Jamie Stacey rises before dawn most days, and she and her 17-month-old son arrive at Abbott Laboratories' headquarters before 7:00 A.M. The toddler joins the other children in Abbott's daycare center, while Stacey heads up to her office to savor "those couple of hours in the morning when you can get a lot of work done before your phone starts to ring."

Stacey, 34, is staffing manager for Abbott's Global Pharmaceutical Research & Development program, charged with setting policies and procedures for the company's talent recruitment. It's a job she loves, but it's not the one she thought she was working toward when she earned her masters degree in organic chemistry from the University of Wisconsin–Madison nearly a decade ago.

Stacey spent the first five years of her career as an associate chemist in Abbott's cancer program, synthesizing compounds in search of drug-discovery candidates. Because of her alumni connections...

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