Tuesday, December 30, 2014

12 days of Christmas: Day 12 - God fortsättning

God Fortsättning! ('Happy Continuum') After the 'God jul' (the Merry Christmas in Swedish that has no reference to 'christ' but rather Yule) comes the 'God Fortsättning'.

It's one of those quirky things we Swedes do, between Christmas Eve and New Years Eve we say God Fortsättning. Then after New Years Day we alternate between the Happy New Year ('Gott Nytt År') to the person when we see someone for the first time after Midnight at New Years, and God Fortsättning. The God Fortsättning stops after Twelfth Night but you can sort of say it until "20th day Knut" ("20th day Yule"), the 13th day of January when we remove all the decorations from the tree (eat the sugar), dance around it and then toss the tree out through the window!

(I'm telling you, there's a lot going on in that snowy winter land darkness.)

Since today is "before New Years Eve" I will wish 'God Fortsättning' for another few minutes and then bring it back on the weekend.

I will concoct a new post wrapping up the old year and mentioning a little about the new one soon!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

12 Days of Christmas - Day 11: night and nature

There is something special about the night. I love the night. (Apart from those nights when I'm scared of the dark at home and want to not open the doors or think that there is a murderer hiding in the closet.) I also love the nature. Being out in the nature and just being. The combo can be absolutely amazing. I will never forget that one November when I was out in the woods during an LARP and it was snow everywhere. Complete darkness and then the full moon rose. It was AMAZING. The moon light made it an eerie day, pale blue moon light reflecting off the snow. I have never seen such a wonderful night. I ended up sitting in the snow in my wool mantle just taking it all in. Beautiful.

Anyway, there are few key moments where I can say I usually feel totally relaxed, exhilarated and most often very happy. Those moments have a lot of similar things, and then a few different ones. Like mentioned before usually at night, if not a night, in nature. And many times without any type of electronics.

One, during the day skating on a lake back home in the middle of winter. Quiet, sun shining, blue sky and snow around. The skates making a nice crisp sound when they cut the ice and you glide smoothly forward. You are part of nature, you exist and flow.... no clumsy walk, just steady rhythm.

Second, on a roller coaster at dark. Going quickly up and down. Feeling the slight panicky feeling when you go up since you know that for every centimeter going up you will go down. Fast. And you will not know exactly how it will end. And then seeing the surroundings where the light shines on it. Best is if the roller coaster is in a town and when you are at the top of the course you see the various lights over the city.... to feel the wind if your hair and face. Open your mouth to take a huge gulp of life and just relax. There is nothing you can do, apart from enjoying the ride. I absolutely loved it earlier this year when I went on a very intense roller coaster - first up was "back parallel to the ground" which was pretty steep.... lovely drop afterwards.

Third, walking in the rain during a really heavy storm. Feeling the rain on your face, hearing the thunder release the noise and lightning come down. Getting soaked and knowing that there is nothing you can do - nothing you need to do but enjoy the wetness and the nature claiming you as theirs. Accept the weather and push forward. Turn your head upwards, lick the drops and laugh at the sky.

Fourth, driving in the night. Fast. With blasting music. Alone on the road. Just driving and being there and then. No future, no past, just there. The music you chose filling up the car and your ears. (I may or may not surprise a few of my friends when they realise that I really drive fast when I'm alone in the car.) This may or may not be part of those many moments that I cherish so much. That carry so many romantic moments - both with someone and alone. It was such a moment the first times I drove in my car at night, music blasting, and feeling truly free. Like I could go anywhere. Do anything. No one knew where I was. Time before cell phones.

Fifth, dancing at one of the clubs when I was younger. Those clubs where the music kind of fills up every part of you. You feel the base in your body and you move with the beat. I had a few moments where this happened outside of a club scene. The party where at night I found myself on the roof of a high building, the music spreading out from the room below and making it so very aerial.

All these things are something that I used to do on a regular basis back in home country. Before moving here, before "growing up" and getting a "real job". Nowadays a lot of these feelings come from running long times (obviously not lately but earlier this year) with music in my ears or through forests. Or biking through the forests and off road. Or renting a car and driving to another city to make an errand..... it was not at night since the latter time driving late a night may or may not have ended with a pricey ticket... But I do have times when I long for those old times, being with my old friends in those areas and doing the same things yet again.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

12 Days of Christmas: Day 10 - Cold

(If you think this post is late - you're absolutely right. I didn't post it before midnight and new day rolled over.)

Some things are more obvious that other, when holidays roll around and you want to get "all the stuff done before you take off". And you work a little more a few days and try to clean that inbox under 100 emails with "to do" on them. Then weekend comes around and count down to real vacation. You wake up that Saturday morning, open your little eyes a little reluctant and SNEEEZE.

It' like clockwork. Those two "pre-vacation" days where you needed to shop the last gifts, clean the home, do laundry, everything else that you have to do.... yep, hindered by sneezing, red-squared eyes and later the cough and the dripping nose.

I'm not a happy camper right now.

Will restart tomorrow and finish strong on the posting. Promise.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

12 Days of Christmas: Day 9 - Guilt

Tagging onto the last post about gratitude - the other side of the coin, guilt.

It's a common theme in certain movies and jokes "the jewish mother guilt" - I tend to revamp it to "the Swedish guilt" (not specific to mothers; fathers and siblings are pretty astute to dish it out as well. It's all about "don't think you're special and oh don't worry about me" but it really is.

Then there is the work guilt, you know the whole "oh, so you're leaving for home now - I guess I can do these last few things" guilt. And the "we are so understaffed but we have promised to do this and it would be wasting material and ...." so someone volunteers to do it anyways.

In holiday times there is a greater guilt - we who have vs those who don't - since there is all about the gift giving. Who decorated the house the best. Who has done the most holiday food making. Who is the worst child to their parents. Not to mention the whole "everyone else has X and you couldn't give that to me".

Personally, I have tried really hard this year to feel non-guilty but as I alluded to in a few of these Christmas posts - it's not the best of times around holidays. There is a lot of guilt coming my way from certain directions. (hint hint, nudge nudge) There are the added bonus of the "what have you done this year and what is in store for next year" as a guilt trip extravaganza. Just today, talking to my family, I ended up in that dangerous loop where I apologize for something that I know they want but I haven't given them (yet). Most times I know how to ignore the prompting (crickets) but today I fell head first into the trap. Yep. Thanks for the guilt bashing. I know, "everyone else has X and Y and PQ", and my measly "let's be happy and have gratitude for what we have" kinda fell short of say.... several miles. Ah well, it's just the way it is, right? I'm sure it would've been better if I would've been across the sea, close proximity and all the elves would've given us everything we ever wanted and more. Oh wait. Maybe not.

Anyway, I wanted to wish you all readers out there a happy guiltless holiday! After all, today is Winter Solstice (might be tomorrow) and Festivus. Happy Festivus! Find a pole, put it in the living room, drink some glögg, cherish what you have and enjoy all the silliness around. There are going to be plenty opportunity for the guilt tomorrow or later on.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

12 days of Christmas - Day 8: Gratitude

I haven't felt the holiday spirit really well this year so far in the month of December. It's been a little better last couple of days with some Holiday parties at work and sending the gifts to Europe (too late for delivery by 24th but as I said to my coworkers "If 14 days later was good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for my peeps" - lots of Christian people at work).

My throat is itching and I've been sneezing so that's not feeling festive either. Most of all I'm still feeling my leg/butt/piriformis and all those combined have left me in a little lurch feeling. However, I decided the other day to whip myself into shape and realize exactly how good I have it. Show some gratitude darn it. Holiday season and all!

I'm grateful for not being sick (something serious that is - my piriformis will hear this I hope and disappear for real since I am getting very tired of not sleeping at night, nor sitting/getting up at work).
I'm grateful for having a very good job, where I'm both appreciated and feel I make a difference.
I'm grateful for my parents, family and friends being healthy as well.

