Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Drowning at work

I am having trouble prioritizing work recently because there are so many time-sensitive things that are important. The result of my selective focus on the most important urgent things is that there is a growing backlog of sometimes urgent but less important things. I really don't foresee being able to catch up on this until June, and that's not a great feeling.

I'm in a position lately where I'm often the rate-limiting step and I have limited ability to delegate some of the responsibilities that I would like to because I only have 50% of one other person's time, and she's stretched just as thin as I am (if not more so!). There are lots of dependencies and reviews and approval needed by other people, but most of it has to be initiated by me. Something has to give! I can only do so much, and I clearly need to be smarter about the scope and depth of what I'm doing.

I am thankful that there's not a 24 hour work culture here, and I don't want to create it! As a result, even when I'm working evenings, if I compose emails I usually don't send them until the next morning so that people don't see (or always expect me to be) on email outside of work hours.

On the bright side, rumor has it that they're going to find stopgap funding for my project. At least that's a temporary relief! We were told in a meeting that "it's not like it used to be" and "everything is dynamic" (read: no one has guaranteed job security) but I'm busting my butt to make sure they want to keep this project around for the long haul.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

It's finally published!

The chapter of my dissertation that was "almost ready to submit" for almost 2 years is finally published! I submitted and resubmitted it in November, got reviews back before Christmas, and resubmitted revisions last month. Then editor moved quickly to accept and it was online before I knew it (literally)!

It's such a relief to finally have this done after hanging over my head for so long. There's still another piece of it that I have to do something with, but this is an important milestone, and I'm going to celebrate it with a big bowl of ice cream. As my daughter would say with pride, "I did it!"

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Maybe I don't have job security?

When I got this awesome job that I love, I wrote, "This is a place I can stay for a many years and hopefully make a career." Unfortunately, it doesn't feel nearly that secure anymore. The boat got rocked seriously last fall when my boss's boss got reorganized out of a job. It was happening at the same time we were doing budgeting for 2015. I realized I didn't write about it at all at the time, but by the end of the year things settled well.


It took a while to figure it all out, but in December we (meaning me and my boss) realized that instead of having organization support PLUS the remains of a grant, for 2015 we have ONLY the remains of the grant that created my job. For 100% of my salary & benefits and 50% of someone else's. My project does not currently have enough money to pay my salary for the second half of 2015. 

We have some prospects for other funding but nothing exactly on the way. There are people in other groups who help with stuff like this, so it's not just my responsibility, but clearly I've got the biggest stake in its success. One possibility that we thought might work out (and the 2015 budget was actually counting on it) probably won't. I mentioned that kind of casually somehow to our accounts person (mistake!) who mentioned it casually to my boss's boss's boss (eek). 

The timing could not have been worse. The organizational leadership has vaguely referred to making big cuts because of a budget shortfall, but we haven't been told what will be cut. Everyone is under pressure to save money and bring in more.

Shortly after that conversation, my boss's boss's boss suddenly appeared in my office (everyone between us was out of town) and asked if my project was going to be $X short in 2015. I think I managed to put out that fire because we still have some funding prospects, but she's definitely concerned and said we might have to make "hard decisions" if there's not more money coming in by mid-April (we're ok through June). 

My project has good longer-term funding potential, but it might need some kind of stopgap funding to get us through 2015. I have some meetings later this week about it. I am still optimistic that something will work out, but it's making me and the rest of my team sweat.

Sounds pretty much like I'm on soft money after all. I thought I'd dodged that bullet when I left academia!

Monday, March 2, 2015

"I applied for your job." And yours. And yours, too!

Last month I attended a conference where my personal theme for the meeting seemed to be "I applied for your job." It's a damn small world, and that's one of many reasons why you shouldn't ever be a jerk to anyone. Let me explain.

Case 1. On the first day of the meeting, I sat down with another person from my organization. She works in a different department and we've met but I really don't know her very well yet. She started just a couple of months after I did. If I hadn't gotten my job, I definitely would have applied for hers. After everyone else left, she turned to me and said, "You know I applied for your job, right?" No, I totally didn't. My boss had told me that the other top candidate also had a PhD, and I knew that she knew this person, but I definitely didn't know that it was her!

Case 2. I've interacted a couple of times, mostly online, with someone who works at a nearby organization. She was at the conference, and she had a poster right across from mine. I applied for her job.

Case 3. I was interviewed for a postdoc in 2013 and wrote about it as the "nicest rejection ever." They hired someone awesome who had more experience than me. Her poster was next to mine. I introduced myself and we chatted a bit, but we both had a steady stream of poster visitors.

I did end up talking at length to her postdoc advisor who had interviewed me. It was my first time meeting him in person. There are some intersections between my current work and theirs, so he invited me to a planning meeting later this month. He also said to let him know if I'm looking for a postdoc in the future! That was very kind and flattering.

One thing he said to me in 2013 at the end of my phone interview with him for the postdoc really stuck with me. He said, "I look forward to seeing what you do because I'm sure it will be interesting." I think I'm living up to that, and darn proud of it.

Cheers to being surrounded by people whose work excites you so much that you wanted to do it yourself! (P.S. I think I got the best job :-)