From Homer to High Tech


The story of how I arrived at my present occupation and the lessons I took from the experience will, I hope, be useful to graduate students and otherPh.D.s who are contemplating their exit strategy from academe. Some of you may think that you are trapped. So did I — until I decided to explore the larger world outside the ivory tower…

It’s amazing how a brief meeting can change your life’s trajectory. During our conversation, I explained the field of classics and how my understanding of history, linguistics, and storytelling could be valuable to the company. Fortunately for me, Digital Surgeons practices “design thinking,” a framework for design and innovation that cultivates empathy, curiosity, creative thinking, iteration, and cross-functional collaboration.The collaboration piece is particularly relevant for me, since its essence is that development teams should not rely exclusively on tech specialists (like a group of coders to build an app) but on people with diverse skills (say, for example, a classicist).

It took about five months from when I decided to leave academe until Digital Surgeons hired me. I’m not an expert on nonacademic careers, and certainly I was lucky that things came together in the end. But in the process, I have learned some important lessons about what it takes for a Ph.D. in the liberal arts to take the leap into the private sector. Here are the key lessons I would offer other Ph.D.s facing the same life choice:

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