And most of all, I'm grateful that there isn't anything I need* so therefore I can spend my money for Christmas gifts on Heifer.com, DoctorsWithoutBorders (MSF.org) and "Individuell Människohjälp" (gladjeshopen.se). My family and friends will be giving people ducks, chickens, micro loans to women in various parts of the world and letting women & children go to school and get an education. They just don't know if just yet - but when they open the cards they'll find out :)

If it sounds sappy - perhaps. I just don't like giving people all these gifts that people don't want or need but you need to give something. I have sorted out photos from last year and those are put together in photo books and calendars, which is something that I like. And you should give gifts that you would like, right?!

The card doesn't really fit with the idea of the post but I promised myself to keep with the theme - opening the Christmas calendar each day - so here it is.

*I probably should get a new car somewhere since it's very old and cranky. However, I'm still on the "it's working so why buy new".... one of these days though....

Friday, December 19, 2014

12 days of Christmas - Day 7: Follow through

This will be a short one. It's Friday before Christmas and little me is hungry and tired from working too much this week.

One week with a lot of enthusiastic meetings and talky-talky happy times!
One week with a lot of meetings with various people from various constellations being all enthusiastic.
One week of me trying to have a smiley face and being all enthusiastic while hiding the devil's horns in the forehead and the stick in my hand.

Today it didn't really work. The horns were out. Or at least the smile was off the face, the girly "I'm sad and don't know why you hurt me" face came on (for certain people I work with I have found that this is the best way of getting the point across. So sure me.). I ended up in a meeting where afterwards I got corned by one of the faculty, who hasn't done what they promised and should do to keep external people happy. They asked about the long face, why I wasn't on the enthusiastic bandwagon (my word, not theirs) and that "my opinion and thoughts are important and they need me to be emotionally involved".

I smiled and said that it has been a little stressful and disappointing since I've been on a dozen or so emails where people are asking why X hasn't been done and why I haven't helped with it. I have. It's just that I can't fix it - they can though. They proceeded to look at me and ask "why do you care about those emails?" I just smiled and kept quiet since it would've opened a can of worms if I did mention the fact that: if you talk big talk in the beginning of a project, you make people enthusiastic about it, they get happy and start working on things and the project start taking off.... - then the enthusiasm is moving on to "new-shiny-project" and "former-new-project" is not as interesting anymore and then the project is not getting priority and therefore only finished if you threaten or.

Yes. That is my issue. I like to follow through and finish. Especially projects. And I know how to deal with all of this on a regular basis but when I get caught on emails that are circulated with people and I feel cornered - I'm not great with playing ball.

So, tonight it's wine and a movie to get over this. Then, next year I will be better at this and not "care about the feelings of faculty" and therefore act on the "active button" earlier on from the external people and then get stuff moved on.

Oh the joy I can see coming :) Leaving with another one of these wonderful posters with pointers. Happy Times!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

12 days of Christmas - Day 6: Delegating

One of the things with my job is that I'm in the position to delegate tasks to people. Well, technically I can delegate to people to get all of the project done. Practically, they sort of have to admit that they want to own the task and do it since I don't have authority over them per se I have no threat or carrot - only "if you do this we can move the project along". 

There are however, some exceptions. When I'm involved with something that concerns my boss, I can always as a last resort end up having him cc:ed to the "I'm asking for this based on Dr X's request" (half-a-stick-approach). I don't particularly like it that way, but it's part of the work culture for certain departments... so, at times I've ended up that route.

The other exception is "the things I do on my own" - aka my job and the extra projects I'm in charge of for real (building data bases, streamlining processes among other things). For these things I'm expected to delegate and not do every little detail myself. I'm suppose to make it happen. Not necessarily make them myself. And when they are done, hand them over to someone else to use and update. This has turned out, as I knew it would, to be a little harder than I would initially want it to be. As usual it's the trap of "stress and time issue". It takes longer to explain and instruct someone how to do a fairly complex task the first time so then you might as well just do it yourself, right? Eh no. Key word? "First time" - after that it's usually quicker and then all of a sudden you don't have to do that task at all.

However, every so often you end up with the conundrum of "if I do it my way it ends up 100% correct* and great", if I ask someone else to do it, "it might not end up 100% like that and then it's not good" - therefore I won't ask anyone else to do it. This is probably the worst solution and the most devious thought process .... Not only do you have an inflated sense of your own perfectionism (that this other person doesn't have), you also presume that if it isn't exactly like you envisioned it, it's not perfect. As we all know, there are many ways to make an omelet and most things that I find myself caught up in - well, they are just ok to have someone do their own way. It will get done. It will be as good, or almost as good (in my mind) as I would've done it. It will be "enough good quality". 

Most of all, it's going to be good enough AND I get time to do those other things that only I can do. That's probably the absolute most important part of the whole equation.

My boss is actively trying to have me "get this" by showing me how much they delegate to me. Without specific detailed instructions a lot of times. Often a conversation or an email with "can you take care of this?" and then it's up to me to make it happen in the best way possible (as I see fit and that would be a good solution for them and the lab). Quite frankly, I'm impressed that they can delegate as much as they do, but as they said "I hire good people who I trust, so why wouldn't I delegate with happiness?" and then they continue with "I have to prioritize my time and efforts and what I'm imperative for - writing grants, mentoring my post-docs (lots of other things) - that's what I need to be doing. These things I delegate are things that I could do, but I would end up doing them instead of these other things since there are only that many hours in a day". Did I mention that I have a lot of learning to do?

Ending this post, as all of the Christmas post, with a little reminder about perfection ....

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

12 days of Christmas: Day 5 - feelings

This will be a short interlude since I've sort of decide not to write too much about feelings and emotions  that are too personal. But I'm having a hard time at the moment since it's holidays time and I'm far far away from my family and old friends and - to be completely honest - feeling a little lost in the space and time continuum. The work related stress of "finish all the stuff before the new year" is surely a part of this, so I'm not too worried but it makes me a little grumpy that I'm not feeling the happy relaxing holiday feeling I expected to fall into.

Of course, I have a few friends here who are willing to tell me "how it is" and "the real stuff" and for some of them I'm quite happy to listen, some of them I think are part of what's called "10 odd friendships" with some things telling you that maybe you should let it go? Maybe part of the New Years resolution that is coming up in two weeks?

Anyhow, my post today was to say that I'm feeling a little bit ambivalent the last couple of months telling the truth of what I "feel" and what I "think". Finding the happy middle ground on "What to share. With whom. And how much." [Especially that last part. Oh gosh. So. Hard. Either nothing or too much... hello ketchup effect] This is also part of having a new job - well, it's not that new anymore but for an introvert fairly private person the sharing of feelings and emotions are really not that easy all the time with people that you don't really know that well.

It became real obvious to me the other week, that I have a problem with this, when I was asked to write a note to someone for Holiday times. There is this tradition in the place I work in that you get to fill in a sheet of paper when you start, on how you would like to be appreciated etc. On that sheet is an option "a personal note to my family from my supervisor/peer/X". Yeah.... I got the question if I could write such a note to add to the holiday present.

In theory I love the idea and said yes of course.

In practice - oh dear. I took some scribble paper and started to draft a note. One of my coworkers saw my several drafts and the scribbles. They looked at me and stated "oh you're so cute. you don't have to over-think it. but I guess you really want to write something that means something". I was just in panic mode since I had already written one card that I had to scrap, I smiled towards them and said "I'm pretty pathetic. I clearly need to practice this more. I just don't want to write something that can get misinterpreted".

Of course I was exaggerating. I can write really good notes "as you're suppose to write them". Either full of platitudes and 'stuff you should say'. And if I have more time to think and know the person, I can really rock something out (or so I think anyway). However, I didn't want to do write platitudes for this specific card. And most of what I thought of saying came out sounding a little..... pretentious? 'Too much pathos' as my old rhetoric teacher would say.

