“So you don’t want to be a professor?” A recap of the WiSE fall panel.

Published: January 27th, 2016

Category: Past News

This Fall our WiSE Panel discussion topic was So You Don’t Want to be a Professor?” – Exploring Other Career Paths in Science. We felt that the road to becoming a university professor is pretty clear and well explained, but what if you want to pursue a different career in science? Our panel discussion focused on various, somewhat less explored, careers in science. Thank you to everyone who came out to engage in this fascinating discussion!

The panelists

We had three wonderful panelists attend providing great insight and information to our audience.

Sara Gonzalez, Ph.D., Assistant University Librarian, Marston Science Library

Sharon Judge, Ph.D., Biosafety Officer, UF Division of Environmental Health & Safety

Sue Rocher, Software Developer, Infinite Energy

We first asked each panelist to provide some background information about themselves, especially focusing on what paths led to their current position. Sara mentioned that she was always interested in many things, even when she was pursuing her PhD in geophysics. She said that she realized she did not have a passion for research, and therefore, after earning her PhD she wanted to explore other paths. Her friend informed her about the position of an academic librarian. In this role, she is not what many people would typically picture as a “stereotypical” librarian, although she did mention that she does still need to know how to look up references, direct students to the right books, etc. However, she also has many other extremely fascinating responsibilities. Sara teaches a class at UF, helped develop the Made@UF App center, works extensively on 3D printing/scanning, and also performs her own independent research. Her position is a tenure-track position, which was very eye-opening to many of the audience members.

Sharon performed some research at a biotech company when she was an undergrad and this is when she first realized that she enjoyed research. She went on to earn a PhD in exercise physiology and earned a post-doc position at Boston University Medical Center. She was able to find a research job in a similar field, but found herself very unhappy in her work. Her family relocated to Gainesville where she saw a posting for the Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S) Biosafety Officer. EH&S works with all of the research labs at UF to make sure they are in compliance with rules. In addition, EH&S ensures proper disposal of biohazardous materials and other dangerous chemicals. She has been in this role for six years where her main responsibilities include training, answering questions about proper waste disposal, and enforcing guidelines. What she enjoys most about this position is that she is able to see the variety of research happening at UF.

Sue is a software developer at Infinite Energy. She works with approximately twenty other developers on front end technologies. She is also the president of her own company which was founded in 2003 with her husband. Her company aids the visually impaired by providing computer training. Her different interests have led her down many paths in her own career, to her own business, and now working with a small start-up company to provide intelligent legal solutions.

The questions

Each of them answered other various questions during the event such as:

  • Do you have any advice for finding job postings, especially online? Do you have any advice on how to know what different types of job are available?
  • Is your current position what you always wanted to do? If not, how has your vision of your “dream job” changed?
  • In your current position, can you describe how you attain a healthy work/life balance?

Below is a brief summary of each of their answers and some general advice they had for all.

Sara believes one of the best ways to find a job is to make a connection. She also mentioned that getting on listserves can really aid in hearing about other positions. She advised us to all look at job advertisements critically and not just passively. She also mentioned how she absolutely loves the flexibility she has in her position, especially since she has two children, which is something she greatly values in a career.

Sharon has realized how advantageous the benefits can be in a university setting even without being a professor. She loves her job although it might not be her “dream job” and continues to get a better idea of what she wants to do. Sharon echoed Sara’s sentiment about flexibility in her position, especially with children of her own. Her advice to all of us was to really think about the aspects that are most important to you in a position and take that into consideration with the job that you want to do. She also said not to be afraid to call and speak with employees at the current company to find out more about the position.

Sue provided many great ideas about different ways to hear about positions. She recommended attending career fairs, career development workshops, internships, networking, and local meet-ups in different fields as well as finding good mentors. She also mentioned that women need to have more confidence when they look at job postings. She encouraged all of us to think about what we do well and the experiences we have had and not to get too tied down in the details when applying for a job. Sue also talked about how she has used a combination of different jobs to fulfill all of her different passions.

It was obvious from the engagement throughout the panel that the experiences and the advice that these panelists shared with all of us resonated with many. Both Sara and Sharon are open to any additional questions. Their emails can be found below.

Thank you to all those that joined us for this wonderful panel as well as the panelists for their great insight and advice!

Dr. Sharon Judge
sjudge at ehs.ufl.edu

Dr. Sara Gonzalez
saragonz at ufl.edu



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