Monday, May 2, 2016

April showers bring…everything.

For the at least the fourth year in a row, April seems to be consistently eventful and/or hectic. Oh wait, you mean it's May already?!

Work is insanely busy right now. I tried to take Friday off and ended up taking only half of Friday off. I got more than 30 new emails on Friday afternoon. If I don't stay right on top of my emails, they very quickly pile up—and that's just work. My personal email is like a precarious stack of snail mail that I aspire to deal with but mostly just ignore. I've said yes to too many things, both personally and professionally. I want to do them, but I'm running short of hours in the day and having to do some ruthless prioritization. When I'm feeling overwhelmed, I think about the dissertation home stretch and try to take some inspiration from that. Similar to then, I'm working towards a very specific goal and deadline. I can see the end in sight which is why I can justify pushing myself to do a ridiculous number of things.

I thought I'd do some work tonight, but instead I've just procrastinated. Maybe I needed a night to veg out with some tv, ice cream, Facebook bingeing, and blogging (OMG, this sounds like a sentence a childless person would write. The beauty of early bedtimes—when they work!). And now I even went back and read my posts from April of 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014. It's the month of getting fellowships, getting married, insanely time-consuming field work, defending my dissertation, crushing rejection, and at least one successful interview.

Work is good, just really busy. More changes were announced but nothing that directly affects my job. Still don't know what I'll do when work slows in July, but now I'm getting positive signs for the future of my project, so that's something good at least. I also may get another offer soon.

I'm really looking forward to a vacation in June. A real vacation where I don't answer any work emails and barely even check them. Imagine that!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Updates on job prospects and school

Lots has happened since I wrote about our exciting spring. It's living up to expectations!

On the job hunting front, both of my interviews went well enough that I have more coming up soon. I've realized that the timing is going to be a little frustrating because I think I will have to make a decision about another job offer before I really know in which direction my job is headed, but I think I just have to accept that reality. For now I'm trying to go with the flow and explore my options.

It turns out I might also have more options than I thought within my organization. I ended up in conversation today with a colleague who wants to create a new position and thinks I'd be perfect for it. Really, incredibly flattering and exciting. This whole conversation happened at someone else's going away party so it was very informal. I told her that I am considering outside positions and I'm going to talk with her more soon.

A couple of weeks ago I was approached by another colleague (I don't actually know them well at all; they're more like work acquaintances) who said she thought I'd be great for a vague position that some people have talked about creating to expand an existing project. I took that as an encouraging sign.

Jon's course is going very well and the program has a great history of placing its students when they finish. So far he hasn't needed to spend 60 hours/week on it which has been a relief. His mom has been frequently doing daycare pickup and helped on days without daycare. My mom is coming to stay with us next week to help out during an especially busy week for both of us. We're very thankful to have family help!

We have some progress on preschool options next year for our almost-3-year old, but no certainty yet (except several places where she will NOT go).

Between my job prospects, Jon's course, and Adele's preschool possibilities, there's plenty to weigh and resolve in the next 6-8 weeks.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Heading into an intense spring

Since I wrote my goals for 2016, we made a major decision. Jon is about to start an intensive programming course with the goal of being able to earn more money in his freelance work while continuing to work on his long-term projects. It's a serious financial investment on our part and it's going to be a huge demand on his time. They estimate that most people in the course spend ~60 hours/week on it. For twelve weeks. Working about 10 hours/week on top of that. I think this is going to be Jon's version of my dissertation home stretch. We're trying to be mentally prepared for it to suck for us and remind ourselves that it has an end. My mother-in-law is going to help out as much as she can with daycare pick ups to give us more flexibility at the end of the day. We can do this!

In other news, during the next 3 months we'll hopefully find out where Adele will go to preschool next year and I might get a job offer. I had two interviews recently and one was great. The other one… meh.  We'll see.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Goals for 2016

I'm a little late on this again but I really like setting goals for the year, even if I don't achieve all of them. Since I started doing this in 2008, I think I've gotten better at setting realistic goals and focusing on what's important. I've been thinking about these for a while now and revising the list (that's part of the reason for the delay). So without any more preamble, I present my resolutions for 2016!

