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?


Alyssa said...

It'll probably take a few months to fee like it's "the job" instead of "the new" one. I remember in my last job it took about a year to feel that way :)

PUI prof said...

Good Luck!!