Bernadette Rostenkowski was an intelligent, ambitious young woman who had one of the most lucrative jobs amongst the entire gang of the hit sitcom The Big Bang Theory. She had a successful career and worked hard to get there. She was also a woman who fully intended to outrun her competition at every stage and get to the top.
Bernie made some good and some terrible career decisions, which interestingly, made her a relatable character. From not letting her husband’s insecurities come in the way of her career, to lying through her teeth about the side effects of certain drugs, Bernie has done it all.
Worst: Intimidating Her Colleagues
Bernadette is a tiny woman but she can be extremely intimidating whenever she wants and it seems as though most people at her workplace live in constant fear of her. For instance, Bernadette is under the impression that the coffee in her office is free, which it isn’t. But her colleagues have not been able to inform her that they pay for her coffee out of their own pocket for fear of the fuss she would make.
Being tough is understandable for a woman making her mark in what is overwhelmingly a ‘man’s world,’ but Bernie went overboard with it. In fact, the reason Penny was hired in her company was that her interviewer Dan was too scared to say no to Bernie’s candidate.
Best: Getting Her PhD
Bernadette did her Ph.D. in microbiology, which was of course one of the reasons she became qualified to be recruited by large pharma companies in the first place.
Bernie’s doctorate in microbiology added to her resume and also made her the last of the gang to have obtained her doctoral degree, with the exception of Howard, and of course, Penny. With her Ph.D. and her smart, feisty nature which could turn a tad threatening any minute, she would have aced her job interviews.
Worst: Exploiting Sympathy
Unfortunately, Bernie wasn’t above exploiting situations in her favor whenever it suited her and she did the same with her career.
She realized that people didn’t like her and were literally scared of her. She pretended to be upset by such hate directed towards her and made use of the sympathy that she was shown to get a few more perks such as an espresso machine installed in her office. Had her fakeness been revealed, Bernie’s journey onwards in her lucrative career might have been rudely interrupted.
Best: Leaving The Cheesecake Factory
One of the best career decisions Bernadette took was of course quitting waitressing at the Cheesecake Factory to work at a high-profile pharmaceutical company where she was offered ‘a buttload of money.’
Bernie was working part-time at the Cheesecake Factory to get herself through while she was working on her doctoral degree. It made sense that after she had earned her degree, and been fortunate enough to be offered a coveted position, she would give up her part-time job.
Worst: Being Overly Competitive
Bernadette wasn’t just insensitive or harsh at times, even to her best friends, but she was also overly competitive. At work, she participated aggressively in the rat race, and while it often paid dividends, it didn’t necessarily make her likable.
When she was pregnant with Neil, she was anxious that her colleague, Ruchi, would try to take over her projects and gradually sideline her while she was away on maternity leave. This turned out to be true of course, as Ruchi was planning to do exactly that, but it was also true that Bernie herself believed in such cut-throat competition too.
Best: Not Letting Howard’s Insecurities Get In The Way
One good thing Bernadette did was not to let Howard’s insecurities about not making as much money get in the way of her career path.
Howard didn’t earn as much as Bernadette did whose pay scale at a private pharma company was naturally way higher than his. However, although Bernie was sensitive to Howard’s feelings, she didn’t let it affect her career, which was a good choice.
Worst: Not Being Completely Honest About The Drugs Her Company Manufactured
One of the worst decisions Bernie made in her career which could have had disastrous consequences, was to help pass and promote drugs that she knew would have terrible side effects on people. For instance, in the episode, “The Retraction Reaction,” Bernie tells Amy that the eczema drug manufactured by her company caused a few loose teeth and that itchy hair was a side effect of their cholesterol drug.
While it was highly unethical for the company to have pushed for approval for such dubious drugs, it was even worse that Bernadette should justify them. Once again, if it was revealed that she had been in the knowhow about the drug’s side effects, she might have been in great trouble professionally.
Best: Getting Penny To Run Her Sales Campaign
Bernadette got Penny to head her sales campaign, which was a very smart move. Penny, for all her fears, had a natural talent with people.
Penny could be cheerful and compelling in equal measures, and with Bernie’s training, she became capable of running her team with an iron fist. She used her charms to head the campaign and that definitely worked in Bernie’s favor.
Worst: Being Rude To Her Staff
Bernadette wasn’t just intimidating to her colleagues, she was also really mean to her staff whenever she felt like it. Bernie considered it essential to be mean and haughty to make people listen to her.
Given her short stature, she had struggled to be taken seriously, but surely her staff deserved better than to be treated harshly for no apparent reason. Her overly sweet exterior often gave way to harshness even with those with whom she had no competition.
Best: Going Back To Work After Having Her Kids
Finally, Bernadette suffered the age-old dilemma that almost many working parents in the world have faced some time or the other. She wondered if she should get back to work after her kids were born, or whether she should be a stay-at-home parent.
She did eventually decide to get back to the office since that was after all a very large part of her life. She had worked towards achieving a career her whole life, and she decided to not throw that away but to try and balance her work and family life equally.