Thursday, April 29, 2010


I will make every attempt to see the Viking ship. I also very much want to wander Gamla Stan though I've read it's overpriced. But photos, one assumes, are free! I depart tomorrow morning on my lengthy journey and shall post again from Stockholm, likely with a post entitled Sleepy. (I'm bad at resting on planes and tend to nap deeply when I arrive somewhere new - I plan to fight this trend with every ounce of willpower I can muster though.) That post will be followed with something like Stunning/Special/Stupendous, Sunny or Stormy (depending on weather), Swizzle Sticks (if I drink), Sober (if I don't drink), Swarthy (if I see a pirate), Sexy (if properly motivated), Serious or Silly (or Seriously Silly if the mood strikes), Silent (if I miss a day of posting), or Satisfied (upon arriving home since - regardless of how perfect the trip may be, that tends to be my favorite part.

I have obviously put a great deal of thought into the S theme. I suggest you brace yourselves.

My trip east is more simply described as cancelled. I'm disappointed as there were excellent suggestions but given I'm already out for 2 of May's 4 weeks, I don't mind missing it this time. Blogs are excellent for saving suggestions (see? It's a sickness!) for when they're useful.

See you Soon!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Travel Tips?

I'm traveling to Europe pretty soon and wondered if anyone had suggestions for Stockholm. I've never been and do have a guidebook. While I'll be busy with, you know, work, there will be time to go and see things and walk around. Suggestions?

Shortly after returning, I'm spending a week out east. I have a single day between meetings in upstate New York and Philadelphia. I have decided to keep my rental car and drive between the two destinations which leaves me Tuesday evening and most of Wednesday to do something pleasant. I do not want to go to NYC - traffic and parking would freak me out - but I'm open to anywhere else.

I know myself well enough to realize I will end up taking naps or doing work if I don't have a firm plan for fun. So any advice is eagerly welcomed.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Weeks Ago
K (3:32): You're lucky I like you.
A (3:32): Of course.
A (3:32): In this instance, why?
K (3:33): In your absence, I have [list of ridiculously tedious tasks].
A (3:33): Ah. Thanks!
K (3:33): Rather perfunctory, but sure.
A (3:34): All else is well?
K (3:34): I suppose. Well enough.
A (3:34): Unwell = ??
K (3:35): People are talking about what they bought or where they're vacationing with their bonuses. So I still feel hurt in general and angry with you for not fixing this sooner.
A (3:37): Katie. These things take time - they're done on a schedule so while I'm sorry you're hurt, there's really nothing I could have done.
K (3:37): Sure.
K (3:38): You know what irritates me though? You sent an email to the Whole Team (minus me) and didn't bother to communicate it to me. Which isn't appropriate.
A (3:38): Agreed. I meant to discuss it with you live - and would have done so - but I ran out of time with meetings and travel and such.
A (3:39): I am sorry you found out from the team and were surprised. That was my responsibility and I blew it.
K (3:39): It made me cry.
A (3:41): I am very and sincerely sorry about that.

"Busy?" he asked, stopping by my office and flopping down in one of my spare chairs before reaching to nudge the door closed.

"Generally," I replied, glancing up at him to smile before sending an email and giving him my full attention. "What's up?"

"I come bearing good news," he confided. "There were raises this year for the team - from naught to 3.5%. You should see the 3.5% on your next pay stub, so congratulations. It's well deserved."

"Thanks," I replied promptly, thinking that a bit over $3k isn't all that much reward but at least it's something.

"In addition," he continued, "you will be promoted to the next level in this organization and, belatedly, of course, will be formally known as a polar bear rather than a cub. With that move, you'll receive another 3% salary increase."

I nodded as I reminded myself that it's way more money than I was personally capable of making in academia. And that I do love my job and it's OK if I don't make as much as senior members of the team.

"You are very valuable to what we're trying to do here - there is a consistent sense that you're smart and talented and I believe you'll continue to see rewards for that."

"I deserve to see rewards for that," I replied before I remembered I had just decided to be gracious. "I work very hard!"

