Sony Walkman and cheering on the Blue Jays to win the World Series, Seet was becoming fascinated with infectious diseases and the immune system.

As an undergraduate, he was also stretching his networking muscles and getting involved at the Delaware Hall residence, serving as a soph, and volunteering at the Student Development Centre as a Job Search Advisor.

“I learned a lot at Western from those different experiences, including leadership, teamwork and communication skills.”

Seet also became aware of the power of storytelling while working as a campus tour guide.

“I started noticing that the more I shared Western’s history and my own experiences at the University as a narrative, the more I could engage people on a personal and authentic level.”

As he honed his storytelling skills, Seet immersed himself in his graduate training with Grant McFadden, PhD. At the time, McFadden was forming a company based on his laboratory research findings.

This was a turning point for Seet as he not only saw the inner workings of a biotech start-up, but he also himself began collaborating with a Swedish instrumentation company. All of this provided him opportunities to give talks about his research around the world and it allowed him to gain early exposure to industry, share stories about his work and build his network.

Following a postdoctoral fellowship with the late Tony Pawson, PhD, Seet joined GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). Hired by a scientist and fellow Western alumnus, he launched his career in biopharmaceuticals.

It was within his first year at GSK that he received a scholarship from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR), called the Science to Business Fellowship, which supported newly minted PhDs to pursue their MBA. With his business degree in hand by 2010, Seet established a LinkedIn group, calling it the Science to Business Network to connect like-minded scientists and alumni of the CIHR fellowship program.

Driven by his curiosity about their experiences, he set up regular meetings with this group. Through conversations about their own PhD experiences and career transitions, they identified various opportunities to enhance the innovation ecosystem in Canada.

These discussions inspired Seet to propose the development of a formal organization in 2012. It coalesced around the vision to develop Canada into a world-class centre for innovation and technology commercialization, by connecting scientists with different stakeholders and providing them opportunities for professional development.

The Network is now a registered non-profit organization with six chapters in Ontario and one in Edmonton, an active blog and a series of events and workshops taking place at university campuses and in the community. Seet credits a strong team of volunteers who have made this grass-roots organization possible.

He recently returned to his alma mater to launch the London chapter of the S2BN.

“My goal is to inspire graduate trainees to think more broadly about the opportunities they have right in front of them. Developing self-awareness, diversifying their experiences, having career conversations with their advisors and expanding their networks are things they can start now as part of their professional development whether they plan to stay in academia or not," Seet said.

“Research skills and the deep understanding of science are their foundation and currency and we want to complement this and demonstrate to them how they can reapply their skills to different situations and convey their value by telling their unique story.”