Friday, March 28, 2014

Weekend Reading: The Good Writing about Annoying Things Edition

I have gathered a lot of really good things to read this week. As I put this post together, I realized that they were all about annoying things that shouldn't happen. Maybe that describes a lot of my link posts, actually....

Anyway, to the links:

You know how you can know something at the level of acting on it, but not ever really think about it until someone else points it out? That describes me and the way women experience public transit, until I read this story by Ann Friedman.

But if you think you'll just take Uber instead... maybe think again.

Jenn Frank wrote a very thorough, good, and patient explanation of the problem with "we should hire based on merit not (gender, race, etc)" arguments, which includes the great line: "never take gender into account when choosing the best man for the job."

Perhaps you saw an article this week about how older white men are facing discrimination in tech. It was all over my Twitter feed, but I could never get through the one everyone was tweeting out. I don't mean to imply that ageism is OK. It isn't, and it should be stopped. But I kept thinking that the older guys who are experiencing age discrimination now helped build the supposedly meritocratic tech culture that has marginalized so many people for so long. Where was their interest in fairness and cultural issues then? I really liked Ann Friedman's take on this, in which she wonders if tech has "disrupted discrimination" and points out that unlike women and people of color, no one is telling the older guys they're just doing it all wrong. They're looking at the structural issues. So I guess if this actually leads more people to recognize the structural problems in the tech culture it is a good thing... but I am still sad it took discrimination happening to older white men to get it noticed. (Yes, that's two completely unrelated articles by Ann Friedman in one links post.)

Ashe Dryden (@ashedryden) wrote a great multi-tweet thread about the issues that tech has with recognizing the value of management and the like. I've seen similar problems in biotech. It seems every company has to discover for itself that management has value. In fact, just this week, I had cause to forward this old HBR article about how Google "proved management matters" to someone. (Unfortunately, you'll have to register with HBR to read the whole thing, but registration is free.)

Staying with tech for a minute... the unfolding wage cartel story is destroying any respect I had left for Steve Jobs. Also, I wonder if any of the techies who think government does nothing but get in their way will change their views now? (My guess is not. But I can dream.)

That's enough tech stuff. I really liked this interview with Stephanie Coontz. I usually find Coontz' thoughts on work and family matters to be interesting and good.

Speaking of people saying interesting, good things: Britney Cooper says really smart things about the #CancelColbert incident.

I also found this article by Noah Berlatsky about race in Sci-Fi very interesting. 

This picture will probably make you angry.


@DNLee5 has written many great things, but this might be my favorite tweet of hers ever:




Let's end on a more hopeful note. Tragic Sandwich (@tragicsandwich) pointed me to this article from Maria Klawe, the president of Harvey Mudd College, about overcoming Imposter Syndrome.

And I love the picture in this:


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Ask Cloud: Writing a Cover Letter

I've gotten several requests for advice on how to write a cover letter. I am too lazy to dig them up to fit the usual Ask Cloud format, but trust me. I have been asked about this! I touched on some "things NOT to do" in an old post, but I've never written up my advice on the things you SHOULD do, so here goes...

The cover letter is an intimidating thing to write. I freely admit that it is the hardest part about a job application- it is for me, too, and I've written dozens of cover letters and read hundreds of them. The basics of what you need to do aren't that hard to grasp, but it can be very hard to write something that covers those basics well and still feels authentic. However, it is worth taking the time to really get the cover letter right. As @SteveB mentioned in the comments of my post of writing a resume, a good cover letter can rescue an otherwise mediocre application.

A bad cover letter, on the other hand, can completely sink your chances for a the job. Don't freak out, though. When I say "bad cover letter," I am thinking about the ones that say they are interesting in a different field than mine, or the one memorable one I received that talked about how the candidate had a "God-given talent for (specific job function)" and how he would profoundly improve our company's chances for success if we could convince him to work for us. This was from someone who was just graduating from college. We all had a chuckle and set his application aside.

These are easy mistakes to avoid. Most cover letters are not bad, but they're not good. They don't really hurt your chances, but they don't help them.

So, what should you do to write a good cover letter? To me, there are three basic requirements for a good cover letter:
  1. Convey the right information
  2. Clear, concise writing
  3. Proper grammar
Let's take them one at a time.

Convey the right information

The point of a cover letter is to summarize how your skills and experience match the key skills in the job posting. You need to do the work of mapping your skills to the skills the hiring manager has stated that he or she wants. Use the keywords from the job ad! Don't make the hiring manager do the work of making the mapping, and don't make her guess if your "aqueous container construction" is the same thing as the "underwater basketweaving experience" requested in her posting, even if you come from a lab that strongly prefers the "aqueous container construction" designation.

You should not laboriously map every single skill in the job posting to your background. Instead, pick the key skills. This is a chance to demonstrate that you truly understand the position and what they key skills for that position might be. If you read a job posting and can't figure out what the key skills are, you should try to do more research into that field. Yes, it is probably a very poorly written job posting. Deal with that, and work around it to submit a solid application, anyway.

If there is a significant hole in your background with respect to the posting, don't pretend it isn't there and think the hiring manager won't notice. The hiring manager is almost certainly scanning cover letters and resumes specifically looking for the key skills- if yours is missing too many, it will just be skipped. Instead, think hard about your background and experience, and try to identify something that indicates an aptitude for learning the missing skill. For instance, let's say the job description calls for experience in underwater basket weaving, coordinated diving techniques, and reed selection. You have underwater basket weaving and coordinated diving techniques nailed, but lack direct experience in reed selection. However, you collaborated on a project in which you worked with the reed selection group. You can say something like this:

"While I do not have direct experience in reed selection, I collaborated closely with the reed selection department on a basket diversification initiative at Baskets University, which gave me exposure to the fundamental properties that must be considered when selecting reeds for an underwater basketweaving project."

Bonus points if you can offer to put the hiring manager in touch with the person with whom you collaborated, and that person will say you are wonderful. (This is a heavily anonymized real life example, in which I hired someone who had absolutely no experience in one of the key areas of the job. The cover letter sold me on the candidate, and the hire worked out beautifully.)

Only do this if you actually find something that truly indicates an aptitude! Do not contort your experience into unnatural configurations to try to make a connection that just isn't there. If you do not have anything at all relevant in your background and the missing skill is one of the key aspects of the job, say something like this:

"While I have not yet gained direct experience in reed selection, I look forward to the chance to grow in this area."

If the missing skill is just one in a long list of desired technical skills, I would just not mention it.

