### Into the Astro Industry with Kristen Griffin (part 3)

This is Part 3 of my interview with Ph.D. Astronomer, Kristen Shapiro Griffin (You can find Part 1 here, and Part 2 here.). Kristen is a former classmate of mine from UC Berkeley (go BADGrads!) and she is also my grand-mentee from the UC Berkeley Astronomy peer mentoring program. Kristen went to work at Northrop-Grumman upon receiving her doctorate and she now lives in SoCal. I asked her to share her thoughts and experiences on the astronomy "industry" (non-academic) path. My questions and Kristen's insightful answers are given below.

9) How'd you break the news to your advisor that you were going to leave academia? How'd he take it?

 What you imagine your professor will do when you tellher/him that you're leaving the academic track.
I was incredibly fortunate in the advisor-student relationship I enjoyed during grad school.  So many people have either work-style or personality conflicts with their advisor, and I was lucky to avoid that. As a result, I had an advisor with whom I shared a truly wonderful working relationship, who promoted me to colleagues and at conferences, and who invested a lot of time, energy, and money in my professional development towards a mutually agreed upon goal, my pursuit of a tenured faculty position.  When I made the decision to leave academia, there was therefore a lot of guilt, to the point that I seriously contemplated not leaving for this reason alone.

Fortunately, my sister (outside academia) gave me some of the best advice I've ever been given: Other people (besides your spouse and family) do not make their career decisions based on you; you can't make your career decisions based on them.  You are the only one who has to do your job and live your life, so you have the sole right to choose what to do and how to do it.

So I set about breaking the news to my advisor.  I started early, when I was applying for jobs, and let him know that I was applying to both postdocs and non-academic positions.  We talked a lot about why I was doing that, and his opinion that I should take a postdoc was fairly clear, though he certainly did not force this opinion on me.  I was offered and accepted my current position before any postdoc offers came back.  (In industry, you are given only 1-2 weeks to accept or decline an offer!)  At the time, my advisor was out of the country, so I Skyped with him, which was less than ideal.  Before we talked, I wrote down exactly why I was making the decision I was, so that I could articulate it to him.  It was a difficult conversation for me, because I felt very guilty, and I could see that he was somewhat sad about my decision.  However, he accepted it remarkably well, and it did not affect our relationship when he returned to the country or since (we still get together once or twice a year).

During this process, I made two critical errors in judgment.  The first was an assumption that I understood the motivation for my advisor’s reaction, which was not corrected until this week, when I sent a draft of this interview to my advisor.  In fact, his reaction was not, as I had assumed, due to a belief that the ultimate goal for all students is to become acclaimed professors themselves.  Instead, he reminded me that one of his personal goals (which we often discuss) is to increase the percentage of female leaders in academic research, which he views as a crucial issue in which progress is much slower than it really ought to be.  So the lesson learned for me here was that an advisor’s reaction to the “bad” news that a student is “leaving” may – and likely does – have more complex roots than just disappointment at not creating the next generation of super-star professor in every student.