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Resolutions 2016

Hi all,

Thanks for sticking around. I know my posts have been very few and super far in between. Mostly it’s because I’m out of the office a bit more these days, and I’m slowly getting my feet wet again with blogging and tweeting.

I was thinking that, if all goes well, I should have some good things happen this year. Thus I wanted to share what I’d like to accomplish in 2016:

  • Two (yes TWO) debts should reach the end of their lives. If you go back to 2011, you’ll see that as I was thinking I was making headway in life and starting a new job, with decent pay, etc. Then I got the news of my life when it turned out that I was not only saddled with my own debt, but that of a family member for which I’d co-signed a loan. When they lost their job, the lender came after me. I’ve been slowly but surely paying this (I can’t give more details, but suffice it to say, the other option was bankruptcy). A part of that debt should be paid off by this summer!!! And, a debt I’ve been slowly but surely paying off (done exclusively by me, by getting credit cards in grad school that I shouldn’t have) should also meet its end this spring. I can see the end of that tunnel. After that, and with the snowball method that I’ve been following (more religiously during the past 1.5 years), I should be chipping in more money into the next debts in this series. In total, I have 5 accounts/debts on my shoulders, two from my family, 3 of my own doing. I can’t wait for this to happen!!!
  • Finish training (and feel confident in teaching) on a new tool in my¬† lab. I have some really snazzy toys at my current job, some that I’m familiar with, others that I’m not so well versed in. I envision that in the first quarter of 2016, I should be more confident in using one of the snazzy tools. Once I get to that level, I will be put in charge of another piece of equipment that is totes new to me. That is a bit scary but also cool. I am trying to become more independent faster and I hope that within the first 6-7 months here I will prove to be an asset (thus far I’m starting to feel like that).
  • Get a good (if not great) review …. and perhaps a raise. There was both a freeze in hiring and salaries at my previous job and so, I was not given a raise. But before that, when I was in NYC, I did get a raise (~4%, which looks to be within the norm). I was told that, so long as there’s $$ available, I could get a 2% raise. Now, I know it doesn’t sound like much, but to me, it feels like a fortune .. and it also feels great to have my efforts recognized and valued in some way.
  • Attend a conference, or at least a workshop. I had a fellow staff member approach me and remind me that there’s a national meeting on our topic of study … and while it’s in an up and coming city, I wasn’t sure I’d be “allowed” to go .. given that I’m a newbie. But he kindly reminded me that this that this is part of our job and we could be getting new ideas/techniques we could use and expand out repertoire here.
  • Have a mini emergency fund (ie. $1000) available before the end of the year.
  • Do our taxes ASAP (and find out IF we’re getting a refund). Based on my quick and dirty calculations, we should … but I’m always skeptical until I see the deposit from the IRS. Hon has his W2, I have one of mine … still waiting on the one from my old job … they usually come out around this time of the year … hopefully it won’t get lost like the time it did on its way to Canada!
  • Go home for Christmas. ‘Nuff said.
  • Appear on a publication, even if just in the acknowledgements section. Always a fave resolution of mine.
  • Get a couch, or at least a recliner … since mine were left behind in the move (boo).

What would like to achieve by the end of 2016?

2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 60,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 22 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

So loooong 2015

2015 was a bad year (I’ll give you time to check out what little blurbs I had time to come up with while finishing the old job and starting the new one). My husband noticed I wasn’t as happy or excited about my job as soon as we got back from winter vacation. I thought it was pure BS. Then my ex boss told me I sucked. And that was all it took for me to go over the edge, emotionally speaking.

I went to EAP (employee assistance program) and got an immediate referral to start therapy and med management. I was able to take a break from the lab and take care of mental health issues. It had been way too long since I’d last seen a therapist and although at the moment I was doing it I felt like it was a lot of BS, turns out lots of things that my therapist (and the group of peeps I joined for group activities) was right. Besides helping jump start my emotional well-being, doing intense therapy, specially with the group taught me empathy … we rarely know the extent of the troubles and issues others have. Even when they smile, they may be experiencing hell inside. Had I not gone through this, I wouldn’t have learned to be a bit more compassionate towards others, and yes, to myself.