Other things to include in a cover letter, if relevant are:

An explanation of any unusual gaps in your work experience, particularly if they are recent. This can be very brief. If you have a gap due to child rearing or elder care, simply state that. If this is your first job on your way back in and you can point to something you've done to stay current or refresh your skills, do so.  I would not necessarily explain a gap between college and grad school, unless it is unusually long (more than a year or so), but I can't think of any examples of this from my hiring experience, so I honestly don't know what the best advice is here. However, if you are doing a postdoc now and had a gap between grad school and postdoc, I'd explain that.

If you are changing fields, indicate that you are interested in the new field. You would not believe the number of cover letters I have received that not only don't do this, but actually mention a long interest in some other field. Don't do that. But also don't assume that your interest in my field is obvious. Maybe you've just fundamentally misunderstood my job posting. How am I to know if you don't tell me? This can be a single sentence, such as: "I am interested in the chance to apply my knowledge of basket types to applications in underwater basketweaving." This indicates that you have read and understood that my job is NOT in the history and classification of basket types, and that you are at least willing to claim an interest in my field beyond the potential to collect a paycheck. If your only interest in my field is to collect a paycheck, it is best to keep that to yourself.

Clear, concise writing

Most corporate jobs involve a lot of writing. If nothing else, you are likely to be writing a lot of emails. No one willingly signs up for a future of reading someone else's tortured prose. You want your cover letter to convince the hiring manager that you can write well. This does not mean that your writing must be on par with that of a great novelist. It just means that you must be able to structure your paragraphs and sentences logically and convey your message concisely.

You don't want to write a long, rambling cover letter, but it also must be long enough to convey all of the necessary information. I aim for 3 paragraphs of 3-4 sentences each. That is not a rule- it is just a guideline. If you can cover all of the important information in less space, that's great.

I cannot emphasize enough the fact that your cover letter must be constructed logically. If I cannot follow your letter without serious effort, I am probably not going to hire you.

Since the cover letter functions a bit as a writing sample, I am not a huge fan of the advice I sometimes see to make a table mapping skills in the job description to specific items in your background. However, I don't think I'd rule out a candidate for doing this, so if you are a very weak writer, you can consider that method. I think it would be better to get some writing advice, instead, but perhaps if you are applying for a very technical job, the writing sample aspect is less important.

Proper Grammar

I am reasonably forgiving of a typo or two in the resume and cover letter, but a true grammar mistake is usually a large mark against the candidate. I am more forgiving in this regard if the candidate is not a native English speaker, but even then, I will not overlook a large number of mistakes. Find a native speaker to proofread your writing. If you do not have a friend who will do this, look for paid help. (Corollary: if you are a native English speaker, help your colleagues out when asked. It is good karma for when you travel to their country and attempt to communicate by shouting "DO YOU SPEAK ENGLISH???" at people.)

The reason I so strongly dislike grammar mistakes in cover letters is simple: it shows a lack of attention to detail and precision, and those are usually things I need the person I am hiring to have. Writing a cover letter and resume is a good time to get in touch with your inner perfectionist.

Those are the basic points.

There is one additional consideration I'd like to mention: when you apply to multiple jobs at a single company, the hiring managers can almost certainly see this, even if the company is quite large. The resume tracking systems companies use makes this obvious.

I don't see anything inherently wrong in applying for a couple of closely related jobs. However, in this case, you will need to work extra hard on your cover letter to make sure that it is appropriate for all of the jobs to which you apply. In some cases, the resume management system will only store one. Even if you can submit more than one, they sometimes get mixed up. And even if they don't get mixed up, the hiring manager might read both. Therefore, I'd recommend writing a slightly more generic cover letter that can fit both jobs.

Better yet, though, would be to try to network your way to someone at the company who can help you figure out which job is the best fit for you, and apply to that one and only that one. If the people inside the company think a different job is more appropriate for you, they will probably consider you for it anyway. (Really! Hiring is hard. We don't care how we come across the resume for our dream candidate- we're just thankful we found it.)

Another thing to keep in mind is that preferences for cover letter styles and content might vary a bit between industries, so if you can find someone in the industry you are targeting to review your cover letter and resume, that is likely to be very helpful. However, I have received advice very similar to what I put in this post at the outplacement services I've gone to after being laid off (this is often part of the lay off package), and those services were not focused on  my industry- so I suspect that a large part of my advice here will be applicable to other industries.

That's all I can think of right now. Other hiring managers out there- what do you think? Job candidates- what questions do you have that I have missed?

Monday, March 24, 2014

Taster Flights

This week's Tungsten Hippo post is on how short ebooks can function like a taster flight of beer (or wine, if that's more your thing), allowing you to compare different samples of similar things, and thereby notice aspects that you might have missed without the comparison.

It was also going to be the first blog post on Tungsten Hippo to include an image, but I ran out of time. To make that happen, I need to install several new Drupal modules and a client side WYSIWYG editor. This makes me simultaneously appreciate blogging software and miss the simplicity of the hand-editing HTML days. However, learning the ins and outs of Drupal was part of the point of the Tungsten Hippo project, so I will eventually finish this off and enable pictures in my blog posts over there. The Tungsten Hippo project, though, is reinforcing something that I already knew about myself- I enjoy tech challenges, but I'm really all about the content. So I decided not to let this particular tech thing get in the way of my posting schedule and put the post up without a picture.

Therefore, the 20 or so people who read Tungsten Hippo and not Wandering Scientist will miss out on this picture:



Anyhow, I've used the same image of a beer taster flight before, in a blog post here. That post was about careers and interests, and being a "scanner." One of the insights I'd gained from reading a couple of books about people who have a lot of different, diverse interests is that we can benefit from viewing our interests as a taster flight. I continue to apply this idea in my life, and it has stood the test of time.

As useful as the idea of the taster flight is, I'm still struggling to get the balance right in my life. I can spiral into unhelpful self-doubt about how I feel like my career is floundering- which made it  nice to read this article from Brian Featherstonhaugh about "career rocket fuel" and the stages of a career. Although I feel like I'm too old for all of this soul-searching nonsense, in his formulation I'm hitting that phase right on time: I'm 15 years post-PhD, which is when my career really started. Even the three possible paths he listed as an example for his imaginary second phase person sort of fit.

Of course, I still have to do the work of figuring out where I want my career to go, but maybe I can stop beating myself up for not already knowing!

I was also really struck by this excerpt from the book "Happy City," by Charles Montgomery. There are a lot of really good, thought-provoking ideas in that excerpt, but the section that really made me sit up and take notice was the section on the effects of a long commute, and particularly this quote:

"Stutzer and Frey found that a person with a one-hour commute has to earn 40% more money to be as satisfied with life as someone who walks to the office."

