Know thyself. It’ll change.
I had a bad feeling about my PhD since day one. I should have listened to myself, but I was told that a PhD was necessary for an industry career and that academia was freer. My average working day was 11.5 ± 0.7 hours; my PI would dismiss any idea I had and micromanage every experiment. I felt stuck and lonely. Friendships and dates would end for my irritability. I was screaming for help to the deaf. My mother thought I just needed more money.
I didn’t want to celebrate my graduation. I didn’t feel proud, and even today I feel I had been defrauded. Then I turned my frustration into action. It took me two years to figure out what I wanted to do every day. From there things moved fast: I first landed a post-doc in my field of choice and soon thereafter I moved to industry, where I had wanted to be, which was much freer than the academia had ever been.
A secondment to Germany was key: no micromanagement, free hours. I was leaving the lab earlier, caring about my body, exercising. I tattooed 継続 進化, “continuous evolution”, an unchangeable reminder that life is all about change. Back in Italy, I joined swim classes and decided I’d follow my choices, not my PI’s orders. I found teams with similar scientific needs, jointly set up experiments and failed badly until it worked.
To finally move to industry, I had to figure out what everyday duties I desired. I looked for those job descriptions and reached out to people with that job title; asking questions and for feedback, giving comments and ideas, tracking conversations and setting up alerts to follow up. Meetups led to collaborations, and discovering gaps and ways to fill them.
I got where I am now by building up on failures and collaborations. For the first time, I feel lucky. The dread is not completely gone; at times I melt down over small things, or I feel I don’t belong. But I am who I want to be; I do what I want to do.
I know myself, I’m in continuous evolution.