Spring Your Scientific Career into Full Bloom

Today, the LabJourneys blog was able to sit down with Mrs. Adams. Mrs. Adams, who has had numerous job titles while working for one of the world’s largest chemical company, was kind enough to share her career story and advice. Here are ten up, ten down with Mrs. Adams.

What is your current position of employment? How long have you been at this position? How did your career start?

I have had various job titles throughout the course of my career. My newest job title, which is only several months old, is Senior Client Support Leader.  My primary job function is to lead improvement projects.

My career began conducting research in biochemistry at a small teaching hospital.  I found the job posting in a newspaper classified section. Today, this may seem hard to believe, but before the internet, most people would find jobs scanning the classified section. I still think finding a job is just as competitive as it was then as it is now.  During my interview, I still can vividly remember being shown a stack of 200 to 300 resumes. I had great grades and took a variety of biology courses in college which definitely help distinguish myself from other candidates. I felt extremely fortunate to be offered the job even though the pay was not great.

About the same time I applied to graduate school and began working on my Master’s degree. I got to know many of the scientists who worked in the labs. Through one of these connections landed my second job (with double the salary) at a mid-size specialty chemical company.  It was easy for me to make this change given the increase salary and a sense that an academic career in research was not the right fit for me.  During the next 4 years was a busy time in my life.  I worked full time and completed my Master’s Degree program at night and on the weekends.  An added benefit working for my new employer – the company paid for my degree.

My favorite job was in Environmental, Health and Safety. In that role, I got to focus on the ‘H’ for worker’s health and outside contractors and help implement product safety.

Where did you grow up?

I was born and raised in Philadelphia.

What early influences help cultivate your interest in science?

While I was in grade school and high school, both math and science appealed to me. Two of my teachers offered a lot of help and, with time, we became good friends. My parents also valued education – my father was a lawyer and my mother had a college degree in English literature so going to college was always the plan. As a researcher, I enjoyed the science, but I found I really enjoyed interacting with people and applying the science to help people and improve working conditions.

Having worked for a world leading chemical company, what have been the pros of working at such a large entity?  

A benefit for working at a large company is it can provide many opportunities for you to grow your career. At times, working at a large firm can be very political and is highly structured with multiple bosses. Communication skills are pertinent since different groups can be working on the same project and getting everybody on the same page can be bit of a challenge. Compared to smaller companies, a benefit of a large firm is it does provide you with the resources and support to solve problems. At any instance, I might be working on 4 or 5 projects. The opportunity to work 12 hours a day is always available. Another reality with working for a large firm is the potential that you might have to move your family.  Luckily, I never had to move. The firm does try to accommodate more established workers with deeper roots from moving their families but it is not necessarily a given.

What aspects of your job do you like the most?

I enjoy getting to talk to the people, solving problems, and the new challenges. My thirst for new challenges is probably the reason I have changed my job role about every 4 years.

As your life has evolved, how have your career goals changed?  When my kids were young, I was able to manage since my firm understood I had a family. However, depending on a company’s culture, you might be expected to do more than 8 hours a day and with a large company everything takes more time to complete.

I have found I still have the opportunity to do research and present at conferences papers, which I enjoy.

How do you balance your work versus home life?

There is no question that raising a family is very difficult. Balancing your personal and home life can be difficult, as well. My partner was very supportive and helped share the responsibilities. I had to teach my husband how to cook— luckily he was fast learner.

Who is your role model, and why?

My teachers in biology and organic chemistry were role models for me. My parents were also always very supportive. I always admired my First Supervisor who also was a working Mom, teaching, conducting research, and publishing her work. She had two kids and over a million dollar research grant.

What was the best advice you ever received?

Try to find your passion and learn to move on when you haven’t found it.

Anything else you would like to share?

Don’t sweat the small stuff. When I was young, I used to worry a lot. If you need to leave early, don’t worry about it. Work will always be there. Do not assume you know what another person might be thinking. Learn to trust your feelings and act on them.


Dr. Blog

Dr. Blog holds a PhD in chemistry and draws on his years of industrial and life experience to offer honest career advice for the advancement of young scientists.