Finding Your Niche Through Interdisciplinary Interests 

A flexible mindset can allow for unorthodox connections and unexpected opportunities.

Boat making hobby
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Since childhood, my life has sat squarely at the intersection of widely different pursuits. I was raised by an ophthalmic surgeon father and neonatal nurse mother who were equally passionate about scientific inquiry, compassionate care for others and creative expression through the fine arts. Chopin and Liszt underscored our daily lives, and medical jargon was peppered throughout our dinner table conversation. I was as comfortable in the theatre as I was in the hospital: nearly once a week, I'd accompany my parents to the opera or a concert and was a frequent visitor to my father's clinic. By my teenage years, I considered both the hospital and the concert hall my second home, and I found the way my parents touched their patients' lives as deeply moving as a Rachmaninoff piano concerto or Verdi's requiem.

Having dreamt of being a classical music conductor since age seven, by 18, I'd been accepted to a conservatory program in Vienna for conducting, but visiting the school made me pause. All the other students had lived and breathed only music since exiting the womb. I suddenly saw the vastness of my world closing off into a pinpoint of focus: I thought of all the grateful patients whose sight my father had restored and the way his work tangibly changed lives for the better on a daily basis. And I knew I'd regret it if I shut myself off from such work.

Pivoting my focus to medical training, I ultimately discovered my love of paediatric dentistry and working to help children more generally. Although my path moved away from music toward medicine, my gut feeling from age 18 – that I needed to keep myself open to life's vast possibilities – stuck with me throughout my career. While I continued to learn and research, I never closed off my creative side.

We're often cautioned against being a "jack of all trades, master of none," but in my experience, I discovered quite the opposite. Many doctors only talk shop about their work amongst their own, but I always felt there was so much more to life. This openness linked me into a greater world of possibility, widening my social circle and possible career paths as a result.

My flexible mindset allowed me to make unorthodox connections and uncover unexpected opportunities. Through my social and academic connections, I found my path toward biomed tech research and innovations and incubators in Silicon Valley. This allowed me to forge a new career as an entrepreneur and investor of impactful medical innovations, like Cytovale. Leveraging my academic experience and philanthropic instincts helped me connect life-changing research to business opportunities that would bring such innovations to those in need. I saw that I could be the connective tissue that would allow brilliant minds to connect and transform medical treatment as we know it. And that was incredible to me.

Today, I believe it's more important than ever that people embrace different interests as a unique strength that can transform their lives for the better. Rather than rejecting sides of yourself that don't fit into some prescribed notion of an acceptable career, leveraging your own internal diversity of perspectives can reap numerous rewards. Here are a few I have discovered in my own journey:

More Career Satisfaction: As many have seen with the Great Resignation, the pandemic has challenged almost everyone to question if they are fully sated by their current careers. Repeatedly, the answer people are finding is "no." Leaping from the expected career path allows you to discover a more satisfying one. A job in one silo of interest is generally less creative, less challenging, and overall less engaging. Leaning into a pursuit that embraces your varied interests is inherently more interesting.

Uniquely You: The world is filled with doctors, bankers and professionals of all sorts, but there's only one you. Part of what makes you unique is your intellect and skills. Embracing how your offbeat interests might inform your dominant practice can pay unexpected dividends – and perhaps that side hobby is actually a new career just waiting to happen. You won't know until you try.

Creative Problem Solving: One of the main benefits of collaboration and teamwork is how different perspectives can offer innovative solutions to workplace problems. Integrating different disciplines yourself follows the same logic: it allows you a more flexible mindset, where instead of repeatedly taking the same problem-solving approach, you switch to another angle to find something new.

Broader Networks: Opening yourself up to wider interests can exponentially increase the size of your professional network, as it did for me. If I'd stayed in my lane of only medical research, I never would have found my way to a new, exciting chapter of my life.

More Overall Fulfillment: Your career choices are shaped by the societal expectations in which you were raised, whether that be family ties and community, academic achievement, or—of course—the Western value of financial earnings. As you reflect on your career, I encourage you to look beyond your preconceptions of what success "looks like." Allow other cultural values and perspectives in, and consider if your present way of thinking has served you well. Have you pursued a high paycheck with little time for family? Have long hours found you pining for free creative time? Reflect on this and adjust accordingly. Once you let go of what you're supposed to want, you'll be surprised by how deeply fulfilling your life can be.

Even if you're completely fulfilled on your current path, I encourage you to reflect on whether there are some under-celebrated parts of yourself you've been keeping under wraps professionally. Dust them off and bring them into the light: it will draw in like-minded others to you and reap unexpected rewards. Above all else, it will encourage you to be more wholly and authentically you. And that is well worth the effort.

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