We had the good fortune of connecting with Fritz Costa and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Fritz, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
The way I think about risk is; if I’m uncomfortable, or I’m nervous, or doubtful of my decisions, then I’m just right. I’m taking enough risks in my life. Now If I’m loosing sleep at night about a risk I took, then it’s too much. My normal is slightly uncomfortable. If you’re completely content and comfortable, then you didn’t take any risks that year and you didn’t push the needle. There will be no progress. I like to paint myself in a corner all the time and announce it to my friends. For example, I told everyone that I’m going to write this art book 8 years ago. Guess what, every time my friends saw me they would say, “hey, how’s that book coming along?” Now I’m accountable to to risk I took, or else I get pie in my face. My suggestion is start off with small risks, then build your way up.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I work for the world’s largest biotech company and I manage clinical trials. Once a pharmaceutical company has a potential drug that they’ve successfully tested on lab rats, they now need to test it on real people –that’s a clinical trial. I over see the experiment and manage all the departments involved in it: from drug supply chain, the auditors, and doctors that give the drug.
It wasn’t an easy road. As you heard I didn’t have industry experience and no one wanted to talk to me. So I decided to become an UNPAID intern for a year. I was in my late 30’s and an unpaid intern at a clinic in Beverly Hills who participated in clinical trials. My boss was a 23 year old fresh college grad from Cornell. He really saw himself superior to me and treated me so. But I took it with a smile and just did my job –remember UNPAID. After a year, I was able to get enough experience that I got a job interview. I started small, then worked my way up to the world’s largest biotech.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I would take them to the East Side, where USC is. I would start the evening at Tiki-Ti on Sunset and throw back a couple of Mai Tai’s and listen to Exotica music. Tiki-Ti is an LA institution and family owned for 60 years. After you have a good buzz, we would walk over to the Dresden Room on Vermont. Order some appetizers to absorb some of the alcohol and listen to Marty and Elaine play lounge renditions of “Livin’ la vida Loca”. Once the buzz wears off, we would order Manhattan’s from the bar and enjoy the music. Then we would stumble to the House of Pies across the street from the Dresden and dry out there. Order some coffee and pie. Once the sun comes up, I guess it’s time to go home, right?
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
That would be my wife, Debbie. I went to an insane amount of school to become a college Professor, which I did. I taught college Anatomy and Physiology for 6 years. When I first started out in 2006, life was good. I would get cold calls from the Deans of other colleges and beg me to teach a class for them. I had to turn work down, because I was so busy. Then the Great Recession of 2008 hit and slowly but surely the offers started to dry out. At the lowest point of the recession I was only working 9 hours / week. We could barely pay our mortgage and we had a 2 year-old.
I deduced that I would transition form Academia to the pharmaceutical industry. They would be lucky to have me; I’ve published 9 peer reviewed papers in high tier journals and I even have a book chapter in a cancer text book. That’s how naive I was. It turns out no one wanted to talk to me. My perception of expertise and experience was NOT what pharmaceutical companies are looking for. They want real world experience. I searched for a 1 without interviews, and went into depression –although I didn’t know it.
My wife told me to stop looking for a job and do something fun. That was my new job. So I started writing an art blog (www.Lowbrowliterati.com) in 2012. The blog turned into a book, and 8 years later it was finally published. I owe that to my wife for pushing me and supporting my crazy idea.
Photo by Fritz Costa