Archive for: July, 2015

The thing that made going back to work after maternity leave a bit easier

I recently came across Laura Vanderkam's post about dealing with going back to work after your maternity leave.  It made me think about the one thing that I did when going back to work after BlueEyes was born and that was for my husband to take a week off to take care of BlueEyes the first week I went back to work (BlueEyes was 3 months when I went back). This was a great thing for us for a couple of reasons:

1. By being home for a week with BlueEyes my husband realized what it takes to be home with a baby and why some days when I was on maternity leave I would be ecstatic to have contact with another grown-up after being home with a baby all day. He realized how exhausting it was, how for some reason you get nothing done all day and by 5 PM you find yourself on the couch with a crying baby, still dressed in pajamas that may or may not have been puked on. After this, he would never ask:"what have you done all day?" on days that I was home.

2. For me, it was nice to go back to work and not have to worry about how BlueEyes was doing in daycare that first week. Instead, I only had to worry about pumping milk, being incredibly sleep deprived, not fitting in my old clothes yet, trying to remember what I was sciencing about before going on leave and adjusting to being this entirely different person who was mostly very alert whether somebody was crying or hungry.

3. I don't know if for BlueEyes it mattered whether he was home with my husband or at daycare. I like to think it was a nice transition for him, to have to drink from a bottle but still be in the house that he knew before going to daycare, but with such a little baby, it's hard to know.

I think my ideal situation would be to have some hybrid work-baby situation with a small baby: be able to bring them to work or be able to work a bit from home (which I did much more with Little Brother), or be able to have both parents work half days, but of course each baby (and parent) is different. What would your ideal transition back to work look like?

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I mostly miss my coping mechanism

It has been nearly a year since I left academia and joined a company. The shiny novelty about having a new job with new and different rules and new people has passed a little and I'm starting to feel comfortable in my new role. Before leaving academia I thought what I would miss the most would be recording from cells or generating data myself. And when I think about it I kind of miss the excitement of doing experiments, but I don't really miss the anxiety about whether I will be able to interpret my data, whether my data will look nice and whether it will be publishable. I don't miss hours of struggling to record form a cell only to bump against my table and loose my cell. I don't miss changing animal cages.

However, what I do miss is my coping mechanism. When I was doing my PhD, I would imagine what my defense day would look like. I would imagine how I would feel when my PhD was done and I would hold the book in my hand. I would imagine how incredibly happy I would be when a publication would be accepted.

During my post-doc, I would imagine what I would feel like having gotten a fellowship or a grant. I imagined how people would congratulate me and tell me I had deserved this after all my hard work. I would imagine how - further in the future - I would maybe become a full professor, which in my homecountry is accompanied by having a whole day of festivities including giving your inaugural lecture in front of the whole university. I would imagine how awesome that would be. On crappy days I had this mantra in my head and I would repeat "keep your eyes on the prize" over and over to keep writing, experimenting and analyzing data.

In my new job, the future is much less clear. There is not one path, but there are many paths one can take. There's less need for a coping mechanism because I feel much more at ease here, but at the same time I notice that I used these fantasies about the future as my motivation to get work done.

I guess I may need new incentives and I don't know what those are yet.

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Receiving training on interpersonal behavior

Jul 20 2015 Published by under Academia, industry, life in the office, new job, training

We just got back from vacation and during those two weeks of chilling on the beach (read: making sure our two kids didn't drown), I even had enough time to read all the books I brought and some of the internet. On the internet, we had:
lots of debate about post-doc pay, overtime, etc (start here for more background),
and a new blog here at Scientopia.

But what I want to talk about today is some of the training I receive in industry that wasn't aware of when I was a post-doc.
A lot of the reasons why I have cried in the lab are because of interpersonal relationships: what do you do when your advisor doesn't have your back in a meeting? What do you say when you receive feedback? How do you deal with complicated collaborations?

When I moved to industry, I was pleasantly surprised to see that all the newcomers received a full day of training on interpersonal behavior. Not unsurprisingly, the trainer told us a lot of things that are extremely obvious (don't be an asshole to other people basically), but I still I found it a very useful training. First, we went over the types of behaviors that are appreciated, like being open to each other, trust people and give them authority when appropriate, etc. Again, these are all things that seem very obvious, but to me it was nice to have them summarized and presented like this. Then, we did the most useful part of the training, which was to go through imaginary scenarios pf interactions between colleagues and talk about how those scenarios affect all the people involved and how people could have altered their behavior to improve the situation (i.e. give feedback to your manager when you're unsatisfied with something instead of internalize your anger and only complain to your husband about it). The trainer also challenged us to make a similar evaluation of our own interactions with people around us.

As I said, a lot of this is common sense, but it was nice to have it summarized and to see that there are simple rules for some things. Like when giving feedback when something has happened that upsets you, say: "I noticed you did xyz, which made me feel such and such, and in the future I would appreciate this and that." Simple, clean and when you say it shortly after something has upset you, it limits the necessity for crying a lot of the times. Obviously, it also helps to work in an environment where many people have followed a similar training, as opposed to an environment where a PI thinks the best way to deal with disagreement is to stop communicating altogether... And the nicest thing to follow a training like this with fellow scientists, is when a trainer describes a situation and asks if you've observed a certain behavior and someone answers:"I can't tell, because there are no available data".

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Out of office

Jul 16 2015 Published by under work-life balance

The reason it is so quiet here (last post over a month ago I just realized) is that I was soloparenting for a week when husband was away to a conference and immediately afterwards we went on vacation for 2 weeks. I'll be back home (and blogging) on Sunday!

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