Getting a children’s book published: Demystifying the process

By Alex Roth

kellysonnackGetting a children’s book published can be a tricky task. Literary agent Kelly Sonnack says she hopes to “demystify” the process for her students. Her course, Getting Published: Navigating the Children’s Book Market, is a new one for UC San Diego Extension.

Sonnack knows of what she teaches as her clients include noted children’s book authors James Burks (the Bird & Squirrel series) and Bridget Heos (Mustache Baby and Mustache Baby Meets His Match).

As part of the course, Sonnack, who works for the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, will offer a variety of practical tips on getting a book into print. She also hopes a basic message will resonate with her students: Becoming a published author takes not just talent but also drive and commitment.

“It is a lot of work to be a writer,” she says. “It can’t just be a whim.”

Advice on hiring an agent, negotiating a book contract and using social media to promote yourself, among other topics, will be part of the course. Sonnack will also give her students guidance on the sort of literary content that tends to succeed or fail. (One example: Almost without exception, the main character in a children’s book needs to be the same age as the target reader. If an animal is the main character, that animal should “reflect the emotional age of the reader,” Sonnack says.)

In addition, she will preach the importance of putting in the time and effort before the draft even gets to an agent. Aspiring authors should work to understand the market. (One tip: stay abreast of the New York Times Bestseller list.) And before shopping the book to anyone, a writer should put his or her work through a vigorous vetting process, which usually entails joining a writer’s critique group.

“As an agent, I don’t want to be the first person who has ever seen your work,” she says, noting that she generally expects her clients “to be doing 90 percent of the work before it even comes to me.”

Her course also will feature guest lecturers, including an editor and/or an art director from Simon & Schuster.

Sonnack has been working in the literary world since graduating from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2002 with a degree in English literature. She had a sense early on in her career that children’s literature would be her specialty.

“When I was wandering around a book store, I always found myself in the teen section and the children’s section reading the new releases,” she said.

After working for the Elsevier publishing house, she joined the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency, then left for Andrea Brown, which offered her an opportunity to specialize in children’s books.

Sonnack says her three-year-old daughter and one-year-old son continually provide new insights into what captures a child’s imagination. But it’s not just her kids that have inspired her. As the daughter of a kindergarten teacher and a businessman, Sonnack sees her current job as “a perfect combination of the two.”

This course is being offered in winter quarter. Prerequisites: Successful completion of all Children’s Book Illustration or Children’s Book Writing certificate coursework, or equivalent experience. Acceptance by instructor of writing sample or illustration portfolio is required. Please email the department at or call 858-534-5760 the quarter prior to your enrollment in this course.

Kaiser Permanente’s Brady reimagines health care via information technology

Area chief information officer details how to break into health care field from outside

James Brady, the area chief information officer at Kaiser Permanente Orange County, knows how intimidating the jump can be — the jump into health-care information technology from outside the field.

Brady did it himself 13 years ago, parlaying his tech experience and educational background into a health-care career that now finds him overseeing a $2 billion budget and information technology initiatives that affect nearly a half-million Kaiser members.

Named “CIO of the Year 2015” by The Los Angeles Business Journal, Brady reveals on this month’s Pulse podcast how to overcome the barrier of job descriptions that “call for more than five years [of] electronic medical record experience, which most applicants from outside health care cannot fulfill.”


Kaiser “has a very robust internship program,” Brady says, sharing the company’s philosophy of “building long-term relationships with people who are truly interested in being a part of the Kaiser Permanente family.”

The rise in consumerism, the entrance of new players and partners in health-care delivery (think of Walgreens health clinics), and the transformative effect of mobile technology continues to challenge health-care providers to reimagine the delivery of care.

At the most successful health-care systems, Brady says, “information officers are now part of the senior leadership teams, and have a place at the table so they are part of the strategic-planning sessions.”

Learn more about Brady’s big jump — the career rise he credits to his extensive post-secondary education, and his work with professional associations — and federal health-care policy innovations as well, in this month’s podcast, From IT to Health IT: James Brady Talks About Making the Leap.

To listen to previous episodes of the Pulse, visit our archives page on UCTV’s Career Channel.

