Ruthi Hortsch graduated MIT in 2016 with a PhD in Mathematics. As a grad student, she spent her summers working for Canada/USA Mathcamp, teaching advanced mathematics to high school students. This summer work led to a job in NYC with Bridge to Enter Advanced Mathematics (BEAM), a nonprofit that works with youth who show exceptional potential in mathematics and come from low-income and historically excluded backgrounds. She took on many roles during her 7.5+ years there, including leading seasonal hiring through expansion, managing BEAM’s transition to using Salesforce, and directing a summer camp each year. She recently left BEAM and moved to Athens, GA (where her partner she met at MIT just started a tenure-track job), and is taking a break from work while she decides on her next career transition.

How Ruthi’s post-PhD plans changed from the beginning to end of graduate school

Ruthi was initially interested in academia when starting out in graduate school, but in her second year in the program she realized that the day-to-day work of math research wasn’t what she wanted to do for the rest of her career. During the summers in her PhD, Ruthi worked at a camp that focused on teaching high school students advanced mathematics. The contrast between her academic work and summer experiences was striking to Ruthi, and led her to decide that continuing in academic research wasn’t for her. However, she was enjoying her PhD work and liked the people and the department, choosing to continue pursuing the degree with the intention of leaving academia upon graduation.

How Ruthi found her first position out of graduate school and what she’s doing now

After graduate school, Ruthi started working with the New York City nonprofit “Bridge to Enter Advanced Mathematics” (BEAM). Ruthi knew of the organization from her work at the math summer camp, and applied for a position with BEAM after connecting with the founder at a conference. Although this was the path that led her to a position, Ruthi also described the general approach she took to finding a job after graduate school, saying the book “So What Are You Going To Do With That” was a useful resource during the process. Additionally, Ruthi stressed the value of the informational interviews she did with people working in fields that she was interested in, including tech, science policy, and data science. These interviews helped Ruthi get a sense for the type of work she was interested in doing.  

Ruthi recently left her position with BEAM after seven and a half years with the organization. During that time, BEAM grew to an organization of 40 people working nationwide and successfully transitioned their programing to remote options and back to in-person. Ruthi described deciding to leave BEAM to figure out what she wants to do next, only this time she is much more confident in her ability to promote herself and her skills. 

The sources of mentorship Ruthi relied on in her career

Ruthi found mentorship/advice from fellow PhD students who have pursued careers in non-profit work as well as collegaues at BEAM. She encouraged current students who are interested in these types of career paths to talk to a broad range of people when considering what to do after graduate school. Without more digging into the possibilities, she says, you only hear about the typical paths of academia/industry, but there is so much more out there.

The soft skills Ruthi developed during her PhD that have been useful in her career

Ruthi particularly highlighted the skills in project management that pursing a PhD helped develop. She described being responsible for organizing her own time and meeting internal deadlines during her graduate work, and that these skills have been useful in her career. Additionally, Ruthi mentioned that her PhD work helped develop a learning mindset, where she saw problems as challenges to solve instead of barriers. She said that she didn’t fully appreciate that not everybody has this mindset and said it served her well at BEAM, which had a startup-like environment when she joined.

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