"I know!" he replied, grinning at me. "That's why I argued for two raises instead of one and the reason I came to congratulate you."

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

(Stereo) Typical

I blinked when I walked in the room, smiling instead of speaking my greetings since I was late and the speaker had already started. I settled in a chair someone pulled out for me and quietly placed my laptop on the conference table before crossing my legs and focusing my attention on the presentation.

We paused for questions and I glanced around again, quickly counting attendees. I made an even dozen by appearing late and was the only female in the room. I also happened to be the tallest person there as the other 11 participants were of Asian descent. But we discussed highly technical details - coding and modeling and simulations - until, despite best efforts, I was thoroughly befuddled.


We have had several Big Events of late, with mine leading the way. We had invited leaders in our respective fields, being both social and sciencey as we discussed potential endeavors. I glanced around the table at one point during my meeting, feeling no small amount of awed pride that I, Katie, was sitting at a table with such brilliant and reputable men.

"Why no women?" a colleague asked after my meeting, hovering in my office doorway.

"I know," I winced. "I invited four! But none could make it. So we ended up with 20 men." She tsked teasingly before walking away, leaving me frowning.

"It is a problem," I offered at a group meeting this week. "We've had four Big Events and, out of about 70 attendees, had a single woman. One." Then I held up my index finger for further emphasis.

"I didn't notice," Adam mused, forehead wrinkling as he thought through who had been invited.

"Well, I did," I replied. "Even internally, we had people on this team sitting at the head table but that was the extent of the female representation. And other people noticed too!"

"I bet they were women," he grinned, obviously teasing, and I felt my lips curve before I could help it.

"They were," I confirmed sheepishly, "but that's not the point."

"Are there women who are powerful leaders in our fields?" Sibling asked and after staring at the other young, powerful woman in my group and seeing her look sincerely confused, I sighed with defeat.


"She had nice eyes," Adam offered and attempted an innocent expression when I gave him a look.

"Those orange shorts are too small," Sibling decided, ignoring his statement and sipping her water as we waited for margaritas. "I mean, she's very thin, but her outfit is so small that it's pushing the fat out the waist of her shorts. If she just had one size bigger, she'd be better off."

"Will you stop!" I demanded, feeling myself blush as our group turned to examine our waitress while she faced away from us to place our order. "I've never been to one of these before," I offered of the chain restaurant in an attempt to change the subject and save what little modesty our waitress retained.

"No," Adam breathed in reply, faux-shocked and I stuck my tongue out at him before using it to lap salt of the edge of my glass.

"I couldn't work here," a colleague - just slightly younger than my own 31 years - noted. "My breasts aren't nearly big enough - they just don't make bras that good." When she drunkenly assessed my chest, I decided that I didn't care how good the wings were - getting tipsy with colleagues there just wasn't overly smart.


I would say I'm 60% professional. The other 40% of the time, I'm either openly angry or obviously offended. I also give hugs and kisses and sit too close to people to show affection. I manipulate in any number of ways to get what I want. I tell secrets when I shouldn't. I gossip even though it's a terrible indulgence. I'm trying to get better and make progress in fits and starts.

One habit that's actually grown worse over my time in Industry is a tendency to flirt. Given that it is a male-dominated environment, I long ago decided I wanted them to like me - whether that be in a friendly or flirtatious or protective way. And so I send teasing emails. I gush and flatter. I get mild crushes and giggle too often on those phone conferences. I work harder on some presentations so I can be intellectually attractive. I fetch and carry in an attempt to be helpful. I do paperwork and take notes when nobody will volunteer.


Ladies, I believe we still have a pretty large problem in the corporate sector. And I'm sincerely sorry I'm not doing much to help us here.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Nearing The End

"So," Adam said, sitting across from me behind the closed door of his office. "I'd like to tell you something and ask you to keep it private."

"Anything for you," I replied and waited for him to call me cheeky before smiling silently and waiting for him to share his secret.

"I'm looking for other jobs," he confided and I felt my heart ache sharply as I blinked back tears, looking down briefly before nodding.

