I'm a technician at a big ol' pharmaceutical company. A damn good technician, if I do say so myself.
My posts are presented as opinion and commentary and do not represent the views of LabSpaces Productions, LLC, my employer, or my educational institution.
We're doing a group post this week (hooray!) on "What would I be doing if I weren't doing science?" I thought I'd frame this question by first giving a little window into why it seems I ended up where I am, and then brainstorm how this whole thing might have turned out differently.
I grew up in the rural northern Midwest. Our television got three channels, each with varying amounts of static, so growing up, my brother & spent pretty much all our time outdoors. This was a pretty awesome way to grow up - DamnGoodBrother & I were always doing exciting stuff. We were both obsessed with dinosaurs at one time, and decided we were going to excavate the area near the pond to find dinosaur bones (because, obviously, these bones totally lived in our yard, and all we had to do was borrow Mom's gardening tools and we would clearly find them and become famous dinosaur hunters). We found "dinosaur bones" alright - actually massive boulders that we completely unearthed in our quest for dinosaur glory - and DamnGoodDad had to use his tractor to pull them out of the their holes and away into the woods, since we had become bored of the project and left gaping holes in the yard. We captured snakes from the woodshed and scared DamnGoodMom with them; we put tadpoles in a bucket and waited for them to turn into frogs (one of my first failed experiments, I think); we cataloged the painted turtles that lived near us by painting numbers onto their shell with spray paint and hoped we would recover them the following year; in short, all sorts of impromptu science projects.
Despite this, I don't think I ever considered a career in science (once I was old enough to consider careers). In high school, I had excelled in languages and social sciences, and I had planned to be a sociology major. Two major factors swung my decision to be a science major. Part one: there was a big, local scholarship that granted a full ride at one of several state schools, but was restricted to students majoring in the sciences. Part two: the matter of my high school boyfriend... two years older than me, he had gone off to one of these state school to major in genetics, and I was desperate to follow him (yes, yes, I can hear all of your eyes rolling). So the stars had aligned and I made some massive changes for a 16 year old sophomore: I unenrolled from the private high school I had been attending, and switched to a public high school. I signed up for my state's program that allows the top 10% of juniors and seniors at public high schools to take classes at the state university for free (initially designed for math geniuses who had exhausted their high school's math classes to enroll in university-level math; the state picks up the tab for 100% of tuition and books). I enrolled at the university with a full-time course load as a high school junior, and scheduled my classes to major in biology. After my two years at local state university, I applied for, and got, that big scholarship, and when I graduated high school I went to the same state school that my boyfriend was at, having made up those two scholastic years between he and I so that we would get our bachelor's degrees at the same time.
Amazingly, this all worked out for me - my high school boyfriend is now my husband of ten years; I am a happy camper in my big pharma job - but looking back, I can't say that I decided upon science for any reasonable reason.
What else might I have done? Possibilities, in rough order of likelyhood:
1. Sociology. And by that, I mean, I could have been an administrative assistant. I did it for a while (admin-ing, that is, not sociology; though you could argue that understanding the dynamics of an office & how to move deftly within them is a sociological experiment in and of itself), and was pretty good at it, and I know that a good admin is tremendously valuable. I liked being valuable & think I could have been happy doing that.
2. Training killer whales at SeaWorld. This was my very first dream job, decided upon after my grandpa bought me a book about whales. I think this was my whole career plan from ages 5 through about 10. At some point (probably about the time I was enrolling in college at a land-locked state school in the northern Midwest) this dream faded, but would have been pretty awesome had I followed through.
3. Researching behavioral dynamics of monkeys in Belize. My bachelor's degree is actually in zoology, not molecular biology or genetics. This meant I took courses in ecology & evolution & botany - you know, things completely alien to the standard mol/cell bio curriculum. One of the professors of my ecology classes did field work in Belize on several species of New World monkeys, and offered me a position on his next six-month trip there. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), this coincided with DrDGT and I finishing our degrees and moving to the East Coast, so I opted out. It sounds pretty great though, doesn't it? In practice, I think it may have meant "count how many times a monkey craps in a day", but at the time, I thought it was terribly glamorous.
4. International espionage. Obviously.
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Hehehe.. great post, I too would have been potentially involved with sea mammals.. good stuff :)
So would you do it all a second time, given the opportunity?
If I am not doing Science, I would have directed a movie with the first part of this post.
Wow! That's a really cool path that you've taken to get here. It's always interesting to see how other people choose their futures.
I would drop everything to go hang out with monkeys in Belize.
No rolling of eyes here, I think it's fantastic that you knew what you wanted at that young an age and had the guts to follow it. Things always have a way of working out for the best. I particularly like hearing peoples career path stories at the moment, since I'm in a period of career unrest, it's inspiring!
Rift, would I do it again? Well, it turned out so well for me (happy with job, happy with husband), how could I not?
Speaking of being happy, once upon a time I was getting my eyebrows waxed at a place near my house. The lady doing the waxing was a chain-smoking, Southie-accented, gaunt lady who had spent too much time in the sun. We were chit-chatting, and I mentioned that I had just had my 8-year wedding anniversary that week. "You can't have been married eight years," she said.
"Actually, yes," I replied, "I got married when I was 20".
"Twenty??" she gasped, "Oh my God!"
I smiled at her reaction, half-expecting a "that's so sweet" or some comment about high school sweethearts.
"Do you regret it?" she asked in a conspiratorial whisper. I was a little dumbstruck. "Umm.. no," I replied. Sheesh - what are they teaching people in their small-talk classes at cosmetology school nowadays?)
What a great story!
I also married my highschool sweetheart - the one I met in chemistry class and followed to a state college in Alabama. I think it works out more often than people would like to think.