When I started an evening MBA program back in January of 2004, I envisioned that the degree would potentially create a number of opportunities for me once the degree was completed. Although my degree is not yet complete (I should finish in May 2006), the ongoing training has already generated more and larger opportunities that I could possibly have imagined back when I started. My ever growing participation with a fledgling biotech company is one example of this trend.
One of my many reasons for starting an MBA program was the idea of one day, far in the future, running my research institution. I imagined that the opportunity might arise 5 or 6 years from now if the current director retired. A few months ago, I was quite surprised to learn that the current director planned to step down to focus upon his research efforts. The university Dean, who oversees our institution, decided that an interim director would be appointed from within the university for the next few years so that a national search could be conducted to find a permanent replacement. Although this opportunity certainly did not fit in the orderly schedule of my life plan, I decided that I had to apply. The opportunity was now and was not likely to recur. Carpe Diem.
I was the most junior person to apply for the position. My application went up against some very well qualified candidates including a departmental chairperson and a full professor. Given these odds, I worked hard to practice some Buddhist non-attachment about the future outcome. The important thing for me was the attempt. I think of my pre-evening MBA self, my pre-Body-for-Life self, and know that I NEVER would have dared to even apply if I were still that person.
I learned Friday that I will be the interim director of my research institute for the next few years. The official announcement was made yesterday. The size and scope of this job is just beginning to set in. I emailed my PhD thesis advisor today for some advice. I joke that he is my “scientific father” but in many ways it is true. I was only 20 when I started graduate school so he had tremendous influence on the person and scientist I became. I interviewed at many graduate programs, but when I met him I knew that he was the person that I wanted to train with; he was the person I hoped to be like when I grew up. Since he is a departmental chair now, I asked him whether he had any advice for me in this new administrative role. His response was fairly terse, as he tended to be, “I just try to do the right thing.”
It is so easy to make the problem larger than it needs to be. Just do the right thing.