5 pm, it’s about time to get ready to go home. What did I do today?
A long but productive conference call in the morning with an oil field customer in Louisiana and two colleagues from the marketing department about the new product. Then, I participated in the big safety review session with the joint venture representative from China. It’s about building a new plant in China. And in the afternoon I had a chance to run experiments in the lab with new formulas.
A question came into my mind, “on my first day of college, did I think my future job will be like this one?”
Hi, my name is Ruijia Wang. People call me Ray. I went to college in China. I graduated from Virginia Tech in 2010 with a PhD in Materials Science. Now I am working in a chemical company. It is a great pleasure to be a guest blogger here. I hope my “fresh” experience could give you some new ideas in your job search and your early career.
We used to call universities the “ivory tower” because they represent the highest level of knowledge and wisdom. When I was carrying out experiments in top level labs in Central South University, all that I could feel is simply PRIDE. I thought I would be a professor in the future.
In 2005, I came to Virginia Tech for a higher degree. My advisor, a member of the national academy of engineering, was a very successful scientist in both academia and industrial research. I had a chance to meet some very talented people from the industry. They are working in R&D, consulting, marketing, sales, and management. I even learned that a very large number of top researchers are actually working in industry. They opened my eyes. For the first time, I had the desire to explore the industry/business world.
The big opportunity happened in 2008. I was recruited as a PhD summer intern at Procter and Gamble because my hiring manager liked my presentation in the ACS conference.
P&G was absolutely an eye opener. I expected to see people with high degrees and shiny research experience there. What I didn’t expect was that most of the people are doing totally different research from what they did when they first joined the company. One woman was an expert on food processing when she started working, then moved to the packaging digital printing business, and now she is the leader of a large team on smart polymers in detergent. Those were big leaps in one person’s career path, and she was very successful in all these fields. I met many people who had similar experiences. Because the pace of the business is so fast, sometimes you have to adjust to a whole new field very quickly, especially team leaders.
In P&G, I had a completely fresh definition for leadership. True leadership in the modern tech-related business world means quick learning and adjusting your expertise, precisely identifying opportunities feasible to move into commercialization end, effectively motivating team members, maximizing the function of available resources, and finally enabling the delivery of the final results to both upper management and next business stages.
Of course, there are many successful people who have been working on only one field. My point is, it gives you so much variety of career opportunities in the industrial business world, even for a technically oriented person. In academia, this might be a slower process with fewer opportunities for change. When I was working on my research in a university or national lab, I was just hoping one day I might become famous for what I discovered, or, simply my research could make an impact somewhere. However, in the industrial/business fields, you really can see you are making a direct impact on the product and people’s lives. There is a very good chance one day you will say, “Mom, Dad, look this is the product I was working on!”
I think maybe because of my age and personality I do prefer a fast, competitive, and results-visible style of career environment. The industrial career looks like a good path to me.
I did get opportunities to work as a visiting scholar at a DOE national lab and as a postdoc at Virginia Tech, which were both great experiences. However, I settled on an industrial career.
Now, 50% of time I am working as a chemist in the R&D department, and for the other 50% of time I work as the business development associate for the US-China Joint Venture project. I will be getting involved with projects with South Asia and Europe soon. It is very fast paced, intense, and a lot of fun. I don’t feel bored at all.
I feel like I have a lot of stories and thoughts to share with you. I’ll see you every two weeks.