Personal
Read at least 4 books
I feel like this is kind of a silly goal, but I'm not sure I completed a book at all in 2015. I do a lot of reading online (mostly newsie-ish pieces) but it's been too long since I've read a whole book. I've got a stack of them next to my bed, and I'd like to finish that stack by the end of the year. I'm already almost finished with an odd little memoir of an entomologist that I got for Christmas (have I written before about how field biologist memoirs are my favorite literary genre?).

Make our backyard more playable.
I want our yard to be a fun and inviting play place for Adele. The first crucial step is getting it fully fenced. I wanted to do that in 2015, but the estimate came in a bit higher than I thought. Once we get that done, I can start some landscaping projects to make it more friendly for wildlife, kids, and our dog.

Make peace with having one child.
I wanted two and always imagined two (and so did Jon), but having gone through a frightening birth and a difficult recovery, Jon is set on one and it probably makes much more sense for us for plenty of reasons (especially financially). And honestly the older Adele gets, the less excited I am about returning to pregnancy and baby stages, but it does still make me sad. As most of my friends now are having their second or third, of course I'm excited for them but this jealousy also creeps in and manifests in strange ways. I've been giving away or moving baby stuff to "deep storage" for the next family member and that helps. By the end of this year I'd like to confidently and happily say we're "one and done" if anyone asks.

Career

Get another job offer.
It still feels very possible that I'll lose my job this year. If not, I'm not sure if I'll want to leave it, but I at least need to put some effort into exploring other options. I learned that the crappy circumstances in my workplace were much worse than I realized for much of last year. All of the anxiety I had about not having support for my project was completely justified. I think there are some power struggles happening and I could be a casualty of that. My day-to-day work is fine (as it has been pretty much all along) but these undercurrents of mistrust and insecurity undermine our ability to be effective. I expect that something big will change for my career this year, one way or another.

Fix up my website
I haven't done much with it since I got this job, but if I want to explore other options, it would help to spruce it up. I think I need to move to a whole different platform so it's not just a matter of making some updates to text. It's time for serious changes that might be complicated so I've been putting it off.

Money

There are a few kind of mundane but important things I'd like to do this year for our finances. Honestly the only reason I'm boring the internet with these is so that I've written it down somewhere and will actually feel pressure to get it done.

Get more life insurance
Jon and I both got term life insurance around the time we got married in 2009. We haven't increased it or made any other changes since our daughter was born, but I think it's time to increase it since she would need to be supported too.

Move retirement investments & Jon's HSA to accounts with lower fees
We have our modest retirement savings is in Roth IRAs with Pax World because we don't want to invest in weapons manufacturing, but I think there are other socially responsible options that have lower expense ratios. There's plenty of other things I'd like to exclude (private prisons and fossil fuels being highest on the list) but I need to choose my battles (ha!) or we won't have any retirement savings because I'll be too paralyzed by all of the options. As for Jon's HSA, it's something we opened a few years ago and at the time it was damn near impossible to comparison shop HSAs to find one with low fees, so we're paying $2.50/mo (Elizabeth Warren should add HSAs to a long list of financial products that need greater consumer protections). (As an aside, I think HSAs are total BS with incentives in all of the wrong places and I'd much rather just have single-payer health care).

Refinance or at least change the repayment term on my student loans
Since my loans were in deferment for several years of graduate school, we're still paying off my Bachelor's degree. A few years ago my loans were sold to Sallie Mae (now Navient) and I hate them so much because they make it unnecessarily difficult for me to make extra payments that reduce the loan principal rather than just pushing back the payment date. I recently learned (through some effectively targeted Facebook ads) that I could refinance my student loans. I never even knew that was a possibility. Our car loan has a lower interest rate than my student loans, so I'm going to look into it. In the end, it might be better to just reduce the repayment term on my current loans to pay them off sooner (thus paying less in interest overall). We should be able to pay more towards my student loans now and we're only about a year from paying off the car.

All of these money things are just tedious because they involve some amount of research and form-filing and it's kind of complicated. So, I need to make time to do it. Maybe I could tackle one of these each quarter.