Traveling to the future: Cities in a new era of transit

By Alex Rothpedernorby

How we travel has always determined how we build our cities. Peder Norby foresees a dramatic future shift in our preferred modes of transportation – and with it, a shift in how our cities look and function.

“Change that hasn’t happened in the last 100 years is happening now,” said Norby, one of San Diego County’s most prominent regional planning experts.

Norby, a nationally recognized consultant in sustainable transportation, will host a Dec. 3 morning lecture at UC San Diego Extension titled “Great Cities Are Made From Better Recipes…Not Just More Cooking.” The talk will focus on the latest advances in transportation and what these technologies bode for development in San Diego and elsewhere.

“We know we’re going to be changing,” Norby, who is also a San Diego County Planning Commissioner, said in a recent interview. “The question is what opportunities are going to be available to us.”

Norby notes that every generation had a favored mode of transportation that directly impacted development, “from horses to the steam engine to the train to the car to the interstate highway system.” These shifts also reshaped the economy and the workforce – ushering in the demand for new skills and expertise.

The latest advances, from Uber to bike-sharing programs to driverless cars, are helping make people more mobile and less dependent on their own cars. The result is what Norby calls “relocalization,” in which we have less suburban sprawl and more urban density. He cited a recent update to San Diego County’s General Plan as an example of this trend.

This trend is a fortunate one, given that all California cities are required by state law to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by various target dates. It’s not that Norby wants to force people out of their cars. As he puts it, he hopes these new transportation technologies will “give a person multiple travel options and let them choose the one that’s best for them.”

Laura Fandino, director of environmental sciences for UC San Diego Extension, said Norby’s lecture will offer insights into “how San Diego can participate as a leader in renewable energy and mobility. He has a lot of insight into what the future of sustainable mobility will look like.”

Norby, a Carlsbad resident, said his lecture is designed for an audience ranging from land-use planners to municipal engineers to community activists concerned about how the region might look in thirty years and what that means not just for the environment but also for the economy and the job market. To adapt to this new era of sustainable mobility, the region will have to address a wide variety of technology and infrastructure needs, which will require a workforce, such as planners, developers and engineers, skilled in both designing and developing the transit-oriented cities of the future.

“The goal of the talk really is to encourage more imaginative thinking on the part of everyone in terms of what’s possible,” he said.

Betsy Freeman: The path to litigation paralegal

Betsy Freeman, a graduate of the UC San Diego Extension part-time paralegal certificate program and current litigation paralegal at Google, gives a first-person account of her journey.

Born to an engineer-minded father, my initial career path was to become a chemical engineer.

I later announced my declared major was Political Science – and so began the parental discussion about “profitable” skills. It was this debate that led me to reorganize my career goals to enter law, a journey that eventually gained employment with one of the most successful corporations in the world, Google.

When I began to evaluate opportunities, I realized that I wanted to find a way to balance a combination of my interests and strengths with a valuable skillset that would position me to pursue quality work.

After taking legal courses as part of my political science degree with UC San Diego, I decided that law was best. I looked for entry level employment and started at a specialty firm engaged exclusively in immigration law. I did not have experience and I knew I had to start somewhere and worked as a part-time file clerk.

In just a few short weeks, I was hooked and wanted to learn more about the legal profession. I applied to the American Bar Association approved UC San Diego Extension part-time paralegal certificate program. It was this opportunity that opened up my eyes to the entire world of law and where I gained insight into its various areas of opportunity.

The program taught processes that I was not able to learn at my entry level position. The practical instruction format was different from theoretical political science courses and I quickly realized how beneficial “real-world” skills would be for future jobs.

Through an internship connection provided by Extension, I was able to work at the district attorney’s office in its Lifer Unit. I was able to see criminal law in action, which to someone who grew up watching “Law & Order,” was amazing.

I felt confident that I had gained the “profitable” and “practical” skills that my father warned me about. The paralegal program gave me the balance I desired and connected me to phenomenal opportunities necessary for a successful career in law.

As I approached the completion of my bachelor’s degree and paralegal certificate, I applied to several jobs and landed my first one with Qualcomm as legal support for its litigation department. Throughout nearly four years of employment with Qualcomm, I learned e-Discovery tools, procedures and industry standards.

