Dialogue — May 2024

May 2024

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The More, the Merrier

In March, Joel Stein, ’93, MA ’94, wrote about attending Stanford’s Distinguished Careers Institute, which is designed for midlife professionals looking to find their next step. We asked how many careers you’ve had. Here’s what 264 of you, ages 24 to 93, said:



6+ careers

This dynamic world is constantly birthing new career opportunities.
William Kinney, ’70


5 careers

You don’t need to know what you want to do for the rest of your life. You only need to know what you want to do next. 
Sue Anderson, ’93


4 careers

It isn’t always about following your bliss, but do insist on doing honorable work.
Chris Hables Gray, ’75


3 careers

You aren’t “hopping around” or “confused.” You are talented and multifaceted.
Ashley Woodruff, MBA ’19


2 careers

Having several very different careers or a career that evolves in new directions can be invigorating and life-enhancing.
Shira Neuberger, MA ’96


1 career

We have many talents. Some you can use in ways that do not involve an occupation.
Charmaine Berry, ’75, MS ’79


The median number of careers you’ve held by ages 36–50


The career that you, by age 65, were most likely to say was your favorite


Percentage of you over age 80 who’ve had just one career

Even while making a switch to a career that would be more meaningful and impactful, the roller coaster of emotions was still hard.
Roger Feigelson, ’90
Belmont, California
(Feigelson started his favorite career at 55.)

I’d always thought I had to work in a field related to my industrial engineering degrees, and I successfully did so, but didn’t realize what a thrill it is to get up each day and go to work in a job you love, even if the job involves shoveling horse manure. Yes, I became a stable hand. At Disneyland.
Patty Riley, MS ’91
Summerland, California
(Riley thought she was applying for a job in warehouse management.)

General Motors tended to promote people to managers, usually removing them from their area of expertise. In my early years, I asked a co-worker how he managed to stay on the boards, stroking lines and laying out car dimensions, for over 30 years. He said that every time they approached him to “promote” him, he told them, “I’m really good at packaging cars and I love packaging them. I’m not that good at managing people and really don’t like it. Please give me the money that goes with the promotion, promote someone else, and leave me to do my job.”  

GM was filled with managers who were no longer doing the jobs they loved. This man had 30 years of doing exactly what he wanted to do. From his positive example and way too many negative ones, I learned that the promotions filled the ego, but they didn’t necessarily fill the soul. And the latter is more important.
Clinton McDade, ’85
Charlotte, North Carolina
(McDade studied engineering and product design at Stanford.)

When I was at Stanford, I didn’t really know what careers existed or what they were like. My favorite career did not exist until three decades after my graduation.
Alexander Nicholson, ’70, JD ’74
Nashville, Tennessee
(Nicholson became an online derivatives trader at 62.)

It’s hard to be a beginner again. But I have learned that nothing is wasted. All my experiences inform each new career and usually become directly applicable at some point.
Monica Romig Green, ’92
Hamilton, Ontario
(Green’s favorite career is her current—as an ordained clergy member.)

My [favorite] job was to pack houses for moving. That job had two great points that no other job did. First, it began and ended completely every day, leaving me with a sense of perfect completion. Second, it was like a sports team. Everyone had their part, and if we worked well together, the job went well. In my usual job, everyone is trying to be No. 1, which is frankly tiring.
Jill Emma Strothman, ’86
Kofu, Japan
(Strothman takes on short-term jobs during vacations from her full-time work. Most recently, she worked on a production line making cookies.)

March 2024, Mikaela’s Version

Mikaela Brewer, ’20, creates scrapbook pages from magazines, collecting her favorite images, quotes, headlines, and more. collage of articlesPhoto: Mikaela Brewer

“I often find new meanings and connections between articles and images that aren’t as easily drawn unless side by side. In the case of Stanford, I like keeping up with what’s happening in the community and thought creating a scrapbook page could be a fun way to connect with this differently.”

Lightning in a Bottle

In a March essay, Allan Lopez, ’23, imagined how his father would have taken advantage of the opportunities at Stanford.

My eyes welled up reading this. The deep well that builds in my chest when I think about Stanford will never allow me to forget how lucky I am: how my references might have shone; how my essay might have inspired a reader; how the demographics of the other 390 already admitted might have swayed decisions in my favor; how the mighty stars aligned. That sliding-door moment took me from a farm in Outback New South Wales, Australia, to the Farm and changed my trajectory forever. Allan, bottle the gratitude you feel today. And on your hardest days along the road ahead, take it down and hold it. For every day, it will hold you.
Jillian Kilby, MBA ’16, MPP ’16
Dubbo, New South Wales, Australia

Making a Leap

A March story covered the impact of the Stanford men’s gymnastics team on the national stage at a time when the sport is in decline at the collegiate level.

It is nice to hear about these amazing athletes, their successful coach, and admirable teamwork. The pairing of gender-equity concerns and “wake of Title IX” with “budget cuts” and “waning grassroots support” unfortunately suggests a negative quality to the former items. I want to believe the intent was to point out the forces objectively. However, without more discussion about Stanford’s, the team’s, the magazine’s, or the author’s general view of the policies, goals, and realized benefits, readers will be left to wonder.
Nirav Bhakta, MD/PhD ’06
San Francisco, California

Women’s Will

The March issue’s Dialogue section was dominated by letters concerning our December cover story on free will.

Did you notice that all the letters and comments were from men? Perhaps women find themselves constrained by gender roles and discrimination, and thus lacking agency? Is free will thus another well-educated (white) male prerogative? Or was there selection bias by the editors?
Susan Hansen, MA ’68, PhD ’72
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Editor’s Note: Most of the letters we receive are from male readers. In the case of the free will story, as far as we can tell, the ratio of male to female correspondents was 90 to 2.

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