A student at a vocational High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma asked me three questions today about my career choices as he ponders his’ in Marine Engineering
1. If you had to do anything over, related to your career or education, would you do anything differently?
2. What advice would you give to me as someone interested in pursuing a career path similar to yours?
3. How many coworkers or workers do you work with on average in your job position?
that I answered as follows1. No.
2. Follow your passions; do what you enjoy doing; try new things; don’t be afraid to make mistakes, but learn from them; find people who share your passion and try to work with them.
3. It varies, let me add it up the people I had direct contact with the last 10 days; 2 scientists in Sweden plus 2 scientists in England, plus 2 scientists in Oregon, plus my 2 PhD students, plus 3 UDel colleagues all to prepare for two expeditions this summer to Greenland and Alaska; plus 3 UDel administrators, plus 1 undergraduate in a class, plus 5 professors on a budget committee to teach and help run the university, plus 1 person in California (fund-raising), plus 1 colleague in New York (writing papers), plus 2 engineers in Massachusetts (instrumentation), plus 1 sales manager in California (cable design), plus my wife for moral support, stress relief, and discussions … that adds up to about 26 people.
As your first question did not really count, I do add a personal comment on careers and career choices:
We all have only one past that we cannot change, but the future is always wide open with infinite new possibilities, new opportunities, and new people that all too often we cannot imagine or plan for ahead of time. For example, I grew up in a family in Germany where NOBODY on either my mom’s or my dad’s side of the family ever finished High School. As a result I had no idea what one does with High School (I wanted to become a paratrooper at 16, an anarchist at 18, a student at 20, a nurse at 21, etc.), what one does with a university degree, what one does after a PhD, etc. I always enjoyed reading, learning, and traveling, but it was unimaginable to me that this could lead to a job or career. Thirty years later I am still in awe and stunned by it. I did neither know nor touch computers until I left Germany for Britain at age 26. Now 90% of my work is writing and coding on a range of computers. Most things along my specific career path happened by chance and pluck, some bad, but mostly good. This is why item #2 above is so important. Passions and people also change over time, and so do we.
Thank you for the questions, Hunter.