"I knew you were," I replied. "It's not been an easy adjustment for any of us and I know you're not happy. But," I trailed off, thinking this was a rather new experience for me. Mentors are supposed to be stationary and settled, tenure trapping them neatly in their offices so that I could easily find them. I was the one who got to leave.

You're my boss, I almost said. You rescued me from academia and gave me a career I adore. I've drifted from infatuation to abject hatred to a deep affection for the man and the thought of not getting to tease and laugh, commiserate and plot with him, was stunningly painful for that moment.

It's for the best, I decided. People who drift into my life are there for a reason and I get to love and enjoy them before they inevitably go away. I sometimes smile over photos or re-read old emails, struggling against an appropriately bittersweet sensation. Dreading that sensation is what keeps me writing here, waiting for the next trip so I can post self-indulgent photos and rambling posts. But as my site stats plummet and comments drift toward zero (which is fine - I totally understand that there's not a lot here to feel much about), I'm not doing a whole lot of good.

Then again, I'm in a mopey phase. Perhaps this too shall pass. If not, you can look forward to an angst-filled and deeply emotional goodbye post sometime.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


It's more color than structure that appeals. When I look at the photos taken at dawn, I find them disappointingly blurry but the hues are lovely. So I played with filters somewhat idly, finally enjoying the way the greens and pastels became stretched and fluid.

Little did I know all would become pinched and searing this morning as a migraine grew on the right side of my forehead. I'd let the house grow too cold overnight, wary of 80 degree afternoons that make it impossible to nap upstairs. But when I plodded downstairs, hand pressed to my head as I searched for coffee and painkillers, I glanced at the thermostat and winced at the 51 degrees displayed.

I flicked on the heat and lit the fireplace, downing 2 Advil and glancing at the clock as I wished the pain away. I loaded the dishwasher and started the laundry, feeling rested but wretched. I curled into a ball on the loveseat and stood fretfully a few moments later, pacing with indecision as the pain became unbearable. I found Tylenol and swallowed two, squinting against the sunlight streaming through windows and doors and making my head throb. I came upstairs slowly, whimpering when I realized I couldn't get my bedroom dark, having replaced the shades with pretty sheers that filtered rather than blocked light.

I rooted through my medicine cabinet, swallowing a Tylenol Cold NightTime and considering a Midol before deciding to wait 10 minutes before taking a sixth pill in one hour. I pulled three pillows from my bed, holding them clutched to my chest as I shuffled to the guest bedroom, pulling aside a fluffy comforter and silky sheets to nestle between.

I tossed and turned, exhaling sounds of misery and feeling my feet shift restlessly as relief from the pain evaded me. I tried to fantasize, recalling that helped some people but could only picture vomitting on some poor man before begging him for painkillers. I attempted to distract myself by thinking about work - various tasks to complete and meetings to attend before moving the pillow and pressing my fingers to my forehead almost hard enough to bruise.

I prayed for relief and felt Sprout's warm weight settle against me before I said Amen. I opened my eyes and stared at him mutely, lifting my hand to smooth his stripey coat and listened to him purr. We rested there together quietly, his whiskers tickling my arm when he moved his head, until I slowly started to drift to sleep as the pain eased, whether by divine or excessive medical intervention.

I murmured when Chienne jumped up to curl behind my knees, feeling the cat tense since his canine sibling has become increasingly jealous and likely to attack him when he screws with her. I opened my eyes, realizing my lower back ached but my head felt OK. So I did a bit of work and read a couple of books. I finished cleaning (well, sort of) and took Chienne for a belated walk. And I have kept the house at a reasonable temperature since the stupid happy sunshine nearly triggered another migraine, tempting me to keep my eyes closed for the last block as I feared the return of pain.

Friday, April 16, 2010

40 Hour Week

Hesitant to spoil anything, I've not mentioned that I'm incredibly happy at work of late. Due to the insane amounts of work I did early this year, my reputation with the new boss is fabulous and the workload has settled at an utterly bearable level.

