Tell us a bit about yourself - what was your PhD about and where did you study?
I earned my PhD from Duke University in 2014. My field was biomedical engineering, and my dissertation was on drug delivery using biodegradable polymers.
What do you do now? What did you decide to do next after gaining your PhD?
Following my defense (and a couple temporary/part-time jobs), I decided to launch a business based on the hobby I developed during graduate school: personal finance. My business’s name is Personal Finance for PhDs. I inspire and empower PhD trainees and PhDs with Real Jobs to make the most of their money, no matter their income level. My business has several components: I deliver seminars at universities and other institutions, I serve as a money coach, I create and sell educational products such as courses and ebooks, and I host a podcast.
Has having a PhD helped in developing your career? If yes, what has been the biggest impact? If no, why do you think that is?
My business is inextricably linked with my identity as a PhD. I am passionate about serving my community in its personal finance needs. Having the PhD credential and having gone through the graduate school experience are vital to the people I serve being able to relate to me. My PhD is also my ticket into academic spaces that might exclude me if I had traditional financial credentials instead.
What's one piece of advice that you'd offer prospective students considering a PhD?
Gain work experience in your desired field or a closely related one before pursuing your PhD. Not only will you be a more competitive applicant and more financially stable when you do apply, you will have much-needed perspective on the value of your PhD in the work force. If your experience leads you away from pursuing a PhD, that’s totally fine!
And what one thing would you suggest that new PhD graduates should do next?
Network, always. But expand your definition of networking. It’s just having conversations with and getting to know people with no big agenda. Put yourself in situations where mutual interaction is expected, whether in person or online. Don’t be afraid to initiate conversation, even over email or social media. You are a person worth meeting!
Lastly, what's your favourite memory from your time as a PhD student?
After I defended (but before I graduated), I was still living in the same city as my graduate university. I was applying for jobs and freelancing. I decided to volunteer to give a seminar on personal finance for graduate students. Essentially, I wanted to impart everything I had learned about personal finance during my PhD, including all the quirks particular to academia that were difficult to find in the wider personal finance community. Preparing for and delivering that seminar was the most (professionally-related) fun I had had in years. I was 10x more energized when creating that presentation than I had been creating my defense seminar just a few months prior. I absolutely loved answering the questions from the audience as well and feeling that I was tangibly helping them. I came away from the experience asking myself, “How do I make THAT my job?” And now it is!