Tuesday, September 22, 2015

playing the extrovert

Part of my job, the part that I had the most difficulties with when I first started this gig, is playing the extrovert. Stepping out of the introvert zone and smile, connect with people and mirror them. Give them energy and be supportive. Take their hand and guide them through the start of a project. Give them reassurance that "oh yes, this will work fine". Sort out issues they have with each other and the team(s).  And all this time, not be upset with them but smooth things out, sort it out and solve it.

Sometimes I sit in meetings trying to explain what Person A said and what they thought was the goal with the project to Person B (did I mention it's science and we don't really do "real" defined project plans and scope - it¨s all evolving and new). Never mind that I sometimes don't know what Person A really thought. Half the time I'm not sure they knew either... but the communication is all it's about. And  it is easier to point out what you don't want than what you want sometimes.

There are times though, when my introvert self is screaming (opposite of the inner goddess dancing a salsa*) and I just don't know how to make it. Those times are for COFFEE. It turns me into quite the extrovert, talkytalky and connecting. Smiling and not over thinking and analysing every single turn in the conversation. (It's worth noting though, too much coffee turns me anxious, my pulse races and I could give any two-year-old a go at the Belmont.)

Drawback? That I feel completely wiped out afterwards. At times it's like someone has seen my soul and I've opened myself up way too much. (For you extroverts out there, it's not like I've said anything that's extreme - I might just have admitted something that I like. Or a happy thought. Or made a plan without thinking through every single little nook and cranny.)

It does help with the energy in the room though. And connecting with the extroverts who feed on people interaction, smiles and encouragement. Especially like the other day when I found myself in  a meeting with four "PR consultants" talking about "branding architecture", "overall market goal" and "communication strategy". Without coffee, I don't think I would've made it even halfway. And afterwards, the best thing ever to cool off the adrenaline and get back to an even keel - spinning. Nothing like endorphins, sweat and very tired muscles to give a good night's sleep and turning off the brain.

That said, it's time for a cup of caffine - soon there is another meeting that needs the "play pretend extrovert" to pull out all those great ideas and team spirit.

*if you know this reference, I'm sorry you read that badly written book. Let's hope you didn't read all three, since the last one was indeed the worst. Especially the conclusion. All I wanted to say fromthe start was "run away".

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

vacation and work hours

It's funny what work hours and vacation mean to different people. And this is not to mention across the world.

Back in my home country the general newspapers are usually publish a lot of articles before "industrial vacation" (falls in July) that state "in order to get a real vacation take at least 3 continuous weeks together". This is based on the presumption that "you need one week to wind down and stop thinking about work, one week to have vacation, and one week to start winding up for work". I always thought it extra interesting when I moved across the Atlantic to the USA where I ended up in a place where regular workers usually are happy if they can take one (or two) week of continuous vacation.

I was lucky when I was a post doc, my PI understood my need to take at least two week continuous vacation to go back to home country to fix some family things. Of course it helped that I did experiments until the day before I left on the plane, and had my mice delivered the week before I returned so they were ready for me to take right back up day after I returned.

It's coming back to me with my present job. I had a stint in FDA regulated industry where a lot of things had to be done in pairs (co-signed working reports), which means that when your co-worker goes home, you stop working too. Of course, there were a few other things that I did so I could work a little after hours and still get work done and get home late. No VPN though. At the time, we didn't use VPN for our secure working files. There were times when I thought it was annoying, since I had to be on-site to work with certain things. However, I would say that it helped with trying to keep reasonable work hours - especially when going on vacation.

So, back to my present job. I now have VPN and a work computer at home. I can therefore work all the time, if I want to (also if I have to). There are some really great perks with this, I can only imagine if I had "must do times and need to leave" on a regular basis - this makes it great. Same thing if you have a snow day (when the roads aren't safe to drive into work). The back side though, (apart from always being able to do some work) is that you can bring the computer with you on vacation and do some work. On VPN and get access to all those documents stored in the safe haven of work.

I've been pretty good so far on not taking my work computer with me when I go on vacation. I usually only bring my own home computer. I'm a little bit of a "compliance officer" (and a tad bit paranoid) I don't store private stuff on my work computer, nor do I do private surfing on that one (no private photos to show when you go on vacay if you bring the work computer). This vacation though, I figured I should take my work computer with me. We have new people who started just before I left and I knew that there were going to be a lot of changes to what they did and I would need to help. However, in a streak of luck (?) it turned out that the places I stayed didn't have wifi. I was left to my iPhone and the data plan... (and also not having access to all of the files nor the intranet of work).

The great thing with this? That the small emergencies that did arise, I could fix without actually sending the specific files (just sending emails on where the files were and what to do). Furthermore, I had days where I didn't have cell phone coverage and therefore my peeps were on their own. Best thing with this? My boss, before I left, did tell me to get off line and let myself have a real vacation. I actually did that! My boss have said this since my first vacation and for most of my vacations so far I've taken the liberty of not bringing the VPN computer but I have (so far) still checked my email at least every four days (ok, a lot of times every day). I find it more stressful not to check IF there is something that is crucial, than to check. Still though, I find this an obvious adjustment to expectations and culture of my current situation.

Why I'm writing this now? Because I realised one HUGE thing coming back from vacation. The first week back was soooooooo hard to get adjusted to all the work stuff. Clearly, I've changed my expectations of "real" vacation from three weeks (or five as my friends back home take) to less than two weeks (and without a computer). All the needs and wants from my fellow co-workers were hard and I found myself more than once thinking "oh boy, that time off was really nice. I want more".

I thought, when I started this post, that I would venture into the idea of when the work day starts and when it ends - but I realise that I don't really have time. I need to get back to work. 11pm at night.... on a vpn from home.... ah well, another post for that. But I'm alone in this odd work hour schedule.... and working too much. At times I really understand when one of my family shifted from "white collar/writing work" to "driving public transportation" since that left them very clear on when work hours were, and couldn't bring them back home.