Challenges of wearing different hats

Adulting means wearing many hats. Personally, we wear the ‘family’ hat (and all its subcategories: daughter, mom, sister, wife…), the ‘friend’ hat, the ‘co-worker’ hat. Switching can be tough sometimes, but in the end they are all part of who you are as a person. Professionally, things can get a little trickier. In academia, I feel there is a progression from the ‘student’ hat, turning into a ‘researcher’ hat, with moments where you have to switch to your ‘mentor/professor’ hat. But again, everything is somehow related to your field of research, making the back-and-forth seem a little easier.

You can never have too many hats. Source: Flickr

When I left academia, I had to put on the ‘sales rep’ hat, what was an interesting challenge. Except that’s not a single hat, because I don’t work for one company, but represent a bigger one along with other smaller ones. We also started our podcast, and wearing the ‘recovering academic’ hat is something that brings me immense joy. Helping others to transition out of academia is truly rewarding. But even after leaving academia, I never wanted to let go the ‘science advocate’ hat. I kept wearing that hat mostly on Twitter, and when I was offered the opportunity to join the team it seemed I could finally do something towards making science a better place.

When I left academia I had some sort of ‘Twitter-crisis’ (along all other crisis associated with such a big change) and I wrote a blog post about it: Who am I on Twitter now? After almost four years, I can see clearly now that this was just part of the whole changing process I was going through. I cannot describe how much I have learned and grown after leaving academia. Little practical things like how a mass spectrometer works or general analytical chemistry knowledge – I am not a chemist, so I usually need to study before talking to customers! But more importantly, I learned to understand how a company works, all that’s needed to provide value, from hardware to personnel, but more importantly, money and profit.

I am a very different person from the one I was 4 years ago. I deal with far more diverse people, and many of those have completely different views and interests. In real life conversations are easier, because you always talk about specific topics with different people you meet. That’s just life. However, when it comes to building an online presence things get a little harder. Most of my Twitter followers are not interested in knowing about the latest mass spec technology. As most of my LinkedIn connections couldn’t care less about Plan S or my opinions about it.

Of course, you can always do a little bit of everything, and that’s what I try to do now. But I feel like when you try to do a little bit of everything, you end up doing it superficially, not bringing any real value. I’ve thought about starting a sales blog, with tips on how to choose the best instrument for your needs, and links to grant opportunities where professors could apply for funding. On the other hand, I’d simply LOVE to spend more time on Twitter to read all about how to increase reproducibility, Plan S, and Open Access. I just don’t have the time for any of those.

Exactly. The easier solution is to choose a main hat to wear and fully embrace it. But one of them is my work and the other is my passion. Tough choice.

10 years as a foreigner in the US

19554815_1305813366191815_4453863070170899218_nToday (January 26th) marks my 10th year anniversary of living in the US.

I can still remember the mixed feelings of that day: the tears of leaving family and friends behind, but with the suitcase full of dreams and expectations. I had previously spent one year in NYC as a visiting PhD student in 2003-2004, so the experience of living abroad was not completely new to me. But it was certainly different when you leave uncertain of when (if?) you are coming back.

I came to the US to work as a postdoctoral associate, and I had clear goals of working towards improving my CV and getting a tenure-track position in academia – back in Brazil. I’ve heard from several people back home how the United States was a great country to visit, but not really to live permanently. “Americans are not friendly”, “Americans are cold”, “Americans believe they are the best” – they said.

But that was not what I felt when I moved here. Yes, Americans are different from latin people. We are loud, warm, and *almost* too friendly. But Americans are friendly too! It’s just in a different way. Yes, Americans are ‘colder’ than people back home, but they give you space, and to be honest I love how people are less nosy about your life here. Americans don’t give unsolicited advice. Also, they don’t usually give unsolicited help. I guess that’s why people back home can’t understand. Americans are always willing to help – if you ask them to!

Of course I miss a lot of things from my country. Mainly family, friends, and food. Oh, and soccer! But I’ve made new friends, I’ve learned to enjoy new foods. Not sure I can ever be passionate about Football like Americans are, but I’ve learned to enjoy watching it as well. Modern technology makes it easier to keep in touch with family, and in a way our family is used to living in separate countries, as my parents are Chileans living in Brazil.