So maybe I should stop beating myself up for hating my new commute, too. People try to convince me it is not that bad, but the new routine effectively doubles my commute time, and I spend an hour every day just commuting. That is not good.

There are two bright spots to my new routine: the fact that it made me start walking Pumpkin to and from school, and the fact that it made me try out podcasts. I'm still collecting a good list of reliable podcasts. I'd like to branch out from the usual NPR ones (although those are good, and I listen to some and love them). One of the less well-known podcasts that I've stumbled across and enjoy is Launch Yourself. I am enjoying hearing all of the interviewee's different stories about what they decided to launch and how they did it. If you are at all tempted to try to launch something- even just as a side project, I recommend checking it out, particularly if your inner PR person is as stunted as mine is!

That's like a taster flight of things to make you think about how you've organized your career and life. There's lots we could discuss in the comments- whether you have a taster flight of interests, where you are at in your career path, what you think about long commutes, whether you've ever launched anything and what you thought about the experience... so have at it!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Weekend Reading: The Fine Blend of Good Things Edition

My big software release is done (and went well), but I've still got an IT outage to get through this weekend (my team has to come smoke test all the apps after the outage is over. Yes, I know about automated regression testing. There are reasons we still need to smoke test.)

So, while I've got a nice mix of things for you this week, I don't think I have the brain power to write much analysis around them. I'll just get straight to the links.

There is a lot of hate about the new Common Core standards out there. I haven't had enough experience with them to have a strong opinion. I can say that I've liked the math that Pumpkin (a first grader) is bringing home. I like how it is not about memorizing facts, but is instead giving her a chance to recognize the "magic" in math that makes it so powerful. I got an inkling of that with proofs in geometry (10th grade)  but didn't really get how powerful math is until college. I'm all for letting more kids see that earlier.
 
Anyway, @mylifeasprose, one of the people I follow on Twitter, is in some sort of math ed role, and is a huge advocate of the Common Core math standards. She did a series of tweets about how the new standards work in practice, and it is storified. It might be worth checking out if you're wondering "WTF" about the math homework your kid is bringing home.

Like I said- I haven't really seen enough of the Common Core standards to have an opinion, but I think there is some merit in this tweet:




And I think that "the Common Core" is being used to explain a lot of changes that may or may not actually be about the new standards, and a lot depends on how the standards are implemented. I personally would like to see less focus on testing and more on having a curriculum standard and trusting/empowering educators to teach that curriculum to kids. But we love our tests here in the USA....

OK. Moving on.

Reading this interview Kiese Laymon conducted with his mother makes it obvious that he is not the only awesome person in his family. (Also, if you have not yet read How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America, you should fix that. I've got his novel, Long Divisionon my Kindle, waiting for me to have time to read a novel.)

I really liked this HBR article from Avivah Wittenberg-Cox about how sexism in the workplace self-perpetuates. Sad and thought-provoking, especially as a manager. A couple of favorite quotes:

"The only hope of overcoming anything unconscious is to make it conscious."

and

"Companies that continue to use biased talent management systems — unwittingly or not — will continue to get exactly the same results. Equally competent women will learn from the system that others are considered better – and believe it.  “People don’t even learn that they are equally capable,” as one of the study’s coauthors, Luigi Zingales of the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago, told the New York Times. Research pointing to women’s supposed “lack of self-confidence” overlooks this point: Men and women are born with similar ambitions, talents and ideas. Then we teach them bias."

Sarah Kendzior has a really good piece out about not just the gender gap in foreign policy, but how the system excludes people who do not come from wealthy backgrounds. You should also read the backstory on this piece, which should be unbelievable but sadly is all too believable.

To finish off the sexism and racism portion of the links, I give you... white guys sorting things out.

I  found this story about the homicide report at the LA Times to be really interesting and moving.

This is a really good post about alternative histories. (Hat tip: Bad Mom, Good Mom, who emailed it to me.) Definitely watch the short film that is embedded in it. I had seen it before but not posted it because I was uncomfortable with how the hijab is portrayed as necessarily demeaning. I do not agree with that. But other than that, it is a really well done film. And maybe I'm not reading the hijab portion as the filmmaker intended. I don't know.

I had never even heard of Portolan Charts before reading this post from Strange Maps, but it is a fascinating story. I love that site for teaching me random things I didn't even know I wanted to know.

Finally, Tragic Sandwich has a post about an interaction between her kid and some other kids at day care that really got me thinking. To understand the post, you need to know that Baguette (Tragic Sandwich's kid) has Autism Spectrum Disorder and a speech delay.I won't say more, because I think you should just go read the post.

It got me thinking about how I need to push myself to talk to my kids about all sorts of differences, not just race. Pumpkin and I have been talking about physical disabilities a bit on our walks to and from school, because she just got a long-coveted roller backpack, and she likes to pull it over the yellow bumpy section of the sidewalk ramps. She asked me why some ramps have those and others don't, and that led to a conversation about what they were for, etc., etc. I have to say, I am loving how we talk about things on the way too and from school. The change to walking has been the one bright spot in my new commute routine, which I otherwise continue to hate.

Anyway, inspired by Tragic Sandwich's post, today we talked a bit about how we shouldn't infer too much from differences we notice between ourselves and others, and I told her about Carly Fleischmann, a young woman who has autism and is unable to speak. At the age of 10, she figured out how to type, though, and she is telling the world what her world is like. I wanted Pumpkin to see that being unable to do one thing (or slower to learn it) does not say anything about a person's intelligence and other capabilities.

And I showed her this trailer for a book Carly has co-written with her father, which tells the whole story:



That's not my usual funny ending, but it is uplifting, so I'll leave it there and wish you all a happy weekend!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Lazy Isn't Accidental

I wasn’t planning to blog about the recent events involving Julie Ann Horvath and GitHub, partially because my little corner of the tech world is pretty far removed from that corner, so I didn’t feel like I had anything to add, and what I would say, I’ve said before. I am also working very hard to deal with the fallout from my very bad day a week and a half ago and put all of this messy “woman in STEM” stuff back in the mental box in which I usually contain it. From a purely selfish standpoint, I just want to lock that box back up and move on with my own life plan.

But then someone I know made an offhand comment about how maybe the reason tech has these periodic high profile “diversity fails” is because there are so many guys- and I am quoting here- “on the spectrum” in tech.