What else do I think will happen in 2016? 
Adele is going to start preschool somewhere, hopefully at a Montessori school. She's so ready; we wish she could start now but no programs start new students mid-year. Jon has been working on some long-term projects that will hopefully start earning more money this year. We're planning a fun trip this summer with my parents to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary. There's a chance I might get to travel somewhere exciting for work for a few days, which I would welcome. After a few years of not wanting to travel much, I'm starting to get the itch again. I'm missing field work. I think it's highly unlikely I'll ever do as much as I did for my dissertation again, but I wouldn't mind leading a short course/trip in the next few years. If I do travel for more than a few days in a row this year, I think Adele will probably wean. I decided 2 years ago that if we were only going to have one child, then she can breastfeed as long as she wants. I'm still in no hurry to wean but I know I don't make much milk anymore. I don't foresee other big events or changes in 2016 right now, but I know that life can throw you a curve ball at any time. I am thankful every day for our health and safety.

May you all try to make our world a better place, however you can! Cheers to 2016!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Looking back on 2015

For seven out of the last eight years that I've been writing this blog, I've written reflections on the preceding year. This has been a year of settling in. No major life changes. This should be one of our least complicated tax years ever! Well, for me at least. Jon has continued doing a variety of freelance work that had him traveling several times (it came in waves!) and had several great professional achievements unlocked ;-) Adele is 2.5 and clearly moved from toddler to child in the last year. She's 100% out of diapers, even overnight! I enjoyed planting more flowers in the yard, especially natives, and got to know many more people from the neighborhood. Work, well, that's most of what I write about on this blog so you can just read the other 2015 posts to re-live the anxiety that was this year.

In January I laid out some goals for the year. Let's see how I did!

Career
Get that chapter published.
Yes! I did it! It was a huge weight off of my shoulders to get that out there.

Archive data from my dissertation.
I archived the data associated with the aforementioned chapter that was finally published as well as data from a second chapter, though not the second chapter I intended to archive this year! Not bad.

Define a 5-year career goal.
I've failed at defining a longer-term goal, but I did realize that I do have a near-term dream job in mind. I talked about it with my boss, coworker, and went out on a limb to mention the idea to the person most crucial to make it happen who was receptive to it. One problem with this dream job is that it would probably pretty insecure financially (aren't they always?!); there are plenty of other problems, but maybe I'll be able to push this idea along next year.

Family
Make a will.
We made progress on this in fits and starts. Under pressure of deadline for writing this exact post, I finally plugged our names into a basic template (approved by a lawyer in the family) and printed it out. The next time we have adults over to witness, we'll sign. It's nothing complicated and the primary reason is to have clarity about what would happen to Adele if we both died. I thought about including more contingencies if the worst should happen (e.g. if we all die, donate all of our money to Small Friendly College), but for now we're keeping it simple. We don't really have much to leave behind anyways. I think we finally crossed into positive net worth this year (i.e. we now have more in retirement savings than in car and student loans).

Open a bank account for Adele.
Done! Now it just needs more money...

Personal
Make a friend.
I've made several! When we moved here 2 years ago, Jon jumped back into his circle of high school friends and quickly picked up a few others through mutual contacts. I hang out with them too, but I was lacking in my own friends. I now feel like I have a few close friends at work (bonds strengthened by adversity!), some local collaborator-ish friends (meaning our paths cross somewhat professionally), and some neighborhood parent friends. Most importantly, these are my friends first.

Become a better conversationalist.
I've mostly succeeded in this by more often putting myself in situations without Jon and/or Adele around to lean on/distract me, but it has also gotten easier to hold a conversation as A has gotten more independent.

Start a photo booking group.
This has been a huge success and is how I got the aforementioned neighborhood parent friends. I now have about 6 moms who come over about once a month to hang out on Friday or Saturday night. We talk a lot and do variable amounts of work on photo books (sometimes none!). These are parents with whom I feel we have a tremendous amount in common in terms of our approaches to all kinds of parenting issues. Finding these folks is one of the best things I did in 2015.

Metagoals
Make monthly and weekly goals.
I made weekly goals for most of the year. It does help keep me on track and focus on what is most important in a sea of more things that I'd like to do than I can possibly make time for.

