Who Does That??? (And other ramblings on my crazy decision.)


Earlier this week I got together with a friend and former colleague (waving!) who relayed to me something that a former colleague said about my departure: “She left academia to go work for company xyz. Who does that?!?” (Sorry, friend…it is too funny to not share!)

Yeah…who does do that? I (or anyone who would do the same) must be really crazy. Let’s think about what I might have gained by leaving academia…

  • I work from home. Always. My commute is about 25 feet.
  • And BTW…that means I can work from anywhere. Home is where I want it to be, not where I have to be for some job. (SPOILER ALERT: GET ME THE FUCK OUT OF THIS GODFORSAKEN TOWN!!! (coming soon to a new state near you))
  • I work from about 9 am to about 4:30 pm. The end.
  • No really. I don’t work on weekends. I don’t work nights. My company does not expect me to. In fact, I was specifically told NOT to. That was time for family and for recharging from the day.
  • I came to realize that I have a wonderful husband and great kid because I actually get to see them and spend time with them without feeling guilty that I am not at work!
  • I have not been required to travel for work since my orientation 2 months ago. As an academic, I was on travel about 50% of the time and most of it was across country to give a 20 minute talk.
  • Ever heard of video telecons? My new company has! Because why waste all of that time and money giving a talk that could be done on the internet?
  • I am still producing things! Granted, what I am producing is not a paper that I will fight with people for a year and a half just to get published only for no one to read. No. In two months at this company I wrote code that was just launched to 20+ million users. I will call that “job satisfaction”(TM).
  • And when I get tired of producing the things I have been assigned, we have hack weeks like next week where I get to work on anything I want to. True, it is not the same intellectual freedom as academia. But I am also not waiting a year to work on what I want based on whether or not it gets funded.
  • One benefit I have with this company is unlimited paid time off. And they expect you to take vacations. And not feel bad for it. And not take your computer with you, check email, etc.
  • Because they are a tech company, they do not use email. Because email sucks and is a piss poor way to communicate. (Really, they don’t. I have gotten less than 5 non-automated emails that I actually had to read since hiring on.)

That is just a list to get started, but I will relay a story about that “producing things” to end this post. The company had its big marketing event this week where a bunch of new products were launched. Of the three biggies, I was working on one of them. Literally, I have been here for 2 months and I got thrown into the task of writing serious code that was just deployed to 20+ million users. I did not go to the actual event (because hello? video telecon anyone?), but watched it online. In particular, the CEO and a few others described the new products to everyone in their wonderfully-graphic-ed (is that a word? it is now.) presentations that were utterly perfect in every way. During the description of the thing that I worked on, they flipped the switch behind the scene, sending it live to all users.

I know I am going to sound like a big sap, but I actually cried when they did this because I was SO HAPPY! I have spent the past 15 years of my life working on important problems in nuclear security for the government. I wanted to work on these problems because they matter and I thought I could contribute and make things to make the world a safer place. But in 15 years, not a thing that I did made a damn bit of difference to anyone. That isn’t because my research was not good. It was because it was too hard to get people in the government and even in academia to look at the problem in new ways and to do new things.

And yet here I am, just 2 months into this new job and I have already made something that 20+ million people will get to use. The power of that moment in my life is not something I can describe.

So tell me again why I am crazy for leaving academia.

Written on October 13, 2017