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?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

job transition part 1

So, here it is, a few weeks into the new year and my little resolution - the post about my new job and why I moved from my own and what I have learned so far... or maybe more, what I have realized that I am lately. Old. At least compared to the new coworkers in the lab. It's funny, I feel like I've really grabbed some of that life experience and that I can actually be of service and help with my knowledge. Now I do have to work on being viewed as a "know it all" (I'll come back to that later) but all in all, I think I can live with that.

Back story, my old job working in that industry-like job with all the FDA regulations and assay developments was really much fun. I liked adhering to the rules, learning lots about them and getting the opportunity to do both assay development and research as well as more industry audit stuff. Anyway, after a few years in the same position and getting the hang of the job, I was happy when we got some new people into the group. I ended up teaching them a lot of the regulations, the assays, the work flow... you know... "the job". And somewhere here I sort of started thinking about promotion and "furthering my career".

I had a chat with my former boss when I started my old job that I wouldn't think that I would stay longer than 3-5 years without a promotion/change of job. Partly because I've never had a job longer than 5 years, partly because of my personality where I like (crave) to learn new things and get more experience and I think that the job needs to change accordingly. Said and done, after a few years in my position and when I had become the senior person in the group, we had a sit down with big boss and mapped out the career path for me and the group so I would be in a good place. Then time passed and i waited for these plans to come to fruition. Since I've never been much of a money driven person, I didn't really pay too much attention to it, even though my actual job duties changed to a lot more responsibilities and signing off paperwork etc and I wasn't too desperate about the situation that I had ended up in. "It'll all be cleared soon since I'm working so hard and showing them that I am a team player" was my thinking.

However, what I am not in money I make up in the interest of pride... and what your position is called is linked to said pride. I think this was one of the straws that broke the camels back so to speak, when I realized that we hired new people with less experience and in one case even education but they came in "above" me and nothing happened with the "promise" that is was going to change. At the same time I was clearly taking on huge responsibilities and being asked to sign for pretty important things although my job title really didn't say that, nor did my pay check.

And then I saw the job advert that seemed very much fun, not to mention a combination of  a promotion/upwards mobility on the career ladder (or so I thought at least) and a challenge for me (and changing the research field ever so slightly). Said and done, I applied since you can't expect anything to happen if you don't try.

And I kept quiet that I applied. I felt bad about it, but I've noticed that there can be issues with people applying to other places and the discontent from other coworkers so I decided not to tell anyone at this stage. After all, I wasn't sure they would call me for an interview nor that anything would happen.

I got the interview, or a lot of them rather. I passed with flying colours and started thinking that this might end up with an offer. Then my next line of thoughts were "what if I tell my boss that I'm offered this new job, maybe they will counter offer"? And with that the very important question, would I accept the old job with a promotion and stay, or move to the new job anyway?

It took so many days and agonizing thoughts on how to attack this, what did I want in the long run? etc. The promotion in my old place would've meant "Senior Scientist" - something I have wanted for a long time (obviously). The new job meant "Project/Program Manager" and a new line of work, new research area and more "proof that I can work with people and have that skill set". In the end I got offered the new job, the old job with promotion* and I chose to leave on good terms and start my new gig.

I have been in my new place for a few months, so far I have heard that they like me and want to keep me. (If they didn't want to, I could actually ask to come back to my old place since "there is always a place for you here". And I don't really think it's just a saying, they really miss my line of expertise there.. not to mention that I gave more than a month notice, finished several reports and am almost ready with the last one now, answered a phone call this week about a procedure and how to do it, so clearly, they got a lot of free work/support from me - I call it work ethic).

Next post will be more on what I do for a living right now but I thought this part might be interesting as well?

In short: I was a bench scientist. I liked it. I didn't get a promotion. I thought I could earn it. Other people got hired above me. I got a new job with better pay and different responsibilities. I'm not a bench person anymore. I miss bench work but I hope I can get over it when I start with the data analysis very soon and in the meantime I'm the backup bench person for a group of people... so I think I'm doing OK.

*I made the comment at the time "maybe they will realise that some people don't wait for unicorns". I think it rang true, since my leaving made a lot of hings fall into place that had been placed on hold i.e. re-structuring. (Good) people leaving usually lead to that, it's just a question who is taking the fall and leaving.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

New Year's Resolutions and blogging

I've never been good at giving New Years' resolutions, nor keeping them. I like the idea of reflecting about the passed year, think about changes that might be good to make and then try to make them, just not as "promises" or "resolutions".

Then came this December and I realised that 2012 marks my lowest amounts of blogging posts since I started the whole blogging thing. I'm not really sure why. I could say something like "I'm the most creative when sad" and I haven't been as sad in 2012, but that wouldn't be completely true (it's not the best, it's just the darkest and most whiny and 2012 has had its ups and downs as most of my years).

I sort of decided somewhere along the line not to write too much whining and not as much venting, nor too much details from work not too personal, all of which combined clearly lead the posts to dry out. I tried to write more sciency pieces but I wanted to get all the facts right and then it became a little longer time and then things dragged out... And then there was the beginning of the new job, which is more computer based and when I get home after work I am not at all as interested in sitting down in front of my laptop again.

All these explanations and excuses are nice in theory, but the truth is that I miss blogging and think that maybe this year it will work if I make a promise to write - if not once a week as I first thought - but at least biweekly. I¨m hoping to find that nice middle ground between personal & private and the work-life balance.

For now though, it's time to go to bed and sleep. After finishing another episode of Dexter, I'm a little late to the party but I'm making up for lost time....