When I was little, I wanted to be a doctor. I grew up in an upper middle class family, so the message I got from my parents (my dad primarily) was that if you were into math and science, you became a doctor. And if you were into history and English, you became a lawyer. I was much more of a math/science person, as was my sister, so we planned to be doctors. My brother loved history, so he took the lawyer route. And he actually became a lawyer, like my father. I did not become a doctor. Neither did my sister.
I was pre-med in college. I started with a major in Biochemistry. Chemistry was my favorite subject in high school, but I added in the biology, so that it fit with the pre-med track. I switched to Molecular Biology mid-way through because I didn’t want to take any more math. After calculus 3, I’d had enough. Differential equations didn’t appeal to me, so I took more science instead.
The summer after my junior year of college, I went on a medical mission trip to Costa Rica with my anatomy & physiology professor. I hated it. Partly because I really didn’t like him, partly because I left my first summer as a camp counselor to go on the trip and I hated feeling like the child again instead of the adult, but mostly because I found the role of the doctor to be too impersonal. Some of it was likely the language barrier. I don’t speak Spanish. But mostly I just didn’t like how we spent 5 minutes with a patient, found out their symptoms, made a diagnosis and gave them some medication. I know that’s not how all doctors are. But suddenly I knew I didn’t want to spend the next X years in school for that.
I had planned to be a pediatric oncologist. I’m not sure I would have been able to handle it. I’m not a very emotional person, but one week at a cancer camp the year before had me crying as the kids boarded the bus at the end of the week. I knew many of them wouldn’t make it to the next summer, and that seemed way too unfair. So maybe it was for the best that I didn’t become a doctor.
I continued with my short term plans after that summer. I completed my major because it was too late to switch without needing more than 1 final year. I always knew I’d go to grad school, so it didn’t seem that important to get the right undergrad degree. I still joined the Jesuit Volunteer Corps after college as I planned, but I took a job at an after school program instead of a medical clinic. That’s how I ended up in Milwaukee.
That year was great. The community and experiences were much more important that my actual career path for a time. I enjoyed the kids I worked with, but I didn’t really think I had a future working with children, even after loving being a camp counselor for the two summers before. I was kind of lost. I knew I wanted to stay in Milwaukee, but I didn’t know what type of job to get. I didn’t want to use my degree and work in a lab. And I wanted more life experience before deciding on a grad school path.
Luckily one of my JVC support people told me about a job at a company that built software for after school programs run through the Milwaukee Public Schools. Her husband was an MPS employee, so he knew the owner of the company. I had a lot of computer experience with all my labs in college, but I was still unsure. I called anyway and got an interview. The position was for customer support, which I now know isn’t that difficult of a job to get if you have a college education and have used a computer before. I got the job. And I kind of hated it. I don’t have the patience for customer support. And I hate public speaking, so the training aspects were terrifying.
But I was fascinated with the technology and the development of the application. I started hanging around the developers, trying to learn more about what they were doing. And I started helping my boss better communicate new features and needs for the software. In short, I started doing the role of an IT Business Analyst without really knowing what that meant. I also started managing projects at the company and testing the software. Eventually I came to be the manager of the entire development department and all of the company’s applications. I got my MBA. It was great, but super stressful.
(Oh yeah, and somewhere in the middle of all of that I met and married my husband, Jim. But that’s another story.)
When I got pregnant I decided to leave the company and find a less stressful job. I was worried about being a mother and working full time. I thought I might not be able to handle it. I was working 60 hours a week at the time, so it was probably a good decision. I discovered that my job was really about 5 different jobs at other IT companies, so I picked Business Analyst as the part I liked best, and I got a job doing that at another company.
Since then I have been a BA at 2 other companies. And while I enjoy helping people solve problems with technology. I just don’t know if that’s what I want to be doing long term. Which brings me to the point of this post. Thanks for hanging in there with me.
When I grow up, I want to be a literary agent.
For a while I thought I might want to be a book editor, but I don’t know that I’m a good enough writer and story teller to do that. But I can recognize a good book when I read one. I would LOVE to help new authors sell their books to publishing companies.
Last week I finished reading a friend’s manuscript, and it was such an amazing experience. For one, I was blown away by how talented she is. Her story was so much better than I was expected when I agreed to read it. I wasn’t sure how complete it would be. But it was great! And two, I really loved sharing my thoughts on the book with her and helping her compare it to other books in its genre.
So, now I know what I want. But I don’t know how to get there. What now?
Have you made an industry or career change? Do you have any tips for me? Do you know anyone who’s a literary agent who might want to mentor me?