In order to further connect to litigation technologies and the future of law, I reached out to Google and was soon hired as a litigation paralegal. During this exciting time, Google had started innovations to set up an in-house Discovery machine, the same time its technical product development experienced major growth.

Betsy Freeman paralegal litigator googleWorking at Google is a blast. I have learned a lot, including how to independently manage various cases while improving investigative and organizational paralegal skills. My advice for others seeking success is to look at more than what you do daily and instead, learn how the entire system works around you and try to discover better ways to improve them.

Betsy Freeman | Litigation Paralegal, Google |

Turning science into sentences: The art of medical writing

By Jennifer Davies

It seems every day a new, life-altering scientific breakthrough makes headlines. But behind every breakthrough is the need to communicate that discovery with a wide variety of audiences from funders of scientific grants to peer-reviewed publications to regulatory agencies.


Turning science into sentences – meaningful, factual and compelling sentences – is the art and the craft of medical writing. It is also a skill that is increasingly in demand. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for technical writers in the health care field are projected to grow nearly 27 percent from 2012 to 2022.

“There is not a paucity of need,” said Donna Simcoe, who heads Simcoe Consultants, Inc., a medical publication writing firm, and who serves as president of the Pacific Southwest Chapter of the American Medical Writers Association ( “I’m hearing from more and more companies who need medical writers.”

That is especially true in life science-centric Southern California. San Diego alone has the world’s third largest biotech cluster that accounts for more than 100,000 jobs and receives more than $1 billion in National Institutes of Health funding.

While there’s no shortage of opportunities in the medical writing field, the barrier to entry can be high. According to a survey by the American Medical Writers Association almost 50 percent of medical writers had a degree in science or medicine and more than 70 percent had a master’s degree or higher.

But not all scientists are up to the task of translating discoveries into readable, actionable prose. To help address this skills gap, UC San Diego Extension is introducing a new medical writing certificate to help train people for these in-demand jobs. Leslie Bruce, director of healthcare leadership and community outreach for Extension, said the program is not about scientific writing for a lay audience. Instead, the class will help prepare participants in such areas as regulatory writing, peer-reviewed journals, scientific grants and medical education for practicing physicians – all of which provide lucrative salaries.

“These are six-figure jobs,” Bruce said.

A 2011 survey by the American Medical Writers Association found that medical writers’ salaries increased at more than double the rate of inflation and the average annual salary for medical writers along the West Coast was around $106,000.

Bruce said the 22-unit certificate is designed to take about 18 months and the deadline to apply is Dec. 1. To find out more about the medical writing and the new Extension certificate, please visit

San Diego’s Talent Search

Mark Cafferty is on the front lines of the worldwide battle for talent.


As president and CEO of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation, Cafferty knows all too well that the key to retaining and attracting companies is having workers with the most up-to-date skills for the most in-demand jobs.

“It all comes down to talent, no matter the industry sector,” Cafferty said.

Because having a well-trained workforce is so critical to ensuring a vibrant regional economy, Cafferty spends a lot of his time focusing on how to attract and train the talent in the San Diego region. It’s a job Cafferty comes by naturally as he spent much of his career devoted to helping people connect to the skills they need to obtain meaningful careers. Prior to his time at the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation, Cafferty served as the president and CEO of the San Diego Workforce Partnership, which oversees the region’s job-training programs.

A critical partner in all his workforce development efforts has long been UC San Diego Extension.

UC San Diego Extension, Cafferty explained, provides unique educational offerings designed to help highly educated workers stay current in an ever-changing economy by providing training for niche and in-demand skills.

“In a perfect world, you need your best academic institution to be part of the solution,” Cafferty said. “Time and time again, UC San Diego Extension has excelled at helping highly skilled people either reskill or up-skill to make a transition.”

When the aerospace and defense industry cratered in the early 1990s, UC San Diego Extension played a pivotal role in retraining San Diego’s workforce for new opportunities in the emerging innovation economy, he noted. UC San Diego Extension also broke new ground when it had the foresight to launch its Executive Perspective for Scientists and Engineers more than 30 years ago, helping train generations of local business leaders.

