An Engineer-Turned-Baker on What Is the True Quality of Life

Income differences are often the result of career choices and training. For instance, few would expect an engineer and a baker to make the same amount of money. But what if you’re an MIT-trained biomedical engineer who decides to open a bakery? Well, clearly, the true quality of life isn’t based on finances, but on fulfillment.

In other words, if baking means happiness, all the money in the world couldn’t make Winnette McIntosh Ambrose happy being just an engineer. That was the quality-of-life choice that led Ambrose to open Sweet Lobby Café in Washington, D.C.

“It was during my post-doc at the NIH that I had the bright idea, I could do two careers. Why don’t I open a shop while doing my post-doc?” Ambrose said of her decision. Eventually, however, “as a small business owner I had to decide where to place most of my energies.”

Ambrose said years later, she still gets questions about why she left her “prestigious” career to focus on patisserie cupcakes. Most people are curious how she would leave her breakthrough field of vision-saving technology for something less “honorable” or “needed.”

She has a quick answer. Ambrose says that whatever one’s career choice, it is the right one if it means fulfilling a higher calling.

“As human beings we’re created with one purpose, and that is to glorify God, and that is to do that in whatever sphere we might be in,” she said.

Being a business owner means working long hours, but it also means flexibility. For Ambrose, it was attractive to have a few hours in the morning to play with or take her child to school. She learned along the way, that having a business also meant she could expand quality of life for others.

“I started to consider what a business really meant. It meant a community where you can provide employment. You have the an opportunity to do something else that I love, which is to mentor young people … It’s amazing to see the transformation.”

Winnette McIntosh Ambrose’s story is part of a new documentary called “To Whom is Given,” which looks at business owners’ faith-based decisions to help the common good.

Click here to learn more about Winnette McIntosh Ambrose and “To Whom Is Given.