I ended up writing something half and half, hoping that the person understands how much this means to me without hopefully making a bad joke or too unreadable handwriting.... They haven't said anything yet since they mentioned that they saved opening the present until Christmas day. Oh joy. (You know how many times I can contemplate what I really wrote, forget what I wrote, misinterpret what I wrote? Probably not. But I will say that I retort a lot to "they probably won't read my note that carefully and then toss it like normal people do".)

The root of the issue is probably - as strange as it may sound - that I don't really like people to know my feelings and emotions. Maybe my upbringing had too much something from any of the stoic books: "If you know the emotions of man, you can manipulate[hurt] them"? Or there might be another reason to why I am so ambivalent of showing that part of me to others, especially in writing and to people that isn't close friends or family.

I wrote that this would be a short interlude... Ah well, why not end on this note with a cute picture of a penguin and some "wisdom" until next time!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

12 days of Christmas - Day 4: Personality types

I mentioned earlier that teamwork, and working with people more efficient, is a big thing. Then there is that thing where people need to know "what kind of person" everyone is in the group. The team can comprise of different type of people. And everyone benefits from remembering that different people like different approaches.

They (HR or other team builders) will usually do some kind of personality test, if they are rich they'll do a Myers-Briggs (it's expensive) or some other type of "you are in this circle". I'm not a fan of these if you use them to box you in. However, I do find them interesting and quite useful to remember that "people are not like you". The initial instinct might be to think that "I work like this so everyone works like this". That's usually not the case. (and it's not because I'm weird, it's just that people aren't like eachother necessarily. Like the idea of "common sense". There is none.)

For example, we did this personality test grouping in one of my teams and one of the faculty looked at their test results and smiled. Then they asked "is this really different for others?" and we gave them our selection. They read the descriptions and caveats of certain types and then looked up pretty shocked and said "really? You are overly critical of yourself and second guess decisions taken too quickly". Then read another one and voiced "you don't like to be praised in public? Doesn't everyone?" Yeah. I know. It sounds like I'm making it up. I'm not. It's not just the small things but bigger things. And some people have never thought about it. Ever.

For me it was a great opportunity to explain (and understand) where the issues are with my (according to certain people) large volume of questions (critical for problem solving). It's seen as negative, dampening the mood, not being supportive of the team work etc... I must admit that it has been easier in the larger meetings when I remember to go "great idea XX. What do you see as a time frame" rather than simply stating that they are overly optimistic about the time and scope of the project. Or to make a big thing about "I'm all in favor of this. I'm having one thing that I am stuck on though, maybe we can talk about it later - or email about it?" Ah well, it's a learning curve. No one ever said I'm great at enthusiasm for people's project - cheerleading isn't my greatest talent. Although, give me a competition and you will see me cheer. Or a marathon. Or that last 10% of a project and people need to get on the ball and finish. Yes. We all have our own crazies.

My absolute life saver though was to pinpoint how the key people in the projects appreciates their email in order for me to get responses and avoid misunderstandings. One of them is super simple, once you know it. Just keep it in bullet points and do highlights where they need to read and answer. Never more than three things, preferably one to be honest, in one email. No need to feel worried about feelings, complicating things or anything like that. Oh no, straight on, direct communication is what's up. Another one is liking the "hi friend, You did great today. I'm wondering if you can help me with one tinsy bit" kind of email. Complete opposite of the first one in other words. Always some sort of explanation on why you would want it and why they are the best to help with etc... Another one likes the one-two sentence about something else than work to start off since that gives them a warm fuzzy feeling that we are more than co-workers (or something, I don't know why but if I relate somehow to hockey or football we're moving fast on the reply button).

Again, I repeat what I said on another day of these Christmas countdowns - I don't think too many people adapt to my style as much as I adapt to theirs. It's not (can't be) an ego thing for me, I've had to leave it at the door. It works a lot of days. When deadlines are looming though, and things are not being emailed back to me with haste well.... those days is when I end up at their doorstep with a coffee cup in my hand, smile on my face and a "I'm so sorry to bother however I really need that answer from you now". Funny enough (?) it has seemed to work so far. *knock wood* (Oh and maybe vent with the other project managers when no one hears since there can be some frustrating times.)

And one more thing, most people like to feel appreciated. I know, shocker right? It's funny though, how many people get happy and easier to work with when you send them an email back "Thank you for your help. Really appreciate it", or a "Thank you card" or give them coffee store gift card or if you have time to give them a coffee one day to just share the time? If you're like me and have to get a bunch of various people working together but you don't have any power over them per se, I have found that these are some alternatives to grease the way of efficiency. That and finding what's in it for them. After all, I don't have the power to fire or hire or promote them. Just trying to do my own job here *wink wink*.

Monday, December 15, 2014

12 days of Christmas - Day 3: Tempo

One of the biggest differences between Academia and Pharma (if I am so bold to call my phase I/II place "pharma") is the speed, the tempo that everything is expected to take. I'm getting that reminder now again, but the opposite way, when I'm back in the world of academia.

You see, the main importance in pharma is "Keep to what you've written and decided". All the details of the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are to be followed to the letter. Not one little deviation, unless of course you want to write and file a "variance". These wonderful things are collected at specific times and usually tallied up and .....yeah... not a positive thing since it shows you didn't plan and adhere to the plan that was in place. Anyhow, I digress. So, things are planned and details are written down and followed. Then comes the actual work and getting the results. If Academia has the saying "if it isn't published it hasn't been done", my take on Pharma would be "if you didn't plan it and have an SOP and details recorded, the results are useless". No "let's try on the fly and see what we get".

I think you see where I'm getting here now? That I've gone back to the world where people decide in the morning to contact me and say "we need this thing, do they have it for us? We are scheduled to run the machine by noon". My initial feeling is, since I've been a post-doc myself, "of course, we'll fix it". However, there isn't really an incentive to stop doing that kind of non-planned experiments if there isn't a stick somewhere, is there? So, the first couple of months I've been working a lot on "expectations" and "time management" with the teams I coordinate. Using my pharma background, together with my post-doc experience (which gives credibility that I actually like 'real academic' research and am not only working to be a blocker and kill joy), I've gotten quite a few people to like the idea of SOPs (to a certain detail level) and planning. Especially when they notice that people involved in the teams are more happy,content and want to collaborate to get nice results.

But, I can hear you say, isn't a protocol the same as an SOP. Well, yes and no. It depends on the level of detail of the protocol which is why I like the SOP word since this implies that there is a lot of detail and the one who reads it should be able to perform the experiment.

My biggest sell point would be that the experiments that are performed with this new plan and detail give good data and that these data can be put together much faster into a paper than having to redo and re-analyze it all. And added bonus that people aren't getting upset with each other and have tension between the teams.

So, it's about "being slow in the beginning where some people would like to start running right off the bat, even if it would mean that they have to rerun and retrack the way". The key is to introduce this idea without stopping the creative momentum a lot of academic researchers and at the same time keep the recording so a pharma manager would be happy. Never say no during brainstorming. Keep detailed questions out of the way in the initial phase (they are construed as being "negative"). Always say "great idea/suggestion, would you like a or b" even if you suspect that they haven't thought about it. And ask to be cc:ed on a lot of emails so you can follow up with the Action Items in order to make the projects happen since if it's out of sight it's out of mind. Of course, it would be wonderful if I had twice the amount of time than the people and project I manage ;)

Added bonus if you are interested in reading about my take on the Pharma Alphabet Soup at lablit.com.

12 days of Christmas - Day 2: being a happy team member

One of the more challenging part of my new job is the constant team work and working with all these different people in different constellations. I knew that coming in, that was one of my caveats with the whole work. It was a little scary, I won't lie, but I looked over my various career options and all were involving people and dealing with them.

