Name: Ian Mulvany
Job: At time of quote: VP Product at Mendeley. Currently: Head of Technology at eLife.
Source: Soapbox Science [original post from April 2012]
I dropped out of my PhD. That was pretty crushing, everything that I’d been working towards for about nine years of my life in total, my entire self-image and all of my imagined futures, all gone in one moment; all that remained was a very big hole. On reflection, it’s easy to see the mistakes that both I and the department made. I had thought that once I’d obtained a PhD position, all that mattered was getting on with the subject. I didn’t realise how important it was to build good mentoring relationships with faculty and how important it was to seek advice. Success is so often built out of great working relationships. I’d managed to get myself into a frantic tailspin. I was handling massive amounts of work, leading to nothing productive. I burnt myself out and inevitably that was what my department saw.Concerns for my own health were also among some of the reasons they asked me to leave. I had very poor PhD supervision, but didn’t have the sense or experience to try and fix that problem.
Of course time moves on and we have to pick ourselves up and get on with things. I spent about ten months back in Dublin doing anything except getting involved in research again. I was a bike courier for a while, did some data entry, supply teaching, anything that would pay the rent. I think I just needed to mentally regroup. Then one morning, about ten months in, I had this really dumb epiphany. I suddenly realised that I actually had a lot of qualifications. What if there were jobs or careers out there that were connected to research, but that didn’t actually involve being a researcher?