Leaving Academia: A Surprising Career for Scientists – Jasmin’s Story | Life In Tech by Bessy Tam

Leaving Academia: A Surprising Career for Scientists – Jasmin’s Story

Published on 11 January 2021 by Bessy Tam | Filed in Testimonials

Jasmin was on the PHD track as a neuroscience but didn’t enjoy her career because she:

  • Couldn’t see the direct impact of her work
  • Was contributing to someone else’s work instead of her own
  • Lived on a PHD / Academia paycheck in New York, away from her family in California
  • Didn’t want to be stuck in one industry and path

She found Bessy through a post on Tech Ladies in a Facebook group, and immediately jumped on the opportunity to have a free strategy call. The rest was history

They worked together in Bessy’s “Resume Revamp & Right Role Program” to:

  • Debunk all the myths out there: making sure Jasmin wasn't applying to 100+ jobs a week and reading dozens of articles a day
  •  Translate her academia background into relevant experiences and terminologies
  • Focus on her existing skillsets instead of getting new certifications or degrees under her belt
  • Set her goals and ideal work environment
  •  Network with people the right way that actually gave her results (instead of reaching out to hundreds of people and not hearing back)
  •  Choose the right role
  • Create a system that Jasmin could exactly track her input and results instead of blindly sending resumes into a black hole

In the end, she was able to land a dream job in DoorDash as a Launch Operations Specialist in the New Verticals Industry.

With this dream job, Jasmin is also able to: 

  • Successfully land this dream job during COVID-19
  • Be in a team with a manager whom she loves and respects
  • Move back to California from New York, closer to her family
  • Grow her technical and data skillsets through coworkers in this dream company
  • Get a better work life balance
  • Be in a dream company where she sees herself growing in for 4+ years
  • Be in a dream company that support internal mobility, allowing her to eventually moving into the Product Management and/or Robotics arms too, truly leveraging her academia, data, and neuroscience background 

Want to hear more? I'll leave it to Jasmin to tell you her experience

Challenges

I'm Jasmin, and around early, mid 2019, I realized I wanted to branch out of my then job as a researcher in a neuroscience lab, and to explore other venues outside of the industry. The main problem was that I had been doing neuroscience in my internships and as a main job for years.

I have never like explored or thought about exploring any other industries until I felt the pressure to change.


What I've Tried

Initially, when I tried making that pivot, I did the traditional work of trying to apply to an upwards of 15 applications per day, having a main cover letter and refining it to fit the goals and needs of the company.

Then I was just waiting for a response from this.

 I was able to land a couple of interviews, but I could never go to the final round, which is troubling because the hiring managers at the interviews would often like, you know, tell me that they're, they're very impressed with the work and they're very, they're happy to see me there, but I couldn't tell if that was sugarcoating or if they really wanted me there.

So then the problem became, "how do I understand who my competitors are and how my skills land in relation to those competitors?"

At the time, I was also trying to do coffee chats, but they were very unguided and they didn't lead up to a long-term relationship. 

How Jasmin Found Bessy

And then suddenly I looked through tech ladies, which is a form on Facebook, and that's where I found Bessy Tam's post of like advertising her coaching skills.

 I've seen a lot of coaches post their work on tech ladies before, but the reason why Bessy is so different is because she was actually advertising one for articles that broadcasted the strategy that she encourages people to use.

Working with Bessy - Resume Revamp & Role Fit

The biggest change was focusing on a core set of companies and increasing my reach outs to understand that initial problem of where new, my current skills lay in contrast to other competitors.

But by keeping that number low, I was able to like dig deeper and really evaluate the true currency of the culture fit.

I think once I branched out beyond my neuroscience in domain industry or  domain knowledge, that's when I got more positive response.

Through Bessy, I was able to actually  work through an Excel spreadsheet to log in my hours and hold myself accountable. 

I think what Bessy does is reminding me to stay on track or  forcing me to stay on track. I think I have a habit of thinking about  how glittery a potential idea is, and then I'll get carried away.

But she reminds me , "does this align with your goals or is this just another fluffy idea that you want to pursue?"

The initial write-ups where we wrote out our goals and what the top three priorities are, was my saving grace throughout this process,. 

Having those priorities written down that gave me the confidence to go towards companies that are more aligned with my own personal goals.

Working with Bessy - Having an Open "Partner in Crime"

It was really helpful to have someone who's a professional. Who's also a woman who was also like an immigrant.

I think being able to be vulnerable with Bessy and just to state out my mistakes in front of her allowed me to understand, what's the more polished version of me that I should aim towards to be?

I had such a hard time giving up my research language and my specific niche jargon to relay that information to other people. So that's why I would often go back to Bessy and ask, "okay, is this language the language that you use accessible for all people? Does it showcase the impact that I made?"

It  forced me to narrow down my words within one sentence to make it stand out. I

Working with Bessy - Getting "Insider Secrets" & Networking the Right Way

Doing the resume with somebody else is really helpful because you're able to think outside of your head, it really ended up being like the blueprint.

I realized like certain companies have certain roles that they add as needed. And then there are other companies that routinely open up their roles every year.

Understanding how other companies are planning things out helped.

Bessy gave me an outreach script to network, and this script helped me to prepare for my informal chats or coffee chats by structuring what to research for. It guided me to jot down three things that the person I'm meeting have done. 

This helped me so much because it helps you have a log of, "do I want to keep targeting the same types of professionals or do I want to shake things up?"

This process is like riding a bike, in the beginning it's like using training wheels when I used the script. Then once I became more competent, I would still fill out a script before each chat.

But then I just looked at that script as a reference and it allowed me to build more rapport with the person I reach out to build back and forth.

This is something like, I never knew how to do in college. Like in my undergrad experience, people only went to medical school or graduate school. And literally that's it. 

I think the sad thing about science is that there is no pipeline to make you understand how science can fit your career. And like science can go so many different ways.

Landing her Dream Job

Landing the offer at DoorDash - it really aligns with my future. The reason why I left science is because I wanted to understand how science can be translated beyond paper publishing.

And that's where I eventually want to be.

I want to  have a firsthand experience of seeing how engineers and scientists work to scale ideas out. That's something that's more tangible than like theory and like writing papers.

 I can finally say I'm in the exact spot that I wanted to be in and that I did not compromise my goals.

It took a huge leap of faith. I never thought I would be this aligned and  I'm happy that I have a space to grow in.

 I'm very, very excited. And  I feel like I can imagine myself about this company for years to come. I don't feel like I have a foot out the door. So I think that's like the true test of success.

Who would you recommend this program to?

This is really good for people in science. I think it's incredible for people in science. It's a full 180 degrees.

Even though I've had to like change the way I speak, I don't think I've compromised and lost my previous scientific method.

I think it's good for people who have only stayed within  primary industry for years and don't know how to make that pivot.

I don't think this just needs to be for young people. I think it's for people who are in their thirties and their forties as well, if you're scared of not knowing what your worth is and not knowing how to like get to the position you where you need to be.

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About the Author

Bessy Tam is a career coach who helps busy professionals get into their dream non-tech job in tech. She’s helped dozens of clients get interviews and offers from companies such as Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Lyft, Amazon, Babbel, & More. She currently works at Google in Chicago.

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