27 and a PhD

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Monthly Archives: August 2011

About me

Been thinking lately (especially after turning 30) about the things that I like and dislike. Since I like lists I thought I’d make another one about me (and my quirky attributes):

  1. I have friends in weird places. One of my good friends from grad school is an atheist who believes in aliens and is a “priest” in an alien-type religion.
  2. I never cook meat at home …. especially for me. I’m fine cooking chicken for hon, but I will always cook something meatless for me. I hate the smell of meat in my kitchen.
  3. I’m giving myself permission to try new things now than I’m 30. I hope to try salmon for the first time in my life this year.
  4. I’m always asking myself permission to do things.
  5. I also ask permission or approval from those around me.
  6. I have a secret dream of becoming a beer snob.
  7. I want to get a 2nd tattoo, but I don’t know where, since what I have in mind would not match my existing tat.
  8. I like music … but you can’t understand how much I love it. When I listen to a song I like (especially an instrumental one), sometimes I feel like my heart will explode. Seriously. I sometimes can’t believe I’m lucky enough to have my sense of hearing and be able to listen to a beautiful piece of music and concentrate on each instrument, each sound, and the powerful, moving combination they make.
  9. I think I just discovered my passion. It isn’t a scientific one … though I’ve channeled some of it by working in my field. It is photography … but I’m still a beginner.
  10. I may meet one of my favourite scientific people thanks to work. I can’t wait. In fact, I think I may faint.
  11. I think fainting goats are ADORABLE.
  12. When someone sneezes very loudly, and doesn’t cover his/her mouth, it makes my blood boil. I would seriously punch this person if it weren’t because we live in a somewhat civilized society.
  13. I hate shaving. But I also hate hairy legs and armpits. I have some Italian in me. I hate it.
  14. I applied for work because a tweep names Genomic Repairman insisted.
  15. I just saw a white penis today (the second one I see in my life, ie. I’ve dated brown guys). I was walking down the street and there was this guy, near a park, playing his bagpipe for money. He was wearing one of those Scottish skirts (a kilt). It felt wrong and I feel dirty.
  16. I’m taking a sewing class in SoHo. I hope my work doesn’t end up looking like a murdered chupacabras.
  17. I want to start watching Dr. Who, but I’m not so keen on the sci fi genre (well, except Stephen King’s The Dead Zone).
  18. I miss living in Canada.
  19. But I don’t miss work.
  20. I do miss my former labmates.
  21. I’m taking all the chances I get to network like crazy. So far I’ve managed to get some insider’s tips on one of the pieces of software we use. Score!
  22. I’ve been incredibly blessed by knowing a lot of tweeps in this city. I’ve never felt truly alone, because words, messages and emails have been there all the time. I’m very lucky, and I can’t believe that people are willing to help in more ways than I could ever imagine. I hope I can pay it forward somehow.
  23. I miss honey. I wish I could fly every night to sleep next to him, then fly back to go to work. This city reminds me of him. Of us. I miss him.
  24. This city is amazing. I can’t wait to discover more of it. But, I’m afraid of winter. I know I’m a wuss. I just spent 2 winters in Canada. Still, I’m afraid.
  25. I’m lazier than my cat. That’s all. If I don’t answer your email or message promptly, it’s not because I don’t like you, it’s because I’m lazy. I’m trying to shake some of that off.

Looking back at the first weeks at work

Konichiwa bitchez, to borrow my new favourite phrase. How are you doing? I’ve been busy and doing tons of new things at work, trying to find my place within a new organization and trying to keep up. Though lately it’s been very quiet, so I’m hoping to have some time on some of the instruments in the lab that I’m not familiar with and see what they’re all about.

Work is good, I can honestly say that almost two months in I’m feeling happy I made the move (except for the fact that honey and 27andaphd-kitty aren’t with me). I try to spend most of my day thinking and focusing on work, because I may burst in tears if I think too much about missing hon and kitty. I know sacrifices have to be made to move forward, but it sucks not to have your best friend by your side at home (well, the apartment, home is still Canada for me), or in school.

