Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Resume writing

Wow. I never appreciated how hard writing a resume was, until I spent the weekend trying to condense my 9-page academic CV (and I haven't even done that much yet!) to match a job posting I saw....

Some quick comments:
1) Just because I'm applying for this position doesn't' mean that I'll be offered it or that I'd even take it. But hell, I gotta keep my options open

2) Help! I don't know what I'm doing!

3) Guess I'm gonna have to fake it till I make it.

Since I'm covertly working on this during my lunch hour this song seems appropriate...

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Should I stay or should I go?

I'm sorry for the lack of posts, but my plate has been rather full and my mind has been spinning in a thousand directions. I'm posting this to help with one of my biggest challenges - deciding if I should jump ship (and thereby also go the route of industry) or stay in it for the long haul.

To be fair, the whole place is a bit screwy. Even though I feel specifically targeted. the whole environment isn't exactly the best right now. My problem is that I love the institution and what it stands for, seem to have my values aligned with the leadership, but the department is stuck in a quagmire at the intermediate level (lab peeps get along just fine, but PIs don't seem to support/encourage each other).

_IF_ I can gain independance it might be better, but I'm still struggling with the concept of starting out here. Can I change the culture? I've already begun to, but I'm afraid it'll be long process unless I either 1) have the support of senior leadership to specifically change the culture or 2) people leave and are replaced by more open-minded folks....

So what say you, or wise and worldly readers? Any thoughts?

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Bobbing and weaving

A lot has happened in the last two weeks, but all points to one salient fact. I need to watch out for myself.

Which is why I spoke up and told the administration I was having problems. It won't necessarily protect me any, but I feel a hell of a lot better after getting it off my chest. I knew to frame everything in the context of my project ("I really want to succeed in this research, but I'm hampered by X"), and can now focus on getting data. If my boss tries anything else, I think the PR machine I just threw in front of me will help deflect some of the criticism back toward my boss.

I don't like having to play with politics this much, but I suppose this has become a baptism of fire for me. I've worked in some pretty contentious organizations, been part of an acquisition, and even been laid off twice. But where I'm at now takes the cake in terms of back-stabbing, two-faced, unprofessionalism.A den of snakes where no one can be trusted. But honestly, I can't blame them.

Because no one FEELS safe....

Because no one IS safe....

When everyone is worried that the axe might be coming for them next, it tends to be a bit.... stressful. Take for example when the security guard came into the Cancer Center Director's office to tell him he was no longer employed there. At 3PM he had 20 minutes to pack whatever he wanted into one box, and was escorted out of the building and never allowed back in.

While I've seen plenty of this in business, I'm not used to this in academics.... And here's the kicker - this has happened at least 5 times in the past 7 years. Not because of ethics breaches or inappropriate behavior. This is just how they do things - run like a corporation, where no one gets a contract, no one gets protection. Grants or no grants, it doesn't matter. You can be gone on any given Friday.

So yeah, I'm learning a lot from this job. Too bad most of it isn't the science....

With that, I leave you with new theme song. I'm not admitting to anything, but I MAY listen to this every day as I drive to work in order to get me in the proper frame of mind to deal with my boss.Whatever it takes to get through the day....

Sunday, October 27, 2013

On mentoring

One of the salient points that I've come to realize from my current job turmoil is how important mentorship is for the success of a young scientist. Mentoring provides the rudder in times of stress, provides structure for success.

And when it is lacking, nothing can fill the void.This is the single most important lesson to learn if you're thinking about a graduate degree. Choose the best mentor, not what you think is the best research.

Up until now, I have been blessed with incredible mentors. Mentors who listen, guide, helped figure out what was best for me. I'm still in contact with my PhD advisor and my latest postdoc advisor. Although the latter is partially due to a project that will not die (a year after I left the lab and we're still writing up the manuscript...), there is a stronger connection.

I've been at his house, eaten with his family. He's come over to my apartment, shared the birth of my youngest son. He didn't blink when I needed to brought my 1 year old to a meeting with our collaborators and had him play on the carpet in the midst of our R01 strategery - we simply formed a circle with our chairs and let him play in the middle. He has always understood that mentoring is more than just the science, it's about the person doing the pipetting and always understood how important family is to me. Under his guidance a scientific family formed within his lab.

So I suppose it's only natural that within a minute of seeing me the other week he asked what was wrong. And I couldn't help myself. I told him. All of it. And we planned. And figured out a way to make my job work for me (to be fair, my wife and I had already come up with much the same plan, but it was nice to get validation).

Even though I came to talk about a manuscript resubmission (stupid reviewer #3!), I got so much more and came out of my impromptu meeting with a renewed vigor. The weight of a crappy situation was lifted from my shoulders. Partially just the act of sharing my story to someone who could listen and give me insiders advice.

Although it helped that I realized how far he would go to help me. He offered to rehire me as a postdoc. We both agreed it didn't make sense since I'm relatively protected with my current grant, but the gesture was not lost on me. Like so many labs across the country, money is tight in his lab, yet here was someone who cared about me and would step up if needed. Who heard my complaints and believed my story and my assessment. It's a nice feeling to know someone has your back and is confident in your abilities. Like a PhD advisor who was considering an offer to a far away institution, but wanted to talk with me first. To see if I could join them as a research assistant professor...

And that is why I mentor every student to the best of my ability. Why I try to understand their goals, or try to get them to identify what their goals are. It is too easy to be a selfish scientist. To worry about only your problems. To manipulate others to accomplish your goals. But the truly great scientists are leaders and have a transcendent ability to watch and revel in the successes of their mentees.

For, as I was once told, "you are only as good as those you have trained. The measure of your success as a scientist is whether those you trained achieved greatness in whatever they chose to do - industry, academics, or government."

I hope so. Because it feels good being able to pay it forward....