Author Farai Chideya coined the term “Episodic Career” to describe Millennials in 2016. Morry Fiddler, PhD, Managing Member, President of Insight Medical Genetics, has been living it since he earned his PhD in Human Genetics in 1976.
Insight Medical Genetics is a “comprehensive genetic testing practice. It provides personalized counseling and guidance for patients and referring providers,” for things like prenatal and even preconception genetic counseling and screening, and hereditary cancer risk assessment.
But before taking the helm of Insight in 2013 (and growing it from one to six offices in four years) he took a side track to sell “bras and girdles.”
Chideya’s version of “Episodic Careers” refers to “the hopscotch career, where you have a series of seemingly unrelated episodes that don’t always seem like each other but they are.” Encore.org’s Marci Alboher writes about another version, “what she calls ‘slash’ careers, which means having simultaneous microcareers.” While both encourage Baby Boomers to adopt this new vision of career, both could learn something from Fiddler.
“This is not Chapter 2,” says Fiddler about his success post-50. In fact it is more like Chapter 8, meandering through the aforementioned owner of a lingerie store (his father’s, that he took over after his father died); a foray into tuning piano’s and restoring old instruments “because I loved music and it seemed cool;” and selling on the floor of the stock exchange. “I went to find contacts to get back into genetics, and ended up as a trader instead.”
The longest “side journey” was 25 years teaching at DePaul University’s School for New Learning. “That was about formulating a new concept in education–at least new for DePaul, not to me–about student centered education.” In his mind the connection was clear. “I am as interested in how adults learn as in how their genes work.”
“I’m an imposter at whatever I do,” explains Fiddler, at how he has worn so many hats over the years. He acknowledges that family responsibilities and the need to make a living has framed his choices. But he seems to be propelled by a sense that “I can do anything. I have found my velocity to learn something is very high. The limitation on that is that once I get a certain level of proficiency my interest may drop off. But there’s not too much that I’m not willing to try.”
There’s a deep optimism that continues to fuel his outlook. “The next best thing may be just around the corner.” And, even with a 30+ year detour, Fiddler new “I would find my way back to business, all the while playing music.”
“I don’t count birthdays,” says Fiddler. Although he hopes the passing of years has brought wisdom that he has applied to raising his own son and those of his partner Camille. “I imagine my age may come find me at some point. If I had to apply for a job I might feel it.” In the meantime numbers and age aren’t something he tracks.
Fiddler began teaching Internet-mediated courses over 15 years ago while at DePaul. His current connection to technology is genetics related. “In the 1990’s it took a decade and who knows how many billions to sequence the human genome. We’ve got a machine in the lab that can get it done in a couple of days.”
As for “popular” technology, he can’t live without his smart phone. “It’s my brain in my pocket.” But, he’s more lukewarm when it comes to social media as a means of communication. “Most of social media things I look at it with some appreciation and boredom.”
“Freud came of age in our generation, where relationships and how we relate and the understanding of how we relate became very much a part of who we are. We are now losing that. We are mediated by technology and electronics. I don’t find that Facebook and social media enables that deeper communication, other than snippets of OMG Joe had a baby, or oh no, someone’s parent passed away. It just doesn’t interest me.”
On What’s Next
Fiddler’s work leading Insight is exciting and growing. “They call me President,” he says, but credits the team for the success of this clinical and laboratory practice. An integrated approach combines genetic medicine and counseling to help individuals with prenatal and pre-conception issues or concerns about genes that may have impact on hereditary cancer.
“Our whole practice and business is possible because of new genetic technologies. It means you have to stay up with new wiz-bang technologies, all related to one of my favorite technologies, the human genome.
As for what retirement looks like, whenever it may come, Fiddler says “retirement looks like playing in a band at a local bar in Telluride, CO.”