At the interface of science and computing

My Chem Coach Carnival

Susan Baxter blackmailed me into writing this post, but it is actually an interesting one to write, since I am probably not the most likely person to write one for the Chem Coach Carnival.

I am a chemist by training. Every degree (B.Sc., M.Sc. and Ph.D.) is in chemistry, but I am not a practicing chemist any more, and haven’t been for a very long time. However, I do not have any regrets about the path I have taken. In fact, I think my background in chemistry has helped me quite a bit.

Today, I am a Principal Product Manager at Amazon Web Services. There I work on Amazon EC2 instance platforms. In other words, I spend a lot of my time on the server platform that powers EC2. What does this have to do with chemistry? Not much. So why do I think Chemistry has a role to play in this?

After my B.Sc. in chemistry, I spent most of my Master’s and Ph.D. as a physical chemist/theoretical chemist. That pretty much means that you have be analytical, learn to work with others (who are often doing bench chemistry), and have to learn your way around computers. A lot of what I have done in my professional career has been around software, computers and analytical thinking. Your traning as a chemisty allows you to think about the fundamentals of a problem, about how to break problems down into their consituent parts, and best of all teaches you how to set up experiments. I am not formally trained in software development, web services, data management or product management, so I definitely believe that my training as a chemist has helped me transition into all these non-chemistry roles over the years.

Moral of the story: Your career can take many paths, but your training as a chemist is going to come in good stead along those paths, and stories about lab explosions always come in handy at parties.

Oh, and happy chemistry week.