I went in early Monday morning to interview a candidate, thinking the world a lovely place as Chienne and I wandered through the neighborhood as the sun was just emerging for the day. I took my camera for the rest of the week, sometimes forgetting to take pictures as I sighed over the light and colors that exist just at dawn. I was happy to be awake, feeling pleasantly rested and enjoying the smallest chill in the morning air.

I came home early Monday afternoon, working a mere 9 hours and actually taking time to lunch with colleagues in the cafeteria. I worked normal hours on Tuesday and Wednesday, wondering around to my group to see if there were places I could contribute since I was shockingly caught up with my own projects. I accepted meetings I normally would have declined, taking time to listen and learn. I happily spent time testing programs and running experiments, reestablishing stagnant relationships I've been exploiting in past months as I tried frantically to keep from drowning in work.

So I chatted and giggled, talked and kept up with each new task that arrived for me. I made new lists carefully and tried not to dread the next bout of business that would erase the peaceful productivity I so enjoy.

"Fantastic," I chirp at times, others offering a quick "fabulous" or "wonderful!" when asked how I am, remembering the times when I would bite off a "hanging in there" in response to similar inquiries.

"I'm so happy," I told Adam when we talked and he blinked at me before smiling indulgently.

"I'm glad," he offered and I nudged his shoulder with my own before grinning at him. "Do you have time to do some work for me?" he asked, adopting his best innocent expression.

"Happy to help," I replied promptly. "But I'm leaving at 5."

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Waiting in Line

Smallest One understood the train was gone and waited patiently for its return. She surprised me by her tolerance, quietly keeping her tiny hand wrapped around my fingers as people milled about. Her expression brightened when the cars pulled in with a clatter and I scooped her up so she could see past the people ahead of us.

"Aunt Katie!" she protested as we followed the line as it serpentined through the pretty iron barriers. "I want to get on it!" she cried, brown eyes filling with tears as we moved away from the entrance to keep our place in line.

"Sweetheart," I soothed, rubbing her back as it heaved with sobs. "We have to stay in line - I know it seems like we're getting farther from the gate but all these people are in front of us. So we follow them until its our turn." Despite my explanations, she wept into my shoulder when the train departed without us even as her sister tossed her long hair and glanced around us.

"We'll get on when it comes back," I promised softly, cuddling her closer. "Then we'll ride around the zoo and the train will blow its horn and we'll have a wonderful time!"

"I want to get on it," she whimpered so pitifully it made my heart hurt and I began to sing a song - much like I did when she screeched in protest while getting a diaper changed - until she calmed and waited once more.

We did ride the train, me scrunched between the two girls with my knees at my chin and arms wrapped around them. We waved to Grandma and Grandpa (and all the other people at the train crossings). We pointed at the daffodils where they were blooming in bursts of happy color.

"We're getting close to the station," I told her and she wiggled with delight, calling hello to Grandma and Grandpa before we could see them. After I helped them down the small step and unfolded myself from the tiny car, I followed, glancing at the crowd, tickets clutched in hand, waiting to fill the emptying cars.

There could have been a lesson there, I decided, glancing toward little one as she reached Mom and lifted her arms to be picked up. But sometimes its best just to toddle along and figure it out later.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Stating the Obvious

Lawyers are Evil.
I have, in a general sense, felt friendly toward legal minds. I'm attracted to power, like big words and thought LA Law was a kick-ass show when I was little.

I have come to realize over the past weeks that the lawyer jokes and curses are so totally correct that I've abandoned even as case-by-case judgment system of those who practice and am instituting a full-scale lawyer alert for all my professional interactions.

Here's the deal. I held my Big Event, right? And I was handling logistics and writing my talks and gathering all the external presentations and had generally a lot of stress and tasks. So there's a small chance I may have neglected to get pre-approval on all my expenses. Maybe. But, just after the event was over and I had time, I dutifully spent a day filling out the forms and uploading documents and signing everything in triplicate.