Once my emotional health was on its way up, I was able to articulate to my departmental head that in order for me to be an effective manager, I needed to have controlling-asshole boss as far away from me as possible. I spoke with confidence and showed the pattern of emotional manipulation this person was doing and said that things had to change for the good of the lab. Thankfully, the boss listened and he was able to spin things so as to let this person know that since there was going to be a big change above all their heads, I would report directly to the dept boss, instead of the controlling-asshole person. I think it worked well and I was able to spend a few months of bliss with little to no interaction with problem PI.

Then the hubster got a job offer, and my world spun again in a crazy direction. I realized that if the Mr was gone, I wouldn’t really have any ties to the city I was in. And having had a hell of a year up until that point, I decided to apply to jobs in the same area and within a 2hr radius around his area.

The cool thing about having managerial experience is that I got more call backs than ever before. I got calls (and interview offers) from both academy and industry and I ended up going to two of them. One was for a global-type applications position in my area of expertise and the other one is my current position. I wasn’t too excited about the location, even though it was geographically advantageous, but I interviewed any way. Having the 3 years I spent in hell fresh in my mind, I asked as many questions as I could about the management above me, who I’d be reporting to and whether there were layers of people involved. Turns out there are two layers, but only one is in charge of evaluating me. We get along well and for now I feel happy and accomplished. It’s weird to feel happy in a lab. It seems like a foreign concept to me. We’ll see how things progress, but for now, this place makes me feel appreciated.

I don’t have any major resolutions for 2016 other than taking a well deserved vacation somewhere nice (but not too pricey) and master a technique that’s done in the lab I work closely with. I’ve gotten some training, but I need a bit more hands on experience before I’m able to troubleshoot confidently.

I wish you and yours a great 2016! Hopefully you’ll see a bit more of me here and on Twitter.

I moved

No, not web address. I moved. I left hell-hole city and lab and boss and I moved.

I was able to negotiate terms with my new institution back at the start of September and by mid-September I was closing shop. I got to say goodbye to my kids (students), fellow lab members, and some of the PIs I worked with. Even after the insane boss said I was a disgrace (I’m paraphrasing), I had students, postdocs, and PIs dropping by, saying goodbye and thanking me for the work I did for them. From preliminary results, to bits of kickass data to put into grants and incorporate in paper revisions. I trained my peeps to know as much as I did before I left and I have yet to receive an angry email or text from my former institution that says that I broke something or that people broke a machine.

How do I feel? I am relieved. I feel like a HUGE burden has lifted off my shoulders. I feel that I can be who I am at my new job and that people don’t judge me harshly. I’m starting to find a niche. I’ve met with my boss and the best thing is that I don’t have a PI on top of me. I do help a couple of PIs, but they have little to no input on what I do. This means that there’s one less layer of control over me when compared to my previous job.

I’ve gone hiking, checked out the food scene (pretty good), and have seen hubby on a regular basis. I’ve been told by my direct boss to not leave the lab too late (what the hell!!!??? When has this ever happened?), have been invited or introduced to fancy pants speakers, and have been consulted on presentations and data for one of the main labs I’ll be helping out. My position is *FINALLY* not tied to a PI, though it is government funded, thus if there’s an asshole shutdown, I’ll be without a salary for however long it takes to resolve it.

I moved. I found a place to live (not in the same city as my Mr, because his offer came WAY before mine and he made living arrangements when we thought I’d stay in the south until Kingdom come). But we’re planning to join forces ASAP and that’s awesome. I love my new kitchen and I don’t have people living above or below me, so I can stomp like a Minotaur and do it happily (I tried to find the link to the best of Craigslist, but no luck).

I still need to find a therapist, for maintenance.

I can’t quite believe I’m out.

I feel like I’ll wake up and still be trapped in my nightmare.

I am thankful for everything I learned, and everything I overcame to get to where I am now.

But I am fearful. I am worried I’ll get hurt.

Salaries and percentages

Hi all. I know, I know. I’ve gone MIA. It’s been a bit over a month since I last posted something and I’ve been pretty much off Twitter for a long time too. Ever since my Depression 2015 Tour, I’ve clammed up a bit. I feel bad sometimes, but having tons of little messages popping up and on and on and trying to play catch up was getting to me. I check Twitter once a day, usually, and sometimes I engage in convos. But I’m keeping things at a distance until things stabilize (see below).

