You may know that Mark Zuckerberg was just a college freshman at Harvard when he developed what became Facebook® but did you know that Philo Farnsworth was a 14-year-old boy from Rigby, Idaho when he drafted his first sketch of what would later become the television? I didn't either.
Just a few weeks ago, I had an opportunity to participate in my local high school's College & Career Night. I'm sure your local high school probably holds something similar giving students; especially those who are college-bound juniors and seniors, a chance to explore possible undergraduate institutions and potential careers. I was asked to represent careers in the life sciences industry including the biotech and pharmaceutical industry which is so much of the corporate landscape here on San Diego's "biotech beach".
Ironically, what began as my trying to be a teaching resource to a group of 15-18 year olds turned out to be a wonderful opportunity for me to reaffirm why I do what I do for a living and how rewarding it can be to spend time with the most inquisitive and energetic people I would meet that week.
Did you know that George Westinghouse (yes, THAT Westinghouse) was 19 years old when he invented and patented the rotary steam engine? I didn't either.
Standing at a draped table in the Carlsbad HS Lancers' gym, a seemingly endless line of inquisitive young people; some with parents in tow, some with classmates, and others "because my guidance counselor said I should come", walked up to ask "burning questions" about their respective future plans: "How'd you get into the pharmaceutical business?", "Do I have to invent something in order to work in the life sciences?", "What else is there besides wearing a lab coat?", "Would I have to volunteer to take experimental medicines?", "I might want to be a lawyer. Are there lawyers in the pharmaceutical industry?". That last one made me chuckle.
Did you know that George Nissen was 16 years old when he built his first canvas-covered frame which he later called the trampoline? Nope, didn't know that either.
But with each question, I found myself proudly representing the industry I've called my home for so many years and sharing some of the terrific and challenging career paths one can take as a life sciences professional. I heard myself answering various areas of interest with possible careers in regulatory affairs, clinical development, patient advocacy, marketing and sales, laboratory services, and even Business Development. We talked about diagnostic companies, device companies, biopharm and lab services companies as well as Contract Research Organizations (CROs). Importantly, I discovered that all of these career paths led back to the desire to improve patient's lives – the raison d'être for my life's work. The variety and spectrum of life science business and research opportunities reinforced what an amazing industry in which I and many of you who read my blog are privileged to work. I watched as my enthusiasm became the student's revelation and when I heard, "that's what I wanna do!" from a couple of these students, it made me even more proud.
Did you know that Louis Braille was only 15 years old when, as an accidentally blinded boy, he first developed his system for reading using raised dots? I had no idea.
The point is, when you have an opportunity to give back from your profession; especially to the youth in your community, take that opportunity. Youth may be wasted on the young but your time will not. Many of the very best solutions and inventions will come from those very kids and, as the call outs in this blog highlight, maybe sooner than later. You'll not only help these students answer questions about what they can be but give them ideas about what they want to change. And, if you're lucky like I am, you'll have an opportunity to reinforce to yourself the real reason you get up and go to work each day and be proud of it.