I've spent many days and years smiling at people saying "I chose working with microbes since I'm not great working with people". I loved the alone bench work where I got to plan my own work, carry it out, analyze it and make it all on my schedule. The microbes don't talk back. You can treat them fairly roughly and they still give you what you want. With people, not so much (unless you are on the top of the food chain - more on that another time).

However, last couple of months I had to remind myself not to say"I'm not great working with people" anymore. No need to get people on the wrong side when you are trying to manage them (or just make them all happy). I've also found that it's not true. Either I had some skills, or I've improved my people skills a lot lately. (I think it is a little of both.)

One of the best way of thinking at working with people and adapt to their style (since to be honest, it's mostly about me adapting into their style and working from there, not everyone is as interested in "working with everyone") is to accept that this will help "doing the work the most efficiently". Give up a little ego, get more done faster. Or so I tell myself :)

I'll end this day as yesterday - with one of those posters that I won't put up at work but we project managers talk about since that's a good way to vent some frustrations every so often.

Until tomorrow!


Saturday, December 13, 2014

12 days of Christmas - Day 1 "Leaving old job"

I think 12 days of Christmas is more likely to happen and be more fun than 12 months of blogging, since this year hasn't been my most productive year to say the least. So, here it goes.

(Addition after the fact. I found that I had covered some of this in my first two posts of the year: Transition Part 1 and Part 2. ah well, goes well with the looping of the year, doesn't it?)

Day 1 - Leaving old job
I thought that I had written about leaving my "industry" job last year but it seems like I haven't. It was my first permanent job and I was quite happy getting it after my post-doc. It was one of those "half entry level jobs" that didn't really have a career ladder when I started. I promptly told my then-boss that the likelihood of me staying more than 3-4 years was very slim since I didn't get the PhD and the post-doc to stay in a job forever without getting promoted and moving "upwards". Some might call it cocky? I thought it was good to talk about expectations early on in the job.

My main reason for getting that job, and for them to hire me, was that I needed to learn the GMP world of regulations. They needed a microbiologist & virus specialist to implement and train some new virus things, as well as some more generic microbiology things. It seemed like a match made in heaven. And so it was, for a few years.

After a slight reorganisation, new people in charge, some people were moved and some people were promoted - I got slightly new job responsibilities. Lots more responsibilities and even "signing off on important things". The one thing that didn't change though? My salary or job title.

I'm not really all that job savvy all the time. I've been told many times "dress for the job you want", "do the job to get promoted into the job" etc so at first I didn't really raise too many complaints about this new order. I was quite happy getting the increased responsibility since it meant "they liked my work ethic and trusted me" (hello ego check). We had a conversation with the big boss about getting me a promotion since there was an obvious gap in the department I was in and I would fit perfectly in that newly made position, which also covered the new responsibilities. All said and done, promises were made and "you will get that promotion soon".

Time went on. I got more responsibilities and yet, no change in title nor salary. After being led on for quite some time I decided that I could start playing a little more hard ball. As in when I was asked to sign off on certain things* when my boss was away I punted it upwards and stated "it's above my pay grade". Big boss agreed and signed off themselves. so... point made?! The chip finally dropped when the second budget got passed without making the promotion room (for me) happen. There were some other smaller things happening (men getting promoted and getting hired above me in other departments) and I realized that I would have to find a job and then negotiate based on that.

Said and done. One day I saw an ad for a project manager job in a non profit/academia. It sounded pretty nice, it was also paid more than I were getting. I applied, went for interviews and got my ducks in a row. The interview was very fun, I felt relaxed and connected with the people who met me and talked about the job. I was a little concerned about a few things, asked and got some pretty decent responses. Then the salary negotiations began. I didn't really excel in those - mainly because I wanted out of my old job. I had come to the realization during the application process that I was ready to move and ready to do something else. If you want out of your job, you don't play hard ball as much as needed** (more on this for another day since it's a good reminder for the future evaluations and incentives to stay).

I got offered the job. I asked my big boss for a chat. Told them that I had been offered a new job, higher up than my current one, and that I was ready to move on. They offered me an equivalent job right on the spot, complete with increased salary and position ladder move. I didn't want to play the "trust game" since nothing would've been legally binding and I had technically been "promised" a promotion the last x amount of months... so I kindly explained that I had been very excited about this new opportunity and wanted to take the leap over to Project Manager rather than staying in the lab. Big boss was understanding and still when I see them we chat. I gave them over a month's notice to finish off my projects and writing those final reports - that may have helped with the good ending?!

Moved over to start the next chapter of my career - project manager/coordinator outside of the bench but still working in science and even getting publications!.

despair.com - demotivators

*important thing for me was that these things would be stuff that eventually go into people in phase I trials. yeah... hello.... And really, I don't think they did it in a fair way to make the lowly paid person sign off on something that important.

**got reminded the other day since the yearly increase wasn't really to my liking. I had to mention that if this is the maximum incentive to do a great job - I'm less likely to stay several years in the same position. And I've already gotten some extra responsibilities and sign off duties. See a pattern? I do.

Monday, December 08, 2014

failing but trying

I haven't written in a long time. I wanted to do it. Really. Then I overthunk (yeah, probably not a word) it but still wanted to write something.

Psycgirl wrote a great post post about love. And youth. Or rather "being growing in general". And when you end up it "the wrong person in the wrong line".

I've been wanting to write a post the last couple of months, but  I've been a coward since I did decide not to write about work (a), love (b) or friendship (c) Why? Because "it's complicated"... but yeah, I would've loved to voice a few of the things that currently make it nuts. Asin, I am trying to make it "normal" but part of me think "if you were european you'd know this is so not normal"...

And then the next thing - which would be what psycgirl and I mentioned on twitter - or it could've been me only' - is that sometimes you need to leave people to their own devices.

It's 12 days of Christmas and I would really like to keep a blog post per day..... but I don't know if I have something to actually post (without being bitter/sarcastic/sad). Let's se if I can make it.

Let me know what you think! And I will write more personal stuff and a thought or two about what I've encountered after leaving industry world and I can talk about the detail world.

Although, I wanted to let you know - without you I wouldn't never done this to start this and it's helped a lot. thank you. a lot. happy holidays.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

"Who moved my cheese?" - from a leftish point of view

We've been circulating this book at work last couple of weeks, "Who moved my cheese?", and it tied into the subject of a work conference I attended last week as well.

The book is a short, fairly simple, book about four mice&'littlepeople' and their approach to the cheese they eat and live by and what happens when the cheese disappear. I wasn't particularly impressed with it when I started reading it. And after an hour when I finished it, I can't say that it was a huge impact either (told you, a short simple book). However, going to the "team discussion" afterwards made me realize that maybe it was a good book/segway for people who haven't encountered/attended "change in the workplace workshops" or "managing people" or even "grief support". There were quite a few people with whom I work, who had never heard about these different approaches to change* and wanted to hear what other people thought and who of the characters they identified with.

In the book there are four characters; Sniff & Scurry (the two mice) and Hem & Haw (the littlepeople). They each are used to describe the different approach to change and living (my comment). How to adapt to new situations, but also how you should act in your present situation. This is illustrated among other things that the mice "keep their running shoes tied around their necks 'to always be ready to run to look for new cheese'" whereas the littlepeople keep their shoes on the hook on the wall and become complacent, thinking "this stash of cheese will never disappear, we don't need the shoes/running anymore".

Full disclosure; I think my main scepticism and disagreement with all these management books and ideas on how to teach your coworkers how to think like this comes from my Swedish (OK, leftish) view on work and society. I have an innate aversion to teach people(workers) that "the normal is that you need to be flexible person who lives by the mission of your job" and "that it is completely fine not to have any job security, no one would ask for that" since I know that there are plenty of places/countries (hello Europe) where this is not normal, nor accepted. (I currently live in a right to work state in the USA - we can leave on the day, company can tell us to leave that day.) The more realistic and utilitarian part of my brain is simply telling me "this is the new normal, you might not like it but you have to know it and work with it since that's the way the world works right now". In a world of contract working (grants and soft money), where you are hired for a specific time/project this is reality for a lot of people. Just because I don't fancy it, doesn't make it less real and affecting me.

