The sick scientist

Alright, I eased you into the intensity of the Startup Catalyst Future Founders mission with the post on data driven diversity. Now it’s time to dive even deeper. We talked a lot on this trip about what impostor syndrome means to each of us, and together we were on a journey to overcome it. I know I had impostor syndrome because of all the awards and attention I’d been getting lately and I had impostor syndrome within the Catalyst group itself, in the beginning I felt like a sore thumb in a group of engineers (I will come back to this in a later post).

On the second day of the mission, we visited Runway, a coworking space in downtown San Fran. Here I was introduced to a man named Thibault, who was working on a medtech startup in the Runway space. It took about 15 seconds for him to completely disarm me.

Where does impostor syndrome end, and awareness of your own limitations begin?

He told me everything he loved about San Francisco: the conversations, the connections, the pace, THE MONEY! He then proceeded to tell me that if I chose to bring my startup here, I would miss my friends getting married. My family would grow with children I may not ever meet. My parents will grow old while I am away. However, if I wanted to have an impact, I had to be here. So he asked me, what is most important to you? What are you capable of?

The most important thing to me is using science to change the world, to make people’s lives better. To be honest, I have been spoiled. I never thought about what I’d have to give up in order to do things of this magnitude. But the next part, what am I capable of? Well that’s a little complicated. I fully believe that I am capable of living internationally, at least for a few years. One major consideration for where I live however, is my health. I have Common Variable Immune Deficiency (for more on my background and illness, see here) which means I rely on transfusions of human blood plasma products to replenish parts of my immune system that don’t work properly. Joel Pobar from Facebook asked us ‘what is blocking you?’. I must admit I spent a bit of time trying not to cry and/or yell ‘My body! My body is what is holding me back from taking the leap forward!’.

This has pretty major implications for my career path. I can’t jet between countries at a moments notice, because I need import and export permits for my blood products. I need a solid schedule, and reliable specialists (I have 5 specialist MDs and one immunology nurse) to keep my health on track. Without all of these things, I wouldn’t be physically capable of much at all.

So what I have started to wonder is, how much of my impostor syndrome is deeply imbedded in my own perception of my health? Perhaps I am completely qualified to establishing a startup, and flipping it up to San Fran and taking on the US market. Perhaps I shouldn’t do it, because my physical health could break down and people’s livelihoods would be at stake. On the other hand, I have achieved this much in my 25 years because people kept telling me that I wouldn’t be able to. I am successful because I thoroughly enjoy defying odds and proving people wrong. Life is short, and my life could be shorter than most, but surely that’s enough time to make an impact on the world. I mean it would be if there was a way to move fast.. Maybe the startup life is for me.




One thought on “The sick scientist

  1. As much as I would like to be able to give you some sagely advise on what your next step should be, I’m quite sure that based on what you have achieved so far, that you are more than capable of making the best choice. As much as we all aspire to a job that will ensure that we are financially secure, it means little if you are not happy in the work that you are doing, or that it does not allow you to enjoy a life outside of work.


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