I'll post my 2016 goals soon. Thank you to anyone who still finds this blog interesting enough to read. Goodbye, 2015!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Yeah, that's pretty much what happened

A month ago I wrote that I was about to get told my project was toast. Almost all of my predictions were dead on. My project is ending; I'm being shifted to the project I already had a foot in. Things worked out a little differently for my half-report, but nothing very surprising.

I went in with a heavy heart and tried to keep the daggers from my eyes under control in the meeting. I'm glad I spent the time blogging the night before because it really helped me process so I didn't have to do it all that day. I probably would have cried.

Surprisingly, I was already feeling much better about the change just a day later. For the first time in months, I have clarity about my work. I've joined a much larger team of people. It's a project that I know is important to people other than just me and my boss, and I know that my role in context of the larger project is highly valued. All of the work that I did on my dying project is highly relevant for this, including a valuable relationship that I developed. I also get to do lots of networking, get outside a bit, and maybe a little travel. I like this new job.

I still haven't widely communicated this change, mostly because I've been too caught up with all of the time-sensitive responsibilities of my new project. There's also an order in which people have to be told, and the person who made this decision held up part of that chain for a couple of weeks. I feel like the reason I have to give for the project ending is pretty weak but any other answer becomes much more complicated (and speculative, considering that I've never heard a clear reason from the person in control). It has been interesting to hear responses from the people I've told so far.

Because of the current timeline of my new project, I should have clarity about my work for the next six months. Beyond that, I might re-enter a new phase of uncertainty. Ideally, we'll figure out in the next six months what's next but realistically I'm not so sure that will happen. But I'm good for now.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Losing my project, but hopefully not my job

It's been a long time since I've felt the need to blog as much as I do tonight. I need this space to work through my grief. Based on a few meetings that are scheduled tomorrow, who they are with, and what they are called, I'm 99% sure I'm going to be told we're laying down my project. I need to write this because I need to get my anger out before I go into these meetings tomorrow. I need to be at least passably in the acceptance phase of grief tomorrow instead of feeling like I'm going to cry.

I was hired 18 months ago to work entirely on this project. It had a sizable grant to support it for about a year. I joined at the beginning of a massive institutional reorganization that is still happening. Four months in, my project lost its most powerful and important champion. I worked on a three-year project plan with a vision and mission for the project that was supposedly endorsed but then never resourced. The last year has been a long, slow decline under leadership that hasn't given a shit about this, and it's been a self-fulfilling prophecy on their part. I convened a meeting last February to discuss funding options and was told I couldn't write my own grants so instead I was at the mercy of institutional priorities. I had a couple of employees who I lost in the reorg, but they weren't great fits anyways and weren't invested in the project so that wasn't a huge loss. I picked up a woman for whom it's a much better fit in terms of interests and experience, but she's honestly overqualified for me to be supervising her and the other 50% of her time is on a project that is near and dear to leadership. The writing has been on the wall for months (e.g. being told there's no funding for us to attend a conference where we had two proposals accepted) but there has been no clarity whatsoever. I tried to have "leadership" meetings and I repeatedly canceled them because "leadership" could never make time to come. My project has been stuck in time for several months and has been dying a slow, silent death of starvation. I feel like I've staked some of my professional reputation on this project and it feels like a personal failure on some level even though it's not clear what I could have done differently (I guess this is the "bargaining" stage of grief).

I've written here about how much I love my job. I think I've been in denial about how doomed it has been because I still believed in it. I've continued to hold onto hope because it so clearly fits with our mission and other things we are doing. For months though I've been torn about whether I need to double down to make this work or work my way into other things. I've managed to do the latter while managing my project in maintenance mode.

The magnitude of the other project I've taken on along with other changes here mean that I think it's highly unlikely that I'll lose my employment, for which I am grateful. But I still feel both like a loser for whatever role I might have played in its failure and pissed at leadership for starving this project. I'm especially annoyed that they don't see the value in one particularly enormous opportunity that we're probably going to let fly right by.

I suppose it will be something of a relief to have clarity about what I should be doing (then again, I might just get conclusion with no clarity for future direction). It has been so frustrating to not know what my boss's boss wants us to be doing. I know my boss has been frustrated too. Our department as a whole spent the last year working on a bunch of things that just got dumped, so I know I'm not alone in these feelings.