“That program helped build our telecommunications and biotech clusters,” Cafferty said. “Extension created technology executive leadership development programs long before everyone was trying to get into that space.”

When the Great Recession hit in 2008, UC San Diego Extension once again quickly stepped in to help retrain workers for new fields, such as the burgeoning health care information technology sector, Cafferty said.

“We have always been able to work with Extension to build programs quickly to fill a need that helps both the employer and the would-be employee,” he said. “In workforce development, the talk is always about being proactive. But the real key is to be reactive in the moment, and no one does that better than UC San Diego Extension.”

In his dealing with employers throughout the county, Cafferty said it’s clear they value what UC San Diego Extension offers to their companies. For instance, when ResMed was indicating it might leave for another metro area, Extension’s skill development and training helped convince the company there were the talent and resources to recommit to San Diego, he recalled.

A big reason why UC San Diego Extension has been such an important player in the local workforce development ecosystem, Cafferty said, is because of the leadership of Mary Walshok, associate vice chancellor of public programs and the dean of Extension.

“In all of our work on economic development, Mary’s reputation as a leader in this space goes a long, long way,” he said. “It’s an equalizer for us that the work of UC San Diego Extension has been so well recognized.”

When San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer recently formed his Workforce and Economic Development Advisory Committee, he chose Cafferty, Walshok and Constance Carroll, chancellor of the San Diego Community College District, to co-chair it.

Cafferty said the committee’s work is important because it focuses on providing training for the full spectrum of workers, from those who need basic skills just to get a job to high-skill workers who must retool to stay relevant in an ever-evolving workplace.

The need for training, even for highly skilled workers, became evident this summer when Qualcomm announced mass layoffs as it revamped its organization to better address the changing global market.

Cafferty said his organization has been working closely with Qualcomm to help the displaced workers find new jobs as well as provide the proper training for those new positions. He has no doubt UC San Diego Extension will once again be a critical component in helping many of those affected make the transitions to new careers.

“When a major economic shift happens, you need to know that your region is prepared for it,” Cafferty said. “UC San Diego Extension is a big reason why San Diego continues to be prepared and resilient.”

The Recipe for Big Data

By Jennifer Davies

What do a cookbook and big data have to do with each other?


Ilkay Altintas, Chief Data Science Officer, Supercomputer Center

Quite a bit, said Ilkay Altintas, the chief data science officer for the San Diego Supercomputer Center, motioning to the book “How to Cook Everything Fast,” which sits prominently on her office desk.

Although it might seem like an odd choice of literature for Altintas, she sees it as central to her work.

“That’s my dream project,” Altintas said.

She is working with her students to map all of the cookbook’s shortcuts and combine them with other information, such as types of ingredients and appliance brands, to create a roadmap—or a recipe—that will make cooking a meal even faster.

With that kind of data, Altintas explained enthusiastically, someone could create an app that would allow you to input the ingredients you have on hand to quickly find a foolproof and time-efficient recipe.

However, it is not just the making of meals that gets Altintas excited. Much of Altintas’s work at the San Diego Supercomputer Center is based on the same concept as creating a recipe—or workflow—that can be used time and time again to slice and dice the 
ever-expanding world of big data.

“Workflows do for data what recipes do for food,” she said. “Once you have the process, or the recipe, in place, you can use it whenever you want.”

Think of it this way: When you cook a meal, there are several steps. You have to determine what you want to make, and that is the phase in which you pose a question and define the basic conceptual steps to solve it. You then need to shop for the ingredients, and that could be considered the collection of data. Then you need to process the ingredients by chopping, mashing, and mixing. After you cook the different ingredients, Altintas said, they “have transformed into something larger than its parts.”

That, she said, is the essence of her job.

Altintas says workflows allow researchers to analyze and interpret information more quickly and efficiently by using software to produce an application that can be run on high-performance and cloud-computing resources.

The need to create these workflows began to be critical in the early 2000s as more data and computing technologies became available and researchers were looking for ways to speed up the process. But workflows aren’t just about analyzing data more quickly, Altintas said. They are also about creating a system that is reusable and reproducible so that others can vet and verify the data.

