The Discomfort Puzzle – Career Advice #WiSTEMspotlight
I loved Calculus in high school; I also excelled in Chemistry. In comparison, Biology was not for me. I could not conceptualize how a cell consisted of so many parts. It took me years to realize my discomfort stemmed from how I process information – the subject that I had been so uncomfortable with in high school ended up being my love in university. Why? A senior level Fermentation Engineering course gave me the means and mechanisms to understand basic Biology. Suddenly, a world of opportunity opened up and I was no longer unsure of myself and my capabilities.
“…fear of the unknown is a reason used for justifying an unhappy career path.”
We have a tendency to discard subjects that cause discomfort. It’s important to identify what it is about the subject that makes us uncomfortable. For example, social influences can have an early impact on career choice. In my case, familial experience in pharma influenced my choices for postgraduate studies. In hindsight, I wonder why I didn’t take a more direct path to where I ended up. I thrived in my undergraduate years with programming languages and also during work placements involving software, but stubbornly pushed myself back into the world of Chemical Engineering because that was my major.
I measured my early successes by how closely I adhered to my field of study; I worried that in the long term, I would not be able to compete with people studying Computer Sciences and Software Engineering – fear of the unknown is a reason used for justifying an unhappy career path.
For a brief time, I was that person who became burnt out, locking myself within the walls of an unhappy career. On paper, I looked successful – but internally I was bored and overworked – my advice is to stand up to those fears and identify where the discomfort lies. Find like-minded people to create your social influences and start chipping away.
“On paper, I looked successful – but internally I was bored and overworked – my advice is to stand up to those fears and identify where the discomfort lies.”
Identify the risks – what will you lose?
Often the risk is financial or locative, but there are ways to take a step in the direction without burning bridges e.g. learning new skills; joining a special interest group or volunteering on a project. After a long career in the sciences, I turned to freelance website creation in my off-hours. I started attending workshops, conferences, and meet-ups featuring like-minded individuals; one night, I met the folks at BioRAFT. They were intrigued by my diverse background in academia, pharma, and software and they welcomed me into their crucible!
Diliny Corlosquet is Senior Product Manager at BioRAFT, the provider of integrated laboratory safety and research management software solutions. She holds two degrees in Chemical Engineering, BASc, MASc, and a Masters of Science specializing in regenerative medicine. She has also worked as a Front-End Drupal Web Developer. Diliny is a mother of two and lives in the Greater Toronto Area with her geek husband and two Labrador retrievers.