On Twitter and in blog comments, BabyAttachMode has started an interesting conversation about if those who left academia regretted doing so. I've been thinking a lot about careers and "what next" lately, and the more I think about, the more I want to spend at least part of my career away from the academic research environment. There are a lot of reasons for this.
I'd like to have kids, and not feel so guilty about taking a reasonable length of time off for maternity leave. I know in my current situation, I'd be expected to at least be working from home within two weeks. My boss has no kids of his own, and some of his previous students have done just that, so that's what he expects. Not that I'm planning on any right now, but things happen.
I'd like to earn closer to what my husband makes. And that isn't going to happen in an academic postdoc. In a national lab, it's much more plausible, but many labs aren't near somewhere he could work. Also, there is some totally awesome research happening at the smaller labs like PNNL.
I miss working with people on projects that can be completed. Open-ended questions are interesting, but I miss being able to say I'm done with something, and mean it (see: project that won't die). I liked having a final product that I could point to and say I contributed to that part, over there. It's the part of me that identifies as an engineer instead of scientist.
Unlike most grad students I know, the majority of my friends are *not* in graduate school. I have my belly dance friends, my craft night crew, and I married out of the ivory tower. It helps keep me sane and grounded, and remember that there's more to life than papers and grants (like Brave coming out! The hair algorithms! Squee!) It also shows me how borked certain things in my current academic environment are. The only professor in my department who regularly seems happy are the 2 old guys who are || this close to retiring, and our two young Russian hot shots, who I'm pretty sure are a) crazy and b) rolling in grant money. And because they work all the time, it's not like they're miserable from 9-5 and then go have a life. This is what they do. Is it any wonder that the longer students are in graduate school, the less likely they are to want to pursue an academic career (can't find the article to cite)?
I'm also very lucky to have family that will understand and support either decision, with a very solid knowledge of what every option entails. I've got an aunt and 2 grandparents from academia, an uncle from the national lab system, and parents in a tech industry. When I was an intern at GiantEquipmentManufacturer, my boss had his Ph.D, as did his boss, and 4 of the 5 other people in our little group. Not only that, but they had degrees from all over the academic and geographic map.
Of course, the grass is always greener. But I can't help noticing that the grass over here is awfully brown lately.