A lot have changed within those 10 years. I’ve moved out of academia. My goals and plans are way different than when I first moved. Sometimes it feels like I’ve been here forever, and others as I have just arrived. Because I’ve moved in 2008, 2017 was the first year I lived in a country with a republican president. For the first time in 10 years I’ve started to rethink my choices, and ask if it is really worth continuing here. Not even after my ‘divorce’, or when our lab closed due to lack of funding – none of these made me regret moving to the US. It was a rough year, but America is the country of diversity. And I am part of this diversity, and now I can’t wait to get my citizenship next year to be able to fight for a better country! This beautiful country that received me with open arms and that I am happy to call it ‘home’.

Do you know what’s your dream job? Try the Flower Exercise!

This is a blog post that’s been among my drafts for a long time, and I never got the time to finish writing it. But recently IBAM reminded me of this topic with a tweet, followed up by a poll:

YES! So much this. When you are in academia, you are deeply immersed in that environment and it is easier to see and understand what are the tasks and duties of most of the people working there. Once you decide to leave, there is a wide open world full of possibilities to explore. You can do so many things but it is super hard to decide for anything. There is also the feeling of failure, so of course, if you are leaving academia, it must be for a BETTER job, a job that makes you HAPPIER. That’s a lot of pressure to put on yourself!

Networking is important. The more you talk to several people, the more you understand the options that are out there. Most importantly, you start to quickly realize what you DON’T want to do. But sometimes the more you talk to people, the more confused you feel about what is what you really want for your next job. Keeping an open mind is crucial, but there’s a time when you need to stop and take a deep look at yourself. To help out with that, there were a couple of good suggestions among the replies to IBAM’s tweet, you should check them out. However, that reminded me of the flower exercise, suggested to me by my friend Aidan Budd a couple of months ago.

This exercise is described in the book What color is your parachute and it is a self-assessment exercise intended to help you know yourself, your strengths, and your preferences. Each petal is an aspect of your life that you should consider carefully:


I am not going to details about what to consider in order to fill up each petal, but you can easily get this information on Google (or ideally read the book!). I haven’t read the book yet, but decided to try to make my flower before reading it, and see if it changes afterwards. It was hard! Even though I thought I had a pretty clear idea of where I want to go, filling my flower was much harder than I thought it would be. It required a lot of soul-searching and prioritization to come up with a reasonable result. Here is what I came up with:


Now that I have a pretty good idea of what I want, it’s *just* a matter of finding, applying, and getting the dream job! Of course, if life would be that easy. But knowing what you want is a very important part of the process. But keep in mind that it is easy to feel stuck and hope that magically the *right* opportunity will come to you. That reminds me of a podcast episode from the Hidden Brain, and a blog post I’ve wrote about it.

People complain that they don’t know what to do with their lives, and they want to find the right pathway (that is already there, and we just need to find it). What people usually don’t realize is that there’s not only one right destination, there are many.

Don’t wait for the dream job to start applying. Especially if you are in the process of leaving academia, the actual tasks of a given job may be way different that the add description. Some jobs allow some flexibility and may be adapted according to your skills. So maybe you can transform that position into your dream job along the way. Or use it as experience for the next one!

And don’t forget, as we always say in our Recovering Academic Podcast “your next job doesn’t have to be your last job. And it probably won’t. And that’s okay“. Good luck!


“Saw things so much clearer”

It’s been more than a month since I’ve been to the SFN meeting. My first SFN meeting was in 2002 in Orlando, and since then I’ve only missed one in 2013 when I had visa problems. Last year I was not in academia anymore, nor doing anything related to neuroscience, but decided to attend regardless because I simply love this meeting and it’s a great place to see old (and twitter) friends! Well, that’s what I used to tell myself. This year I decided to attend to the SFN meeting last minute. Filled my itinerary with people I wanted to catch up with, but this year I added some (potential) customers as well. After all, I’ve been working on my *new* job for a year and a half, and I feel way more confident about all the chemistry and products now. Sales it’s all about relationships, and I know that being a people person is a big advantage that I have.

But as days of SFN passed, I started to feel so… happy for being there! Not only because of friends or fun, but because… I wasn’t sure exactly why. Did I miss academia? After talking to a couple of people about dept problems, grants, and funding – I knew that I didn’t miss that part of academia. I didn’t miss the specific research I was doing either, but it took me several days to understand my feelings. I’ve spent some time talking to people that do Science Outreach and Science Communication. I attended to the scicomm pannel. During SFNBanter I’ve met amazing people that made me realize Science can be so much bigger than an experiment, or any particular research! 