Anyway, reading this book and discussing CHANGE at the conference made me think about the similarities between the "stages of change" and the "stages of grief", which makes sense since grief indicates change** Both include anger & acceptance bridged by denial/resistance. With anger being a lot of focus of the fear of what will happen now that it changes. My personal experience is that facing that fear is the fastest/only? way through the stages and helping the move to acceptance.

I would recommend the short book for reading at work for anyone who is in a "movable/flexible/contract" job. Not because I think it is great, true & something to aspire to, but because it is good to get reminded that this is something many management people have as a base for thinking. Also, it is very good not to get too complacent and too secure in thinking "I have my job and it will last forever" since we live in a changing work environment. And finally, it's a good ice breaker for you to talk about this with your coworkers, who may or may not have thought about change/security like this, you can start the conversation with "which character did you identify most with?"

(I'm between Sniff and Haw. I don't love change, I love stability and routine with a spice, but I keep my CV updated and do read job adverts every week, even if I like my job and only have been in this position about a year. If we were down sizing tomorrow and I found out that there was no more job for me, I'd have some options to at least apply for right then and there. This makes me, the planner and over-thinker, feel more secure even though nothing is certain in life.)

*I would say that this book is very much written as a "you as a worker have a responsibility to be adaptive to change since when the job changes it is just normal and you shouldn't be the stick in the mud". Not as coming from a perspective where the job has a responsibility to the worker. I elaborate on my criticism further down in the blog post

**I wrote a section on this but erased it since it was a side-bar discussion that wouldn't move this blog post forward. I'm remembering the rules better, keep to one point per blog post! :)

Sunday, September 21, 2014

in defence of the over thinker

I'm known to be a slight over thinker by some of my friends. I'm also known to be a good problem identifier and to a fair extent problem solver. To me, it's not far fetched to think that they are linked.

Anyway, I'm also known to be somewhat of a slight realist (some would call it pessimist) with a taste of cynicism. Even though my interaction with people have a good portion of unrealistic optimism involved with it, and hope - lots of hope. (For the Xth time I'm asking the faculty member to send me the things we're waiting for since it's crucial.... and others don't think they will do it, but I prevail and lo and behold - sometimes it works.)  It's quite possibly most obvious in my inability to discard re-evaluate some of my friends/acquaintances when they disappoint, not just me, but themselves over and over again and I still think that "it can be different this next time". I guess I might be a sucker for "hope that people will change".

Well, my point today was to mention that there is something to be understood about certain of us "over thinkers". Maybe we have experienced a few things more than "the average person" and these experiences make us ponder and wonder a wee bit extra at the time when a more complex situation comes around and makes us less likely to jump on the band wagon and go "yey, happy happy times, lets go".

You see, it's like that time when you hear people proclaim "we will be forever, nothing can tear us apart". Yes, and then one of them loses their job and economic hardship ensues and all of a sudden things aren't as easy anymore.
Or the new graduate student proclaims "I would never write the paper without knowing that I will be the first author" and you think 'well, it's not that clear cut and have you really talked to your PI about it?'.
Or the post doc who starts their position but haven't asked for "how long they are guaranteed a place in the lab (how much money/what kind of grant) and they presume that the PI will float them for at least another year after that".

These three examples aren't great, and they are fairly different, but they do point to something that the over thinker will do - mull over various outcomes, potential problems and (hopefully) possible solutions and then move into the situation better prepared than the "non-thinker".

My main issue with it? (being the over thinker) That I wonder if there isn't times when the over-thinker creates the problems that doesn't have to happen and when introducing these problems/solutions make them more likely to occur.... That things would've been perfectly good if the over thinker had been exchanged to a "happy go lucky person" who might not know about the potential disaster but then again, maybe the disaster wouldn't happen because they wouldn't even steer the boat that way? (There is also the whole discussion about "letting people make their own mistakes and learn from them", which is a tangent discussion to this over-thinking-one.)

Then I rethink (ha) and look at a lot of situations that have happened around me last couple of years an think that maybe that is just my own cynical hope to motivate why I don't want to be cast in the problem/solution finder role for both work and life. (this 'role' and being expected to be the person that pulls the emergency break when others would've happily toted along even when they should've seen the cliff coming up). The "what ifs" are getting fairly complicated and I would like to just step away from the whole thing and just "let it sort out on its own". Alas, I know that it's not working like that so I need to be a grown up and take responsibility for situations, regardless of how inadequately I feel I know the answers to all the "maybe" and "what ifs". After all, it's in my nature as the over thinker to do this. As long as I keep remembering "there are no certainties in life, just a lot of opportunities and choices".

(I'm starting to realise why I stopped writing blogposts earlier this year, it's probably obvious to you too dear reader?! The language is boxy, the sentences chopped off and the point lost in translation. Alas, the only way forward is through - as in "practice more and write", right?!)

Saturday, September 13, 2014

abusive relationships - football and science combined

I'm been thinking about this for a bit, especially since the NFL "issue" came up a few weeks back with certain players being investigated/charged with domestic violence an abuse and the subsequent punishment (or not) by said organization. Not so much discussion about the punishment by law as I would've thought. More about the comparison between "how harsh a punishment for smoking pot vs hitting a significant other". I have a lot of feelings about this, both the dual punishment system and the "how many games is it worth" as well as the law investigations and media hype where everyone seems to oscillate between "do nothing" and "off with their heads".

However, last week the discussion at the lab took another turn since we talked more about abuse in a general context and then it spread into talking about lab culture and abuse by or with PI permission..... A lot of it was between some of us older* in the game compared to the graduates/MD fellows/other ppl who might not have seen and experienced as much. I recalled talking to a few of them earlier this year when a technician left their job and ended it on a bad note by lying about "what really had happened" and me explaining that you can't always presume that people tell the truth (especially not when the person in question has been breaking regulations, being warned, helped etc for many months) and that there is always more beneath the surface and what people let on. Ah well, I digress.

About the idea of abuse, that it is by a person you are depending on (or love) that makes it difficult to act on. That you aren't just "leaving because they are passing a line" but staying around "so how bad can it really be"? It's a fairly common** thing after all, I would say that the difference is in the severity (and possibly if it is physical or not). After all, it surely seems like the physical abuse is something that make people take it more serious, not to mention actually seeing the physical (point in case; when the first video surfaced people seemed upset that a man dragged his unconscious girlfriend out of an elevator. He admitted to hitting her, thus rendering her unconscious. However, it was only after people SAW him hitting that they really claimed outrageous upset and said "it's horrible". I could mention similar things about the movie of the school bus incidents ("Bully") and what people really feel after they HEAR all the degrading comments to one person on the bus although "it's just words so it's not that bad"..... but after hearing it in context something might click?)

A person piped up the other day that they are not allowed to wear t-shirts in the lab ("it's not professional clothing") but are encouraged to wear nice looking open toe shoes (hello regulations?). Same person tells the technicians how useless they are and not as great as the former tech in a place far-far away, they see if as "encouragement"... Another person wrote on their blog about a PI who required their post-docs to wear frames (glasses without glasses) for presentations (only the female ones though). Another example would be the post-doc who worked in the lab where the PI slept with another post-doc but people thought post-doc A rather than B and started acting on it. The list goes on....

Again, a lot of it is probably not technically*** abuse but I would think it falls under bullying or more likely unprofessional conduct. It also links these things together since there seems to be a few assumptions and correlations without explicitly stating them. One such thing would be "a great athlete is also a great person" or "great at their sports=good person" and the whole "role model spiel" (for the kids! always for the kids to look up to). Similar thing with highly successful scientists, "they are successful = surely their lab is a great place to work" and "strive to become as great as them". Or "surely they wouldn't do anything like that, they are successful so there is no need to act petty/mean/etc".

