Josh Boger Finds Beauty Off the Coast of Fiji, in Life After Vertex

1/6/14Follow @xconomy

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in the new hobby, he found his own little slice of paradise in Fiji. In the middle of the Pacific Ocean, far away from any population centers on the continents, the air and water are exceptionally pure, Boger says. Most places in the world, within 500 miles of continental coastline, the water is affected by runoff.

Fiji, of course, isn’t the only set of remote islands in the Pacific. But it is unusual in that it has some relatively large landmasses comparable in size to Rhode Island, Boger says. There’s no sunscreen clouding the waters off Wakaya, no fishing allowed off one side of the island, and no pesticides are permitted by the owner of the private island, Boger says. The owner, a Canadian gold mining billionaire, has set up a sustainable agriculture system so that almost all the food for the several hundred islanders can be produced organically, on-site. (Boger hasn’t bought property there, but he stays at a private resort there for about a month each year, he says).

About 40-70 feet below the surface of the water, just off Fiji’s private island of Wakaya, is where Boger has done most of his photography. The water is clear enough there so that there’s plenty of light way past the 120 feet down that he has gone. The coral reefs are “very healthy” and much brighter than in the Atlantic.

Click on image to enlarge

Click on image to enlarge

“The color intensity is amazing,” he says.

Capturing good images underwater requires getting very close to the action, whether that’s a coral reef, or a fish. Boger has also encountered his share of sharks underwater, and they tend to perk right up when he flashes a strobe light. “It’s a bit disconcerting when four or five sharks turn and respond to your strobe light,” he says. “It’s a moment to remember all your breath exercises.”

During this time of year when people are making resolutions, Boger is insistent about the value of having interests outside work. From the early days of Vertex, Boger said he offered employees three weeks of vacation, and bumped it up to four weeks after five years. Getting away, he says, is essential to being productive in biotech. He wanted to make sure people couldn’t bank vacation time and roll it over from year to year, claiming they were too busy to get away.

Click on image to enlarge

Click on image to enlarge

“I think it’s essential to get away to get perspective,” Boger says. “It’s not just for energy, not just recharging your batteries, as people say. It’s about getting perspective. [Biotech] is so intense for so long. I don’t claim any uniqueness in biotech, in terms of how hard it is, but it is unique in the length of time you need to focus to get anything done. There’s nothing else like it that humans do.”

Perspective is often hard to find in a fast-moving, short-term focused world. It’s normal, and expected, that people push themselves incredibly hard for a long time in biotech. Burnout is common. It only makes sense that taking the occasional real break, and seeking out a meaningful new perspective that’s far away from the day-to-day, can help a person get through this long and difficult journey. It’s also just plain good for the soul.

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