27 and a PhD

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They really want me … or they’re really crazy

Have had that on repeat in my head during the last two weeks. People here are weird … it’s as if I’d joined one of those crazy happy churches where people look happily stoned and … crazy.

Well, it’s truly not that bad. I just feel … weird. I’m happy to be back, don’t get me wrong. Every time I look around and see green and pretty streets and empty trash bins I’m reminded of how different it is to live in suburbia once again. We’re not in NYC anymore, Toto!

I think that, for now, I’ve made a sensible choice. I’m happy to be here and I’m honestly surprised and humbled by people’s response to my coming. I’ve seen lots of old friends and acquaintances around, everyone acting more surprised than the next person. But it’s good, it feels right.

And I’m definitely noticing the difference from when I was here as a trainee. Some of the benefits are better, people treat me different, with more respect (not that they were disrespectful before … it’s just different. I feel like I can talk to my PI (or PIs, every day I keep getting a new one added to the list, ha!) and they value my input, more than when I was a student or postdoc). The admin people are very nice and helpful and they’ve showered me with attention, wanting to find out if all is well, if I need anything, if I’m being taken care of. This is certainly something that lacked in my life when I did my postdoc (it was so disorienting, no one knew where to send me next, no one informed me of issues and I ended up paying more than I should have for an initial health coverage before provincial healthcare took over, it was disorganized). People here have apparently been getting ready for my coming for weeks, from procuring office space, computer resources (I get a few big monitors, woo-fucking-hoo), office supplies, keys and forms that give me access to the bowels of the building I’ll be working in. I’m simply amazed. Oh, I guess this is sort of a white whine on my part …. well, la dee da

I’m also amazed that stuff is still working and that instruments I’d used in another life are still around and functioning. Lots of good data have come from them. But I’m afraid they’ll go once I get my hands all over them. Who knows. For now I’m tailing people like I’m a first year grad student who knows nothing.

In addition, I get a lot of autonomy. This is something new … and a bit scary too. I’m afraid of making decisions that will make me look like a total bitch in front of the PIs, grad students and postdocs that have been using the instrumentation since I’ve been gone. I don’t want people to think I don’t respect what they do, or that I don’t want their business …. and I would hate to turn into one of my previous PIs who kept everyone out of their lab and even though I’ve been gone from that lab for years, people still relish in mentioning how exclusive said PI was and how they kept their instruments away from everyone.

I’ve been getting calls about consultations with people, nothing terribly involved … just people wanting to get my opinion on things. It’s weird. I feel as if whatever I say now has more weight than when I was a postdoc or a grad student. NYC certainly showed me that some companies care about keeping their customers happy and value their input. It certainly feels like that here too.

Next week I’ll start hands on on the instrumentation. I have to do weekly check ups of certain things to see if they’re within spec. One of my PIs mentioned that whatever I need to do, just go for it, because they want the lab to run smooth and for me to make things easy when it comes to equipment, handling samples and certainly dealing with users.

This is all so new. I don’t want to screw things up.

On a non-work related thing, I want to take a moment and thank you all for your support during the move and especially when my honey got sick. He’s doing much better, out of the hospital, and soon his stitches will be out. He’s lost some weight and is very tired, but recovering more of his strength every day. This last week has been draining. I can only hope we go up from here.

What’s new with you?

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The new job

My goodness everything here is new. I swear. Well, not everything. But, I feel like everything’s new. I can’t believe the move is done and I don’t have to worry about roommates, alternate side parking or crazy cab drivers anymore. That said, I *freakin’* miss NYC. I really do. For a moment now I thought about hopping on the train to go to Whole Foods and get something to eat. Then I remembered that I’m not in NYC anymore. Sigh. <Insert another sigh.>

The place is bare bones. We have a lot ahead of us in terms of furnishing the place and making sure we make it our own. I am happy we kept some of the things that made our beautiful place in Canada our very own lovely dwelling. But we’re in need of pretty much everything, from a microwave, to more pots and pans (not too many), to a BED, tables, etc, etc. I’m sure we’ll make it happen as time goes by. It just looks SO bare.

So, I guess I should back out a bit. I’ve been in new job city for two weeks now. Most of our stuff was in storage and what wasn’t was in my tiny little room in NY. I’d tried packing as best as I could and then hon helped finish it off. Early on a weekend two weeks ago we went to our storage unit, took out all of the boxes that had been sitting pretty since September of 2011, packed even more boxes at home, took the cat and left the wonderful world of NYC. Hon was awesome as a co-pilot trying to get us out and safe of the craziness of Brooklyn and Manhattan, and then off to cross a bunch of states.