About a week later, I received an outraged email from one of our legal team. Ursala asked why I had not obtained pre-approval. How I knew I was allowed to sign the form. Why I had not submitted to the legal process as required by God and the United States of America and her bestest pal, Satan himself.

I replied to her and her boss, Skeletor, because he was copied, that, well, it was their form, downloaded from their website. As the authors of said document, they should feel pretty good about approving it. I did not apologize, primarily because I don't like Satan and I wasn't particularly sorry about it. And I learned getting smart with legal is probably not a great idea.

Ursala and Skeletor brought in Lex Luthor and all three of them were talking about how Sick and Wrong I had been before I sent another note that said, "OK, wait. What part of the form do you actually find problemetatic? Are we arguing over an actual issue or just the fact that I didn't bow and scrape and follow your time-consuming, asinine process?"

And the villians started shouting 'non-compliant!' and 'risk!' and 'the sky is falling! Well, not actually. But it could!' and sent me very Stern Warnings about Not Doing That Again. So I checked on their forms in their process and they'd had to approve everything I'd submitted. Because it wasn't technically wrong. And I laughed. Because while the forces of evil may cause problems, they do not, in the end, win.

Children are adorable.
"Aunt Katie," was the most common phrase of the weekend as Little and Smallest One came with their grandparents for a visit. I hid Easter eggs for them to find. We played with Play-Doh and sidewalk chalk. We took walks and went to the playground and took a trip to the zoo.

I snapped several photos after we rented a stroller and before we completed our visit with the ride on the train. That's Smallest One, all of 'two and half' years, with Dad. He asked if he could ride in the stroller with her and she was giggling at him, replying "You're too big!" even as she clutched his t-shirt in her little hand. And it was lovely, holding Little One's hand as we watched the penguins swim around. Propping Smallest One on my hip and reading her the signs when she asked "What's that?" before wrinkling her nose at the snake in the case and responding "I don't like that."

They are also exhausting, which I know I always note, but I don't know how parents do it. When do you sleep in and read books and compose blog posts when there are art projects to complete and swings to push and animals to point out when they're hidden in their habitats? As I curled up in the sun on my cushioned patio chair, closing my eyes but continuing to hear the sounds of the "boogie woogie dance" happening on another part of my deck, I shook my head and thought I remained pretty happy with my similarly sleepy dog.

They're wonderful though, my nieces. Little One reminds me of me - so sensitive and serious and driven to succeed. Smallest One is more like Brother - outwardly unphased by much of anything, responding to scoldings by placing her hands on her tiny hips, raising an eyebrow and saying, "Excuse me?" rather belligerantly. So truding downstairs to get more pink milk (we put strawberry syrup in it so I keep a container in my refrigerator) at 2AM was OK, but I was rather pleased when they left and I could sleep without interruptions.

Friends are (somewhat) fleeting.
I've always tended to be a 'love the one you're with' type. While I'm doggedly loyal in some cases, I struggle with long-distance friendships. I abhor talking on the phone, first of all, and now that I do it many of my working hours, I have no patience with lengthy conversations during evenings and weekends. I don't really take vacations and can multi-task by speaking of work and personal issues if I spend time with colleagues outside work. Plus, I enjoy solitude tremendously. So I'm a sucky friend.

I acknowledged this again last night since the friend who left a while ago returned for a brief visit. I sighed with sleepiness, but put on clothes, fixed my hair and make-up and went to town to meet everyone for sushi last night. And it was fine - there's this wave of affection when I see people and I realize I still love them very much. But it strikes me as somehow pointless - to reestablish connections continuously when there's no hope of seeing each other regularly.

So I came home after a single bar, curling up with Chienne and falling asleep while my friends remained on comfortable lounges in dimly-lit establishments, sipping fruity drinks and catching up. But I was happy, selfish soul that I am, so we'll leave it at that.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

I don't know much...

Canadian GirlPostdoc had a post on making the transition from academia to industry and was sent my way by a kind soul who thought I might have some text to offer. I am also in need of material for posts so I'm taking my email response and re-using it rather shamelessly.

