Friday, August 06, 2010

A Bit of a Pointless Whine, Really

Even with the arrival of reinforcements, it has been a bruising couple of weeks. Petunia seems to be over her cold(s) and ear infection, but is still teething. It is all coming back to me now... molars take some time to come in. I'd forgotten (repressed?) that from Pumpkin's babyhood. Petunia's sleep, which was so-so before all this started, has gotten pretty bad. Early signs indicate that she might revert to a better pattern on her own, though. I hope so- I'm not sure I have the energy for any sort of sleep improvement campaign right now.

My new work responsibilities are still keeping me busy. I've gotten a little bit of my balance back, but I am still working more during the evenings and on weekends than I really like. I am at least back to something sustainable, though- I've known since grad school that I can't sustain extended work hours for long. I prefer to work productively and efficiently in more normal work hours, and relax and do other things outside of those hours. If I try to work long hours for more than a month or so, I start working less efficiently, and end up being no more productive than I would be working my usual 40-45 hour work week.

The new responsibilities are interesting and challenging, but also very frustrating and sometimes more than a little demoralizing. For the most part, scientists don't have a large amount of respect for project management, and some of my colleagues aren't exactly hiding this fact. I spend far too much of my newly jam-packed work time trying to cajole people into doing things that are really just part of their jobs. I'm having flashbacks to my earlier project management jobs at the large contractor/consulting company, in which I swore that 90% of my job was emailing and calling people to remind them to do their jobs. It is sort of sad to discover that it is the same in a small biotech. There have been some surprises, though- people I would have thought would be obstructive are turning out to be easy to work with. Sadly, the converse is also true. People I didn't expect to be difficult are turning out to be gigantic pains in the neck.

And it is not like people outside of work are impressed by my new role. Honestly, I can't think of any group of people that has a large amount of respect for project management. Maybe people who have suffered through projects with poor project management? I had a bit of a chuckle recently when I remembered a time during my first post-grad school job when I complained to my boss that I had responsibility without authority. I wanted him to give me authority. He told me that I needed to learn how to build consensus and get things done without formal authority. I fumed about that at the time, but he was right. Scientists aren't famous for respecting someone's authority just because of their title- you generally have to earn your authority. Anyway, here I am 10 years later, working in project management and middle management in biotech, which is sort of the pinnacle of having responsibility without authority.

I sometimes wonder how I ended up here, at this place in my career. I am certainly not doing what I thought I would be doing when I went to grad school, or even when I left grad school. I use my science knowledge and understanding of the research process every day, but I'm not really a scientist anymore, at least not in the traditional definition of a scientist as someone who does experiments to try to better understand the world. I am not really a techie, anymore, either, because I haven't actually coded anything more than a quick little script in ages. I am well and truly a manager. I made peace with that several years ago. But it sure does lack the cache that my previous job titles had.


  1. Whine away, point or no point.

    Scientists are a frustrating bunch to work with/for. I remember the day I realized that I could no longer work in a lab and that unless I wanted to go PhD, science was not the career for me. It broke my heart but in the end, was for the best.

    Oh, and no offense, but I might just start to boycott your blog. Since Petunia is a couple of weeks ahead of B, I read something on your blog and then inevitably it happens to us. And while our sleep is nowhere near ideal right now, the thought that it could get worse (and I know that it can indeed get worse) makes me cry inside. So until you want to write the words "And Petunia sleeps through the night! No fuss! Mo muss!" I will be staying far,far away...or at least reading though my fingers with my hands over my eyes. :)

  2. @nej- I really think it was the combination of the ear infection and the new teeth that did our sleep in. That, and Hubby's aversion to giving pain killers. Her ears are better but her teeth are still bothering her, I think. In fact, I think I saw ANOTHER new one starting to come in. So I gave her some ibuprofen before bed tonight. It lasts longer than tylenol, and I figure one dose a day on a full tummy (I nursed first) isn't going to cause her problems. We'll see how that goes.

  3. Well, I'm actually impressed by your title! In my company and business, Project Manager is a sought after title, one that I'm working towards myself (currently one step away, and about to meet with my boss about how to get there). Hmm, I just reread your post about it, and if you have the Program Manager title, that's even more impressive!

    In my line of work, the project manager basically manages people who would go in a million different directions if left to their own devises, as well as managing the client relationship. And the program managers basically manage the project managers and all the clients! The majority of their time is spent, like you say, making sure people are doing their jobs, and doing them in the best way they can.

    I think that sounds way more challenging, interesting and difficult than working in a lab. ;-)

    Good luck with it though. And good luck with Petunia's sleep. We've also found that ibuprofen works better and lasts longer on our teething babe.


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