Altintas happened upon this burgeoning field almost by accident. She was working at Middle East Technical University in Turkey, her native country, when she decided to apply for a position at the Supercomputer Center in 2001. It was a fortuitous decision because it allowed Altintas, who has a PhD from the University of Amsterdam, in the Netherlands, to become a leader in the emerging field of workflows for the coordination of scientific computing and data management. At the San Diego Supercomputer Center, Altintas also directs the Workflows for Data Science Center of Excellence and serves as a lecturer in computer science and engineering.

For her, workflows and big data analysis aren’t just about providing insight into the past or defining a current condition. When this type of structured analysis is done properly, researchers can use it to predict the future outcomes in everything from personal health to hazard prevention. One of the projects Altintas is involved in is WIFIRE, which aims to develop an integrated workflow for rapid-wildfire prediction models. The project uses a variety of data sources—satellite imagery, photos from mountaintop cams, and measured real-time wind, temperature, and humidity data—to help predict the rate and spread of fires. In the future, it could help firefighters make informed decisions on how to battle wildfires better.

Altintas said evidence-based decision support also will be increasingly important in the practice of health care. Devices such as a Fitbit, which tracks a person’s daily activities, including exercise, meals, and sleep schedule, are already providing important and actionable data. Going forward, she can see processes that would analyze all aspects of a person’s health to come up with personalized prescriptions for a healthier life.

“One thing is becoming clear: as we have more and more data sources becoming available, we need dynamic data-driven systems that enable data-driven decision-making,” she said.

As the types and amounts of data continue to grow, the need to analyze that information quickly and effectively will become even more important, she explained. It is for those reasons Altintas and the San Diego Supercomputer Center have teamed up with UC San Diego Extension to provide a wide range of courses designed to train people for these increasingly in-demand big data jobs.

“There is a huge demand for data analysis,” Altintas said. “Everything uses data.”

San Diego and its education opportunities ranked top among veterans

By Melissa Jones

Captain Lee Jones embraces his three week old daughter, Skylar, prior to embarking on an eight month deployment to Afghanistan as part of the U.S. Marine Corps. Jones, now stationed at U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, will soon transition into non-military life and is a recent applicant of UC San Diego Extension and its project management certificate offered in conjunction with the online master’s option through the University of Wisconsin.

Captain Lee Jones embraces his three-week-old daughter, Skylar, prior to embarking on an eight-month deployment to Afghanistan as part of the U.S. Marine Corps. Jones, now stationed at U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, will soon transition into non-military life. He is a recent applicant of UC San Diego Extension and its project-management certificate, offered in conjunction with the online master’s option through the University of Wisconsin.

The hardships military service members and their families endure throughout their careers are among the many reasons citizens unite each year to honor them during Veterans Day. For the other 364 days of the year, a few cities work compassionately to provide a better quality of life for residing veterans, and dedicate services and opportunities to help improve transitions following service.

Hosting the most military bases throughout the country, it’s no wonder that California is home to some of the highest-ranked cities for veterans.

According to the recent report released by WalletHub, San Diego took the top-ranking spot as the most livable city in the perspective-environment, educational-opportunities and health-care categories for veterans. Bordering Chula Vista also ranked high at 12th overall, and was within the top 10 for education and top five for highest veteran income growth.

Although some areas throughout the Southwest have experienced substantial benefit offerings for service members, nationwide, WalletHub contributor Richie Bernardo reports they still remain in short supply. As of October 2015, of the 21.1 million military veterans residing in the U.S., about 422,000 are currently unemployed, with a large majority suffering from disabilities as a result of active-duty service.

In a 2013 report featured as part of a study conducted by PBS to promote its program, “Stories of Service,” it was revealed that nearly 60 percent of veterans who retired in 2012 due to service-connected disability were 35 or younger.

Younger veterans have substantially different needs than their older comrades and are in more need of education and employment opportunities to help them reach goals set for the next phase of their lives.

As detailed in WalletHub’s report, there are several factors that contribute to a better quality of life for veterans.  In an effort to reduce the alarming unemployment rates, education remains one of the most important factors to further develop military skills and meet the latest career trends.

