Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Flying under the radar

As I mentioned earlier, I recently threw my hat into the ring for an academic administrative position. Having met previously with a representative of the executive search company working with this Institution, I was very positive about my chances for this opening going into my interview with the supervisor. My discussion with the firm representative was a positive one, which ended with him commenting that I was a strong candidate.

Fast forward to interview day. I had made all the phone calls to learn more about this supervisor and how he worked. I prepared my answers to some of the important questions I had been asked previously or expected to be asked this time. It's been a long time since I've prepared for an interview in this way. Most times my preparation was a lecture about my research, something that becomes second nature after 15+ years on the job. I even cut the hair and bought a new outfit - one that looked professional but not stuffy.

Well to make a long story short, the interview didn't quite go as I expected. I was asked things like "Did you ever have your own R01?" and "How many faculty committees did you serve on in your previous faculty positions?" Now neither of these questions are really pertinent to the job on the table and I suddenly began to feel like the purpose of this interview was not to find out how I could do the job but how we could list things that could be used to keep me out of the job. I was told I didn't have a lot of administrative experience, yet the position is heavily weighted to bringing investigators together to advance translational research - i.e. something more easily tackled by a person with a lot of scientific experience.

Those questions were followed by a 20 min description of the components that the person in this position would be involved in. Very interesting and useful information. But the way it was delivered gave me little opportunity to be part of that discussion and emphasize how my experience would serve me well in that position.

Then I was told that it would be in this Institutions best interest to find a way to use my experience to their benefit "even if it's in another position". Pow. Bam. Down for the count. That was a signal, I believe, to tell me that I wasn't what this individual was looking for.

So my hopes were dashed, my sails deflated but it did get me thinking about some of the decisions I made as I traveled from Institution to Institution, faculty position to faculty position as the "wife of the recruit". I've done this type of move 3 times, but only once was I recruited with a real 'package. That was at a non-academic research Institute so there weren't traditional faculty committee service requirements. The other two times I had to work at gaining the respect and acceptance of my colleagues in departments that were outside my area of expertise. In these situations, I put my head down and focused on doing good research and publishing papers. I didn't push to be on committees or involved in working groups. In some sense I felt like I needed to fly under the radar. Now I know that was not the thing to do. I should have focused on building a broader portfolio and enlisting the help of the department chairman or senior faculty. What remains clear is that dual recruiting requires the full support of the chairman for whomever is the " spouse of the recruit". If you don't have someone who can see your qualities and knows how to use them to benefit their department, and who isn't committed to your success as much as the success of the primary recruit, then it isn't going to work.

Hindsight is 20/20. I can only say that I have the experience I have and I'm confident with who I am. I just don't know where that will end up taking me but I've been down windy roads before. I can't wait to see what's around the next corner.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

One fever, two fever

I've recently gone back to reading some of the women in science-related blogs that I was following over a year ago. I'm impressed they've managed to maintain their blogging. I guess the year I was in treatment I just didn't want to think so much about my life as a Mom and scientist - just wanted to think about getting through treatment. But now that I'm back working and looking at a less flexible, potentially more stressful job, I'm thinking a lot about the stresses of being a mother to a 7 and 5 year old, being older than a lot of Mom's with kids my age, having a husband in an academic science career, thinking of changing my career yet again and being a cancer survivor (and the internal dialog that comes with that). My current job has a lot of flexibility. I can be out in front of the customers as much or as little as I want. That said, if I don't get out there, it will be a lot leaner year and I most likely won't make the company-mandated quotas. However, I can do a lot by email and phone when I need to. Like this last month.

You see SciDad's travels and job responsibilities leave him home only 10 days in February. I officially declared in Single Parenting Month! To top that off, my children have been home sick a total of 12 days since the last week of January, some days together. High fevers, flu-like symptoms (although tests showed it wasn't the flu), coughing, etc. I also got sick in the middle of it all but still kept up the Clara Barton role, spending one of my sickest nights cooling my daughter down from a 105 degree fever. Several days I had to call a mother of a child in my son's 1st grade to ask if they could bring him to school because I didn't want to bundle up my 5 year old daughter who was running a 103 degree fever and take her out of the house. She's been home with me for the last 4 days again with another bought of high fever and a throat infection (not strep).
I was reading MommyScientist's blog about her childcare issues and I can really relate, although her situation is more dire right now that mine. But if I get this new position, it's going to be a transition back to a more conventional work schedule and what will I do when the kids are sick for 4 days at a time? This is when I really hate being thousands of miles away from any family. I worry about feeding my kids a decent diet (some days I can multi-task working at home and cooking so that a nice dinner is on the table). I worry about their days at school going from 8 - 3pm and then afterschool until 5pm. When do they get to just be home and play? Should I give up this opportunity to keep the current flexibility since my children are young?
My head is full of these kinds of thoughts. How do you get your head around a job (new or current) and focus on that with all the other stuff that's on your mind? Maybe I'll find some answers on the other Mommy/Scientist blogs.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Bubble, bubble......

Something is bubbling on the job horizon. I have an upcoming interview for an academic administrative-type position back in the cancer research field. Having been out in the corporate world for 2 years now, and having been laid off and re-hired twice, I find myself yearning for something that brings me back closer to what excites and intrigues me - and that is cancer research. This opportunity would put me on a new career trajectory - one more in line with what I have always wanted after a career as a lab scientist.

It would be challenging and interesting and would probably provide me with many more career options that I have at the moment. I really want this opportunity. I hate to get too excited because there are a lot of talented people out there. I hope to know more in a week so stay tuned.

Monday, February 16, 2009

I'm climbing the ladder but going up the wrong building

So what's been happening since I was laid off? Two days after I was laid off, the local account sales position opened up and I transfered into it. This is a general sales position and not the technical sales/application development position I held before. The company thought it was perfect for me because of the territory and it's availability. I realized right then that it wasn't perfect for me but perfect for them because they didn't have to feel guilty about laying me off. And it also showed me that they did not value me for my years of scientific experience and knowledge.
But I took the position and here's why:
1) I have a paycheck in this economy
Why this will not work long term:
1) I would not have left academics for this job, 2) It has no career trajectory, 3) It does not "speak" to me.

In a book I'm reading called "Expect to Win", there is a section with the title of this blog entry. It says if you assess your job and you realize that you are in the wrong field/business, then you have given away your "real power". That's exactly how I feel in this position. But I'm going to do this job while I look for the right building to prop my ladder against. I never expected to ever be in this position having educated myself and been successful in my career choices. But I've survived upheavals before and I'll survive this one. I just hope the right opportunity will come sooner rather than later