I personally would really love if it could be ok to state "they are great at what they do" and keep it separate from "they are great as a person/role model overall" or implying that if you are great at what you work with, you somehow have been a great person to become that good working person. I mean, John McEnroe was a great tennis player but maybe not a "super-nice-and-wonderful-person-all-the-time" and back in the day I don't remember anyone saying that it was a problem distinguishing between them.

I honestly don't remember where I was going with this, it's been a while since I wrote blog posts so I would need to get back on track with "point to make". Maybe I just wanted to rant a little about the annoyment I feel when people state "they should just leave their partner" without seemingly understand that it is not as easy as just getting up and leaving. Nor is it to leave a lab when things are bad since "you need their recommendation for future jobs". And most of all, people are great at denial. "It's probably me, I shouldn't take it like that. After all, they are probably trying to help me realize that I really need to change".

I'm hoping that we can move the discussion back to more reasonable grounds and avoid the black-white ("never play/do science again" vs "snow white and a perfect person"). After all, we are all humans with more or less flaws and the likelihood that new problem situations will be discovered increases if the discussion is more levelheaded than chopping the head off, and also that there will be help to give and awareness for new people.

*being a post-doc or technician for more than 5 years, in more than one lab/institute
** my own definition of common... "not that unheard of"or there is at least one lab in a department that people tend to avoid due to issues in the lab
***technically=punishable by law

Saturday, August 02, 2014

failure to post - pain

I can't believe it's been since May that I posted. Where has the time gone? Well, I actually know since I've been moping and whining all of July due to an injury that makes it far near impossible to sleep and move around or even sit. Nowadays I'm not allowed to run or jog, or work out with my glutes at all. Let it be known, there is not much exercise to be done without the glutes in the equation (biceps and triceps curls.... pretty much the thing).

So, all in all - I've spent too much time moping (no sleep) and working and thinking about all the posts that I want to write. I miss writing, the structuring of thoughts and the whole "finish a piece and press publish".

Best thing to get on it is to just do it though, right? Now I just need to sort out that "difference between private and personal experience" - not been too good at that before.

I thought about making a poll on "which subject I should go with first" but that seems a little too hot for attention so I will just try and keep my idea of posting at least twice a month.

For now, I need to go and do some more rehab training and hope that this pain will stop soon. It's been too long....

/end moping and whining phd

Sunday, May 11, 2014


This American Mother's day is a very good reminder for me that jealousy is something I really have to work on every day. It's easy to get engulfed in "oh they* have it all**, why can't I have that too***". And those thoughts really don't lead anywhere good.

Not to mention that it usually (at least for me) leads to forgetting all the things I do have and what I'm grateful for.

To be honest, I'm struggling sometimes****. Sometimes it's all I can do but wonder why a few things in my life points me to the sneaky suspision that I made a huge mistake a few turns back. Then I remember that it's not going to be helpful at all to keep looking back.

Only good thing with looking back is if you take the lesson and move forward and avoid making the wrong decision next time.

Simple to say. Hard to do.

But for now, I feel good for not missing a beat and being happy with one of my friends when she told me she is pregnant. She is happy, I'm happy she's happy. All better.

It's just a reminder to read about the dog who wanted the bone that the other dog had, therefore open his jaws to get it - thus ending up with nothing. Losing the bone into the lake since it was a mirror reflection of himself.
Ergo, focusing too much on what others have make you lose the things you do have. You can't blame a dog for not knowing, but I can't claim that ignorance.

*they=people I read about, interact with, work with, anyone who posts on facebook and twitter (seeing a trend here...)
all=things I get caught up with thinking I want too, what others want, what I might want
too=extra things and wants that clouds me realizing what I do have, what I don't want to miss out on, what I don't want to lose
****sometimes=more often than I want

Saturday, April 12, 2014

why you always need Plan B (and C and D)

This last week I got reminded yet again why it's imperative that you always, always, have a plan B. (Yes, having a pack of Plan B  - what the Americans call the "morning after pill" - at home if you are sexually active and not in the mood for offspring might also apply here.)

It's been mentioned a bunch of times when talking about career plans, especially for post-docs* who say they know they want to go into academia and TT.
"Please have a plan B if the way of getting into a SLAC or Top tier university doesn't happen." 
"Please assess your skills and keep that CV shiny in case something else comes up and you don't have that TT job offer."
"Please think of a Plan C and Plan D, just in case Plan B doesn't work."

And for the love of importance, if you are on a work visa in another country (like a foreign worker here in the USA), please keep those plans B, C and D in place since too often, if you job is terminated, you have a very short time to stay in the country before they kick you out.

All of this reared its head this last couple of months. Not for me per se this time, but in my vicinity and I ended up with damage control that will continue for another couple of weeks.

First of all, let's set the stage for the idea that you work in a state that is "right to work". This means that at any given time you can be let go of your job. Of course, you can always sue for "wrongful termination" and the company can always give you a pay out to stop that, but for many of us who don't keep a lawyer on retainer or have connections, the "I'll see you in court" does come across as a fairly little threat to the bigger company (who has retained legal help for sure).

Second, this is true for many places, the moment someone wants to quit or wants you out - most likely it is better to try sort out the best scenario for everyone (which quite possibly be you leaving the job, regardless if it is "right" or "fair"). I call this "cut your losses and try and save as much pain as possible" and then move on. Needless to say, this is not easy. I know. It does make it less panicky though, if you have some sort of plan or alternative ready. (CV written, a working network around you, alternative plans with keywords...)

I actually had one of those moments early in my 'career'. I was told it was better if I left, since "I wasn't TT material, it might as well be for the better for me to leave" and it was a quite hasty exit that was planned. It's a story for another day**. However, what it taught me was a few very important lessons.
  • If someone (e.g. boss or someone who boss likes) wants you gone, there will be ways to get you gone (regardless if it is "fair or right"). 
  • If you really want to fight it, you will need to have contacts in high places (more powerful than the boss) and remember HR is not really there for you (worker) but for the boss and most of all, the institution.
  • IF the situation gets resolved, be sure that you let go of those bad moments early on, and not try and rehash it with coworkers (then the situation won't be called resolved for long). Also try and get out fairly fast with a better solution so you can keep it resolved.
  • When you change jobs, remember that it doesn't really matter what you did during your time unless you finish well. Everyone will remember those last couple of months/weeks and how you left your stuff (and connect back to the old job place).
  • Never bad mouth your boss to others (current, old or new doesn't matter. It is just never a good idea).
  • Never, ever burn bridges. You never know who in the mess that will end up being important in the end game of this we call career and life. (Sure, it is tempting to burn down that house when you storm out, but for many that is not smartest thing to do. If nothing else, many people are willing to help you our after the fact you've left IF you haven't demolished everything in the process.)
I've forgotten that this is not something people do all the time. To me it's very strange when I see people shooting themselves in the foot and really ruining the opportunity to get a good reference/memory all in mainly just the last few weeks.