And that got my ranty juices going, because I think it does a huge disservice to people with autism spectrum disorders as well as to women and other marginalized groups in tech. I have managed someone with an autism spectrum disorder and while that presented some different challenges, a prevalence of misogynistic asshole-ish behavior was not among them, because guess what? He wasn’t a misogynistic asshole. In fact, he was one of the least likely people I have ever worked with to say something that was even borderline sexist. So can we please, please, please stop with the lazy stereotypes about people with ASD and just acknowledge that being sexist and having ASD are two distinct things, which may overlap in individuals much like having brown hair and being sexist may?

Also, there is a HUGE difference between having an autism spectrum disorder and just being socially awkward, and people should not self-diagnose ASD to avoid owning up to their social challenges. And they certainly shouldn't use an ASD diagnosis, whether from a doctor or from their own analysis, to justify being an asshole, because that just makes them an even bigger asshole. (For the record, I have never seen anyone with an actual ASD diagnosis do this, but since they are a large and diverse group, I'm sure there are some assholes among them, just like there are in any large group.)



Furthermore, I cannot think of a single person in a marginalized group with whom I have EVER worked who was not capable of distinguishing between social awkwardness and sexism, racism, and other discriminatory speech and behavior. It is, in my experience, extremely rare to come across someone from a marginalized group who will NOT give people a giant benefit of the doubt with respect to this. I am sure a few people with a hairline trigger on reporting harassment are out there, but your chances of running into them are quite small. (Particularly when compared to my chances of running into someone who makes sexist statements, but let’s not go there…)

I think there is a misconception that there are no negative impacts to reporting abusive or discriminatory behavior. This is laughable. There are huge impacts. I've witnessed people put up with unbelievable behavior because to report it is to risk destroying their career. I have personally put up with wildly inappropriate behavior because reporting it would (1) make it worse and (2) have negative impacts on my career. It is almost never a good thing for your career to raise these issues. It just isn't.

I think a lot of the angst around this topic amongst more privileged groups is related to the fear of “accidentally” saying or doing something wrong. I get that. It certainly gets a lot of hype. But I think it is entirely unfounded. First, as I discussed above, most people in marginalized groups are likely to give you a lot of chances and the benefit of the doubt. Second, I’ve come to think that most “accidentally” racist and sexist speech isn’t really accidental. It comes from a place of ignorance, and what is your excuse for being ignorant? It is easier now than ever to learn about these issues. Diversify your Twitter stream and read some of the links that your new tweeps post and you’re already off to a great start. If you won’t do that, it isn’t an accident. It is lazy.

The trick to not being viewed as a racist or a sexist is pretty simple, really. Just don’t be a racist or a sexist. I mean REALLY don’t be one of those things. Don’t just say “hey, I think everyone is equal so it is all fine.” Learn about your privilege and implicit bias. Learn to give other people the benefit of the doubt that you hope they will give you. I.e., don’t make people earn your respect . Assume people- even women and Black people!- who are in technical roles know a decent amount of tech, and if they ask a question, answer it with respect not condescension. In short, treat people- even people who are not straight white men just like you!- in the manner in which you would like to be treated.

(And hey, fellow cis straight white women- we don’t get to skip this step! We need to examine our implicit biases and learn how to really not perpetuate a discriminatory system, too. Extrapolating from our anger at how we are treated is only the start, and sadly a lot of us seem to fail to do even that.)

You’ll still make some mistakes, but they will be less common and most people will overlook them, or perhaps, if you’ve really earned some trust, gently correct them. Apologize sincerely (this is so rare, that it is likely to render the person to whom you are apologizing speechless), learn from the mistake, and move on, with your career trajectory completely unharmed. In fact, if you really, honestly do this- apologize for your mistakes, learn from them, and improve- your stature is likely to increase.

Or, you could be lazy and continue to do nothing and to tell yourself that you believe in equality so everything is fine. You’ll continue to make “accidental” mistakes. But that’s OK. 99% of the time, the person on the receiving end will decide that she isn’t in the mood to blow up her career today and will let it pass. She’ll pack your mistake into her mental box of stupid, discriminatory things she’s dealt with and you’ll both move on. Maybe you’ll notice that something wasn’t quite right, but hey, you believe in equality, so it can’t have been anything you did. If your career is long enough, you might eventually hit that 1% case where someone is just so sick of this shit that your “accidental” mistake blows up in your face and does you some damage. In that case, I think you got exactly what was coming to you.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Dinner during a Dora Marathon: NZ Steak and Cheese Pies

I run a very infrequent series of posts called "Dinner during Dora," which are recipes of things I cook on weeknights, when I generally have about 20-30 minutes to go from start to dinner on the table. The name originally referred to the fact that Pumpkin would watch an episode of Dora while I cooked. These days, the consideration limiting the time I want to spend cooking is less related to the amount of time I can secure without a child demanding my attention and more about the fact that we need to keep our evening routine roughly on schedule. Regardless, I still mostly cook very quick and simple things during the week.

But sometimes, I'll make something more involved. This recipe is for those times. I think the entire process, start to finish, takes me two hours. I could probably make it go faster with more practice, but it is never going to be quick.

For those who don't already know, my husband Mr. Snarky is a Kiwi. During my very first visit to New Zealand, back when he and I were just becoming a couple, I fell in love with the traditional Kiwi lunch of "a pie and a slice." The pie part is an individual size pie crust with a savory filling and a puff pastry top. The slice part is similar, but not identical to, what Americans call a bar cookie. My favorite is the caramel slice. Neither portion of this Kiwi lunch nirvana is easily found in San Diego, although I have been told that there is now a food truck serving New Zealand pies.

Mr. Snarky and I both miss pies, so I decided to learn how to make them. This post is the result of many, many iterations on a recipe for a steak and cheese pie.

My recipe for the filling is derived from the recipe for steak and kidney pies in the Edmonds Cookbook. My recipe for pie crust is a slightly modified version of what is on the Crisco can. I use store bought puff pastry. This makes about 6 pies. Most people eat one pie. My husband and one of our Kiwi friends usually eat two each.

Ingredients

Filling:

1-1.5 lb beef (I use high quality steak, not stew meat. I suspect authentic pies in NZ using stew meat)
1.5 tbs olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 tbs flour
1 cup beef stock
2 tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 tbs ketchup (to be more authentic, you should probably use the tomato sauce they have in NZ, but I use Heinz ketchup because that is what I have)
1 tbs red cooking wine (I usually use Marsala, because that is what I usually have in the way of cooking wine)
1 tsp dried thyme (careful not to get too much: it will make the pies taste nice, but wrong. I don't like the thyme to stand out as a flavor in the finished product, because I've never eaten a steak and cheese pie in New Zealand and tasted any particular herb.)
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

You'll also need some good quality cheese to put in the pie. I use New Zealand cheddar, from Trader Joe's. I think any good white cheddar would be fine if you don't have any super purist Kiwis in your eating audience. I have a super purist Kiwi to deal with, so I've never tried anything except the Trader Joe's New Zealand cheddar. Even I, a complete non-purist, non-Kiwi, am aghast at the idea of using orange cheddar in this recipe. That would just be wrong.

