Dear Janet in high school:
As you approach the end of high school and head off to college, there are some things I wanted to share with you that I have learned over the years to help you navigate the next 30 years of your life.
School work came easily for you through high school but college will test you in many ways – academically and socially. You will need to work much harder in college and you will struggle to succeed. Don’t give up on wanting to pursue a career in science but also don’t be afraid of taking a slightly altered path if you want to explore a different science degree. Making a different decision doesn’t mean you failed – you might find a better fit. Your start in chemistry will just be a foundation for the career you will build on it. You will take many different roads in your profession and you will find lots of ways to apply your technical degree in the business world. Your choice to pursue a graduate business degree will be one of the best decisions you will make. The combination of a science background and business degree is valuable and will open up all new opportunities for you.
Consider your options carefully at the major turning points and don’t make rash decisions, but once you choose a direction don’t keep second guessing yourself. There are decisions I made years ago that I still think about but need to just accept and stop analyzing. Work hard, but stop thinking you have to be perfect – you get frustrated with yourself trying to achieve perfection so try to relax about things and stop putting too much pressure on yourself.
Your independence is a great quality and it will allow you to experience new things. A spirit of independence means you will have the confidence to explore new places and do things on your own. Once you start traveling for work you will get opportunities to go to a lot of interesting places – from foreign countries to obscure locations in the US. Take the time to enjoy learning about these new places and interacting with many different people. Keep a travel journal – there are so many interesting adventures you will have and you should write them down!
Although your independence can open you to new adventures be careful not to let it overtake you and shut you off from others. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. It’s good to try to solve problems yourself but there are people in your life who love and support you and want to help. Cherish your friendships and your family – they will get you through the challenges that are coming your way in the future.
As I approach my 50th birthday and look back on where I have been and what I have been through, I know all these experiences have made me who I am today. I don’t know where life will take me going forward but the things I’m telling you to help in your early years – I am still telling myself now. Time flies as you get older so stop wishing it away by just wanting to be older – it will all come together in time so live in the moment and enjoy life as it comes.
Be well, have fun, and smile.
Janet – 30 years later
Janet is a Global Product Manager for Spectro Scientific, an analytical instrument company specializing in oil and fluids analysis equipment. She graduated with a BS in chemistry from the University of Vermont and an MBA in marketing from Seton Hall University. Janet has held positions as a chemist, applications specialist, technical service manager, sales representative, product manager and business development manager. Most of her career has been in the chemical industry. Her business travels have taken her to almost every state in the US and 15 different countries. She enjoys travel, skiing, hiking, running, sailing, kayaking and paddle boarding. She is very proud to be involved with the Science Club for Girls.