Today I started thinking about how many salary bumps I’ve had since I was a grad student. When I started my PhD, my stipend was $20,500. Every year after that, we got a raise of a few hundred dollars. After passing the qual, I got a $400 bump (the way my department “rewarded” students that were on time and on track re: finishing the PhD) and by the end of grad school, I was making somewhere around $24,000.

My first “major” bump was going from the PhD and to the postdoc. My salary went up to almost $40,000, though it never went above that. The bump was in the 50-55% range, which seemed pretty good from a newly-minted PhD perspective. If you know a bit about my story, 20 months into my PD I decided to jump ship and accept an offer as a staff scientist in NYC. That took my salary abover the $50,000 range. This bump was somewhere around 52% from that of my PD and while it was great, living in NYC can be a bit expensive (rent-wise, because a lot of my costs were lower in NYC than they are in the south, if you can believe it). Once I moved to my position as a lab manager I got another bump, not quite as significant as the previous ones, actually 15%, but still, at my current salary I’m making 2.5x more than I did as a student! Not bad, I think.

Currently I’m in the negotiation process with a different lab, somewhere else in the nation. Yes, I *finally* got a flippin’ job offer that I hope will take me away from this place and my trigger person. I’m not sad about leaving the lab at all (though I will miss my students and other staff members), but I’m also not bouncing off the walls. Should my proposed salary go through with HR, I could get a bump of ~12%, which will definitely take me to $70k. Can you flippin’ believe that?

I once was talking to a female PI here at school and we got to the salary comparison part. She was surprised (and if I read her face correctly, almost pissed) that my salary was just a few thousand dollars below what she initially was offered as a new prof at school.

I’ve known (and have worked with) lab managers and other senior scientists that are easily in the $100,000 range. They’re not PIs, but they sure keep facilities open and working; they troubleshoot (reducing, and sometimes even eliminating the need for service contracts), train people, teach, write grants to purchase equipment or to soften the burden of expensive service contracts for fancy-pants equipment. They may not “own” a lab, but they’re not scratching their balls (or ovaries) either.

I don’t know what’s going to happen yet. Thus far the terms of the (possible) new job seem pretty interesting, and compared to my current place of employment, this university appears to have their shit together. The position is clearly defined, it’s not something that’s made as it goes (as my current one is). There are other people in similar positions as I could be and they seem down to earth, DIYers that sure keep their hands busy doing research, but mostly dealing with instrumentation, which is really where I want to go at this point in my life.

I don’t know what’s going to happen, but for now, whatever takes me away from hell-hole lab and into a more collaborative environment is something I’m willing to consider.

So, there you have it. Those are my bumps in salary throughout the years, starting with my stipend, all the way to lab manager. Have you every sat down to calculate how much your salary changed as you progressed up whatever ladder you went up in science? Did you ever stay in the same range during a lateral movement, or ever go down?

What are your thoughts? Do you have any questions?

Jobs, offers, salaries

I know, I know. I’ve neglected the blog quite a bit. And I’m still not my usual tweeting self. It’s been a few intense months. Lots of change (some of it good, some of it so-so). I decided to go on the job market after my depression episode earlier this year. I’m doing much better, and now I’m seeing a psychologist on a regular basis and trying to learn how to deal with everyday shit. But I’m still not my old self online.

But, the shit I’m dealing with now is of a different sort. Since March of this year I’ve been stalking the job boards in my discipline, looking for a different job. I warned my boss and my chair and they seem supportive. Luckily the difficult boss is busy writing grants and going to conferences and hasn’t had time to harass me. I’m in a much better place now.

So, yes, a job search. Yet again. It’s no secret that moving south was not all I expected. Things have been tough, my job, while rewarding, has been made quite difficult by supposed experts in my field. But I’ve kept on, keeping on.

