I was having my daily chat with my supervisor yesterday and my mind was busy multitasking as usual. We were talking science, and the talked drifted to the business part of science. As we talked some business matters, I started thinking about how much I've learned from my supervisor, who is really more of a mentor. Coming from academia, I knew nothing about science business or intellectual property. Over the last few years, my way of thinking has morphed into considering the business and intellectual property issues of science as much as the scientific merit of the work. I would have never imagined that would happen.
In the larger context, I was thinking about mentors and how important they are in helping one be successful. The important life lesson is the importance of surrounding yourself with good people. I've been quite lucky to be able to do this most of my life. I suppose your immediate family unit is where it all starts. Since we don't really get to pick our parents, this one falls mostly to luck. I was fortunate to have parents and grandparents who instilled a sound moral foundation within our family. Skipping ahead to graduate school, I made a rather poor choice for a mentor. By the time I realized this, it was too late to change it. But, I managed to seek out the counsel of another faculty member who was invaluable in making up for my original choice. This professor steered me to my first postdoctoral advisor who happens to be one of the tops in our field. Being in his lab with the high quality folks with which he surrounds himself was yet another step in making up for my poor grad school choice. My first position at my current company was another matter of not being surrounded by a quality leader. I managed to figure that out relatively quickly and moved to my current position.
In reflecting on all this, I realize that the times in my life whenever I made significant leaps in my growth all had one thing in common - a strong mentor. As a parent, I think the most important thing that I can teach my children is for them to always surround themselves with the best and the brightest.