I slipped into a chair at the “Reserved for Latecomers” table, and poured a coffee. I was at a talk by Stanford business school alum Amy Wilkinson on her book “The Creator’s Code”– describing six traits that make entrepreneurs successful. When I was a kid, the majority of adults in my life were business owners. Both of my parents, my grandfathers, uncles and even close friends of the family were entrepreneurs. To me that seemed normal. It was what people did when they grew up.
Why do women only earn 82% of what men earn? It’s simple. Women are too loyal. But loyalty isn’t a bad thing. On the positive side, it shows how committed women are to their partners, families, friends, causes, and jobs. On the negative side, someone with too much loyalty can be perceived as a person without other options. And when it comes to your career, your greatest bargaining chip, even if you’re happy where you are, is always having the option to leave—whether that is to go to another company or start your own.
My school prides itself on being an innovation incubator, a campus that spawned the founders of Google, Cisco, and Yahoo. Nevertheless, there remains in me a feeling that science and business don’t mix. The majority of academic science still operates on an apprenticeship model, where “losing” students to companies is to lose them from the academic pantheon and kill your own lineage. Growing up in the Silicon Valley, I read headlines on the conflict of interest held by professor-scientists with industry ties in the post Bayh-Dole era (the 1980 decree that paved the way for tech transfer). At a party recently, a student-turned-startup member told me, “Academic scientists like to dig really deep into a problem. That doesn’t work in industry. It’s too slow.”
Do you believe anything is possible? If you don’t believe this, hold off quitting your day job and spend some time changing your mindset. The truth is, business owners have to have a solid belief in what they’re doing and believe that they can make the impossible happen. It is very likely that there will be bumps along the way.
Some people thrive on the challenges that come with being a business owner. It means making enough money to sustain the business, while also supporting your family. Success or failure rests on your shoulders. If you feel you are not cut out for all that’s in store while maintaining a personal life, your ability to sleep and your sanity and health, then it’s probably best that you stay put for now. Just because you’re not ready today, doesn’t mean you won’t be ready tomorrow.
Ada Yee is one of the 2015 Boston Naturejobs Career Expo journalism competition winners and a PhD candidate in Neuroscience at Stanford University. Her research interests include synaptic transmission, plasticity, and neural development. She currently co-hosts and co-produces Neurotalk, a podcast that features neuroscientists conversing about their scientific paths and interests. Outside of research and writing, she enjoys playing the clarinet and roaming technocratic San Francisco, in search of luxuries (at least, by grad student standards) such as rush tickets, coffee, and $4 toast.