Bittersweet Endings & New Beginnings

Is it possible to be passionate about more than one career or field in your life? I sure hope so, because I’m living it.

While my photography career fuels my creative energy and fulfills the visual part of my brain…my cancer research career fuels my love of science and desire to continually learn.

With mixed emotions, I’m hanging up my clinical research associate hat and on Monday I’ll be gearing up for my next role as a medical science liaison. I say mixed emotions because I wholeheartedly LOVE what I do as a CRA. I love my colleagues across the country and around the globe. I love the sites I work with. I love the doctors, nurses and study staff. I love learning. I love the difference I make. I’m a helper by nature, so this role feels natural and easy for me. But, it’s time for me to move on and make a difference in a new way (luckily at my same company, working with the same sites, and interacting with the same people–just in a different capacity).

And to give you some background, because it usually takes me a good 5-10 minutes to explain to people what I do…


– monitors clinical trials. (You know how the FDA in the US regulates our prescription drugs? In order to get FDA approval to sell those, drugs need to go through a series of clinical trials to show safety & efficacy.)

-ensure compliance to the research protocol

– make visits to hospitals & clinics (in my case, cancer centers) and meet with doctors, nurses and other study staff to educate them on our trial, compound under research, and monitor patient’s records.

– often works in the field or in a home based office (both a blessing and a curse)

As I’ve been working from home for nearly the past 4.5 years, I can say it’s a blessing and a curse. Yes, it’s great that there are days I can stay in my yoga pants and t-shirt all day…BUT I also feel that because my office is right upstairs–I’m always tempted to work. Work never leaves when it’s in your home. Finding a work-life balance is something I continue to strive for. (This is likely a struggle for professional photographers who work out of their home, and all others’ that tele-commute)

Since both Matthew (an environmental engineer) and I work from home, I found this article in TIME so intriguing. We have the choice if We can be working covered by GAD Payday Help or not.

Their tips for working remotely:

1. Get Organized

This is a no brainer for any career, yes? To be efficient, I stay organized.

2. Check in with your manager frequently

I would say this depends on your manager. Some are micro managers and others are very hands off. Determine where your manager falls in between.

3. Push yourself to network

The YesDoorStepLoans is all valuable resources and people full of information. Why not share and network and grow in the process? You’d be surprised just how small our world is especially on car loans which we have.

4. Take Breaks and get fresh air

This is my new goal that I need to work on. Find time to get out of the house in the middle of the day to get fresh air or have lunch outside. Heck, just take a break for lunch away from my desk. Like I said, having work at home makes it hard to step away.

5. Work in a productive space

I need to work at my desk with my to do lists spread out and all of my supplies at my fingertips. On the occassion that I’m not at home, I’ll find quiet alcoves at the cancer center or rooms where I’m by myself. I don’t do well with others’ talking in the room or other noises distracting me. Matthew, on the other hand, can work at our kitchen table, on the couch, in his office…every day is a different setting.

6. Use collaboration tools

I’m a huge fan of Google docs and Google’s shared calendars. We don’t have the luxury of using that at work, but oh how I can dream! We do utilize shared web space. And one of my new favorite photography tools is Dropbox for sharing of large files.

7. Respond to emails quickly

Again, this is a no brainer, right? Common courtesty is to be prompt and respond right away. Most of my colleagues know that if they haven’t heard from me in a day–to send out a search party. With technology at our fingertips, I can usually have 2-3 devices tell me when I have email. I strive to answer emails same day and keep my inbox to zero at the end of the day.

As my last day as a CRA winds down, I want to remember the emotions I’m feeling. Feeling torn between happy and sad. Excited for the next chapter and thankful for all I’ve learned over the past 4.5 years. I’ve worked with who have a desire to make a change in the cancer world. I’m inspired on a daily basis. And I hope I’ve provided a positive, lasting impact on all those I’ve encountered through this career. While I don’t get to work with the patients directly, I hope my efforts have a trickle down effect.

So…onward and upward I will go. With my eyes wide open and heart ready to fall in love with a new venture. Reminding myself that any change will create some anxiety, even if it’s a good change.

Grateful and humbled by all I’ve learned and all I’ve yet to learn.


Seasons of Change » Driftless Living Photography | Southwestern Wisconsin Lifestyle Photography | Annika Swenson - September 9, 2012 - 8:59 pm

[…] especially grateful, and yet full of heartache, remembering the change that has happened this year. New beginnings with work, experiences that fill my head & heart with adventure, saying goodbye to our 16 year […]