Question: Why did you make the switch from academia to industry? What were your motivations?

Katie: If I were to put it simply, the decision was driven by a need for control. I realize that's an illusion, but it's one that works for me so I'll take it.

I did my doctorate degree in about 5 years and then took a post-doc for 3 years before taking my current job mid-2008. My family isn't particularly academic - I was only the second to go to college and so that environment was always a bit foreign to me. While there were parts I loved, it always felt unstable - everything reliant on the next grant or your peers opinions on tenure. I just wasn't comfortable feeling stressed about my stability for the rest of my life so I sought a place that - to me - seemed more steady and easy to understand. I wanted a place that was large enough that I could learn and grow and be promoted - I was basically looking for a lifetime employer and believe - despite some struggles - that I've found one.

Question: Did you find that you had vertical movement up the career ladder in industry or is it solely lateral (i.e. same job different company)?
Katie: There is a great deal of potential for moving up. I tend to be a bit competitive (in addition to being anal about time and a bit of a control freak. I also overly sensitive, pretty dramatic and type very fast.) and I feel this environment is easier to understand in terms of what's valued. There's a certain simplicity in 'make boss happy' that was - again, for me - more ambiguous when it came to 'get paper published.'

Question: Was your PhD/postdoc related to applied research that the transition seemed natural or was it in a basic science?

Katie: I've always liked stuff so I'm pretty money-hungry. My degree is in an applied field with a lot of earning potential so the transition was easy in that sense. There are several colleagues who have similar backgrounds so I'm pretty well suited to my current environment.

Question: What was difficult about this transition from academia and what was easy?

Katie: As exhausted and stressed as I sometimes am, I consider myself professionally happy. Yet there were moments of the transition that were incredibly difficult. Posts early on in my time in Industry (late 2008, I think) would reveal that I struggled a great deal with the power structure. I'd had pretty laid back bosses in my academic life and if something didn't make sense, I didn't do it. Industry is much more structured in that you must make your boss happy. Even if it's not sensible. Even if you don't agree. It was excruciating for me to do that before I grew confident in my supervisor's skills and perception - it's much easier now.

It's really personality driven, I think. I'm much more management-oriented than science/technology-based so I'm in the middle of an ego contest to some extent. I've taken the approach that when my boss (or his boss or his boss's boss) gives me a task, I do the best job I possibly can. I don't have to think it's a good idea. I can think it's the most asinine thing I've ever heard in my life. Yet I'll research and make it the simplest thing to understand. I'll work evenings and weekends, hold meetings and revise until it's a shining example of perfection. And I can feel good about that because it's all pieces in an enterprise where the comprehensive goal is important and does matter.

Question: What skills from academia did you find were the most transferable?

Katie: The skill that has helped me most is understanding my strengths and weaknesses and how they helped me fit with a team. I was always a better collaborator than PI - I liked to do my work very well and was thrilled to write papers and analyze results, but I didn't have the major ideas necessary to establish my own lab. While I wasn't a huge fan of group work, I did like the scope of collaborative efforts and allocating pieces of a large project to separate people. What I do now is largely managing those efforts and communicating the results.

I'd say presentation skills were the other skill that got me hired. I'd always liked talking about my work - how it was important, what the various problems were. Speaking in front of large crowds still makes me a little nervous, but I enjoy being the focus of attention and disseminating information. So the ability to understand big picture and translate it to various audiences is helpful as you work in teams.

Question: How did you make the transition? Did you know someone at the company or did you just send out your resume to job postings? You mentioned networking but how did you go about establishing a network? Through conferences? Through friends of friends?
Katie: I'll be honest - It's hard to get noticed if you don't know someone. So networking is valuable and something I often struggled with. In my case, I applied for this job out of grad school and met many of my current colleagues during that unsuccessful interview. So when I wanted to apply again, I searched my old email and sent a note directly to the person hiring rather than just going through the online application. Then I sent email. And called. Sent more email. Offered to visit. And after about 6 months of that, I finally got an interview and - several months later - was hired and began work here. I don't know if that's a general trend or specific to us, but the process was painfully slow.

