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Pursuing nontraditional paths: Bombshell by day, BadAss Inventor by night

Pursuing nontraditional paths: Bombshell by day, BadAss Inventor by night

Insight by: Debbie Lin

I found recent inspiration in the fascinating life of Hedy Lamarr – a Hollywood actress and bombshell by day, and a formidable inventor by night. Renowned for her captivating beauty and talent, Lamarr graced the silver screen during the Golden Age of Hollywood, leaving her mark with iconic films such as “Algiers” (1938) and “Samson and Delilah” (1949). A true trailblazer, she defied the norms of her time by directing her own films, challenging the establishment’s status quo.

Yet beneath her public persona, a brilliant mind brimming with innovative ideas thrived. Lamarr’s nighttime endeavors as an inventor were remarkable, often collaborating with visionaries like Howard Hughes. Among her notable achievements was co-developing frequency-hopping spread spectrum technology alongside George Antheil. This ingenious method empowered the Allied Forces during World War II, enabling rapid frequency switching in radio communications and preventing Axis powers from disrupting torpedo-targeting signals. This groundbreaking innovation laid the groundwork for the modern wireless communication systems we rely on today. Regrettably, her scientific brilliance often remained overshadowed by her undeniable beauty and stardom, with her full range of achievements recognized only posthumously.

The story of Hedy LaMarr resonates deeply with me, especially after watching “Bombshell,” the documentary about her life. Her unapologetic pursuit of multifaceted potential in the 1930s and 40s serves as a powerful reminder of the courage required to venture onto untraditional paths. This courage is especially relevant to those, like myself, who are contemplating alternative careers or passions, particularly during the mid-career phase. The current landscape suggests that as a workforce, we are becoming increasingly bold and comfortable embracing unconventional paths.

The post-COVID era exemplifies this trend, with a documented surge in individuals reevaluating their lives and embarking on new career trajectories. Priorities have shifted, stability is sought, and opportunities in burgeoning industries are explored. The dynamics of remote work, evolving consumer behaviors, and technological advancements are catalysts driving these pivotal career decisions.

Observing my generation, Generation X and also the of Millennials, reveals a willingness to leap into uncharted territories, often crafting unique career niches that blend core skill sets with new and unexplored talents. Kabir Sehgal, an author, jazz musician, and finance executive, encapsulates this spirit in his HBR piece on having multiple careers. He advocates subsidizing skill development through the earnings of a primary job, drawing from personal experience as a Grammy-winning music producer. His example underscores the fulfillment derived from embracing diverse roles without sacrificing one’s well-being.

In an age marked by AI and computing transformations, the landscape of all professions, including that of the life sciences, is evolving. Staying relevant necessitates multidimensionality, prompting individuals to proactively experiment with roles to ensure enduring fulfillment. Embracing the concept of “flirting with your future self,” as Amber Imber suggests in her HBR article, involves embarking on small experiments and embracing various opportunities for role exploration.

For hiring managers, this cultural shift requires a change in perspective. The Mad Men era of hiring no longer suffices. Embracing individuals with a wealth of experiences and the audacity to channel their inner Hedy Lamarr is more likely to yield motivated, content, and adept employees. Just as Lamarr’s legacy spans both Hollywood glamour and scientific innovation, the modern workforce is carving its own unique paths, embracing change with remarkable courage and ambition.