How I Got Here (Part I)

Where is “here”? Morgantown, West Virginia. This week begins my fifth summer internship. The prior four were squarely in petroleum engineering. This one, however, is with a national research lab: National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL). The only government owned, government operated lab in the country, NETL’s mission is to  Discover, integrate, and mature technology solutions to enhance the nation’s energy foundation and protect the environment for future generations

I am here in the capacity of “post-graduate researcher” and will spend my summer using the Randolph Steady State Core Analysis Lab (RaSSCAL) to determine the permeability of tight rocks and shales using steady state flowing gas. Besides my innate nerdiness, why am I so excited about this summer adventure?

Dear reader, I ask for your indulgence. Questions along a familiar motif keep arriving in my inbox, so this piece (along with the next couple) will describe my career escapades of going from pharmaceutical sales professional to engineer. My intent is not to proselytize the greatness of engineering, but to encourage you in taking a deep breath, grinning wildly and just going for it. Whatever your “it” is, dear reader, take this encouragement and go for it.

“Here’s the thing about being a pharmaceutical rep,” Sales Guru warned me. “You’re either a rep for five years or less or you are a rep for life. Once you hit that five year mark you are making too much to give it up and no other job can compete. And,” she continued, “when it comes to youth and appearance, women in sales have an expiration date. So get in, make your money and get out.”

I laughed at the memory of this conversation while I finished cutting up my corporate credit cards, dumping them in a plastic sandwich bag, and adding them to the keys and resignation letter already in the FedEx envelope. My tenure as pharmaceutical rep would end at 4.75 years. One quarter under the five year mark and my expiration date. A lady always knows when to leave the party. I took a deep breath and mailed the package to my regional manager.

When a sales rep of any sort gives notice, the company immediately sends a manager or representative to take possession of all company property. Mid-Sized Pharmaceutical Company had been really good to me and I wanted to minimize the effort they would need to make. I had the car detailed and filled up the gas tank. My samples and coupons were in the hands of my doctors. I loaded up the laptop and marketing materials in the trunk of my fleet vehicle and locked the doors.

To be continued.

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