When I was in industry, money was something on my mind constantly.  Money for myself, money for my department, money from profit, money spent on stupid shit, money I donated, money I gave to the government, etc.  There was so much talk about money.  Slowly, my personal want of money became my most important goal and definitely didn’t like myself for it.  I liked that the stuff I was working on was saving patient’s lives, but slowly that part became less important.

Eventually, I realized that my own scientific goals, and not feeling like I sold out, became more and more important.  This made taking the 75% pay cut worth it.  Though I did move away from a very expensive metro to a smaller city, so the 75% isn’t as painful.  Still massive though.  I dropped a couple of tax brackets.  I don’t donate as much, but I don’t spend as much or worry as much either.  The one good part about the obsession with money is I got very good at handling it, from a laboratory perspective.  This has translated well to academia (though it doesn’t hurt that I’ve pulled in some nice funding).  I can usually budget in my head on the fly where things are going and how much we can spend on which things.  And how much risk to take depending on the awards or publications we’re trying to get.

A student (undergrad) recently asked me why I would join academia when I presumably made so much more in industry.  I explained everything I just wrote above and he had a blank stare.  I explained there are more important things than cash, and that he will become very bored if all he’s looking for in a job.  Then he said something I wasn’t expecting: “Then looks like when I graduate I’ll have to get an MBA or go to law school.”  Did I just put him on a weird path by giving him philosophical advice?  I mean, if he’s happy down the line then good for him, but I thought I was giving him some greater-purpose shit and all he took from it was that he’s maybe in the wrong field.  Very weird.

Peer pressure

It’s no secret that part of the reason I was recruited is because funding is extra tight these days and an industry connection can only help (unless that industry connection is Bernie Madoff).  I’ve secured one small local grant from a nonprofit, but more importantly, a rather sizable (not R01, but pretty nice) chunk from my old employer (I’ll talk about this later).

There wasn’t any direct pressure on me before securing this money: the other faculty and higher-ups didn’t ever mention it, but they always dropped semi-subtle hints.  Now that I have the money coming in they’re asking all sorts of questions about institute and student sponsorship.  This is on top of other faculty members (my pseudopeers) pitching this or that idea to me hoping I’ll come on board and relay them to my old employer.

My concern in all of this is that if I don’t deliver the money as a co-PI for some other faculty members they’ll lost respect for me.  My pedigree already isn’t that of my surrounding colleagues and I’m certain some of them are thinking I was only brought in because I did reasonably well in industry.  So if I don’t deliver on the flood of cash for everyone, then maybe they will care for me even less (there’s some upspeak in that sentence as I read it to myself)?  I don’t really give a shit, because if I constantly cared what people thought then I wouldn’t have time to be so awesome.

I kind of wish it would’ve been more difficult to get this first round of industry funding so I could just say “Look, I barely got it, and they know me.  So don’t get your hopes up.”