It seemed as though we had to drive forever (it sort of did at times). We drove for a couple of days until we got situated into a small hotel room in new job city, waiting for our place to become available. Hon had to go and finish some business at home, so I spent the rest of the time alone until  days later our new dwelling was ready. I paid the first month’s rent (thank goodness they don’t require 2 or 2.5 or heck! 3 months to rent a place here), took my keys and off I went.

While hon and I did all the manual labour in NY, here I contracted some guys to unload the boxes. I counted and there were over 30 boxes of stuff. Stuff I hadn’t seen in 2 years. Stuff I didn’t even remember I had. That should tell you how much I need the stuff … but, all of the places I lived in NYC had everything (except a bed) and I had roommates. Never once did I get to live alone in the city. Ugh.

There are still about 15 boxes around the apartment. We have some closet space, so I’ve been trying to make the most out of that. Some boxes didn’t survive the trek (or dare I say, 3 treks) to new job city, so out the door they went. I’ve decided to keep some (I always do) because you never know. I do hope we get to live at this place for a year.

The place we’re renting is in a community we’d lived before, so I was familiar with the layout. I get giddy every time I open the door and see space and don’t have foul smells courtesy of my roommate cooking crab or shrimp (hon is allergic and I can’t stand the smell of seafood, yuck).

Right now I’m living on nothing, courtesy of spending the money on the move and on gas and other expenses. Hon is letting me borrow some money until I get a deposit back and my reimbursement for moving expenses gets approved. Even with that, I’m happy we have a roof above our heads and food on the table (or floor!) and that life seems a bit less stressful (for now).

Tons of different places have opened in town and some old staples have new locations. I’ve taken public transport a few times and it is great to leave the driving to someone else (thanks NYC for getting me used to taking the bus and subway!). I have taken the car to work a few times and for some reason I have the same classification as faculty for parking purposes, so as soon as a faculty spot opens, I can get it. Woohoo!

Benefits are good, though a bit different from NYC. Hon and I are still navigating  the waters of health, dental, eye and other types of coverage. And I think I’m opting in for life insurance … because you never know and I’d hate to leave my hubby penniless (he doesn’t like to talk about the subject).

The job is … well. Technically I just started. I had to endure a long ass orientation cycle. Got my ID, got an email, met with a bunch of people from the school, saw my boss (an old prof of mine) and have met one of my supervisors (I have a couple of ’em). I’m looking for things to do. The lab has some equipment that I know how to use,  and some I don’t. I’ve answered a few questions for my previous co-workers (I’m missing them a TON), and planning how to tackle this new lab, with all its intricacies and issues and stuff. I’ve started contacting people and I’m hoping that the sequester won’t do a whole lot of damage (Damn YOU Congress). We’ll see.

I hope to continue posting once a week, usually on Mondays. We just got internet.

I hope to write some more about the lab, my responsibilities and my impressions on coming to this place as an employee, not a trainee. We’ll see how this goes.

Leaving

It is with a heavy heart that I leave my first post-academic job in search of something new. Many feelings are in my head and my heart now. Did I make the right decision? Will my family survive yet another move? How will honey fare in new job city? Will I be able to deal (or avoid) all the knucklehead republicans I will find in this city? Will I deliver they way people envision I will?

I feel small, inadequate … like it’s Imposter Syndrome x100. The responsibility of a whole lab rests on my shoulders (no, I’m not becoming a PI). I have to make sure my instruments run, I have to train people, analyze data, help calm nerves of both students and postdocs … this, 4 years after I was last a grad student, and 2 after I left my postdoc to work in New York.

My heart feels heavy because I’m leaving NYC, the city of dreams. I’ve met so many wonderful people, I adore my co-workers, they’re seriously the best scientists I’ve worked with in some time. They’re patient and funny and I feel like I’m letting them down by taking another position.

In these last couple of days the most common words coming out of people’s mouths are: are you excited? how does it feel to be a manager? how does it feel to leave NYC?

While I am relieved that I don’t have to worry about alternate side parking again, or that I can kiss goodbye to overcrowded buses and trains, everything else about the city, from the good food to the great science, from the noises that make NYC well, NYC, to the ease of finding everything, at all times of the day, and everything you get to do here … all of it I will miss. I guess besides the worry about being able to produce and delivery, I am most afraid of adapting to a city I haven’t seen in a couple of years. I’m afraid I won’t mesh and that I’ll be bitchin’ about how great things were in NYC (even if I occasionally disagreed with my boss).