Pie Crust:

2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup Crisco
1/4 cup butter
~5 tbs cold water

Puff Pastry:

A box from the freezer section of the supermarket. My supermarket has Pepperidge Farms puff pastry, so that is what I use.

Don't forget to thaw the puff pastry before you start. If you do forget, you can put the puff pastry in a big Ziploc bag and thaw it quickly in warm water.

Special Utensils:

You'll need some individual pie pans. I had to get these sent over from New Zealand:

Authentic Kiwi pan

Before my mother in law sent me those, I used some individual tart pans from Williams-Sonoma. These work fine, but the resulting pie is the wrong size and shape to be picked up and eaten without utensils.

Non-authentic poncy tart pan


Preparation:

Start by getting the filling cooking.

1. Cut the meat into bite sized chunks and dice the onion.



Meat made bite-sized

2. Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet or stock pot.

3. Brown the meat quickly on all sides.

4. Remove the meat from the pan with a slotted spatula or spoon, leaving the pan drippings behind.

5. Add the onion and cook until clear.

6. Add the flour and brown (~30 seconds).

7. Gradually add stock, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan with a spoon to loosen the browned flour and other good things.

8. Bring to boil, then return the meat to the pan.

9. Stir in the Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, wine, herbs, and spices.

10. Simmer until the meat is done. In practice, I simmer over very low heat until the pie crusts are ready.

Meat made yummy
Next, make the pie crusts. I usually start the oven preheating, too. I bake the pies at the temperature specified in my pie crust recipe, which is 425 degrees F.

BEFORE putting the pie crusts in the pie tins,  make a pattern for the top crust by tracing the top of a pie tin on a piece of waxed paper and cutting it out.

Then make the pie crusts and put them in the tins.

1. Combine flour and salt in a large bowl.

2. Cut in the Crisco and butter using a pastry blender until the mixture forms pea-sized chunks.

3. Sprinkle the water onto the mixture one tablespoon at a time, mixing with a fork, until the pie crust clings together and cleans the sides of the bowl.

4. Roll out the crust and form the bottom crusts for the pies.
Now, I grate the cheese. I use a lot of cheese, but I've never written down how much. Probably close to a half pound.

Lots of authentic NZ cheese

I've experimented with using slices, and grating is better.

Put the pie crusts on a baking sheet or two, to make it easier to get them in and out of the oven and to guard against messes from any escaped filling.

Distribute the filling into the crusts, and top with the grated cheese.

Filled pies
Cut out the puff pastry tops and put them on the pies. Pinch the bottom crust up and around the puff pastry tops to seal. Score the tops to allow steam to escape.

Topped pies

Bake for 10-15 minutes, until the pie crust and puff pastry are golden brown.

Done pies

Allow to cool for a few minutes, and then enjoy!

One of my personal goals for this year is to work on a second filling type. I'll let you know how that turns out....

Friday, March 14, 2014

Weekend Reading: The Things to Make You Think Edition

I am still pretty swamped (big release goes out Tuesday! Guess who's working this weekend?) but this week I have a "real" weekend links post for you, with a bunch of good articles and posts to make you think.

First up, Catherine Liu wrote a thorough takedown review of Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld's "Triple Package." I suspect it is well-deserved. I wasn't planning to read the book, and this review certainly didn't change my mind on that! I particularly like her point about how Chua and Rubenfeld's worldview completely devalues work that does not meet their limited definition of success:

"Their lists of successful people from the “Triple Package” groups reads like dross written in capitalist propaganda cubicles — or SAT prep companies trying to market their services: look at all the people we have helped gain admittance to Ivy League schools! There are no firemen, no public school teachers, no social workers, no psychologists, no steelworkers, no plumbers, no horticulturalists, no veterinarians, no nurses, no carpenters, no astronauts, no computer engineers, no farmers, no soldiers, no tinkers, no tailors, no chefs, no ceramicists, no artists, no non-classical musicians, and no poets in Chua’s and Rubenfeld’s accounting of successful Americans."

I really liked this piece from Brittney Cooper about who gets overlooked when the pundits talk about public scholarship. Tressie McMillan Cottom also has a nice post about the making of pundits and the new crop of journalism start ups. I am happy to see the latest crop of media startups, but sad that they are missing the chance to really diversify the voices we read. I suspect they are doing the all too common hiring thing of preferring to hire people they know and trust... which almost always shrinks diversity. (I see this in my own industry, too, and it is a very, very hard thing to combat- but writing about that is for another time, when I've thought more carefully about what I can and cannot say.) I know there are other sites working to build their audience that perhaps have more diverse voices, and I need to seek them out. But seeking them out takes time- which is why we turn to pundits and "big" media sites, which is why it matters so much that those "big" sites try to find the diverse voices to share....

Salon has been doing a pretty good job of that, I think, and I am increasingly fond of that site despite its tendency for click-baity headlines and unabashed left-leaning bias. I don't go there for an unbiased take on the news- I go there to read thought-provoking things written by smart people. And I have another article from them to share this week: a really good look at how people who have never experienced true poverty can fail to see it and its effects. I remember the day in grad school when I was listening to a report on the news about a new recalculation of the poverty level and realized that the stipend I considered a bit stingy was actually at the poverty level- for a family of four. And I had job security, a great deal of autonomy, a fair amount of respect from society, and great health insurance (better than what I have now, actually). I realized that as much as I and my fellow students (all of whom were single) liked to complain about how broke we were, we had no idea what real poverty was like. That was a very sobering realization, and one that I think a fair number of  people have never had.

Moving to an even more distressing topic.... You might have heard about the dying child who needed access to an experimental drug that had no active trials. The drug company, a small biotech startup, was refusing to supply the drug on the grounds that they did not have the resources to do so. Not surprisingly, there was a big internet stink about that. The company and FDA have since found a way to supply the drug with the possibility of including data from this patient in a phase III (I have no idea how that is going to work, but clinical trial design is not my area of expertise, so I'll just trust that they have figured something out). John Carroll has a good editorial on this situation, which I will actually urge you to go read if you have any interest at all in the topic. As someone who has worked at (and been laid off from) biotechs, I can say that the argument that supplying compassionate use doses of experimental drugs could in fact lead to a company going bankrupt before getting the drug on the market is entirely plausible.

