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These Birks Are Made for Workin

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People are frequently telling me what it’s like to work at a startup. “You wouldn’t believe it,” said a CSO I interviewed a few years ago. “We actually built our desks ourselves!”

As someone who keeps a pair of pliers and a set of screwdrivers sandwiched between my business cards and notepads, I think it’s safe to say that I do indeed know what it’s like to work at a startup. I’ve built desks, too — and moved furniture and painted the table in what we fondly think of as our reception area. Life in a startup is not glamorous, but it’s fun, challenging, and constantly entertaining; this I know from experience.

Given my own surroundings, I often forget that not everyone understands what this kind of environment is like. But as it happens, readers have asked me a number of times over the years about life in a startup, or the private sector, or even academia, depending on where they come from. I’m lucky enough to have a great vantage point where I can talk to researchers from all those backgrounds and share their experiences with others looking to learn more.

It’s not surprising that scientists are intrigued by the “other” side — academics want to know what industry life is all about, and corporate researchers ask about life in the public sector. What has surprised me is the most common question: “If I switch to the other side and don’t like it, can I go back?” It seems that the fear of not being able to return is one of the main reasons people in this field don’t try out a job across the public/private divide.

With that in mind, we offer this issue’s cover story to answer those questions and more. We spoke with people who have worked in both academia and industry (and many who have crossed back and forth more than once) to give you the real answers about how much this divide should influence your career. In the story you’ll find scientists’ experiences, advice, and perspectives on the career crossover. Whether you’re destined for Birkenstocks or wingtips — or some combination of the two — I think this article will help give you a clearer sense of key factors to consider.

We’re starting something new this month: a series of tech guides, designed as compilations of expert advice to help you troubleshoot very specific technologies. We track down a panel of experts and then ask them to respond to questions most often asked by researchers in that field. The first guide covers some of the key problems people face with real-time PCR. Check it out — it’s a keeper.

While I’m doing introductions, I’d like you to meet Jennifer Crebs, the latest addition to the Genome Technology family. Jen, who has bravely accepted the post of senior writer for this magazine, comes to us from the Nature Publishing Group. She’ll be attending GSAC this month, so if you’re there, give her a wave.

Meredith W. Salisbury, Editor

 

What do you think of Genome Technology? Let me know how we’re doing by e-mailing me at [email protected] or by calling me at +1.212.651.5635.

 

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