I’ve been trying to keep busy by signing up for discussion groups, training sessions, etc. I’ve been trying to do the same with my life outside the lab. I’ve gone to a couple of small, but very interesting events, like a film festival (featuring robots!!!), getting to know the city and my surroundings, getting used to taking public transportation and living on a whole lot less.

In a strange way I feel happy (well, except for when we have staff meetings, which are long, and boring, and sometimes tense, but heck, something had to give right?). I’m getting used to talking to vendors, asking technicians how things work, and helping users. It gets crazy at times, especially when someone new comes in and they want all your time and attention, yet you have to answer the phone, and remember to send the chemical inventory to the main office, oh and sign up people for an instrument because the scheduler is down and you’re one of the ones who has behind-the-scenes access to things.

Things feel rewarding and I hope I go up from here. I still have to learn to get out of my shell in the lab and ask my (extremely nice) co-workers to show me equipment they know, especially all the bugs and ways to work around. The only person that worries me a bit is my boss, and that’s because there may be some micro-managing issues that may not go as well with me. My guess is that I have to learn to tame that lion, much like I did in school back when I was a student.

I like the city and sometimes I pinch myself thinking that I’m a short ride away from several awesome places. Food is good, I’ve made friends, and I found an apartment (with a roommate, let’s hope I survive, I’m extremely picky but she seems nice). Now my next big hurdle is saving $$$ to move my things from Canada to here. We’ll see when that happens.

Another cool thing is that social media is super awesome, so I’ve been able to meet with tweeps I’d known for some time, or just met. All of them, in one way or the other have been instrumental in helping to adapt to a new environment, from extending an invitation to dinner, to opening their houses (or balconies) for a beer and a BBQ during a holiday weekend. I’m humbled by people’s kindness and concern for my well-being.

Thank you, thank you, thank you. I know this update is kinda lame, but I’m taking one day at a time, and enjoying and learning as much as I can, hence my absence from the blogosphere.

One last (but not least) note is that I’ll be guest blogging over at 1DegreeBio. My second entry is up, where I discuss my experience losing a good friend while in grad school and overcoming her death. I hope to write some more on my experience looking for work, what I did, what I didn’t do and other tidbits of life on the fringes of academia.

I’m employed (Act 3)

My apologies for the length of time it’s taken me to sit down and conclude the story of how I got my non-traditional job. I’ve been so busy. But, here it is. Thank you all for your comments, tweets, and kind words of encouragment.

Part 1 is here and part two is here.

Hon was more than a bit irked by the people at new job city. He kept asking me (pretty much every day) if I’d gotten any emails or calls from them. He couldn’t believe my bad luck (or blessing); every single place that approached me for an interview decided on someone else, closed the search, or something. Something happened, and it caused all my offers, and near offers to come crashing down. I cried, and prayed to the powers-that-be to give me some sort of answer. I was so confused and lost. I doubted I’d ever be back in research after my postdoc appointment ended. I was desperate and frustrated. But I also tried to do my part to stay competent by attending career seminars (please, even if you’re not in a position like mine, always, always keep an eye for career seminars, they might give you a different perspective and enhance your current skills). I went to workshops on new updates to pieces of software I already knew (or thought I did), salary negotiation, post-academic careers, writing effectively (I hope it shows!!). And although my CV is now peppered with these workshops, seminars and certificates of completion, I wish I could have gone to more of them earlier in my career, especially during my PhD. My PhD institution has some really talented people putting things in order and bringing good speakers and resources to help students choose a career path and get there, both in and out of the tenure track. Even if I fought and got frustrated at our postdoc affairs office initially (they were just getting started), they did a fabulous job of coming along and bringing interesting speakers, people from different paths and careers, counsellors, etc., to showcase some of the options available. There’s a common theme here … most schools I know have some sort of office or resources to help students keep current in different school/life affairs. These people put an incredible amount of time in doing that … if you’re in doubt, or need help or want some counselling, do get in contact with them. Now! I’ll wait …… If not, try seeking out the alumni office from your previous institution or help get one started at your current place. I guarantee you there’s a TON of people out there just like you.

