Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Better Late Than Never

I have been invited to contribute, and accepted the challenge. However, my career path is somewhat unlike anybody else's here, and is also very much in the middle of radical change at the moment. Lastly, i'm not a blogger at all, but a prolific commenter. So i feel very much out of my depth.

Regardless of all that, i do feel obligated to write the introductory post about myself, and explain why my posting will be sporadic at best for at least the next month, if not two.

Chapter One: I am born. Or at the very least, i attend college (Michigan State) and get a BS in Chemistry. In High School it became very obvious to me that Organic Chemistry was my path, so i got into college, did undergrad research for credit as early as possible, and became at TA during my junior year. I went straight from undergrad into the PhD program at Penn State, intending to go the full course BS-PhD-Postdoc-Big Pharma, but along the way i learned a lot about people, and myself. It became extremely obvious that spending 10 + years in college to work at Big Pharma and rarely actually enter the lab was not what i wanted. (Most of my friends who graduated and did a postdoc were promoted out of the lab within 2-5 years.) And the future for non-PhDs in Big Pharma was bleak, if one wanted to contribute meaningfully and intellectually to a project, so i started examining the job market for MS Chemists in the Biotech Sector.

*DING* This was where the action clearly was going to be. MS Chemists were just beginnning to be treated as fully capable human beings, able to be promoted beyond the bench and into management positions, but after a decade or longer. This was a timeline that better fit my idea of how long i wanted to be in the lab versus becoming a manager, if at all. Most of the MS Chemists i met on interviews spoke of intense intellectual contribution to their teams, and were generally very happy. Actually, to clarify, it varied from company to company: if one company had almost all engaged, happy Associates, and others had mostly disenfranchised, unhappy Associates. But the happy companies were all very happy, so i wrote up my thesis, defended it, accepted an offer in Cambridge, and worked my buns off.

I have worked at 3 companies in my 10 years on the job, and had different levels of happiness, engagement, disillusionment, and challenge. That's a long story for another post. But the short version is: I have used up my time in industry, and am in the process of finding a new career for myself. I wish this blog had come along sooner, because my first instincts would have been to figure out some way to transition internally. I would love to have been a good candidate for the Safety group, and i would love to become more skilled at HPLC maintainence and repair. However, how to accomplish either of those without changing companies eluded me.

So in the end instead of a seemless, natural transition, i applied to grad school to get my Masters in Education, and will be attending full time in the fall. Things are very much in limbo regarding my job and home, which is why my posting will not be timely or reliable until one of two things happens: If the house sells, i will move, attend school full time, and be very pleased with that outcome. If the house does not sell, i have to figure out some way of attending the less than once weekly in-person night classes 190 miles away and yet still making enough money to cover the mortgage. That is going to be a very complex road to navigate, and so until that giant unknown is settled my contributions will be minimal at best.

However, i'm still reading voraciously, and whatever i learn from my chosen path that might help someone else figure out how to change careers without completely ending one and re-educating to start the next, i am more than willing to share.

Thank you for the invitation to contribute, and as soon as my life settles down i intend to fulfill my end of the bargain. And thanks to everyone else for being more reliable than me ;)

1 comment:

Mad Hatter said...

That's definitely a different, but interesting, career path! Are you planning on teaching after you complete your Masters of Education? I'd be very interested in hearing about the kinds of teaching positions you will be considering. Good luck with the career transition and house!