27 and a PhD

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Post thesis defense gift-giving

So, yesterday night hon and I talking as we usually do at the end of the day, when he mentions that before he goes to the airport for his defense (this week!!! THIS WEEK PEOPLE!!!) he’s going to pick up some gifts for his examination committee. We’re in different disciplines and the make up of his examination committee is totally different from mine. In grad school, my committee was comprised of local members only. I had to have a certain amount of PIs from within the department and I could have however many from departments other than mine. I gave a 1hr lecture, and immediately after that, I had a 1.5hr-long examination. My committee signed the first page of my thesis (with the condition that my PI checked that I follow their comments and include their corrections) and besides the after party, that was the last time I saw most of them (except one of two at graduation the following year).

Hon’s thesis committee is almost completely different from that of his qualifying exam, and the one he’s had for the last couple of years in preparation for his defense. Two of his usual members are part of the examination committee, a third member from the faculty and a fourth from within the university are there, along with a totally external one, a complete stranger from another uni.

We got into a tiny argument about how “rude” it was of me not to get my committee, which had been with me for 3 years, a gift, as a token of appreciation for taking time out of their busy schedules to attend my defense. I was a bit shocked, and thought that I hadn’t heard anyone, especially from my lab, do that. It’s not that I think it’s wrong, I just wasn’t aware of it, nor did I receive any indication of it. Besides, as rude as it is of me to say this, that’s part of their jobs, no? He asked what my mom had said about not giving any gifts, and I answered nothing, since my mom is always all proper and very Ms. Manners. My mom said nothing about not getting gifts, though I think she may have brought my PI some sweets my mom knew my PI loved.

The whole conversation got me thinking about gift-giving after the defense. My boss paid for her own copy of the thesis, and I placed the order, and printed all the pages to be bound. She also covered the after party and invited us over to her place for a little celebration the following weekend. No one else from my committee requested copies, so I didn’t offer any. My thesis has been freely available for the last 2.5 years. I presented in my department every time I was required (2x a year) and even volunteered to present in the lab of one of my committee members. I did send my PhD mentor a very thoughtful thank you note, which she didn’t acknowledge (maybe she didn’t get it), which is very rare, as she’s always very proper and thoughtful. She did get me another small treat for graduation, but to me, the most important point was that she was there for the hooding ceremony.

So, I have a little poll. Feel free to answer below, or tweet. I’d love to hear your thoughts:

Holiday gift(s) from the boss

Lately I’ve been thinking about my days back in grad school. Those 6 or so crazy/fun/weird/sad/meh/whatever years I spent working my tail off to have a series of projects that made sense and made me happy.

The holidays were (and still are, except for this year) my all-time favourite season. I love the blinking lights, the decoration, the special drinks that only come out at this time. Heck, I even like bundling up, and how my cheeks get all rosy (or red).

My other favourite part was/is gift-giving. I always liked guessing what other people would get me (or drive hon crazy while trying to find out). I also liked getting unexpected surprises from friends, family and sometimes total strangers. And I always loved the expression of surprise and delight in people’s faces when they opened their gifts.

A few days ago a co-worker and I were having a conversation about gift-giving and bosses. Our boss is a bit stingy (I’m still not happy with my salary, it could be better, and I’m partly blaming it on being a woman … but that’s for another post). I was asking my co-worker if the boss ever gets the lab anything, like maybe lunch, or a bottle of wine/champagne to share. My co-worker looked at me all puzzled. He was surprised because he says he’s never received a gift from any of his bosses/mentors. And he sure doubts it will ever change.

I then became the puzzled one because, as far as I can remember, whether for my birthday or the holidays, most of my bosses have made an effort to give a little something. I remember getting a little card and a small gift from some of the students in my first summer undergrad lab. Then, on one of my internships, I got a book and ice-cream with the boss and labbies. In grad school my mentor had the lab sign a birthday card and I have a few of those. We also had a nice lunch after a paper was accepted or after a defense. During the holidays, the boss would call each person into their office, say some nice words about the performance/papers/career and hand a gift, usually a certificate (in the 25-50$ range) and some sweets or an ornament. It always made me feel special. And it I thought of it normal. When I moved on to my postdoc, my mentor would invite us over for dinner at his house, and get everyone a little something, whether a bottle of wine, a sweet or an ornament. And there were more than just a few of us, so money was definitely not an excuse. He’d also buy the first round of beer on special occasions, like a paper, a thesis defense or a goodbye get-together.

My coworker said I was lucky … and that apparently I’m one of the very few that ever crossed paths with people who are into giving gifts, or making a bit of an effort to show some appreciation to their minions lab.

This also brought to mind that a fairly new professor at work, who is a collaborator, has gone out of their way to show appreciation towards us, the staff. This person brought personalized cards and sweets for individual lab members and has shown a lot of kindness … just because we’ve been doing our jobs. Said token of appreciation brought memories of my old days in grad school, and how I could always count on my boss to cheer me up during the holidays. Having a little token made up for the times I was frustrated or irritated, or when I couldn’t go home and had to work throughout the holiday season.

Did you (or do you) get gifts/tokens of appreciation from the boss/higher up during the holidays? If so, what’s your favourite? If not, do you think it would make a different in how you percieve this person? As a mentor, do you go out of your way to show your lab peeps appreciation? Do they go out of their way to do the same? How do you feel?