I am extremely happy that the company and the FDA found a way to fix this one case, but I also hope that people will not forget the general problem. Manufacturing a drug for human use requires a lot of overhead, not to mention the people to actually do the work of creating the batch. Most venture-backed biotechs are under tight timelines and there is a real risk of running out of money before the definitive trials can be completed. I think we need a system to pay for compassionate use cases so that companies do not face this impossible decision of whether to try to save a patient now at the risk of stranding their potential future patients and so that patients can get access to the drugs without a social media campaign. I am deeply uncomfortable with the way we seem to be turning access to medical care into a social media popularity contest.

I will refer back to my Tungsten Hippo post of a few weeks ago and argue that it is not "they" who should do something about cases like this, but US. This is the sort of problem that government seems well-suited to solve, perhaps with a fund to compensate the companies asked to provide compassionate use doses. It could be "need-tested" so that profitable pharma companies would continue to pay their own way, but little biotechs without any revenues could draw on the fund. I might write to my congressfolk to suggest something like this, but that seems unlikely to have much impact. I'm not sure what else to do, though. I'll have to think about that.

For anyone who is not in the drug discovery industry and would like to know a little more about why drugs are so damn expensive, Derek Lowe had a post this week about the reasons new drug applications fail.

So, that was a lot of heavy stuff.

On a slight less life-or-death note, I really liked this post from Frank Chimero, which I'll say is about life in the internet age, but which might more accurately be described as just being about life and how to live it.

And Stochastic Planet had a couple of great pictures. That site is one of my favorite things in my RSS feed, not because the pictures are always great (sometimes they are, sometimes they aren't) but because I love the look at a random spot on the globe from a random photographer. It is somehow comforting that so many of the random photographers are clearly quite bad at photography (like I am). Also, I really want to know the backstory on that Finnish picture.

Finally, let's end with a testament to the human spirit. This is a video shot in Tacloban, where people are still cleaning up after Typhoon Haiyan, which hit last November.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Ask Cloud: Turning an Academic CV into an Industry Resume

I promised @jkgoya that I would write about how to turn an academic CV into a resume aimed at industry jobs. I was planning to post about it last week, but then last week went to hell.

I am still processing why, exactly, last week went to hell, since the proximate cause of the train wreck on Thursday would rightfully seem to most people to be a relatively small irritant, in the grand scheme of things.

I will probably write about this eventually, because it usually helps me to write about it. I have a lot of thoughts swirling around about last week, mixing with thoughts about disproportionate responses to seemingly minor incidents and the deeper reasons for them, the limits of my tolerance, the accidental gaslighting that you experience when you are different from your colleagues in some important way, the "ban bossy" campaign and why it matters that we call girls bossy but boys leaders, and an awesome short story I read in the latest issue of Crossed Genres magazine in which words are literally weapons. Only the last of those things can really be called pleasant. (Seriously, if you have any inclinations towards Sci-Fi at all, do yourself a favor and subscribe to Crossed Genres- I have yet to read a story I didn't like, and I've read severally that I outright love.)

But I can't quite get my thoughts to coalesce into something coherent, so I will let them percolate some more and write my promised "Ask Cloud" post instead.

To all those arriving at this post because someone sent them a link saying they should read about how to write a resume- apologies for the above. That's just how I roll on this blog, and since it is a hobby for which no one pays me... you get what you get. I will, however, happily answer questions on the resume subject, both in comments and in email.

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The first thing I need to tell you about turning an academic CV into an industry resume is that while I strongly recommend you do this before applying to any industry jobs, having failed to do so is not a cause for despair. Early in your career, you probably don't have a super long CV, so most hiring managers will give you the benefit of the doubt and read through your full CV to see if you are a fit for their entry level position.

However, you can increase your chances of catching a hiring manager's attention and greatly help anyone who has offered to keep an eye out for relevant positions for you by making some tweaks to turn your CV into a resume.

Let's take it section by section.

The Profile or Objective

The absolute #1 thing you should do is add either an objective or a profile at the top of your resume. Seriously, if you take none of my other advice, at least do this. Which you choose is a matter of personal preference. I personally prefer a profile because I think the objective is fairly self-evident (my objective is to get the job to which I'm applying!) but I see a roughly equal mix of the two, and as long as the section is well-written, I don't think it matter which form you use. The profile is also sometimes called a summary. This distinction is utterly meaningless.

The objective or profile section is a written version of your elevator speech, tailored for the job to which you are applying. It should only be a couple of sentences long. In fact, my current profile is a single sentence. If you are sending the resume to a networking contact who has offered to help you, you should try to craft a version that can plausibly cover all of the types of jobs in which you might be interested. Yes, this is hard. I know, because I have struggled with it every single time I have run a job search. It is worth doing, though, because this is the first thing the person looking at your resume sees, and it gives them the reference frame into which they will fit the rest of your resume. It is worth sweating over this section.

Here is what a summary or profile might look like for someone who is just starting out:

Scientist with interdisciplinary experience in basket-weaving and snorkeling, strong technical skills in reed preparation, snorkel selection, and demonstrated ability to quickly master new weaving techniques.

Here is what an objective might look like for the same junior underwater basket weaver:

To obtain an entry-level position in underwater basket-weaving in which I can apply my interdisciplinary snorkeling and weaving experience, strong reed preparation and snorkel selection skills, and learn new weaving techniques.

You should tweak the order of the clauses and include/exclude specific skills and experiences based on the job to which you are applying. If you have one of the key skills that the job description calls out, try to get it in this section. If you could plausibly apply to two different types of jobs, have a different summary or profile for each type. For instance, I have bounced around among jobs that are more science-oriented, more computer-oriented, and more management oriented throughout my career. When I apply for a job now, I use my profile section to emphasize the part of my experience that is most relevant to the particular job to which I am applying.

Key Skills

There is some debate about whether this section should go right after your summary/objective or at the end of the resume. I think this is another case where there is no one right answer. My personal bias is to put it after the summary for more technical/hands-on positions, and move it to the end when you start applying for management positions. I've seen it in all sorts of locations, though, and I personally have never cared where I find it in an applicant's resume. I definitely want to see this section, though, particularly for more junior positions.

The key skills section is exactly what it sounds like: a listing of your key skills. The combination of this section and your profile is the "TL; DR" version of your resume. I read the profile and the key skills, and then decide how carefully to read the rest of the resume. This sounds harsh, I know, but remember that I review hundreds of resumes for any position I post. I have to use something to tell me where to focus my time, and using the profile and key skills is better than using the formatting and font choice.

