Transition Q&A Update:
Ann M. Aly

What I’m doing now:

After two years in non-profit, I was not feeling challenged by the work, nor did I feel that I had much room for professional advancement. I also was in a tough spot at my old non-profit due to rapidly changing management. I knew that I wanted to transition back to a more research-centered role, so I started doing all the legwork again: informational interviews, webinars, networking, career coaching, etc.

One of the most influential webinars I went to (and they’re not paying me to say this, I swear) was the UX Research spotlight hosted at the BTP conference. The presenter (Nichole Carelock) was SO good and it inspired me to pivot my search in this direction. Several months later, I landed a Senior UX Position at Agile 6, a company that provides digital services to the government sector. The specific contract I’m working on is with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services called Patients over Paperwork. This initiative aims to reduce administrative burden in Medicaid and Medicare so that patients can receive better care. I’ve had to learn a lot about US health policy, medical care, and handling a range of priorities/backgrounds when conducting research of this nature. But, I love the fact that I get to be a social scientist again and that the work I’m doing will have an impact on people’s medical care and quality of life.

Self care and leaving academia (AND toxic work environments in general):

When I was in grad school, I had several personal crises (health, family, etc) that made me re-prioritize my and my family’s health/well-being when thinking about a career. I knew that an academic job would not mesh well with the professional and financial wish list that I had (40 hour work week, good salary, east coast, healthy work environment, good health insurance), so I started looking for non-academic jobs.

What was hard in both my departure from academia (and my departure from non-profit) was the pressure from others to take jobs that did not fit my self-care wish list or to stop being so picky. I had to consistently remind myself that this decision affected me and my family first, so those were the needs to prioritize, not those of (well-intentioned) peers, coworkers, and friends. When I realized that my non-profit position was not in line with the self-care wish list I had defined before, I knew it was time to re-evaluate (both my career and my list) and jump back into the market.

The second time, my list was slightly tweaked: 40 hour work week, good salary, REMOTE work, healthy work environment, good health insurance for employee AND family. The job search was rough at times and I had to constantly remind myself that so many variables on the job market are out of my control and did not define my value as a person or researcher, but that I had to persist and eventually the right intersection of networking + job opening + interviewing would land me where I wanted to be. I’m now in a place where I feel confident I can care for myself, my family, be happy AND do good work!


Ann M. Aly, PhD is a versatile social science researcher who loves learning new things. She’s conducted research in a variety of domains, including linguistics, education, and medicine. Since finishing her PhD, she’s interfaced with non-profit, tech, and government spaces. When she’s not working, she can be found outdoors with a cold coffee and her dog.

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