I’m afraid of change and I am afraid of me. Of being so scared out of my wits that I won’t move, won’t decide and will let a whole lab and a whole lot of users crash down and fall. I am not excited … I am terrified. The possibility of change and more money cannot shake the terror I have of looking like a complete idiot, and of making the profs that vouched for me, afraid and sad that they chose me and that they offered the job to me, instead of someone more experienced. My smile and excitement about science cannot, or are not, enough to keep a lab running. And I am once again afraid of not being competent enough.

When will the imposter leave my life for good??

New habits (in the making)

Based on my NY resolutions, and how much I (sometimes) suck at keeping them, I’m trying to work on making sure I meet (or exceed) them. I’m trying to work on forming new habits, things that help keep my mind in order, my wallet and spending in check and will contribute in the long run to make my life happier and simpler.

My mom bought me a planner for Christmas. It has a motif I like and it has lots of space to write stuff. I love making lists and I decided to try, for the very first time in a long time, to fill that planner and keep it right next to my phone. I remembered that that’s what my PhD mentor did. She had her weekly planner next to her phone so that when she had to schedule a conference call or seminar or let us know when NOT to book a committee meeting, she didn’t keep us waiting. I’m also actively using Notes and Reminders on my iPhone (what a time saver!) and to keep my wedding inspiration in one place (or two) I decided to give Evernote a try, along with Pinterest (though I keep my account with just private boards to share with honey). These apps and measures are sure to help me stay sane in a year that’s looking nuts, between our wedding (civil ceremony, making sure we have a pre-nup to separate my debts from honey’s), the move, starting a new job and making sure that when I leave my current one things are in order, to paying the gazillion deposits for the wedding and the move.

And since one of my resolutions is to get active and eat better to hopefully lose the bulge, I hope to incorporate healthy things into my diet, avoid eating out for dinner and finally eat my fruits and veggies. I’m trying to find out if there is an app or two that would help. And I’ve been tempted to re-join WeightWatchers, which helped me lose almost 20 pounds a few years ago … but I’m worried that I’ll forget to log in and add my meals and my points … plus at times it felt a bit restrictive. Just like 4-5 years ago when I joined I did it while seeing a promo to join for free, that promo is running once again … but, I’m struggling with making the decision and sticking to it.

It looks like I’m also writing once a week, like I did last year and how I tried to do it in 2011. I’m afraid the blog is turning into a sort of diary, instead of just talking about my life in academia (or the fringes). But I’ve said before, (thankfully) my job is not nearly as stressful as the postdoc (or perhaps it is that I simply like doing what I do), so there’s not much to tell job-wise. I don’t want the blog to turn into a Save the Date thing, but inevitably I will gravitate to share wedding stuff here, just as I do on Twitter. The move will be stressful, that much I know. And I’m sure that while I get my footing at new job university once again, I’ll share my adventures and missteps. I guess is the natural progression of a staff scientist, you’re no longer a grad student, nor a postdoc.

Once I have some idea of how much my take home pay will be, I’ll try to start a regular schedule of saving some pennies, for when I want to go home, but especially for the wedding. I will try to save, damn it!

What apps or other resources do you use to help stay active and on track?

Resolutions 2013

Seeing as I did pretty good (IMO) with last year’s resolutions here’s a list, in no particular order, of this year’s resolutions:

  1. Get new tires for the car that (thankfully) I didn’t sell and will need at new job city.
  2. In addition, get the title of my car from new job city as soon as I can (ie. within 30 days of moving) and not delay it like I did in NYC (still waiting on the stupid title, oh how I dislike NYC’s bureaucracy).
  3. Pay off credit card #3 (the one with the lowest balance, which is still pretty high, IMO) while saving money for the wedding (and perhaps the honeymoon, though for now we’re not counting on having a honeymoon immediately after the wedding).
  4. Marry Mr 30 and a PhD in City Hall before we embark on our new adventure in new job city.
  5. Leave everything I need to in order at my current place of employment so my labbies feel a bit relieved that I didn’t leave them hanging.
  6. Take advantage of the free public transportation initiative that new job institution offers; hopefully I’ll save some money by not filling up my tank as often, keeping the environment cleaner, and of course, avoiding cursing others as if I still lived in NYC.
  7. Attend a conference, workshop or some such networking thingie outside of new job city.
  8. Get my tubes checked. Once and for all. I hate having painful periods. Grrrrrr
  9. Lose 20 pounds, no more, no less, so I can fit in my wedding dress.
  10. Cook at home as often as possible. I’d lost some weight in my previous apartment and with me previous roommate, who was never there. At the new place I have more roommates, and they’re almost always there. I hate not having a kitchen for myself.
  11. Appear in a paper coming out of the new lab.
  12. Prove that my new lab is essential for the institution and hopefully score a tech, even if it’s just part time. I know I’m going to be a busy bee.
  13. Start saving for a DSLR or a Macbook Pro (I know, with the wedding and the kicking a debt in the groin it seems almost impossible, but even if it’s just 300$, I want that money put away for just that purpose).

