Thursday, September 8, 2016

first seven jobs

I'm such a sucker for list memes.

1. Selling headbands made out of woven loops of colorful nylon for 50 cents at school. Unfortunately I was such a goody two shoes prior to teenagerhood I actually asked the school counselor if I could do it, and of course they made me stop. (Way to go corrupting harmless little kids with lessons about asking forgiveness later, Stillwater Middle School :)

2. Paper delivery. This was like hitting the jackpot since it was the only job I could legally do at age 13; correspondingly, it paid about a third of (1999 Oklahoma) minimum wage. (Way to go, nanny state!) I did it for 17 months until I had enough money to buy my first telescope, a Meade 10 inch equatorial Newtonian that I still use.

3. Sporadic babysitting, which I hated, but making $10 in one day was a rare opportunity not to be turned down. I think it was evident how much I hated it though, because the only family who called me more than once was the one with the kids who were such hellions no one else would take them... I also tried to sell my lawnmowing skills but never had any takers, for reasons that still elude me.

[Two year hiatus while I went to a boarding school and summer science programs.]

4. Research assistant at the Jet Propulsion Lab. This was my third astronomy RA job but the first one that was paid, the summer before college. I got to analyze some photos of the most distant non-quasar galaxies known at the time and attended the talk that made me decide to double major in economics, never to return to astronomy research.

5. Research assistant in the Caltech department of economics during the three summers between college years. Caltech is awesome for having such a ridiculously high faculty to student ratio, so RA jobs are everywhere, and OSSM and RSI were awesome for teaching me programming, linux, and LaTeX, so that I actually had some skills that were in demand. That's my advice to any smart high schooler who wants to get involved in science: learn programming fundamentals and get confident at figuring out computer-related details in new situations independently. It's not hard, gets easier with experience, and should be a basic part of education, but it isn't yet so grab the low-hanging fruit.

6. Assistant trader at Susquehanna International Group, a private hedge fund. I would have preferred babysitting, but at least I got to live in NYC for a year. And make a bigger pile of money than my 21 year old brain could imagine spending. I went back to grad school to make approximately minimum wage for six years and then get hired for less pay than I made straight out of undergrad, and it was totally worth it. Don't sell your life satisfaction.

7. Research assistant in the Berkeley department of economics, first three years of grad school. As in #5, computer literacy paid off, but of course as soon as I was able to do independent research rather than being a code monkey, that was the more important thing to focus on. Actually the computer literacy paid off even more in that phase...

I guess the only legally recognized jobs I've ever had have been in research (defacto true on Wall Street); I had phenomenally good luck with stumbling into great opportunities...


JohnRaymond said...

So the job painting the house for $10/hr. - long before you were legal to work - doesn't count, haha.

Vera L. te Velde said...

hah! I forgot about that.

Vera L. te Velde said...

pretty sure it wasn't $10 though! My weekly allowance was $5 by then and minimum wage was also about $5. Maybe that was Brent many years later?