Contributing to this need, UC San Diego Extension offers a variety of veteran benefits.  This includes the California Veteran College Tuition Fee Waiver and the following benefit programs:

  • Chapter 30 – Montgomery GI Bill – Active Duty (MGIB-AD)
  • Chapter 31 – Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program (VR&E)
  • Chapter 33 – Post 9/11 GI Bill
  • Chapter 35 – Dependent Educational Assistance (DEA)
  • Chapter 1606 – Montgomery GI Bill – Selected Reserves (MGIB-SR)

In addition, UC San Diego Extension accepts Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts (MYCAA). Due to constant relocations and challenges associated with “single parenting” during deployments, it’s often difficult for spouses of active-duty service members to secure long-term employment while their partner serves. The program affords military spouses $4,000 in financial assistance to complete various certificate programs designed to assist with skill development for career placement.

For additional resources for veterans and service members offered at UC San Diego Extension, visit or contact Renzo Lara at

Technology sparks e-discovery revolution throughout legal profession

by Melissa M. Jones

Justine Phillips is a legal pioneer using technology to evolve the profession and its paper-filled world.


As special counsel in the Labor and Employment Practice Group of Sheppard Mullin at its Del Mar office, Phillips went the paperless route back in 2008 – light years before many of her colleagues – by storing all her case filings electronically.

“It’s been coming. You can’t close your eyes anymore,” she said. “There’s a red flag being waved all over and federal rules are changing. If you don’t have someone in your firm with the right tech skills, you won’t be able to work specific cases.”

The State Bar of California recently upped the ante with Formal Opinion No. 2015-1936, stating that a lack of technical knowledge could render an attorney “ethically incompetent to handle certain litigation matters involving e-discovery, absent curative assistance under rule 3-110(C), even where the attorney may otherwise be highly experienced. It also may result in violations of the duty of confidentiality, notwithstanding a lack of bad-faith conduct.”

Law firms that don’t get up-to-speed on newer processes will simply be out of the game.

The high stakes associated with discovery in litigation have sparked new motivation for firms to seek out professionals who can help them meet these new requirements with matched technical skill sets. From small to large firms and corporations, there is increased need for multifaceted professionals to help lower overall cost by providing such services, which in turn helps them remain competitively attractive to clients.

E-discovery knowledge brings opportunity

While e-discovery is becoming more common, many law schools are not fully preparing students. A recent report by Kroll Ontrack, a legal data management consulting firm, found that of 193 law schools surveyed, 124 did not offer specific e-discovery curricula, bringing additional need for litigation technology courses for job-seeking professionals.

“Adding a litigation technology certification to a law degree or paralegal certification makes candidates dangerously competitive,” said Scott Robinson, senior solutions consultant of Inventus, a consulting practice focused on helping clients effectively manage the legal discovery process. “This is what is necessary to move any legal career to the next level. Professionals need to gain more than just a general understanding of technical legal processes.”

Phillips says she doesn’t see many legal professionals fully committed to learning technical ways to manage discovery and believes this current way of thinking could lead to major repercussions for their careers.

“It’s necessary to empower your career and make yourself indispensable with billable skills that help remove administrative burdens and allow for more time to perform analytical tasks. The only way to do this is to embrace technology,” said Phillips.

Must-have litigation technology skills

To prepare those in the legal community – from attorneys and paralegals to Information Technology professionals – UC San Diego Extension has developed its Litigation Management Technology certificate. Julia Dunlap, Esq., director of legal education at Extension, says the certificate is offered as part of the legal portfolio and provides an additional and separate learning opportunity from its American Bar Association approved Paralegal certification program.

Christi McGowan, an advisor and instructor at Extension, as well as the litigation support manager at Bienert, Miller and Katman, helped develop the new certificate to address the technological skills gap throughout the legal profession. According to McGowan, too few in the legal profession know how to effectively deal with the increased automation of legal processes, huge volumes of electronic data and growth of large-scale complex litigation.