What are your resolutions?

Changes, so many changes

When I moved to NYC almost two years ago, I knew that my position wouldn’t be a forever-type thing. I wanted, I needed to have some security, to get out of the training loop. I wanted to have benefits, to have a job that involved doing science, training, sample prep, and of course, learning new skills to add to my repertoire.

I knew the position would only be a temporary fix to my situation at the time (frustrated with academia, hated my postdoc, etc). I also knew, or at least expected, that the separation from honey would be a temporary one, especially while he finished his PhD. He’d be looking for work, hopefully in NYC or nearby, and we’d reunite after a while.

Hon was struggling for a few months to try to find work. He lived with his parents in the meantime, as my salary could not sustain the two of us. We went back to the long distance thing, with him doing most of the traveling to NYC. We’ve had a fantastic time in this city. This city is amazing. I’ve met some super fantastic folks, I’ve made contacts that I never even dreamed would be possible. I’ve met some of my favourite scientists, connected with emerging ones, in general, I’ve had a grand ole time.

I hadn’t been looking for work, or at least actively, since joining my current lab. Since I did such a short postdoc (in my opinion), only 1.9 years, I was afraid of doing a bunch of short stints at a couple of places, and creating the impression that I couldn’t hold on to something for a while, and improve my publication profile, network, present, etc.

Back in October I was contacted by a somewhat new hire at one of my previous places of training. I know this PI because they started in this place just as I was finishing. This PI’s postdoc lab is rather famous in my field, and has been very prolific in method-development. In addition, this lab has had a shit ton of trainees, some of which I’ve gotten to work with or meet since moving to NYC.

People at this previous place of training have been searching high and low for someone to be a manager of a lab in one of my disciplines of training. There have been some major changes (faculty-wise) and some of the people in power know of me and my work.

A couple of weeks ago I flew in for an interview, not sure of what to expect. I hadn’t seen these people since I left for my current job and I wasn’t sure how I’d fit in (if at all). Granted, I was trained at some point of my career there and people know the calibre of work I did. I was sure that all I’d get would be a free trip to say hello and goodbye and that’d be the end of it. I was oh-so wrong.

A few days ago I got semi-official confirmation that the position has been opened … for me. In essence I was asked to name everything I needed In order to leave NYC and join them. Yup. I’m still trying to pick my jaw off the floor.

I’m switching jobs once again. I’m going back and (hopefully) getting a do-over of some of the things I didn’t get to do, or did wrong. Hon will be relocating also, which means I get to have my cake and eat it too! Yeah, pinch me. I’m still trying to understand how the heck did this happen.

This new job has the potential for incredible amounts of growth. I’d be heading a lab I worked in, not as a PI, but as a bona fide manager. I’d be training people, creating protocols, collecting data, interacting with PI’s, postdocs and students of all levels. There would be no middle man like there is now. I’d basically become the female version of my current immediate supervisor, a person I adore beyond measure.

Yeah. I’m still freaking out. I can’t begin to wrap my head around the whole thing. I’ll be leaving NYC. That saddens me terribly. But what I earn now is not enough to live with hon, let alone cover the debt I have. I’d be getting access to the same level of benefits I currently have, along with more responsibility. I’d have access to a kick ass library, to decent sports teams, good food, and a whole new wave of talent.

I’m both excited and terrified. I’m excited about the possibility of working once again with people I know, but in a new aspect of my career. This is not a soft money position and I’m thrilled that the school/department/faculty kept me in mind when the whole change in faculty/department structure happened.

I also have some worries. I’d be the only woman in the lab, in a conservative environment where most of the faculty are white bearded dudes. And while I’ve been trained well in the science and in some admin stuff, I have no idea how to confront white bearded dudes, should they get out of line. I’m half their age at best … this shit is crazy.

I’ve certainly changed a bit from my old days there, so I don’t know how my “new” personality will mesh. I’m worried about that too. I’m worried about how I’ll be able to head the lab and move things along to show that the lab is self-sustaining and that we can bring more staff to help me. I’m worried about the pace of things, and about meeting the expectations. I don’t want to let anyone down. And of course, my imposter syndrome is acting up.

I’m happy about the change though (well, except the part about leaving NYC), about living with honey and being able to afford a place where we’re each others’ only roommate, of continuing our own little family, mamma, dadda and kitty. I’m happy to be able to drive places once again. I won’t miss living with total strangers (thankfully all of them have been sane!), the noises of the street, the crazy, stinky people during rush hour. NYC has been a tremendous adventure, but it’s my time to go.

