Sorry for being MIA. This was an unintentional hiatus from blogging. I started a new job last August. My plan B job. I have been there for eight months now. Reflecting on where I was a year ago, I can see I was in a bad place. Spinning my wheels, trying oh so hard to get the job I was convinced I wanted so much. Now looking back, I am so happy I did not get it. Not getting the “plan A” position was really a blessing in disguise. [I don’t like the word blessing, but it gets my point across]
I work for a small wellness testing company. And I love it. It’s ironic how my dream job did not materialize until I started there. But even though I really appreciate my new position, it has not been all smooth gliding with sunshine, butterflies, and flowers lining my professional path. It was kind of a rude awakening. But in a good, solid, growth-promoting way. Here’s what I’m talking about:
You know when you really want something [like a kid on Christmas morning], you just can’t wait for it to happen. So you go to bed on Christmas Eve… and you can’t sleep because you are just so excited. That’s kind of what happened to me. I was so excited to start my new position (new grown up title as a scientist, new real grown up paycheck, new full-time hours (I worked part-time as a postdoc)). I felt overwhelmed with the newness of the situation. And I stopped sleeping. So I would go to bed at night, and wake up around midnight, and that would be it. After a few nights of that, I started getting anxiety over not being able to sleep, so I stopped sleeping all together. For like the first four months. Oh that was awful. Especially when you know that your job is intellectual, and you must have your brain functioning properly. I remember I kept thinking how everyone in my company was looking at me, and I need to have my shit together. But how could I have had my shit together if I couldn’t even think properly. Oh my impostor syndrome was getting the best of me at that time.
Realizing the main differences between industry and academia was not as easy as I would’ve imagined/anticipated. My boss (the other PhD in the company) kept telling me that we “don’t have the luxury of academia to spend lots of time researching.” What he meant was you need to develop, market, and produce fast. No, you don’t have to apply for grant money, which may or may not be awarded, but for a self-sustaining laboratory that earns its own bread and butter, all new products must be pushed out in a very timely manner. So imagine my surprise when in grad school/postdoc, I had to develop a mass spec method for one or two analytes for detection in one [leisurely long-ish 20-30 min] run; here, I had to develop one mass spec method for the detection of fourteen structurally different small molecules, it had to be one injection (could not separate positively or negatively charged species into two runs), the run had to be 10 min or under (yikes, that is so fast!), and all of the materials used in the sample prep/extraction had to be reasonably priced to maintain low production costs. I felt like I was being asked to pull a white rabbit out of a magic hat. Yes, I spent a lot of time crying, and getting mentally beat up by my impostor-laden alter ego.
So why do I love my job so much you may ask? It was the support I received from my colleagues during the toughest times. I work with incredible people. They are kind, thoughtful, and considerate. They listened when I most needed it, they provided feedback, and helped me navigate challenging social situations. Oh and did I mention that they also stimulate my thirst for knowledge? I hope I can give back to them as much as I hungrily took in the beginning. I also appreciate the clinical aspect of my job. Everything my laboratory does has to do with direct application to our patients’ health. And no, I have not gotten the product on the market yet. It’s a work in progress. However, I am continuing to learn new things every day. And as many differences there are between industry and academia, the main underlying themes are continuous education and advancing knowledge on health of humankind. Isn’t that what we’re all in our career paths for?