Issue Date: January 8, 2007
About a year ago I wrote criticizing C&EN's "People" section because the list of people in industry deserving recognition came entirely from sales and management. The section did not recognize any technical accomplishments by industrial chemists. The Nov. 27, 2006, C&EN section (page 40) again fails to recognize the accomplishments of any technical person in industry.
However, my criticism was misplaced. I realize that this section relies entirely on submissions from industry to the person who compiles the list. Thus it is industry itself that seems to put more value on the promotion of an individual to management or sales and never, as far as I can tell, does any company see fit to laud a technical achievement by one of its chemists.
Given this seeming lack of respect for the technical accomplishments of practicing chemists in industry by industry, we need to adjust the kind of advice we give to prospective students, many of whom choose careers in industry. So when we "sell" such a chemistry career, we need to be honest about what the student will be signing up for. I have used the analogy to being an offensive lineman in U.S. football. If you do really well, one or two of your teammates and coaches will know about it and your family sitting in stands will take note, but the cheers and glory will go to the ball carrier or, in the industrial chemistry setting, the product and sales managers.
If you don't need a pat on the back or awards and recognition (the way the academic chemists haul them in), a career in chemistry in industry is a great job. It is rewarding, very interesting, and satisfying. But, if it is recognition you want and respect from top management, hone your sales and marketing skills.
Larry N. Lewis
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