I think tomorrow I'll have to come up with a plan to shut down my project and I think I'll be told my 50% of an employee will get moved fully to her other project. I've already started composing in my head some of the emails I have to write to colleagues and collaborators. I'll be asked to pick up more loose ends from one or two other people who recently left (I won't even get into that). I'll get to work on the project I'm excited about, and then I'll be asked to think big about what we should do next. I know my situation isn't that bad but I think it's important for me to face my grief about this project head-on instead of letting in fester. I have to be able to let my resentment go and fully embrace what is coming next. Stay tuned.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Still here

I still have a job for the foreseeable future but I also have a couple of other applications out there now. I've taken on some new responsibilities but I'm not going to be surprised if my boss's boss puts a freeze on my project. I like him a lot as a person but I've been continually frustrated by the complete lack of leadership from him on my project. It's suffering from benign neglect (and outright starvation, considering our crappy funding situation).

On the bright side, I'm excited about my new responsibilities and I know that I am (at least for now) making a highly valued contribution to the organization's work (meaning, I'm working a project that has some actual funding). I also get to work with lots of new people in this capacity which is great for networking. And best of all, it is highly related to "my" project so I'm able to apply a lot of what I've learned over the last year and a half.

I'm discouraged about how things have played out with my own project but optimistic about some of the conditions contributing to that changing radically over the next year. At the very least, we're getting out from some not useful upper management. Exciting times.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

There's security in chaos

It's helpful in life to have enabling constraints. You know, constants upon and around which you can make other decisions. Without some of those, it's a little bit like trying to nail jello to a wall or secure a tent on a windy beach.

Since I last wrote, circumstances at work have changed considerably. I'm much more optimistic about my continued employment and I have an opportunity to shape what that might look like. My project and job responsibilities are likely to change, but I'll be involved in that process. It's intimidating and the possibilities at this stage are so open that it's hard to know where to start or what to focus on. Wide open possibilities are a blessing, a curse, and a lot of work. That's where I'm at right now.

This current reorganization is probably going to take most of 2016--it feels like we're losing a year to the process. I am strongly considering applying for another fellowship just in case I end up reorganized out of a job next year. I'm not excited about applying, but it would probably be foolish of me not to.

In the short term, there are so many things up in the air that I'm unlikely to lose my job in the chaos. At least there's that!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Conference :-) and conference :-(

There were many great conversations and connections that came out of attending ESA earlier this month, but the highlight was an hour long chat with a prominent ecologist. I've been a fan of his work for a while and I jumped at the opportunity to meet with him. After a highly energetic conversation full of ideas, he said, "Let's keep in touch--especially if [organization] doesn't have the good sense to keep you employed." It's by no means a job offer (and I'm not at all optimistic that it would even be possible to work with him), but it was an encouraging affirmation of my skills and interests. I need to remember this when I'm feeling down.

The bad news that I just got from my boss this morning is that I can't go to a conference we were supposed to attend this fall. We had two presentations accepted about my project and we had to withdrawal them since we don't have the funds to attend. What a drag. It also makes us look bad. It's a miracle I got to go to ESA.

At this point I feel like we're being set up for failure. I don't know if I need to positioning myself to show how great I could be on other projects (to keep a job at all) or if I need to show how determined I am to make my project succeed so that they throw us some actual resources since this project has someone seriously invested in it. Either way, I need to be looking for other jobs. I've been sprucing up my profiles in all the various places they exist but haven't really looked actively. I recently saw an interesting one that is with someone whose work I love. I read the ad twice myself before my colleague sent it to me saying it sounded just like me. The problem is that it's far, far away from here and we're not interested in moving.

Job searching sucks.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

No resolution yet

I've spent a lot of mental and emotional energy on assessing the situation at my job recently. That vaguely important meeting I was supposed to attend got rescheduled for the end of the month. My colleague was told it was because "we haven't gotten together as a group in a while" but I'm not convinced.