We’ll see how things happen. But rest assured, I’ll keep writing about life in school, and life as a staff scientist, now loaded with moar responsibiliteez. Omai. I hope the new job, and the new me will still shed some light on the post-academic life. I hope y’all hang in there while I figure out my new roles, as a wife and lab manager.

Oh!? Did I mention that honey proposed and that we’ll be getting married in NYC before the move? Yeah …. totally. But that’s for another post, hehehe

Much love from my family to yours and a very merry 2013.

I’m thankful – 2012 edition

Last year I wrote this. Since lately my inspiration has been dwindling, I decided to revisit the things I was thankful for last year and add a new one or two for this one. Enjoy!

For so many things (in no particular order):

  1. I’m celebrating 5 months at work. For celebrating almost a year and a half here. I’ve learned so much, met so many incredible people and having the resources I do.
  2. For having a job in the field I was trained, and love. And for finally having benefits (hooray retirement, dental and vision!). Still true and very, very thankful.
  3. And learning my way with certain instruments and equipment at work. Last year I was terribly scared of some instrumentation. Thankfully, said instrumentation doesn’t scare me anymore. I know how to troubleshoot some common problems and I enjoy using said instruments. Yay!
  4. And I’m starting to feel somewhat useful. Still true, though sometimes I still struggle.
  5. For having hon with me, in the city,  more times than I imagined possible after the move. We haven’t seen each other as much as last year, but still, we’re going strong. And I am beyond happy about that 😀
  6. And his ability to find entertainment on the cheap (babe, you need to make your own website, entertainment on the cheap for poor grad students and staff scientists). Still true (we even managed to squeeze a trip to DC!).
  7. And his love and support, and kindness and sweet messages throughout the day … even when I’m dead tired, it’s a nice things to find little smileys or sweet notes on my phone. Very true and always welcomed.
  8. For my family and their continued support. For their health and love. Amen to this!
  9. For great co-workers who make me smile. I love them dearly and appreciate their help and patience.
  10. For the lack of gossip and criticism from co-workers. Still true and it’s such a relief.
  11. For getting more independent on some of the equipment, and hopefully getting the courage to ask the boss for a raise when the time comes. Didn’t have to ask for a raise, I earned that mother%ucker. Also, I now know how to work with most of the equipment I should master. Pheww.
  12. For being able to pay my bills, and have food on my table, even if I can’t afford to go home for Xmas. This whole money ordeal with the family has shown me that sometimes, tough decisions have to be made in order to get out of debt and (hopefully) stay out of debt. Doing better money-wise, but still in debt. The good thing is that I still get to have warm food on my table and that is awesome.
  13. For the yummy, cheap deli near work and for the good Chinese place down the street. I moved so I’m far away from them now. The good thing is that I finally found some decent Thai delivery place. Ahhhhh
  14. For having a roof over my head and public transportation. A new roof albeit, but still.
  15. And an insane amount of luck finding parking. True, and now better than before.
  16. For having fantastic Twitter and IRL friends. True, true, true and especially for the ones I’ve met in the flesh.
  17. For having two legs that work and carry my tired body at the end of the day. Amen
  18. For the many awesome people I’ve met while in this city, especially some really cool scientists … one of which I’ve admired for almost a decade. Still true!
  19. For being able to speak my mind at work, to my boss’s face and not feeling bad about it (and hoping that it won’t get me fired). For his honesty and not needing a crystal ball to read his mind. True, though at times he can be a jerk, but still, I need to crystal ball with this one.
  20. For having a crazy kitty that drives me insane … but it’s a most welcomed company when I get home from work. Now with even more kittehs at home.
  21. For networking opportunities and for being able to attend a few cheap (or free) local meetings this year. Still true and for being able to attend a small conference and meeting some cool people.
  22. For leaving my postdoc at the right time, and for everything I learned there. Still true, there isn’t a day that goes by that I forget to thank heavens for not being a postdoc anymore. Best decision ever.
  23. For having Canada be my second home and native land. I miss you and the nicest people on Earth (except the crazies driving around postdoc city, sheesh) …. and Thai Express. Still miss you Canada.
  24. For having 2 outlets to blog and share my stories, and especially, for all the warm and supportive comments, emails and tweets. For having an extra outlet come out of the blue this year and a few other opportunities.
  25. For looking out my window and seeing The City … I sometimes pinch myself because I can’t believe I get to live hereNot true anymore, but I’m still thankful for living in the City and having many cool things at my fingertips.