The Ultimate Balancing Act: Keeping

Report
Finding a Virology Career Right for
You: I Did it - So Can You!
Nancy J. Cox, PhD
Director, Influenza Division
National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Education and Career Development Workshop
July 23, 2013
National Center for Immunization & Respiratory Diseases
Influenza Division
Work Life Balance
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I never met a woman, or a man who stated
emphatically, “Yes, I have it all. Because no mater what
any of us has-and how grateful we are for what we
have-no one has it all.” Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In:
Women, Work and the Will to Lead
Careers in Virology
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Careers in virology are complex
Deep and specialized field so strong background in a
variety of disciplines is necessary
Many jobs in virology are rooted in performance of
research
Intense competition for research publications and
grants
Successful careers involve years of preparation
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4 year Bachelor of Science degree along with MD and/or PhD
Several Postdoctoral Fellowship Years
Adds up to 12 + years of formal training for most
For women, preparation and early tenure track years occur during
prime reproductive years
What Careers Are Possible?
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Academic research
Industry research
Teaching alone or in combination with research
Science communications (writers/reporters)
Business administration
Patent law
Foundations and Nongovernmental Organizations
Basic science research or managing grants and contracts, NIH
Regulatory Science, FDA
Investigating disease outbreaks/applied research/public
health– Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the
World Health Organization
My Career as Director of the
Influenza Division at CDC
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Extremely interesting & challenging with diverse
responsibilities: supervision of surveillance and research
activities; management of program, staff, and budget;
international travel; and WHO activities
Complex internal CDC/ Health and Human Services
relationships and structures; complex international
relationships and responsibilities; CDC and federal
regulations to navigate
The Influenza Division – approx. 300 staff with half
permanent employees and half contractors
Diverse backgrounds of very talented and dedicated staffmany international employees, physicians, PhDs,
veterinarians, postdocs, students and technicians and
support staff
The Influenza Program at CDC Wasn’t Always this
Robust
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14 Staff when I became Influenza Branch Chief in 1992
Take employees on even if they didn’t work out with
others if they have talents to offer
Hire the best possible staff, & provide mentorship and
career opportunities so they will stay long term
Take advantage of every possible funding opportunity
Tell the story of what has been accomplished by the
group over and over
Learn how and when to say no
Understand the way the world is changing and adapt as
best you can
Saving Lives. Protecting People.
www.cdc.gov.
1-800-CDC-INFO
Nancy J. Cox
[email protected]
Preparation: My Story
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Graduated from a high school in rural Iowa with only 18
students in my class
No guidance counselor but…..
High school chemistry teacher identified a summer
college program for high school students at Iowa
universities; attended between junior and senior years
Applied to only two Iowa universities
Full scholarship to Iowa State University – family
couldn’t help financially
Worked in labs during the summers and got a taste for
research
Graduated with major in microbiology / minors in
chemistry and philosophy
Preparation
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Love of science and desire to see more of the world led
me to apply for a Marshall Scholarship to study in the
U.K.
Imagine my surprise when I received a Marshall
Scholarship to study virology at Cambridge University !
Plunged into a different cultural/educational milieu with
different expectations; a sink or swim experience
Received a PhD in virology 4 years later
Came back to the U.S. for post docs and eventually a staff
position at the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention
If I Can Do It So Can You!
Work Life
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Never be afraid of a challenge (challenge from small
rural IA high school to huge university and from ISU to
Cambridge University in the UK)
Don’t take difficulties in the workplace personally – the
issue is often more about the other person than about
you (Disproportionate number of women in the
influenza group; but I hired the best candidates)
Decide on your career goals (become and remain a SME
or become more of a generalist and move up the ladder
faster)
Be willing to work hard (many hours outside of work
when family sleeping)
Research Findings for Scientists- Work/Life
Balance
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Assoc. for Women in Science Report on Work Life
Balance
Answers from over 4,000 scientists across the world
70% men and 80% married or with partner
Findings similar in the U.S. and worldwide
Over 50% said work demands conflict with personal
lives at least 2-3 times per week
48% of women and 39% of men unhappy with the way
their work and personal lives mesh
63% satisfied with career opportunities - linked to job
security , clear career progression path and good work
life balance
40% of women put off having children b/c of career
If I Can Do It So Can You!
Family Life
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Science career stories are often about balance as well as
unique teaching/work styles and interesting research
studies; mine is no exception.
Both parents ambitious and focused; both travel for
work but want a family (A daughter and stepson)
Along the way – a few missed holidays and birthdays,
but nothing major – hired a nanny to accommodate
travel needs – many difficult discussions about shared
responsibilities
I think that we made it work pretty well; pretty well isn’t
perfect but it’s good enough (do not try to make things
work out perfectly).
What Factors Made a Successful Career and
Family Live Possible for Me?
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Support from teachers and professors in high school
and university during the years of preparation
Support from Division Director at CDC to work part
time after birth of child – had worked at CDC for
nearly 10 years; gave up Team Lead position and
subsequently work my way back up the ladder
Combined income allowed us to hire live-in nanny
when our child was 9 so we could both travel
Very supportive husband
Learning to hire wisely, mentor and delegate
Being stubborn enough not to give up
Get More Comfortable With This as You
Go Along!
Recognition Along the Way
Doubts Along the Way? Of Course
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Could I succeed in science/virology?
Is lab bench science too isolated for my social needs?
Could I cope with a very challenging work supervisor ?
Should I remain in the federal workforce at CDC or
should I move to academia?
Could I raise a family and have a successful career?
Could I maintain long time (>30 years) enthusiasm for
my job?
Can I continue to “do 24/7” in response mode? (recent
H7N9 response)
Can I remain relevant?
Have Fun Along the Way
• Find time to play with family and colleagues.
• Whatever you do, laugh a lot as you go.
• Be willing to get outside your “science comfort
zone”.
Favorite Quotes
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I never met a woman, or a man who stated
emphatically, “Yes, I have it all. Because no mater what
any of us has-and how grateful we are for what we
have-no one has it all.” Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In:
Women, Work and the Will to Lead
“Bear in mind your own resolution to succeed is more
important than any one thing. “ Abraham Lincoln
“My career has been more satisfying that I ever
dreamed.” Nancy Cox
Thank You!

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