In terms of how to meet us, we're at meetings - find industry people who are presenting posters or giving talks. Come to the booth and chat about the products before asking if there's anyone around who could talk about opportunities in research and development. If you don't meet anyone in person, look up papers and find email addresses that way. Cross-reference author lists and see if they know anyone you know who might provide an introduction.

When you talk or email - even without an introduction - be yourself and be confident. Know what you have to offer and why you think the job would be a good fit. Stay positive, but explain why the academic structure isn't ideal for you and describe why Industry allows you to do something you love - show dedication and desire to work with teams and be flattering about what you've heard about the corporation of interest. Persistence also helps - I can say that I'm intensely busy and get well over 150 emails each day. Keep your message short and interesting. Ask an easy question that someone could easily hit reply and answer quickly. Then use the opportunity to establish a conversation.

I can say that every time a position opens, my colleagues send emails that ask who we know that would be good. So keeping yourself in someone's mental address book is a good move.

Question: Could you describe a typical day/week to me. Do you work 9-5? What type of hours are expected? Is there any flexibility? Do you have to dress up?

Katie: Our office hours at 8-5. Sometimes we take lunch - there's often not time. Before/after hours teleconferences are normal (I do ~3 a week either in the evenings or before 7AM) to accommodate global teams. Having said that, there is flexibility. Several of my colleagues work from home a couple days a week. I came home early this afternoon and took a nap before returning to email.

A typical day contains an average of 4 meetings, each an hour long. This means I spent at least half my working hours either on the phone or around a table, talking about something. We like meetings very much. They make us feel important. When I'm not in a meeting, I'm often answering email, scheduling a meeting or preparing for a meeting. I visit customers (often in wonderful places - I'm going to Europe again in May and will spend a couple weeks in the Fall in Asia) and talk to them on the phone. I monitor projects and guide prioritization and funding decisions.

Our more science-focused folks are spared many of those gatherings, though they have their share. They do actual work - coding and experiments and the like - and then they talk to me and each other and try to understand the value to our customers.

Dress is business to business casual, depending on who's coming to your meetings that day. If it's a customer, I generally wear a suit (I went from owning 2 for my post-doc to my current 10). If not, I'll wear something more casual but rarely jeans and never t-shirts/sweatshirts. Unless I'm working in the labs on a weekend - then I'll wear sloppy clothes since few people are around and comfort matters more. Apart from manufacturing personnel, we'd generally in pants and dress shirts.

Question: What are the toughest problems you deal with and what part of this work do you find the most rewarding?

Katie: The workload is daunting. There is always too much to do and too few people to do it. When you sell something and have a base of customers, the expectations are generally high and prioritizing them (and explaining why we sometimes suck and can't meet those expectations) is challenging. I had someone yell at me today, in fact, because we're not working on a problem he considers very important. I don't disagree with him, but we also have x number of people who are working really hard on other things.

At a high level, we're trying to help sick people. I think that's valuable and noble and so I put effort into the silliness so we're able to get closer to that goal. I like learning and the expectation is that employees are always growing exponentially - delivering more, learning more, becoming more effective and efficient. So while the challenge can sometimes be exhausting, it's also exhilarating when you pull it off.

Conclusion: I hope that helps those who were interested. If you think of more questions, leave a comment or send an email - I'm happy to respond.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Better than Best?

I call him Best for a reason.

From the beginning, he has struck me as the most steady, talented, competent person on the team. Little seems to faze him as his responses stay thoughtful and decisions remain sensible and smart. I've learned a great deal from him - have enjoyed traveling with him, giggled over his jokes, shared drinks after work and carefully considered his perspective on most issues.

I'll admit that my jaw dropped when it was announced that Best was seeking another role. I'd known he was less than thrilled with what we were doing, but was still taken aback that he was actively seeking a demotion when I'm working like crazy to force my career in the upward direction.