By the end of April another ad came out, this from a place close(ish) to my PhD school, with a great reputation and impressive structural bio facilities. I applied, got a call, and by mid-May I was waiting for them to get back with some sort of schedule. I was happy that there appeared to be a glimmer of hope somewhere. I churned out a ton of data, made my peace with the gossipy labmate and kept on going. My temporary plan was to stay in Canada while waiting to hear from the close-to-grad-school place, then head home and start a new application cycle if nothing worked out. It wasn’t all nice and fuzzy like it appears here, there was a lot of turmoil in my head and heart. I was agonizing.

I also considered going back to school (something which I haven’t given up on … at some point I may want to try to get a software or hardware certification, at the very least), but it was too late to apply and get my stuff in place at that point.

Close to the end of my postdoc appointment, on a day when I had more experiments planned than time to run them, I noticed a missed call with an area code I recognized as being from new job city. I’m a glass-half-empty kinda person, so my mind immediately started thinking about the negatives of it. The caller left a message. It was the ad guy. He said,  with a strong voice, that we needed to talk, that he had news and wanted to see how things were going with my search. I started some experiments and sat down to answer the call, my hands shaking in disbelief. I knew a decision had been made just by the tone of his voice, I just wasn’t sure it was in my favour. When ad guy answered his voice was very calmed and pleasant compared to the voicemail, and after giving me an update on what was going on with the search (along with an apology for the length of time it had taken) he asked, point blank, what I was doing and if I had a job. I answered, adding that I’d be jobless soon (in a matter of hours almost).

After talking about a couple of other things he said that there had been some changes in new job city, and that they had a junior level position open, which they thought I’d be a better fit (I was applying to a mid-to-senior staff position originally). After going through some of the details, and thinking about the possibilities (ie. from jobless and homeless to job in former discipline in cool new city), we both agreed that he’d go back and talk to the committee, come up with an offer and see whether I liked it. I was definitely interested. Now it was just a waiting game.

The cool thing was that, for the first time in a long time, someone asked me what I wanted, what would make me happy and would make me seriously consider the offer. The guy was/is very matter of fact, and he asked me what I’d like to see in paper and ink to bring me there ASAP. He wanted the offer to be so good that I couldn’t say no (except if I’d won the lottery, in which case, screw it, I’m getting my own lab to study my own thing, AFTER a LONG vacation). Ad guy asked what things I’d like to see spelled in the offer, benefits, access to what, etc. Before I answered I went and read a bit on negotiating (via the TT aggregator, which I think it’s a great tool for negotiating salaries, even for staff positions). One of the main points which people kept mentioning over and over was that, it is better (necessary I’d say) to have everything you want on paper, clearly stated and spelled-out so that later the employer won’t come down and try to say something different. If it’s in paper, there’s evidence to back your claims and prevent your employer from screwing you.

I wasn’t so thrilled with the original salary. I did some research and remembered what the salary was for a similar position in Rainbow Lake. I used that as a starting point, and though they never matched the full amount I would have loved, I did get an increase in my original offer which was enough for me to seriously consider it.

I got a small relocation allowance, permission to go back and get my cat, and other things later on, and a flexible starting date, so I could rest, take a break from science and recover  between the end of my postdoc and the beginning of my life as a staff member (though the family drama in the last couple of weeks has been biting me in the ass, ugh). I accepted the offer and moved to cool-city-with-tiny-apartments-and-insane-rent a few weeks ago. I’m learning to juggle more senior things and make tons of decisions which I’d never done before. It is exciting and thrilling, and scary. The position seems to fit my needs and wants for now. And it gives me the chance to evaluate my career under a new light and see if this is really what I want to do.

