From PhD Chemistry to Program Manager at a Tech Company
A story of how I went from heterocyclic compounds to scrum meetings.
I attempted to write this story several times over the last year, but it never left my drafts. Reading about other people’s journeys helped me manage my non-linear and interesting career path, and I hope to be able to do the same for others by publicly documenting about my learning and career journey.
I want to This particular story will probably be done in parts so here we go.
In 2016, I decided to begin a PhD program at Covenant University in Nigeria after receiving two rejections for scholarship funding to pursue a PhD at the Technical Institute of Physics and Chemistry, CAS in Beijing, China, despite having been accepted. Fortunately, I received US-NIH funding for my program as well as research visits to any country that will further my research goal.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from this period of my life, it’s to keep going. Cast your nets across several oceans.
At the time I started a PhD program, I was very much interested in scientific research and lecturing (I wanted to change the perception of the “Nigerian” lecturer) in academia. I was working with a research group that was working on the development of personalised medicine and working on new treatment and control for malaria (you can read about their work here). I said this to say I was doing ground breaking work that I actually enjoyed.
However, shortly after starting my PhD, I read a book about volunteering and decided to look for avenues to volunteer for do so. A friend sent me a link and I applied to volunteer because of the proximity to my Uni. I could just breeze in and out of the lab to do what I had to do(that’s what I thought). On the second day of the program, the Programs and Events Manager had to leave unexpectedly for work and I was appointed to take over. If there is a narrator, this is where she will say “She had no idea her world as she knows it is about to change”. I went on to volunteer at this organisation for three years. While I was doing all of this, I just did it because I enjoyed doing it and it is truly one of the best experiences I had.
In between my four years of doing a PhD, I volunteered with Eagles HOPE Foundation(Program Manager, Curriculum Development and Implementation), She Innovators(Program Manager), Atlas Cove Intervention and started an initiative where I and the best team tutored students in public secondary school preparing for major exams like BECE and WAEC.
I cannot remember the exact moment the shift happened but I know when it was time to start applying for a PostDoc (a position that allows a PhD continue their training as an independent researcher and gain experience that will prepare them for their academic career), I found myself rewriting my CV to showcase my Program Management experiences.
What I learnt during this period is that it is necessary to find ways to apply yourself. As someone who likes schooling and reading books, applying all you have learnt through internships, volunteering and even traveling is the best way to truly find yourself and apply all you keep learning.
Now, the journey to transitioning from PhD to industry is where the “koko” of the story lies. In my next post, I will highlight lessons, failures and steps that helped to transition successfully.
Till next time.