Only list skills in which you have reasonably strong proficiency. Do not list things that you know about from reading a paper or two or have just dabbled in. If those things are truly relevant to the job, mention them in your cover letter, not here. Stretching the truth in this section is a disqualifier, in my opinion. If I interview someone who does not turn out to have the skills he or she listed, I will not hire, end of story.

It is best to divide this section into bullet points, arranged by type of skill. For instance, here is what our basket weaver might have:
  • Basket-weaving: cross weave, Thompson's anti-fray weave, reed preparation
  • Diving: snorkel selection, Jones' free dive technique
  • Basket-finishing: advanced decorative design, design testing
Professional Experience

This section is the meat of the resume, in which you summarize your work experience, in reverse chronological order. For someone just leaving academia, I would recommend listing post-doctoral positions, your graduate research assistant position, and any relevant experience from before graduate school. If you worked for awhile between college and grad school, list what you did, even if it is not directly relevant. If it isn't relevant, it is fine to make it a very short section, but don't leave it out, or the hiring manager might assume something bad was happening then. If you were traveling the world for two years, briefly mention that in your cover letter, but leave it out of your resume. Same thing for less desirable reasons for an interlude.

I include a job title, the date range, and a very brief summary of the job (e.g., "responsibility for all lab basket-weaving. Hired and managed two technicians.") before listing 3-6 specific accomplishments for the job. The more recent positions include more accomplishments, but this is also something I customize for different jobs and I include more detail about older experiences if they are relevant to the job requirements.

I would only include part-time positions you held during college if they are relevant- e.g., research work or a position in which you garnered some supervisory experience, but this is truly an area for which there are no right answers. You'll just have to do what you think is best.

Don't list jobs you held in high school unless you had some sort of super awesome internship or something like that. I scooped ice cream at a Baskin-Robbins and sold popcorn at a movie theater. No one cared about that, even when I was fresh out of graduate school (and I didn't do a postdoc, so my resume was light for that first job application).

The standard advice is to make the bullet points with your experience action and result oriented. Don't just list what you did: list how it benefited your employer, and try to quantify that benefit. I think this is difficult for most people without much industry experience, but you might find some bullet points that you can rework into this style. For instance, you could turn this:
  • Designed novel 5-point basket weave to improve fish capturing capacity.
Into this:
  • Designed novel 5-point basket weave, resulting in 5-fold increase in average fish catch.
Or perhaps even better:
  • Increased average fish catch 5-fold by designing a novel 5-point basket weave.
If you choose to include teaching experience in this section, try to translate that experience into bullets that show your talents in training other people. Most industry positions eventually involve training someone else in something you have mastered, so teaching experience can definitely be relevant.

Education

Some people put the education section right after the key skills. I put it after the experience section, but I am much further away from my educational experiences than someone just starting out is. I don't think it makes a huge difference for someone straight out of academia whether it is after key skills or experience. Actually, I don't think it makes a huge difference at any point, but I do think it was sort of weird when the first thing someone who has some post-graduate experience wants me to see on their resume is where they got their degree.

In this section, you should list all of the degrees that you have obtained, in reverse chronological order. When you are relatively junior, you can flesh out your resume by including the title and a summary for any undergraduate thesis you wrote. As you get more senior, you'll drop the undergraduate thesis but keep this information for your graduate thesis (although you'll keep trimming it, as you search for more room for your professional accomplishments). List your advisors. Don't bother listing your high school education. No one cares where you went to high school, even if it was an awesome school with an excellent reputation. In most cases, your college and graduate school GPAs are irrelevant, too. As a friend of mine used to say: there is no such thing as a PhD-minus.

If you have taken any additional formal training that is relevant, list it. When I was first starting out, I listed the database course I had taken via the extension school at a nearby university. I still list that. I now also list my various project management and some other training courses.

I am not sure what to recommend in terms of EdX courses and other MOOCs. Certainly only list them if they are relevant: if I am hiring a scientific programmer, I don't care that you completed a MOOC about Greek myths. I suspect that listing relevant MOOCs might be helpful for a scientist attempting a transition into a different field, such as programming. I do not have any direct experience with this, though.

Awards

List any awards you have received, reaching back to college but not before. This is another section that slowly dwindles over the course of your career. When I first started out, I listed my National Merit scholarship and my college honors scholarship. I later dropped those, but kept the research fellowships I won in college and my NSF award for graduate school. I have now dispensed with the section altogether and just mention the NSF award in with my PhD thesis title. Don't stress too much about this section. I've never seen it matter.  In fact, I had to open up my resume to see what I do with this section. I discovered that I do not have this section anymore, probably because I wanted more space for my professional experience section.

Publications and Presentations

List these, much like you would for an academic CV. This can be a separate page (or pages!)  and does not count against the usual 2-3 page length for a resume. It is nice to put your name in bold in the list, to make it easier for the person who is reviewing the resume to find you.

If you have patents, you should list those, too.

Other tips

Your resume should be 2-3 pages without publications. This probably won't be a problem for early career folks, but might be challenging for someone who is more senior. Do the work to trim your resume down to size, regardless. Most industry hiring managers that I know are annoyed by long CVs, not impressed. Keep what is relevant to the position to which your are applying, condense or drop what is not.

Yes, you really do need to customize your resume for each and every job to which you apply. Yes, this is a pain in the ass. Do it anyway.

If you have gaps in your employment or educational history or are making a career change beyond just moving into the industrial equivalent of your academic field, explain this in your cover letter. This is not optional. The hiring manager will notice, and if you haven't explained, he or she might skip your resume in favor of someone else.

Have someone proofread your resume, even if you are a native English speaker. I'll overlook a typo or two, but some hiring managers are really annoyed by them. Grammatical errors and sentences that don't make sense will probably always count against you. Remember, the person reading your resume is going to be reading many, many emails and reports from you if you are hired. No one is enthusiastic about struggling through incomprehensible written communication.

OK, that's all I have. Commenters- what did I miss? Add your tips or ask your questions in the comments! Also, please comment if you disagree with any of my tips. It will help people to see that none of these tips are truly rules, and that there is no one single right way in which to write a resume.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Low Stress Side Projects

This week's Tungsten Hippo post is very short- I collected the reasons I love short ebooks, which I had tweeted out a few weeks ago, and posted the list. I think it is a good list, but I fully admit that it is not a particularly meaty post.

But that is OK. Tungsten Hippo is a hobby, just like this blog is. I refuse to let my hobbies stress me out.

I was thinking about that as I thought about the management blog I was considering starting. That blog would not be a hobby- it would be part of my professional life. It might be a great thing to do for my professional life, but there is no doubt that it would sometimes add to my stress, because I would necessarily take it more seriously than I take this blog or Tungsten Hippo.

