With COVID-19 surging through the country and our county in April 2020, the hospitality industry began to crumble. After more than 15 years at Marriott International, Jacob Vogelhut found himself out of a job like so many others. Navigating this new professional challenge was something that he was not looking forward to. Nevertheless, he embraced his circumstances and used them as an opportunity to forge ahead on a different career path. Having been in project management for the majority of his career, Jacob knew that he wanted to stick with it but the hospitality industry was no longer a viable option for the foreseeable future.
His wife had worked in the pharmaceutical field for years so he had some familiarity with the industry and it interested him enough to pursue a new career in biotechnology. With the help of his network, he absorbed as much information as possible about the industry. In late 2020, a friend recommended that he visit WorkSource Montgomery (WSM) for career service assistance. Jacob was assigned to work with American Job Center career coach, George Jefferson, and before Thanksgiving was enrolled in and completed Project Management Professional (PMP) training to renew his license. Shortly after that, WSM connected him with Agile/Scrum training after he expressed interest.
In December, the first Montgomery County Biotech Bootcamp was scheduled to launch early in January 2021. The Bootcamp is a pilot program that provides entry-level biotechnology training to county residents displaced due to COVID-19. The goal of the program was to grow the talent pool for the county’s rapidly growing biotech industry which has a large presence here. The Bootcamp was developed in collaboration with Montgomery College, University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) at The Universities at Shady Grove (USG), Montgomery County Economic Advisory Group (EAG), Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation (MCEDC), and WSM.
Jacob heard about the Bootcamp and inquired about it with George at WSM. Even though the training taught only the basics of biotechnology, he thought it would be a great opportunity to learn the industry lingo and laboratory fundamentals in a hands-on environment—proving his commitment to the industry. Jacob was accepted into the Bootcamp at USG/UMBC in early January. Two tracks were made available to participants. For those with some college experience or college degrees the Biotech Bootcamp program was offered at USG/UMBC and a track for those with a high school diploma or equivalent was offered at Montgomery College.
Jacob in the UMBC/USG Laboratory during the Biotech Bootcamp.
Jacob completed the Bootcamp in February and immediately landed a great job with Thermo Fisher Scientific—a Massachusetts-based, Fortune 150 company that provides scientific instrumentation, software, and services to the healthcare, life science, and other laboratory industries. With his PMP background, renewed license, and obvious commitment to working within the biotech industry, Thermo Fisher did not hesitate to hire him.
Two months into the new job, Jacob oversees a team of 25 project managers as a Senior Manager of Client Services at Thermo Fisher’s biorepository in Rockville. He enthusiastically recommends WSM and the training pathways offered to whoever is in a similar position as he was. “I’ve encouraged friends and colleagues to contact WSM. It’s hard to get motivated to find something different. You have to treat it like a full-time job but there is help out there. WSM offers a lot of value. They have funding and programs that are incredibly helpful and make a real difference during a career search,” he said.
Jacob at the Thermo Fisher office in Rockville.
Jacob is one of several Bootcamp graduates who have found sustainable employment successfully. The next Biotech Bootcamp is tentatively scheduled to begin Summer 2021 and will again be offered at both schools. The biotechnology career pathway is one of several that WSM offers to county residents that are unemployed, underemployed, or displaced due to COVID-19. For more information about our services and career pathways, contact us. For more coverage on the pilot Biotech Bootcamp visit Montgomery College and WJLA DC.