From Professional to Professor

by Lauren Thomas

“Go with your heart. Pray about it, find your aptitudes and interests and just go for it.”

Professor Black’s unique and diverse career path has been steadied by his pursuit of the best and most fulfilling opportunities. His experiences are insightful for students forging the first steps of their own professional paths.

When Professor Richard Robison, department chair and former graduate colleague, called Robert Black about the opening position in the Microbiology and Molecular Biology Department, Bob said to himself reminiscently, “That is the perfect job.” For the last two years as an administrative professor in the department, Bob brings his expert and diverse professional experience to bear on his interactions with students.

 

“When a door was closing there was always a door opening somewhere.”

Bob recognized a love for microbiology early in his education. He said of an early high school science class, “I looked through a microscope and I was transformed.” His curiosity sustained his efforts to earn both Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Microbiology from BYU. As educational doors were closing upon graduation, professional doors were opening for Bob. He found his first job through a campus job board, equivalent to today’s BYU Bridge. He spent a number of years at that first company as a research technician, including two years working in Hawaii. Though the job was excellent, it was advantageous for the Blacks to move back to Utah to raise their young family. Without another job prospect, Bob left his job in Hawaii and their family moved. Within weeks of moving Bob secured a position at the University of Utah working on the human genome project.

Professor Bob Black, BYU            Photo by Lindsey Bushman

“It’s where I made the biggest impact on the world.”

After four years on the research project and on a referral from a colleague, Bob was offered a managerial position at the Biomat plasma centers. This position developed his managerial expertise and led to his pursuit of an MBA. Bob appreciated his time at Biomat not only for the experience but also for the impact he had on the world: “I ran a specialty center where we made globulin shots that protect babies from antibodies formed in carrying mothers during prior pregnancies.” Professor Black’s wife had received similar treatments while she was carrying their younger children. “That job was fulfilling because my wife and I had been recipients of the things we were creating.”

 

“Don’t take jobs just for the money because it’s not going to be fulfilling in the long run.”

With a new credential in Business Administration, Bob took a turn in financial coaching. For seven years he helped families get out of debt quicker, and though this position was lucrative he soon felt “drawn back to science.”

 

“The best time to get a job is when you have one.”

Around this time, TwinLab unexpectedly reached out and contacted him for a management position. The job was close to home, it was in the microbiology field, it was perfect. Bob never solicited the employment information from TwinLab, rather the company contacted him after seeing his credentials on an employment website. Throughout Bob’s career he had put resumes out to different companies, keeping his eyes open to new opportunities for development and for rewarding work. Bob was always told that “the best time to get a job is when you have one.” His profiles and resumes on employment resumes gave potential employers opportunities to contact him for new positions.

 

“Knowing people is the enzyme in the chemical reaction to getting a job.”

Resumes and online employment platforms are not the only means for finding the most rewarding jobs. Echoing the advice of nearly every career development mentor, Bob advises students, “Anything you can do to network is a good thing. They’ll hire you if they know you.” Networking begins long before graduation. Professor Black and Department Chair Richard Robison were graduate school colleagues working for the same professor. When the lab administration position opened, Rich remembered his graduate school connection with Bob and called with the offer. For Bob, the idea of coming back to academics was “really intriguing” so he made his final career turn back into BYU. For the last two years he’s managed the lab stockroom and taught classes in the Microbiology and Molecular Biology department. He loves working in department and sharing his experiences and expertise with current students. When it comes to making decisions he says to students, “Go with your heart. Pray about it, find your aptitudes and interests and just go for it.”