Immediately after SFN I had a training meeting for my new job. It was a stressful one, after the elections and with the certainty to have to deal with a lot of republicans there. But it wasn’t that what made it a not so nice meeting. It was the contrast of people, of ideas, of views! At some moment I felt like I swallowed the bird (sorry for The OA reference), and I finally saw things so much clearer. What I miss is Science, as a whole, under a broad perspective. There are so many problems with the way Science is funded, published, and communicated to the public. I feel there are so many ways I could make a difference and help Science to be a ‘better place’. During this past month I’ve done a couple of informative interviews that helped me see what’s out there and what type of job I could pursue to go this route. I feel some job where I’d have to meet people and advocate for science would be ideal, but there are other Science Outreach options that I’m attracted as well. Right now let’s say this is a ‘work in progress’ and I’m hoping the right opportunity will eventually show up, if I’m opened to it.

As we say in our Recovering Academic podcast “your next job doesn’t have to be your last, and it probably won’t”. I’m not sure where I’ll go after my current job. I’m not even sure IF I’m going somewhere after this. But right now, I just feel that life can be bigger and better. It’s not that I don’t like my job, but I feel I want to do more. I want to make a difference. And that’s my goal for 2017. Advocate for Science. In the meantime, I’ll keep doing it through Twitter, through our #DiversityJC, and even with our #RecoveringAcademic podcast, in a way. But I’m looking for alternatives, and hopefully I’ll find my new path. And be happier!

Ps. Title of this post inspired by Pearl Jam, Reviewmirror

We are superheroes – Aleppo #GivingTuesday

I had the pleasure to meet Pierre Le Corf around one year ago. It was a weekday, and I went to a bar to meet a friend for a quick beer. As I was going to leave, another friend introduced me to Pierre – and I stayed there talking to him for another two or three hours. I’ve never met anyone like that in my entire life. His kindness and desire to help people is something extraordinary. Listening to him talk about the problems of the world as a whole, and how he fights against them was truly inspiring.

Everyone has a story, a life knowledge to share. We have so much to learn from each others.


Pierre is an humanitarian who sold everything he owned  and started going around the world listening to stories from marginalized communities and posting them in a blog. After a while he founded We are superheroes, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness and the self-confidence of marginalized communities through storytelling. You can read more about his journey here. On April 2016 he went to Aleppo, what was supposed to be a short visit, and has been there since, helping people. I only met him that very first time, but we became friends on Facebook and I kept following his journey through there. Although he was recently accused of being a propagandist Assad, he is still standing strong, helping civilians affected by war.

I remember thinking that I should write a blog post about my experience of meeting him. It didn’t happen back then, but I have been thinking a lot about Pierre during these last few days, while reading and listening to the battle happening in Aleppo right now.I remember my last words to him were “Thank you. People like you make this world a better place”. Today is #GivingTuesday, and my donation will go to his organization and his amazing work.  I hope you can do the same, and help sharing his story.

Heavy Heart on times of hate

It’s been four days since the Orlando shootings. There are still tons of articles and news and interviews about the subject. Despite having had a lovely Sunday and not being able to catch up with the news, on Monday the news hit me like a brick. My heart was so heavy and I felt like I could break down in tears any moment. I was asked by a friend what kind of a shock it was for me and I really didn’t know the answer. I just felt pain and wasn’t sure why.

Just a couple of days before the shooting, I went out to catch up with a friend that’s a Trump supporter. He is a very nice person, and although I knew he was leaning towards Trump, I thought we could still be friends (well, I still do, in a way…). I believe his speech was moderated by the fact that he cares about me, but I could still listen to the anger and the hate in between the lines, specially when he was talking to others in the group. But listening things as “Diversity is nonsense and doesn’t bring anything good to anywhere” or “Now if I care about the rights of my kind, I’m called racist” were really tough to swallow. That whole conversation would make me angry if I didn’t know that person so well, but in fact it just made me sad.

This morning I read the Storify of a Trump rally in Greensboro. Two things cough up my eye:

That’s it. This last incident was result of so much racism, misogyny, homophobia, and just plain ugliness. I’m not gay, but I’m a latina. I’m an immigrant. I’m a woman. It causes me extreme sadness to think that there’s this amount of racism and hate among us. Even if Trump doesn’t win the elections, Trump supporters will still be out there, with their hate, their anger, and their racism against anything that’s “different” from them. Even if some gun control regulations are made, those people will still be there. Hating different people just like me. 

