Christine Greene is on her second career.
It’s actually her third career, if you count the jobs she held after college before she opted out of the corporate world.
Really, it’s her fourth career, if you consider the years she spent raising her family as one of those stops.
“After kids you ask that question ‘What’s next for me? What would fulfill me? What am I contributing to this life?’” – Christine Greene
The 61-year-old shows no signs of slowing down. In the last year and a half as a Program Software Integration Manager at aircraft manufacturer Pratt & Whitney, she manages a team to make sure business requirements are properly translated into a final, functional product.
Working in the military engine industry is an atypical outcome for someone who earned college degrees in chemistry and biology. But Greene’s career has been anything but typical. After getting her MBA in healthcare administration, she worked in both the pharmaceutical and IT fields, writing code in the insurance industry.
With the birth of her second child in 1988, she took herself out of the job market to raise her family and didn’t consider a return until her children were out of the house.
“After kids you ask that question ‘What’s next for me? What would fulfill me? What am I contributing to this life?’” Greene says.
She started a PhD program at age 47, earning her doctorate in nutritional science when she turned 50. But she didn’t want to be a dietician – she wanted to interact in a classroom setting. Opportunities to do so were limited in the Northeast.
“I didn’t pay attention to what the market would bear,” she explains. “I wanted to teach, not publish or do research.”
Unable to find a full-time role, she questioned the work she had put in to earn that third degree.
“It felt like failure, like why did I just do that? You ask the universe, ‘What the hell? What was the point of this?’” she says.
Rather than relocating for a job, she instead found a gig as an adjunct professor of Anatomy and Physiology at the University of Hartford where she taught science to non-science majors.
“I said yes to whatever,” she notes. “I gave lectures to Girl Scouts. I gave free nutrition seminars in hospitals.”
She enjoyed the work but not the inconsistency.
“I wasn’t fulfilled with the morsels and the insecurity of the adjunct work. I knew I needed something that’s going to give me a path forward, not a pebble here and there,” she says.
That’s when a colleague offered her a volunteer IT job at a local hospital. Her “just say yes” motto kicked in and she took the role, even when she wasn’t sure where it was headed.
“I thought it would fill the time,” she admits.
The IT work grew as her teaching assignments waned and what started as volunteerism evolved into a full-time paid position. In 2010, Greene continued taking on greater responsibilities – first in field services and then in IT asset and project management. A year and a half ago, she landed a managerial role at Pratt & Whitney where she leads a team, ensuring all deliverables are met.
What Greene likes best about her current job is working with educated people in a detail-oriented and collaborative role.
She admits she’s had a “patchwork” career but one in which there is little to regret.
“I had the opportunity and fortune to stay home with my kids. I’ve had a number of interesting jobs. People ask, ‘You have a PhD in nutrition and you work where?’ I don’t regret getting the PhD. But seeing where I am now,” she laughs, “I might have gone for one in computer science, not nutritional science.”
Her background in nutrition still impacts how she sees things.
“I get made fun of because I won’t eat hot dogs at the ball game. I bring a hard-boiled egg instead. My children are appalled,” she jokes.
Greene’s career, from MBA to stay-at-home mom to academia and back to the corporate world, shows there’s not always one path, but a series of opportunities.
“It’s not a straight line,” she notes.
So, what comes next? Greene still has things she wants to achieve and goals to hit. She’s thought about travel. Maybe becoming a real estate agent.
“I’m waiting for that feeling of ‘This is enough.’”
Her advice to those still trying to find their way? Try a “This, but not that” approach. “Do things to find out what you don’t like. That’s an important data point. I tried this, I don’t like it. So, what do I like? Let the doors open.”
Saying yes has led her to a series of interesting chapters.
For Greene, there’s always time to write another one.
Profile: Dr. Christine Greene, Program Software Integration Manager
Title of Your Current Chapter: “My Turn at the Wheel”
Motto to live by: “Always say YES!”
How do you get Unstuck? Find a way to ground yourself – journal, hike, listen to music…
What’s Next? I’m still looking to find the right expression of my soul’s purpose.
What advice do you have for others looking to create their own next chapters? Be open to new experiences, particularly those that on first glance don’t make sense. It’s OK to not know the answer or the next step. Trust that the universe does.
About the author: Valerie Gordon spent more than 20 years putting stories on television. As the founder of Commander-in-She, Gordon now helps women harness the power of their own stories and create meaningful next chapters. Read her other work at Commander-in-She.com. If you know someone who should be profiled for “Next Chapter,” please email firstname.lastname@example.org.