Examples from the fray:
  • The post-doc who moved labs within the department and then tried to publish data (in the new lab) without either new PI or old PI but a third PI in the lab and the post-doc. They thought they were flying under the radar. They weren't.
  • The post-doc who screwed up numerous experiments, didn't keep a lab notebook for an astonishing amount of time and had contact with HR since they were warned. It was a timed contract to start, so it shouldn't have been that surprising that the time was up. Although, somehow they thought it better to tell everyone in lab they found out with less than a week to spare and that the PI was evil, lying and everyone was on the chopping block if they weren't well liked with the PI. 
  • The technician who found the salaries for everyone in the lab on a print out and proceeded to go to the lab and tell everyone what they were making and why this was unfair and who was the favourite in the lab. Then got surprised when it affected the relationship with the PI.
  • The technician who was told during their first review in the new job by a new PI that they "quite bad and extremely disappointing" out of the blue (the had been a tech for another lab for a long time), and then put in the 'communication ice box' where most things are directives and orders and no positives but yet PI depends on them not leaving since they would be in a bind... (you need your CV up to date here, and leave fairly early, since the self confidence gets down and then it's harder to find a new job)
  • The supervisor who applied for the same job as their underling, the underling got the job and the supervisor proceeded to call the new company to cuss them out and how wrongly they'd chosen. And then proceeded to tell this story at their old job to the boss and other coworkers.... (yeah, don't know how that worked out in their head either)
If you are in a (lab) environment where it doesn't feel like 'they' like you or you fit in, I've come to the conclusion that it's better to get out as early as possible. It's a little bit odd in one sense, since I've stuck it out a few times when I probably should've saved myself some headaches and left. Although, it is easier for me since both my times have ended with a good ending (so far at least) and I've been able to turn it around. However, the first time was ONLY because I had friends in high places and played the academia game quite well (and a fair amount of luck with my science results). I also ended up leaving the place without having too much hope for an "extra few months after my graduation" - but all in all, I still go there and chat with them and keep in contact so, who knows what will happen after a decade?!

Back to the "out as early as possible". You can always leave the reference out if it is 6 months or less, quite possibly a year. Claim it wasn't a "good fit" for you or the PI. It's not ideal, but people know this happens and it is way better than staying for several years and then in the end not having anything good to show for it since then you do have a problem if you're not using the reference. Also, most times the PI might be ok with it if you are open about it and make it about the fit rather than the skills etc. Note, "fit" is an HR term that is gaining a lot of attention since it does fall fairly close to the "like" aspect of a worker in an environment. However, I have to admit that there is something there with "fit"- nevermind that I don't like it.***

In order to leave/take a new chance, you need your CV up to par and ready. Nevermind that you have a good job at the moment, things like this happen before you know it sometimes. I have one master list - with EVERYTHING I've ever done - and then I redo it for every job I apply for. I also have two basic resumes that I work from in other times, one in English and one in native tongue, but they always need tweaking based on the keywords for the position I'm applying for.

Oh and this thing with applying for jobs. I found myself the other month applying for a job. Why? I really like my present job, I've just about gotten warm in my clothes and it's really exciting. However this was a really good opportunity and I stumbled upon the ad the same day it closed so I thought "why not?". I highly doubt I will get anywhere with it, but I know the institute and that they check old applications for newer job openings so who knows when someone will glance at my fairly specific resume?

As usual, I'm not sure on how to end my blogpost. I'll leave it as is and see if there are any questions and/or comments. Next time it will be a "how to avoid the biggest mistakes in the application/CV" and "what I've learned from telephone interviewing" (as the hirering person) - I wish I knew these things before.

*exchange for graduate students or any other expendable personnel

 ** I looked through my blog but I haven't written about this, nor the other obstacle I faced as a post-doc. I may do this, since it does have some interesting complications and what I know now I would do differently. Also, I have told the story at a few of the "career developing days" I've spoken at and people seem to like it.

***screening people to hire has a category if they are a good fit for the lab. it's horrendously hard - to me at least - to feel that I'm not only making it about "who do I like", a completely different question. This is one of the many reasons I'm not (yet) HR material but only a support person....

Monday, March 31, 2014

Your choice, no herd immunity - (child) vaccinations and the anti vaxx lobby

I've been trying to be quiet about this since I know I'm biased since I'm a researcher. (Biased as in I read scientific papers and have more knowledge than the "average person".) I didn't know that I was biased when I started of course. I thought since "I read research papers and am of logical mind" that I was just "one in the regular crowd", I didn't have anything more to say than the public opinion.

Oh was I wrong.

I mentioned on twitter earlier this week that I was giving up my gym membership due to the facebook links from them, which have been a lot of anti-vaccinations for children. See, I really think that people should be able to make their informed decisions and make what's best for them and their family. I'm all for that, to a point. And especially when I get links to what they read in order to get their idea of proof... and I read a lot of the links to their "proof". And it is a lot of "opinions" and not facts.

If you are living in a remote area where no one else gets hurt by your decision, I'm actually ok with you making whatever decisions you want for you children and family. Go ahead, choice is free and you will never be part of this the major difficulty of infectious diseases (see below). You are alone in that area, hopefully your family are ok with your choices and if your young ones and grand parents get sick anyway, well - that's fine with you and yours.

However, and this is where I get upset and need to say things, act on it and all the above and more, when your decisions make it impossible for other people to feel safe and their children are at risk.... well, sorry but your right to "choose" goes into my "this is not an area to discuss, these are FACTS and what you may or may not believe, is not my main concern since it is the children and families who do not have this choice and will get hurt by your decision".

I'll make this statement simple for this blog post - I can provide links to everyone of these FACTS (please note, these are not my opinions, but FACTS that are founded in examples, experience and scientific logic) if you so want. The only reason I'm not doing it right now is because I'm tired and want to get this blog post out now. I will update it after that fact that I've published it and gotten it out of my system. There are some very obvious misconceptions that are floating around that make me furious.

First; most of our "common childhood diseases" can not be cured by antibiotics. Why? Because they are viral infections (like measles and the flu (influenza)). Viral infections can not be cured by antibiotics because antibiotics only work on bacterial diseases - and that is IF they are not resistant to the antibiotics (most of the prevalent strains of ear infections (Otitis Media) and unfortunately TB, more to come - be sure of that since we have over-prescribed antibiotics for livestock and people last couple of decades, more of that in another blog post).

Secondly: (I would often put this first myself but that's because I know antibiotics don't work against measles and flu): HERD IMMUNITY means that the likelihood of a child getting the more common childhood diseases is lowered since more than 86-90% of the children (reservoirs) are vaccinated against the disease means that is less likely to exist and spread. In short, lots of people having vaccinated immunity will protect the unvaccinated people since the likelihood of the disease rearing its ugly head is diminished. Case in point; every community where the amount of vaccinated people drops (like London or places in California or Texas or even New York for Measles) will make the disease rate go up and spread uncontrollably.

Third; this silly notion that "childhood diseases like measles is not dangerous and therefore it's better to have it and then get protected". Let's get this misnomer VERY clear. A lot of children in places where the vaccinations aren't working are not only getting sick, nor getting SERIOUS side effects from the disease - like blindness - but they die. Simple as that. They die.

Fourth; (if you're counting, I'm not since I'm a firm believer in thinking about others apart from myself) the herd immunity means that the people (let's get this straight since it's mainly about the children, it's about small innocent vulnerable children) who can't get vaccinated get protected by a lot of other people getting vaccinated since this means that the unvaccinated kids are getting a chance to not encounter the infectious agent (that's virus for the most part, non treatable by antibiotics) and therefore getting a chance of not getting sick and getting the side effects of getting sick (death, 'moribond' = blind, sterile (if we are talking about men and chicken pox for example, etc). Examples of children who can't get protected and are very vulnerable, children who are less than 2 years of age (their immune system is still trying to get to work) and children who are battling any other type of disease like cancer.

This whole idea of "I'm choosing not to get my child vaccinated" is making me furious beyond. I'm not the one to rant about these things, nor pontificate, but the last year has gotten me over the line. It's the several drops on the camel's back s to speak. And the links for my gym (not to mention the conversations with the people in general) has made it obvious to me - it's not about INFORMED CHOICE. It's about a lot of people claiming "they know the truth" without ANY facts since "everyone is entitled to their opinion".

And I'm reacting to that since I truly think that everyone is entitled to their own opinions after reviewing the FACTS. The FACTS I'm referring to by the way, is infectious disease statistics spreading all over the world (Sweden, UK and the USA among some places) where the pockets of non-vaccinations spread and where the diseases are creeping up and the innocent (babies, children on chemotherapy who can't get vaccinated, and grandparents (who are old and therefore don't get the same protection with vaccinations) are getting sick, affected and dying.