Things like this make me wonder about my security in this country. It makes me question my decision of moving to this country to begin with. And it just makes me sad.

A day in the life of Doctor_PMS

So this post is my contribution to The New PI‘s amazing idea of sharing “A day in the life” redux: what do scientists outside of academia do? My chosen day was last Monday, November 2nd. I wrote down everything that happened during my day and later on added some more details about it. Because I deal with many people and at recurrent times during the day, I’d refer to them as Professor 1, Professor 2, etc…

8:00 am: radio alarm starts. 8:10am cellphone alarm starts. Yes, you read it correctly. Most of my territory is on central time, so I cannot really start working until 10am my time… Lucky me, such a nocturnal person! Around 8:30 am I finally get out of bed and pick up my personal computer to check personal email, Facebook, Twitter, etc…

9:00-9:20 am: As I work from home, I don’t need to get all dressed up, so I just go to my office (in my living room) and turn on work computer. Check work emails, connect to the firewall, open my CRM. That’s where all inquire for quotes, database of current opportunities and orders are.

9:20-9:35am: As we are in the beginning of the month, I go over what’s likely to be sold this month and send a forecast email to my regional manager.

9:35-9:45am: My Boss asked for a list of all orders I sold belonging to the molecular line. There’s going to be a 2x commission rate for all those! So I go through my system and send him the list. Yay!

9:45-10:35am: Receive a new lead. Professor 1 needs a quote for a detector to add to an existing HPLC. Once you accept the lead in the system, you create an opportunity and need to fill tons of fields. Forecast day. Market code. Product expected value. Found detector but the existing HPLC is discontinued. So I called sales assistance to ask if new detector is compatible with old HPLC. They answered my question and made me download a tool in which you can add equipment specifications and check for compatibility. Cool!

10:35-10:55am: Received a bunch of webinar invitations, accepted and moved them to my google calendar. As everyone I work with is remote, we have tons of webinars that we need to attend.

10:55- 11:20am: Professor 2 asked for a better price on a quote I’ve sent, so I’m adding a 25% discount, instead of 20%. Done and sent!

11:30-11:50am: Professor 3 sent me an email, telling me his old LCMS system went completely down and he needs something ASAP. He runs it with another company’s software and wants to know if his software could run a new LC from our company. I tried to look it up, but couldn’t find the answer online, so I forwarded the email to my HPLC specialist.

11:52-12:20pm: Email request from Professor 4 wanting to see the pricing on the HPLC system I quoted him with manual injection and a degasser.  Also, specifications on the UV detector. Done!

12:23-1:15pm: Lunch break. As I’m trying to lose some weight, I just walk in the kitchen and fix myself a big salad. Coffee and a little lazy time after.

1:15-1:20pm: Check for my follow up email folder. Draft email to new professor 5 about the GC quote I sent while back and invitation to discuss different equipment equivalences with the GC specialist. However, wanted to give the GC specialist a heads up first and discuss arguments in the email. Called him and left message.

1:20-2:00pm: HPLC specialist didn’t write me back, so I just called. System I quoted would not work with professor 3 existing software. We have 2 options: quote a brand new one (more expensive) or demo one. Send email to professor asking his preference.

2:00-3:30pm: Sales training webinar

3:30-3:50pm: Called regional manager to set up details about the lunch and learn that I’m organizing here at the University. Yay, they agreed to pay for it, and it’s going to be awesome!

3:50-4:15pm: GC specialist called me back! We discussed details about quote for professor 5, finished draft email and set up a call meeting.

4:15-4:35pm: In the meantime, professor 3 told me he rather go with a brand new equipment rather than refurbished. Prepare new HPLC quote and dig into my company brochures to justify why this new quote is so much expensive.

4:35-5:15pm: Made a few phone calls to professors with coming opportunities in my system. Most of them didn’t pick up the phone, but talked to one that told me they were still waiting for funding. Update this in my system and check emails one last time.

5:15pm: Done with the day and ready to go to the gym!

So today was a busy day, and I didn’t have extra time to make phone calls to people in my system. Other days are calmer, and I spend more time chitchatting with researchers about their research and future plans. In spite of working from home, I’ve been pretty busy and got used to the new routine. I hope this post was helpful and feel free to contact me if you want to talk more about leaving academia!