It’s never too late for a “professional renaissance”

I remember the exact moment I figured out what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I was in my sophomore high school chemistry class and my teacher said, “Do you see that book sitting on your desk in front of you?  It is moving right now – yep, all the molecules that make up that book are actually moving right now.” That concept blew my mind and I knew immediately I wanted to become a chemist and learn everything there was to know about molecules.

After studying chemistry for nine years and working as a professional chemist for 12, my spark for chemistry started to wane. As you might imagine, however, a career as an organic chemist is pretty specialized and making a change is a rather daunting task. It was hard for me to even imagine a single other job opportunity for me to explore. Even if I could imagine changing roles, I had invested a lot to get where I was in my field. I was well-established, firmly planted on the career ladder and steadily climbing. To change fields, would require me to move back to a bottom rung and with three kids at home, I wasn’t sure that was an option. 

Then someone asked me if I had ever heard of GSK’s R&D Esprit Leadership Development program. I knew of GSK, but I had never heard of the Esprit program, so I went home that night and did what any good scientific researcher would do; I Googled it! Turns out Esprit is a three-year program aimed at taking scientists who have worked in the pharmaceutical industry and have an extensive depth of knowledge in a certain area and increasing their breadth of knowledge across the industry in order to develop better,  more well-rounded leaders. Although I hadn’t exactly known what I was looking for, after reading the description I knew this program was it! And my timing was perfect... GSK accepts applications for the Esprit program only one time per year and the application deadline was a full 22 hours away.    

Joining GSK’s Esprit program was the best career choice I have ever made. In the past two years, I have gotten involved in areas that I previously had not been exposed to and I’ve excelled in roles that I didn’t know existed. I’ve gained confidence and realized that I am a quick learner and have transferable skills.

Today, I will be moderating a panel at the Pennsylvania Women’s Conference called “Reviving Your Career.” This panel consists of a group of women who have experienced a similar career renaissance. I’m excited to kick-off the panel with some advice based on my experience, but in case you can’t attend here are my five tips for women to achieve a professional renaissance:

  1. Follow your passion - do something you believe In
  2. Don't be afraid to jump from one career ladder to another
  3. Use your internal and external networks
  4. Have a mentor and be a mentor
  5. Find strong support from your family