Ellen Konar

Market Scientist & Entrepreneur

Location: San Francisco, CA

"Needing to seek new job opportunities has minimized any complacency, and has led me to high growth industries and companies more likely to reward contributions over experience."

I was finishing my PhD in psychology and working as an intern in a small research and consulting firm when my husband, a fellow graduate student in the final stages of his dissertation, was offered a tenure track academic position at a first-rate university about 250 miles away. The opportunity was significant: tenure track positions at major universities are a scarce commodity. We jointly decided he should accept the offer. I would temporarily "lean back," ending my internship to move with him. I would work on my dissertation from our new home and look for a job in the same city. If that didn't work, we would both look elsewhere the following year.

When I told the CEO of the company that I would be leaving, he didn’t miss a beat. "We need you. What will it take to convince you to stay?" he asked. The more I insisted that this just wasn’t an option, the more he probed. "What if we pay for your apartment in town? You can spend 3 days a week here, and 4 days a week there." He even offered to double my pay and cover flights back and forth to "make it work."

Ultimately, the economics, career opportunity and perhaps the flattery convinced me to change course and continue the internship for another year. It was far from an easy year as I worked, wrote my dissertation, and commuted back and forth every other week. My partner did his share of the travel as well, and soon, the commuting took its toll on both of us, particularly during the winter when flights were often canceled due to weather conditions. During one particularly treacherous snowstorm, my car skidded into a ditch alongside the highway.

Yet, not only did my spouse and I survive, our relationship thrived. Four days a week together is an interesting intersection between "absence makes the heart grow fonder" and "familiarity leads to liking." Because I had tried to leave my work, my boss (and more importantly I) came to recognize my value, and my compensation was brought in line with my contributions. The company benefited from my additional year as I contributed to the growth of the client base and revenues, and I was able to transition my projects over months rather than weeks.

A year later, my dissertation completed, I was offered a tenure track assistant professor position at the same university as my husband. Although it was actually not my dream job, it was a great start. Since then, in continuing to "lean in" to both family and work, I have moved locations and changed jobs more than once to optimize for family considerations. Although I like to think it was at great personal sacrifice, it’s more likely that the family, and yes, my career too, benefited. Needing to seek new job opportunities has minimized any complacency, and has led me to high growth industries and companies more likely to reward contributions over experience.