Why I Transitioned from Academia. Twice.

My Chemical Engineering Path – Dr. Gabriely Cruz

Going through school, my affinity for math and chemistry led me to a Bachelor’s in Chemical Engineering. When I started my first undergraduate fellowship in Brazil, my mom – a career professor at a traditional Brazilian university – always praised my academic fate. I confess that it wasn’t my first choice. 

Then I left for an internship at a big brewery company. Being an engineer there was exciting! But after two years of hard work, great people, and a huge apprenticeship, I felt stuck. At the time, there wasn’t a good promotion opportunity. So, I left. Back to academia, to finish my bachelor thesis on a topic that made my eyes shine, renewable energy! I found my passion in sustainable processes.

After that, I had the chance to continue working on the topic during my master’s. From that to Ph.D. was a natural path.

I’m so happy with the experiences I had at the time. Moving to France, my first time living abroad, expanded my horizons and changed me.

However, all the stereotyped burdens of a Ph.D. life were there. Uncertainty, self-doubt, impostor syndrome, immense workload, friction with my supervisor. All led me to a panic attack and therapy sessions. I couldn’t stay more. Then, after my defense, I said my first no to academia. For survival reasons. 

Gabriely Cruz

Next Phase: Being a Professor

A few months of unemployment passed by until I became a professor at a private university while working as an engineering consultant. The classroom was fun, I learned so much with my students. And the consulting time reminded me that I could make a difference in the society I live in through my profession. It felt really good! Yet, I wasn’t in the right place. After leaving the country once, I felt like I wasn’t fitting back anymore. 

Producing drinking water in remote communities as a consultant to the Brazilian government

I got to the conclusion that academia could be the option to move forward in my career and move abroad. Then Sweden came. Three years of postdoc in sustainable recycling processes. More exciting experiences, people, and publications. The next step would be to get a position as a researcher in Austria. And I wasn’t sure I wanted that. But, at this time, not being sure meant that I didn’t want that. I said no to academia for the second time. 

Back to the lab at Stockholm University

A conscious no that tasted bitter in my mouth. It isn’t easy to close a door without knowing when the next one will open. Becoming unemployed in a foreign country put my self-doubt fully back in mind. I’m forever grateful for all the love and support I got from my boyfriend and my family. I also found comfort in others who transitioned and I kept believing. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that you’re not alone.

Gabriely Cruz

Several months and updates on my resume after, a lot of no’s and a few interviews went by until I got to Scania. And it’s amazing. After all that, my main takeaway is resilience. Keeping going with frustration isn’t the best feeling, neither is staying where you are.

I’m grateful for where academia took me, and I understand it was a great chapter to leave behind.

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