Things that have happened since then:

  • Learned from someone who reports to one of our biggest internal supporters that said supporter doesn't have much (any?) political capital within the organization and might be doing my project more harm than good. 
  • That same person said that people in her group are already assuming my project is not worth spending time on because they know we're out of funding.
  • My VP didn't brief another VP properly on my project so my stomach turned somersaults while I tried to figure out how to work my (clearly 100% relevant to what he's discussing) project into a conversation with an outside group without making the other VP look uninformed. Does this mean my project is getting the axe? Or is my VP just not thinking about it? Or does he not see the connections because he never comes to the meetings? Seems bad no matter how you slice it.
  • My project was omitted from a draft presentation in which most other things in the department were included. Was it just an oversight? Or was it because someone said it shouldn't be mentioned in that presentation?
  • My VP isn't coming to our monthly project meeting... again. He's only attended one meeting so far this year. I think he might be out of town, but he doesn't seem invested enough to even ask me to reschedule for a time that he can attend. Is he just trying to avoid me until the end of the month when some major changes are announced?
  • I had a long talk with my boss about all of my concerns about the internal politics affecting my project and how in the world we're going to navigate these treacherous waters. I don't think she has any more information than I do, and I know she's concerned for her job too. If not now, then probably next year. 
I just feel so incredibly insecure about the future of my job, which makes it hard to make long-term plans. Part of me is afraid to make any kind of promises beyond the most immediate to any collaborators because I don't want to look like a fool if they pull the plug, but the catch is I know that seeming unstable is a sure way to lose collaborators! I have a great vision for my project and I'm 100% willing to fight for it because I believe in it, but I am unsure of the best way to go about doing that. We need more money, but I can't write my own grants. I don't know how much I should be working through the chain of command and how much I should be working around it. I don't know who I should be making my case to. 

So, I'm just trying to plug along on the things that I can do with my own time and a little of someone else's until I'm told otherwise. I still love what I get to do in my job but I am finding the climate increasingly toxic. I hope that the end of the month brings some clarity.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Anxiety about vague important meeting

I've gone quickly from cautiously optimistic to extremely anxious. After 5 pm on Friday, my boss's boss sent out a calendar invitation for a meeting for our group. I didn't think it was a big deal until I got a direct email asking me to be there in person at a time that I am supposed to be out of the office. It's going to be really inconvenient, so I asked to call in, and he said no, I need to be there in person. I asked my boss if I should be worried. She said she didn't know, but she sounded worried. I tried to find the person who called the meeting, but he was gone, so I didn't have a chance to ask him in person if I should be concerned about my job.

After talking to a couple of other colleagues, here's what we know. They're giving us our official job descriptions next week (which we haven't had for many months now). The person who lays people off will be on vacation next two weeks, so they can't fire me/us (we think). My other colleague who won't be around during that time hasn't received any special instructions. 

Here are my guesses of things that we'll find out at this meeting.
  • Probably one or more of my colleague's positions will be eliminated.
  • I might lose my half of my employee and she'll be put 100% on her other (clearly more important to the organization) project.
  • I might be partially or fully reassigned to a different project (I have no idea what that would be).
Maybe I'll get called into a private meeting before that one and I'll lose my job. Or maybe this won't directly affect me at all. Honestly, I have no idea, and the uncertainty feels really crappy.

Next week I'm going to ESA. Now I don't know if I need to be promoting my project or promoting myself. I really don't want a different job, but if they radically change mine internally then I'll probably start looking. Ugh.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Cautiously optimistic (for months now)

Where did June go, let alone July?! The pace has thankfully slowed down to reasonable at work since my last post in May. Thank goodness. I was really wearing thin. I still feel like there's not enough hours in the day or days in the week but now I don't feel like I'm holding up anyone else's work, just my own ideas & ambitions.

But the reason I wanted to write today is because I realized I've been in this state of "cautiously optimistic" about my project's funding for months now. I wrote back in March that my project didn't have enough funds to cover my salary starting in July. After that, I had a meeting with several higher-ups about the funding situation and they basically said they were kind of in a bind because of their higher ups and there wasn't really anything else I could do to help beyond what I had already. I'm in this weird position where I rely on other people to secure the funds for project (and therefore my salary), but I'm by far the one with the most skin in the game. It's a strange position to be in considering how many successful grant applications I wrote during grad school. I can write grants, but it is clearly not my job, even though my job depends on it.