You know, I' m all for "your choice" if you live in a remote area and don't socialize with anyone (not the elderly or children below 2 years of age). Go right ahead. If you don't live like that though, tough choice. You should really feel responsible for the health of your neighbour (or older and younger relatives). It's called HERD IMMUNITY since it is considering everyone living together and you should really have a sense of respect towards your neighbours and family. God knows there are plenty of people living in the world where they don't have a choice and their young children and old relatives die everyday. That'd called the "Developing world". Why don't you go look for the stats there and then come back. I can promise you that's it's pretty hard to keep your "I don't think the vaccination is good for my child" after looking at the reality of the communities where there isn't herd immunity and the disease is rampage and killing babies. Maybe if we get there (oh the sadness if we get there again) the people who talk about "their choice" and "it's not that bad" really understand what we - the scientists - are talking about.

I simply wish that we don't have to get there since it means a lot of dead people in the meantime.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Waffle day!

This Tuesday 25th of March was (as always) 'waffle day'. Well, in Sweden it was at least. Based on the wonders of a) language and spelling isn't the same as pronouncing b)Christmas is the 25th of December c)have a reason to eat waffles for dinner.... (as one does here in the South of USA with chicken...)

So, basically it's this simple: 25th of March is "conception day for Our Lady (Mary)" since it is 9 months to Christmas. Never mind details as "Sweden doesn't think of Mary as "our lady since we're not Catholic", nor do we celebrate Christmas with gifts the 25th. Sure enough, church service is at 5/6/7 am the 25th, but not that many people attend church compared to say the USA or UK. And kids gets their pressies on Christmas Eve (julafton) and the big family meal is the 24th and Donald Duck is on ... another story for another day...

Anyway, in Swedish this is "Vårfrudagen" - vår (our), fru (lady), dagen (the day). However, it's pronounced "vårffludagen" which can easily be turned into "våffeldagen"... Våffel=waffle

It's easy as pie ;)

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Oh Canada, you mighty glorious winner!


Yes, this is a photo of the victorious Canadian men's hockey team. Look at that nice gold bling!

Yes, Canada beat Sweden in the Olympic gold medal game on Sunday.

Yes, Chall is Swedish.

Yes, this post is the result of a lost wager on the game.

Yes, this is Cath . Hi!

Chall and I made the bet right after Canada beat the US in the semi-final. I watched the final period of that game with dozens of colleagues in the lunchroom at work, and there was much cheering and high-fiving at the end. All charged up, I took to Twitter to make a bet with our gracious Swedish host.

Two days later, I got up at 3:40 am (yes, you read that right, and I know how ridiculous that is) to watch the final, thinking "well, at least if we lose, it's to Sweden. I like Sweden".

Because, really, who doesn't like Sweden?

The game wasn't half as exciting as the much closer Canada-US semi final. It wasn't anywhere near as exciting as the Canada-US women's final earlier that week, when the Canadians came back from a 2-0 deficit with five minutes left and won in overtime in one of the most exciting games of any sport I've ever followed.

No, in the men's final against Sweden, Canada were dominant, scored early, took a 3-0 lead, and never looked like losing. We celebrated at the end, of course - winning the Olympic hockey gold medal is pretty crucial to our self-identity, eh? But did I want to gloat, or to mock the losing Swedish team?

Hell no - I wanted to give them all a big hug. Especially Daniel Sedin.

And then something wonderful happened on Twitter. #HardToTrashTalkSweden started to trend in Canada; #HardToTrashTalkCanada started to trend in Sweden (they must not know about Harper). Some of my favourites are in this screen capture:

Now that's true Olympic spirit! The internet can be a wonderful place sometimes.

Take THAT, Sweden!

Additional photo from me (chall) since Canada did indeed 
win it all in the hockey - women and men. 
A truly remarkable feat! Congratulations Canada!

Friday, January 31, 2014

job transition part 2

So, new job - moving back to academia but not into my own research, and maybe not even authorship (this last part is something I should've asked when I applied, didn't and now will see how it ends up).

I mentioned that I moved into more of a project manager position the last couple of years in the "industry" world and that I did both that and the other parts like assay development and adhering to FDA regulations and stuff involved in that. All fun and challenging things, but it got a little much at times to both be at the bench and doing the planning/strategic work so when the opportunity presented itself to move away from the bench it seemed like a great time to try it.

I also talked it over with my former post-doc mentor who said "if you want to be decision making you need to move from the bench". And another mentor within pharma who reminded me that "your scientific knowledge is nothing anyone would question, however the people interaction and the soft skills need to come from your job description and right now you are not separated from the other 'scientists' in the field". That coupled with my ego thought that I wanted to move forward in my career and thinking "if not moving forward you are actually moving backwards, even if you are staying at the same level for too long" made me want to go for the jump and move into this "project manager" full time.

I asked the woman whom I am now working with in the project manager group (we're a small group divided into several projects/programs where each are responsible for our own things) what the biggest challenge had been for her when she started. "That some people see you as a glorified secretary. It's definitely an ego thing that you have to think about if you are willing to risk. Of course, it helps if you have a PhD but still, you are not the PI and some people think anyone can do what we do, not realising the science knowledge you need to make it work". I gave it quite the thought since I am a little bit too much invested in this ego thing.... Then I spoke to the PI who would be my boss and realised that he was aware of the potential problem here. He wanted me to have intellectual input on the science and that the skill set I brought would complement the group currently working with the project, not to mention that I would be the driver of the project and be in a unique position to help with getting these new treatments/regulations/"moving the field forward"....  (yes, quite the ego smooth talking...)

Of course, this is what people say when they sell you on a project/job. What really happens when you start is usually another thing. So far though, I have to say that it's been pretty true - at least from management's pow. They want my input on science decisions, they leave a lot of detail to me to take care of and they let me run the ball on many things. It's an interesting, kind of scary feeling, to hear someone you have worked with for such a short time say "I'll leave it up to you, you know better than I what we need" and then they wait for your report, but so far so good. *knock wood*

What is it that I do? Well, since it's all about the pseud stuff but I work with cancer now. Leaving my precious microbes for the cancer treatment and potential new drugs. It was a pretty steep learning curve those first weeks with new computer programs, all the infrastructure, all the people (gosh the people I needed to learn the names and areas of) since I'm the "go to person who keeps everyone in the loop with each other", which means I'm working on my social extrovert skills on a daily basis. It's going pretty well I think, haven't heard too many bad things.

Then I have started writing up project plans for various areas, talking to pharma about our collaborations with their scientists and relaying the information to our scientist. All of which re enforces my feeling that they value my science background and my knowledge. Most of all though, I'm organizing and structurealising a lot of work. It's amazing to me that so many people do amazing research, yet have a little loss on the planning and details. I'm very happy to help though, and on top of my skills that I bring I've already learned a bunch of new things.

There has also been a little of a leadership development thing going on, starting up might be a better term. not sure what I want to write about that, but I can say this: It's not all that simple to be a woman from the north hanging around with all these southerners and their smiling passive aggressive "bless their hearts" when the directness of the north come knocking on the door of stress. All in a learning curve I tell ya.

The thing I miss the most (apart from those small strange moments when I miss my mice from my post doc days and my microbes in general) would be the lab bench and standing/moving around during the day. Gosh, there are days now when I sit in front of the computer, being in meetings and then not really move the whole day. So awkward feeling. I've started with mandatory "no elevators" and walking around the department every hour - if I'm not in a meeting. If not just to get the flab moving. And of course, sneaky me managed to get access and training on one of our very nice and cute robots the other day so now I can technically do some of the bench work. My mentor was not pleased "you are not going to be at the bench anymore, you're supposed to teach people project managing", but she saw the help I can provide and that it's not a permanent thing. that would be way not-cost-effective if nothing else...

Ah well, way too late to stay up right now! I need to get some sleep before an exciting new day at "the new job". When does it stop being "the new job" and "just the job" by the way? It's not been 100 days yet but maybe after that?