Luckily, because of the experience and expertise I’ve acquired here, I’ve had quite a few phone interviews and received great feedback, even if that hasn’t lead to in person interviews, let alone offers. Only 2 places have called back for in person interviews. Overall it’s been a good boost for my self-esteem. As I type this I’m checking the schedule for an interview in industry come August. This is quite scary as I’d never had any luck applying to my industry, but what (appears on paper at least) I’ve seen in the job description makes this job my dream job (if there’s such a thing). Sadly it’s in a male-dominated place. And though I have no doubts that I could succeed, it is a bit scary that there’s no one like me, no one that looks, identifies and sees things like me. I’ll see if I get an offer, though I doubt it as it’s mostly a boys’ club.

I’m also in the process of reviewing an interesting offer from a place I interviewed at recently-ish. I liked everyone, and the science and equipment are very good. But I am rather concerned about a few things: the person who’d be my boss seems to be very concerned about keeping costs low, this scares me as I’m afraid that if I needed to buy a reagent or fix something, it’d take FOREVER to not only justify the cost, but get the material(s) on site. This person is very smart and seemed genuinely concerned about my fulfillment in the place, but I’m worried about costs and the attitude I’ve seen. Perhaps this is a personality thing. Or perhaps it’s more serious. At this moment I can’t tell which one is it.

I’ve been asked to name my price (salary). BUT, I’ve been reminded that when the position went up, it was for someone with less schooling (a bachelor’s with 10yrs of experience or a master’s with 5). This leads me to think that they’ll want to keep the salary on the low range. And while I am not expecting to make a 100K (until or unless I’m near retirement), I would appreciate a slight bump in my salary, considering that while it wouldn’t be in NYC or Boston, the cost of living IS higher than in the south.

There’s no relocation assistance no matter how you phrase it. And while I know I can deduct all that at tax time (and I’d be moving >600mi), it would make a super hole in my savings effective immediately. In fact, if I had to move this week, I’d have to decline the job as I have no funds (I thought of starting a Go-Fund-me, but who the hell do I think I am, and who the hell would contribute to this??). So, that’s another consideration.

The job would put me in a geographical area near my husband, but not super super close. It would be better that the “air commute” we will embark come September. The area is rather remote, rural and has no major highways … so I’m scared that I’ll be as bored as I am right now, and I supposedly live in a “city”!!!

The things that are consuming my energy are: a possible move, the issue about the boss being cheap, the remote location and how I feel about being disconnected from civilization, and of course, how I’d fare at the job. And hell, the question about name your salary, when your potential boss is cheap, isn’t making things easier.

What are your thought on this?

It’s still here. Alive and kicking

I didn’t know how long it would be since my last post admitting to myself and to the world that I have depression. I don’t know how far along I’ll get. I still get my bouts of not feeling, or sometimes feeling too overwhelmed by what I perceive as being too many stimuli. I guess the easiest way to compare it is to an insect that has been sprayed with bug killer. Constant signaling that eventually fries your brain. I feel a little fried. I’m not in the highest highs I was immediately after I came out of the intensive treatment, but I am not not feeling. So, in that sense I think I’m in a bit of a better place. But I sure can tell that I need to see a therapist soon (it is happening in the next few days).

I haven’t had anything major happen. I haven’t seen too much of my trigger (it’s a person, actually). And even when I’ve seen them, our interactions have been minimal and cordial.

I’ve been trying to keep busy at home. I’ve cooked a bit, and not just for me, but for the hubs too. I’ve managed to go outside and into the world and enjoy some things. But just like I mentioned above, sometimes the stimulus seems too much and I retreat. I remember seeing that in my husband, as he was getting better from his own battle with depression. And I’m hopeful I’ll get there.

I’m also getting support from another lab and its members. They’ve welcomed me and we’ve talked about the last few days and it’s been good.

But I can tell I’m not totally recovered and that this is a hell of a long trip to recovery. I’m a bit afraid of who I’ll become at the end of this (even though I’m well aware that depression is more of manageable thing, that it doesn’t completely go away) and of course, I am afraid of being in touch with my feelings. I can tell that today is a difficult day. There’s nothing in particular that I can think of that’s causing it to be difficult, but I recognize that I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed. Luckily I’ve talked to the hubs and I’m also reminding myself that I need to fight this battle little by little. I need to celebrate my accomplishments, because I’ve come a heck of a long way since a month ago. But it sure is a long road to recovery.

Apologies for the spottiness in appearances here and on Twitter. I’ll be OK, but I need a bit of time for me to regroup. Thanks.