The six-course certificate features experts in both the legal and technology fields to provide both practical and interactive approaches in such topics as:

  • Electronically stored information
  • Electronic discovery reference model
  • Litigation readiness
  • Project management as related to legal representation
  • Current legal software used in managing databases
  • Technology use for streamlined and persuasive trial presentations

McGowan says a key component of the new certificate is its hands-on approach – something she believes is critical when it comes to learning new technologies. Such interaction is also something in short supply throughout legal education opportunities. According to the Ontrack survey, of the 69 law schools offering technology courses featuring e-discovery, only eight of them offered learning experiences in a hands-on format.

McGowan says that by having a combination of instructors with legal and technical backgrounds, the overall certificate experience is set to bring more insight to the constantly evolving nature of technologies with framework on how it can improve legal processes.

To find out more about the Litigation Management Technology Certificate and other UC San Diego Extension legal education programs, visit; or contact Azra Mukanovic, Legal Education Coordinator at (858) 534-8152 or

Life science professionals benefit from internship opportunities

By Melissa Jones

Internship - career issues and concepts word cloud illustration. Word collage concept.

As a young professional, Fred Defesche earned an opportunity to work as an intern, a position that helped pave the way for him to eventually become founder of a boutique pharmaceutical regulatory consulting firm, RegCon Solutions of San Diego.

Today, Defesche remains committed to his intern roots and works to extend such opportunities to other professionals within the regulatory affairs community. Although some companies shy away from adopting internship programs, he believes doing so results in missed opportunities of significant value. Additionally, he suggests offering interns experience serves “goodwill” and knows firsthand how internships can bring substantial worth to the life sciences industry. His experience demonstrates the positive side of internships and proves how the adoption of well executed programs should be considered a solution for managing entry level work.

Many firms, both large and small, underestimate how interns can effectively impact workload through the execution of a few simple processes. Often, interns can accomplish important, basic and time-consuming responsibilities that will allow time for the more seasoned employees to focus on higher level obligations. Defesche believes that in order to adopt a successful internship program, certain steps should take place:

  • Identify which tasks are best suited for entry level professionals, yet still provide learning experiences
  • Ensure the job description clearly outlines responsibilities and the necessary skills or aptitudes required to accomplish each
  • Openly discuss expectations with candidates, internship objectives and compensation as well as possibilities for advancement within the company or any industry related networking opportunities
  • Invest in an orientation program that will quickly introduce the company, its culture and values

Another one of the greatest components of successful internship experiences is the acquisition of higher quality applicants who possess the basic skills desired to meet the needs of the company. This is especially important if the overall objective is to evaluate interns to determine whether or not they have the potential to become a long-term employee.

Defesche attributes his recent intern placement success to a program offered through the San Diego Regulatory Affairs Network (SDRAN). The SDRAN internship program involves connecting local life sciences companies to candidates who are also part of its membership and have newly acquired regulatory affairs education and seek supervised regulatory experience.

SDRAN recruits intern candidates by posting internship positions on its website,, as well as by sending direct mail to members, posting on social media sites, and contacting local universities (including UC San Diego Extension). The application process requires each candidate to submit their resume along with two letters of recommendation and a statement describing what they hope to accomplish throughout the duration of the internship. The SDRAN committee screens each application prior to forwarding to hiring managers. Participating companies then choose candidates to interview and select the most suitable.

This process provided Defesche with an overall positive experience and an even more notable outcome. In fact, he was so impressed with candidates, he said, “We quickly realized that the ‘interns’ were ideal employees for our company and converted them into full time positions.”

Together with SDRAN, Defesche joins part of a recent trend to develop roles that serve as a catalyst to cultivate talent within life sciences, and specifically regulatory affairs professions. Efforts aim to help interns gain practical experience in a mentoring environment to evolve best practices as they relate to newly learned FDA regulations. This systematic technique helps benefit interns by teaching them how these regulations should be approached or applied in specific scenarios. He believes companies should learn how adopting similar internship programs will help serve this greater purpose while also providing the opportunity to function as a prospective employer seeking candidates to “try out” without heavy financial commitment.

In response to this need, SDRAN and UC San Diego Extension partnered to offer a workshop designed to provide winning strategies for internship programs, showcasing success stories from a top life-sciences firm in San Diego. The workshop took place 8 a.m. Thursday, November 5 at UC San Diego Extension’s University City Center. For more information visit


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