So I started thinking about how I could manage that, and I tried to really understand what would make it add stress. I think it would come down to the fact that there would be a schedule I'd want to stick to. Of course, I have a posting schedule for Tungsten Hippo, too. In that case, the things I "have" to post on certain days (book recommendations and quotes) are short and easy to create- I designed the site that way. The more time-consuming items- i.e., the blog posts- I intentionally left loosely scheduled. Furthermore, since Tungsten Hippo is not something attached to my professional identity, there isn't a huge amount of pressure to write brilliant blog posts. Obviously, I don't want to write dreck, but posting something like this week's lightweight list is fine.

I was still intending to setup my management blog, though, until my company's legal department put out a new policy which would require that I prescreen any posts with them. THAT would add a lot of stress. So now, I'm not so sure. Maybe I'll try again to get permission to write a column for the other site that has asked me to do so- at least then, I'd get paid for the hassle of getting my columns approved by the legal department!

I may still write fewer blog posts for Tungsten Hippo, because I am now thinking I'll devote some extra time to my chosen learning project for this year, which was to create an app. I also have another kids' story that is now completely drafted. It needs revision and fine tuning, and then I'll try it out on my captive audience and see what they think.

Mr. Snarky and I had a nice dinner out on Thursday, courtesy of my visiting in laws. We were talking about hobbies and side projects, and I realized that of all my non-work activities, the kids books are the most fun. I took some time last week to finish drafting my current work in progress, and that was pure fun. I think that is due to a combination of a lack of time pressure and the fact that writing children's books is completely different from what I do at work. It isn't that it is entirely easy- I was stuck for months on a plot point in my current story- but the problems are nothing at all like work problems.

Mr. Snarky wondered why I didn't just write more books, since I enjoy that so much. I don't think it works like that. I think I need a balance of things to keep me happy. That was one of the key bits of insights into myself that I picked up from reading the books about being a "scanner." I know that sometimes other people look at all the things I have going and think I'm insane and adding stress to my life, but I am actually fairly careful to structure my extracurricular activities such that they do not add stress. It is hard for people who aren't like me to understand this, but I would find it very stressful not to have some side projects going. I just need to be sure to pick the right side projects.

What about you? Do you like to have side projects going, or do you prefer to be focused on one thing at a time?

Friday, March 07, 2014

Weekend Reading: The Better Than Nothing Edition

I am smack in the middle of a really busy period, both at work and at home. It is all "good busy" so I am not complaining. But it does mean that I haven't written a post all week, and I only have a few links for you this week, and no coherent theme for them whatsoever.

Ah well. The glory of this blog is that it is just a hobby so it doesn't really matter if I slack on it! (In fact, I have a post forming in my head about just that- what makes an activity stressful and what makes it stay fun. Maybe I'll find more time to blog next week and tell you all about it.)

Anyway, here are a few links:

Google really needs to do better at recognizing names if it is going to insist that we all use our real names.

This is a really good post about why the people who made fun of Kim Novak at the Oscars should shut up.

And still talking about Kim Novak, I thought Ta-Nehisi Coates generalized the situation beautifully.

A nice post about why venture capital isn't the only path to success for a start up.

And finally, something new for me- a podcast recommendation. I've been listening to podcasts to take the edge off of my commute, and I really enjoyed this one from NPR's Planet Money about mescal and global trade and a little village in Oaxaca.

I have heaps of potentially interesting things in my Twitter favorites- maybe Petunia will have a hard time falling asleep one night next week and I'll catch up.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Thoughts from Quiet Time

Mr. Snarky's parents are in town, and they all took the kids to a museum this morning. I stayed behind, because I need some quiet time to think through what I should do next on the career front. It has been delightful, even when I was folding laundry (in the quiet! with no one asking me any questions!) and perhaps I should arrange to do this more often.
It has not, however, provided me with 100% clarity on what I should do.

Awhile back, I had a few sessions with a career counselor, to help me sort through the various things I'm interested in doing. There was a definite outcome from those sessions, and using that, I formulated a plan for getting where I think I want to be. I have been doggedly trying to execute on that plan. It is slow going, but there is a clear goal and clear intermediate steps to getting there. I haven't blogged the details because I'm not ready to have the details out there yet. "Playing the long game" is an extremely accurate summary of the plan, and I'm still in the early innings.

After Thursday went so poorly, I came home and immediately starting trying to turn up alternatives to my current situation. And surprisingly, I did- but they are not necessarily consistent with my long term plan. Or, they may be consistent, but would further lengthen the time to getting to my ultimate goal. But, as Mr. Snarky points out, a new job would probably make me happier in the short term. So I am looking at a big mess of risks and benefits and trying to decide what the best thing to do right now is.

To be honest, I'm leaning towards "stay right where I am and keep working on my long term plan." That is almost certainly the smartest financial decision. But money isn't everything, and we are very fortunate to have quite a bit of wiggle room in our finances, so it is not an obvious or easy decision.

I do think, though, that I may start a blog about management, and write it under my own name. I appreciate all the suggestions for names (keep them coming!) and other advice, offers for help, and support. I cannot convey how much these have meant to me- you guys are awesome.

If I start the blog, I will probably alternate my Sunday posts with Tungsten Hippo. I intend to keep writing about random things here. I am still on the fence about what to do about Twitter. I am currently leaning towards just posting the management things on my @wandsci account, but I need to think carefully about whether I am being too cavalier about doing something that might lead to more people I know in real life reading this blog. I don't think I write anything here that should cause problems, but... I really don't how some of my more feminist-y rants would be taken by some of my colleagues. Perhaps, though, I don't care. And perhaps I think it would be a good thing if any followers I picked up from the management focus also occasionally read something I wrote about being a mom in the workforce. Or perhaps I am crazy.

I'll keep the separate Tungsten Hippo* account, though. Writing more about management feels like a natural outgrowth of this blog, and I suspect those posts would be of interest to a lot of my readers and Twitter followers. The short ebook posts seem more specialized, and since I'm using Tungsten Hippo to learn about some marketing things, it seems natural to keep it separate.

This online identity thing is getting confusing. I am starting to better appreciate the argument to "be your whole self" but I do wonder if that is going to lead me to self-censor even more than I already do.

So, TL; DR version: lots to think about still. Thanks to all who have sent support and advice!

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*Speaking of Tungsten Hippo, This week's Tungsten Hippo post is about reading to understand race better, and how if white editors and reviewers can't do that, they aren't doing their jobs.

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