"If he wants it," PrettyHair said, her voice taking on a warning note as we discussed interview questions for said position today, "Best will have it." I looked at her and paused without replying. "He's obviously the best person for the job," she insisted, looking increasingly annoyed by my failure to agree.

"We haven't talked to the others," I said quietly before returning to my desk and carefully considering my questions. I want to assess dedication and skill sets. I'd like to understand future plans and past accomplishments.

I considered it as Chienne and I moved through the mist that floated in the morning air. My shoes made soft sounds as we walked along the pavement near the river, admiring the play of shadows and light and wondering if it was better to allow someone entry into this part of the world - to work in my group and do what we do - or to shuffle so that one beloved member has a better chance of being happy and satisfied.

Finished with my Big Event and at a bit of a lull since I've been working at such an insane pace, I reviewed resumes as I sipped peppermint tea this afternoon. I was caught up on email and finishing this round of the endless paperwork that awaits. I had planned travel - I'm out for most of May and determined to enjoy April at home. And I wondered, having been told I will probably move up after another year, what I'd like to leave behind for a job that has become my life for the past two years.

Thursday, April 01, 2010


There were 50 chairs in a large, sunny room. They were arranged in a U, and my printed agendas rested neatly behind name plates perched beside folders with relevant materials. I looked at the items laid out so neatly and nodded with a mixture of nerves and satisfaction. The months of planning - logistics and strategy, transportation and content - were done. It was time to begin.

I've eaten out, luxurious meals at wonderful restaurants, for the past 3 nights with some of the leaders in my field. I've had their attention focused on me as I said what I thought, listened in attentive fascination as they shared their opinions and answered all our questions. I accepted the compliments on all my work and kept looking around, wondering how this could be possible. That we'd invited this many people who were considered a Big Deal in the field and they now knew me. Shook my hand, kissed my cheeks, sat across from me at dinner.

Despite the delight, I am exhausted. I worked to make this happen and I dutifully kept us on time and organized. I got people in town and sent them out again. I've been at their hotel more often than I've been home and at the meeting location even more than that. Yet there are moments worth remembering.

* My crush was there and I am sincerely and ridiculously infatuated with the man. From the moment he grinned and leaned down to kiss both my cheeks in greeting, a bit of his stubble rasping my cheek, to when he called me his darling before kissing me farewell, I would look over at him during my most stressful moments and all would be well once again. It's shocking, really, that I've forgotten what a good crush feelings like. That moment of a blushing glance across the room and thinking, "Oh, I like you."

* Somehow the fact that he's easily 15 years older than I mattered much less than his accent is divine, hands decidedly sexy and mind brilliant. Oh, how I like him. But I kept from mooning over him. Other than greetings and farewells where I'd nuzzle close for kisses, I entertained others in the group I was just meeting rather than knew and loved and allowed others to enjoy his company.

* I didn't realize how much I touch people when I'm nervous and in charge. I felt undeniably affectionate, albeit to a lesser degree, to everyone in the group and passed out more than my share of hugs and quick rubs of a shoulder or back as I mingled between sessions.

* Business dinners have stopped being a miserable chore and turned into a pleasant way to spend an evening. I was surprised upon realizing that I giggled over stories and offered my own without feeling as though I was working really hard to entertain. I've somehow become good at business interactions in a social setting.

* I started my period at the very beginning of the biggest meeting in my career. Upon realizing it, I rolled my eyes, decided it should have been expected, and took pills to handle the cramps and headache.

* I do not tolerate unexpected glitches in my carefully-created schedule. From my boss to his boss to my close colleague, I categorically denied them last-minute requests that didn't make sense. I lost some battles and had to do it, but I resented each change bitterly. It was my meeting and they were ruining it and I was angry.

* I prayed on my way in this morning. The sun was rising just after 6:00 and I spoke to God as I sped toward the meeting location in order to prepare. It helped. I was more relaxed and focused today.

* There is a point that after so many days of unrelenting work, extreme stress and lack of sleep that I can't think clearly. I'm now at that point. So I shall sleep, deal with the final wrap up tomorrow and we'll see if we can't get back to normal.