Saturday, November 8, 2014

Happy Birthday, Marie Curie - an inspiration to women physicists everywhere!

I realize that I am a day late with the wishes, but nonetheless, Marie Curie rocks.
She did what I could not.  She survived and thrived as a professional physicist.

Here's my story about that....

At age 21 and graduating from a local Jesuit University with a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree in Physics and a minor in Electronics, I began the search for an Engineering position that would make my Dad proud.

The first position I was offered and accepted taught me a few things.  

  • Never accept an offer unless you are sure it is a good offer for you. 
  • Of course, an acceptable  offer to you may not be acceptable to another.
  • Just because you studied your ass off for four years does not mean you will like the job that that four years will get you.
A few months into this first position, I stumbled upon the original job posting that listed the low end of the salary range well above the salary I was offered and accepted. I still feel that that offer was a good offer for me at the time, because I was just out of school, insecure, not so confident, and worried that NO offers would be presented.  

Physics is a man’s  kingdom, or so the men I worked with at this first position had me believing.  Luckily for them and me, I enjoyed the meager (to them) tasks they assigned to me.  I enjoyed talking with customers about product choices and options and order status rather than why the product they bought does not seem to work they way they think it should. As I was being mentored for these latter, loftier tasks,  I listened to coworkers explain to customers how inept they were for not realizing how our products should be used.  I quickly realized that this was not the job for me.

Fortunately, after a couple of years of suffering through that position,  an opportunity opened up in the marketing communications department.  My technical background combined with my love of writing  and interest in desktop publishing (which I had kept secret until this time) made me the perfect candidate.  I dove in and rearranged the company’s product catalogs and buyer selection guides, bringing them to new heights of user-friendliness.

Unfortunately, that was a one-time gig; once the new layout was in place, maintenance was not in the budget.  Or at least that was the excuse given for the reduction in work force that hit me upon my return from my first maternity leave. 

I was faced with a dilemma.  I had a degree I was not sure I want to use coupled with a need to find employment.  My husband and I had recently purchased a house counting on a double income. It was 1984.  Modern technology was limited.  Thankfully, my now ex-husband was/is a computer nerd/genius.  I taught myself word processing on an Apple IE.  I applied for technical writing positions over a three county area. When asked if  knew WordPerfect and WordStar, I nodded and batted eyelashes.  That was taken as a yes.  Thankfully they did not test.  I learned everything I needed to know within the first few weeks and confirmed to myself that I was computer literate. 

And the rest is history, sort of...

I no longer write for a living, but I used the skills I learned in that profession to move into localization coordination and then document control.  

I have come a long way, baby - and hoping to go further.

I intend to apply for a newly-created Change Coordinator  position in my current place of employment - if it ever gets approved and posted.

Wish me luck!

What is your career story?

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