Monday, December 12, 2011

Will Your Children be Operations Researchers?

I like to ask colleagues and even fellow travelers while flying how they got interested in and selected their chosen field/profession.

I, also, if the conversation gets animated and interesting, may even venture and inquire about whether their parents or another relative may have been an influence on the career that they have chosen. Or was it a teacher who saw a special spark and talent and commented on it and nurtured it?

Being immigrants, my family always valued and emphasized math and science and many males in my family were engineers, including my father and uncles, whereas my mother, although trained as a pharmacist in the old country, became a teacher in the US.

Trying to optimize the allocation of scarce resources was an underlying theme while I was growing up, with my father paying careful attention to the budget. As children, we never felt that we were wanting. But, then again, living close to NYC, we had the most magnificent museums and other cultural institutions to explore and enjoy, which we did on many Sundays. Summers, when not working at either summer camps or in hospitals (another early career interest was medicine), we would spend in the Poconos in a very primitive, rustic bungalow colony, which was heaven (despite no running hot water, etc.). We would explore the woods for hours, swim in fresh water lakes, and pick berries in the wild. A special treat would be going to a drive-in movie or walking 4 miles round-trip to get a New York Times.

Also, there would be math games that we would play and even math competitions with chalk problems on oiled dirt roads. These would, typically, take place on weekends when the fathers would come to visit their families or when they had their vacations.

Making the most of what we had was how we lived, so scarcity made for abundance.

Also, as far back as elementary school, Mrs. Fuller, my seventh grade teacher, said that one day I would be a calculus professor (I do teach in a business school and am proud to say that the students in my classes do make use of calculus).

I do wonder what roads/paths the children of INFORMS members will take (or have taken) and hope that you can join me in sharing your stories.

This blogpost is my second entry to this month's INFORMS Challenge on O.R. and Families.

My first post was on My Academic Mother.