Hi, my name is Mike, and I consider myself first and foremost a scientist. I am currently a Senior Systems Analyst at a non-profit institution. Quite a departure from the bench, eh? I was invited to share my career experiences, which haven’t been terribly typical. I hope that sharing my lessons learned will be useful for someone who is trying to plan their career.
To start, I would like to state that things never go according to plan! This is especially true with respect to planning your career. I think it is best to say that you can choose a general direction, but the exact path is shaped by different events and opportunities along the way.
After graduating with a bachelors in Biochemistry, I suddenly found myself with a degree, but without a career. What does one do with a Biochemistry degree? As a student, I was so focused on the tasks before me, which were primarily studying and making good grades, without seriously planning out what it was that I really wanted to do everyday for the rest of my life and how to get there. Well… I obviously did not know. I had failed to plan ahead. As I looked at my peers, I found that I wasn’t alone! (But that’s another story… for the moment, it’s all about me.)
So as a true Canadian (if you hadn’t already figured it out from my writing style), I sought out our most prominent industry, forestry, and looked for an outlet for my newly gained talents. Fortunately, I found Forest Products Biotechnology. This was an emerging field at the time, where biotechnology was being applied to solve real-world problems in the forestry industry. This was a great experience! For the first time I was involved in scientific research with immediately tangible end-points. After one year of course work in forestry, I qualified and was accepted into the graduate program at UBC.
While immersed in forestry, my awareness of it grew. I was exposed to some of the negative business processes and how mismanagement was adversely impacting the industry. I was concerned with career growth potential in a shrinking industry. Certainly, not the position I wanted to be in after investing 4-7 years in graduate work. Was the work fun? Definitely! But, with all this education, was I making any real impact to society? I was also thinking, “do I really want to go tree climbing in the boonies?!!” This career path was starting to lose its initial appeal.
This is certainly not non-profit research…. I have a couple of more turns before I get there. Please bear with me. I shall continue in the next blog…soon.