So with that dear readers and tweeps, my job search concludes (for now, anyways). I’m very happy to start in a position with room to grow, acquire new skills, and polish existing ones. Job city is closer to my mom, dad, sister and nephew, and it’s at an intermediate place where hon can travel more easily than when we were both in grad school. New job city has many challenges, and it’s forcing me to grow out of my shell, and become of a go-getter … but it’s hard. Once things have stabilized I’ll be taking care of a couple of health issues (not too serious, but important enough to improve my life in a significant manner). I already feel better career-wise at the new place, and I’ve only been there for a few short weeks. I’m giving myself a year to see if the new job and new job city are worth it, or whether it’s time to hang up the scientific gloves and switch paths. I’ll try to explore my options to grow professionally and personally outside of work.

I thank you, my readers and tweeps for your encouragement, kind words, thoughts, prayers and the meetings IRL to provide support. Besides my family (especially my mom and honey), you have been at the heart of this saga. It takes a village to raise a scientist, I’m sure of that. I’m extremely lucky to be friends and tweeps with you. You know who you are, but I’ll be sure to give you credit where it is due, no worries. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Now, onto that pesky apartment hunting thing I need to solve ASAP 😀


A collection of random thoughts while I wait for the rain to tone down a bit so I can get to the apartment.

  • Ever since I moved to the city I’ve had men, of all sorts of backgrounds, colours and beliefs make comments. Anything from “mami you have a pretty smile” to “hot damn” … even in my not-so-hot-damn days. Seriously, while it may be “cute” to walk past a construction site and have a couple of men remark on how pretty/hot/nice you look. It gets irritating when you get it on a constant basis. Ask yourself, how would you feel if I was making comments, however well-meaning or intentioned, anytime you walk past me. No, I am not your reina, mamasita, grrrr, HOPA or anything like it. In fact, I’m not one. I’m a busy scientist, without make up, and extra weight. When you do that I just want to punch you. I don’t like it, it doesn’t make me smile. It makes me pretty darn uncomfortable. Reminds me a bit of this.
  • Hon is back home. We had a wonderful couple of days together. I miss him, his smile, his touch, his sense of humour, his … everything. Having your best friend gone sucks. Sometimes it almost hurts to breathe. I can’t wait to see him again. I can’t wait to explore the city with him.
  • Work is going good. I seriously learn something new each day. I have regular staff meetings (which I keep calling lab meetings) that last for hours on end. My boss has a shifting mood, so you never know what to expect. That makes it hard sometimes. My labmates are awesome, and it feels really good.
  • I haven’t found a more permanent living solution. Hopefully I’ll beat the hordes of students coming to the city and find a cute and not so tiny place. We’ll see. I’m afraid.
  • I’m doing groceries online. I love it.
  • I’ve become addicted to Chobani‘s pineapple yogurt. And here I thought things didn’t get better past strawberry.
  • I bought a bed and the furniture/delivery people assembled it. I’m afraid of what’s going to happen once I move. I like to take things apart, don’t get me wrong. It’s just too much work.
  • Lately I’ve been thinking that if I have kids at some point, it’s going to be so cool to tell them about all the places I’ve lived.
  • I’m more or less back to Twitter after a hiatus.
  • I got a guest blogging gig … which I need to start pronto.
  • I’m starting on a debt “diet” … but it won’t cover the debts I got in thanks to my dad. For reasons I can’t discuss they won’t be covered. This means there may be a legal battle looming, which I’m not too excited about.
  • I still need to move my stuff to the city. Not looking forward to this.
  • Finally got around to order some business cards. They’re very me, and they were cheap. Let’s see how this turns out.
  • I’m thinking I need to get another umbrella. Mine is totally fine, but I almost always forget it at home, so I’m thinking of having one at work … for days like today.

Totally random, see?