We've got some stopgap funding for salaries only, which is better than losing my job but not a recipe for growth. We have two proposals pending that have been pending for months now. I've gone back and forth between being very discouraged and cautiously optimistic, but I'm pretty firmly in the cautiously optimistic camp most of the time.

Many people in my part of the department are anxious and disgruntled. They are complaining about bosses and management and unused talent and favoritism and lack of priorities or misplaced priorities and lack of resources (almost all of these are totally legitimate complaints). I might be the only person who is *not* looking for another job. I might be a total idiot for not doing so, but I am really committed to this and I don't *want* another job.

You see, my project is awesome. It's not getting the internal attention is deserves, but I am determined that its time will come and I want to be here to see it. It has some high-level endorsement even though some levels of management below that don't really get it. For reasons I won't go into, it would be really, really, really stupid if they eliminate my job, even if some people in the middle don't understand why it's important.

So, I'm trying to stay the course and crossing my fingers that my beloved boss does too. Maybe I'll know more in a few weeks, but I've been saying that for months now.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Depth and breadth of work

I've been working really hard for the last couple of months. Honestly, it feels a little too much like the home stretch of finishing my dissertation! Not that bad, but similar. Definitely unsustainable for much longer. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel now.

Due to a few different factors (all out of my control), everyone who works most closely with me has also had major demands on their time for other more important organizational projects. It's left me as the sole person holding down the fort during the most stressful time and meant that I couldn't delegate nearly as much as I would have liked to. As a result, I've not only been doing an incredible quantity of work, it has also been of tremendous breadth, and I think I've (for the most part) really been rocking it on all fronts.

Things I am doing:
-Writing for broad consumption/distribution
-Writing for social media
-Copyediting other people's writing
-Graphic design
-Stakeholder outreach and management
-Website management (& programming/development in a hacky kind of way)
-Troubleshooting bugs, testing, and managing our web developer
-Data manipulation, summation, and visualization

I feel like a real Jill-of-all-trades here, but I'm not supposed to be. Ideally, I'd delegate a big chunk of the writing, nearly all of the graphic design (and most importantly, management of the graphic design), most of the stakeholder management, copyediting, and social media. Aside from the sheer quantity of stuff I'm trying to do (which means some pieces are left undone), I feel like I'm doing a damn good job on all of these different tasks, and that feels good.

What doesn't feel good is seeing how little attention my project is getting internally. It's a big organization, and I think they'll come around, but it's almost laughable in the context of what else is going on. It's definitely not getting the attention it deserves. This is part of the reason I've been working so hard over the last couple of months. We also had the misfortunate of scheduling two events for internal promotion that totally conflicted with other higher-profile events, to the point where we just didn't stand a chance at getting significant attention.

*sigh*

Still, we managed to get some key ancillary support that could help elevate the program, and I doubt this perception of low internal support is widespread beyond the closest core team, and probably wouldn't be suspected by anyone externally. My boss knows I'm doing an awesome job despite difficult circumstances and she's trying to advocate for us too.

I know I'm doing the best I can, it's pretty damn good, and that feels great.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Supporting a former student's return to college

Last week I received an email from a former student asking for a letter of recommendation. I was her TA during my very first semester of grad school in 2007, then I wrote several letters of recommendation for summer research programs in spring 2009 (I blogged about it at the time). She then studied abroad in 2010 and I hadn't heard from her since.

In the meantime, she dropped out of college, moved somewhere else, got married, had 2 kids, and is now trying to return to school to finish her bachelor's degree and become a high school teacher. She has been accepted and needs the letter to apply for a scholarship. I very much want to support this woman. She was one of my most memorable and impressive students, and was the first in her family to be born in the U.S. and attend college.

Before I can write her a powerful letter, I think I need to talk with her directly about her path back to school. Her writing could use some editing. She sent mer her personal statement, and I actually have a couple of her old person statements on file from years ago. Her family (parents especially) loom large in her writings and there are some discrepancies between the two versions that I wouldn't expect to change with time. I also saw her transcript and she got some Fs that aren't explained at all in the personal statement. I think that needs to be acknowledged somehow if she's going to get a scholarship.

I'm excited for this student and really hope it works out. Anyone helped a student in a similar situation and have advice?