Category: Reflections

Admitting that I’m a procrastinator and how I’m going to deal with it in 2020

So, I’m a little over a month into my reboot break. I’ve done a little soul searching, some reading, adopted a puppy from the local animal shelter, a few walks around Boomer Lake, tried to get back into a fitness routine, and so far have put off trying to draft a master plan/outline for the year.

One thing I will admit to is that I’m a procrastinator—if I don’t want to do something I will either find something else to do, or I will keep saying that I’ll do the task tomorrow (and depending on the task—keep saying tomorrow).  I’ve realized that the procrastination wasn’t that bad while growing up—there were deadlines for homework and things like that (and as a child—at least I couldn’t get away that much with the procrastination), but it started to develop once I hit college, and has gotten slightly out of hand since.

When it was time to think about going to college, I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to major it (I enjoyed numerous subjects in school), and I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go. I had an average grade point and had an okay score on the ACT—neither of which were going to get me very far if I wanted to go to school out of state. I already had the mindset that I wasn’t going to take out a loan for school (even if I was eligible for any that were halfway decent), therefore that meant going to the state college in town.

I had decided to go the science route (as at that time everyone was saying something along the lines of “major in what will pay the bills, and minor in what you enjoy”). I could have gone into business—but the thought of sitting behind a desk all day bored me, so I went the science route. I started off thinking wildlife ecology & management, but once I found out that the lab exams for one of the courses was out in the field looking at plants (that wasn’t so bad)—but you had to identify them by their scientific name (my spelling is bad at the best of times—I’m glad that there is spell check), I decided to switch to biochemistry and molecular biology.

I still took classes that I found interesting, and this resulted in me taking seven years to finish my undergrad—but I got two bachelors’ degrees (biochemistry & molecular biology, and biology), plus a minor in history (I was two classes shy of a sociology minor by the time I graduated). Throughout these seven years, I learned several things about myself—first and foremost the testing anxiety was still front and center. I did well in the humanity and social science classes, but the other sciences (where my majors were)—those were a struggle at times when it came time for the tests.

I’d found that certain areas of both degrees were more interesting than others—for example I enjoyed learning cell and molecular biology more than I did organic chemistry and physics. I also found that I could pull historical facts forward faster than I could pull the method and byproducts for an organic chemical reaction.

I remember that I was probably a year or so away from graduation and wasn’t sure if this was the direction I wanted to go—but was also unsure of which direction to go in. I therefore push onward, took the GRE (got an okay score—not great—remember I have huge test anxiety issues, especially if the test is all computerized—which the GRE was at that point), and applied for different graduate programs.

I decided that I should try to stretch my wings and I applied for several different programs that were out of state (plus at the last minute, decided that I would also apply to my alma mater as well—as the ultimate fall back). So I applied to four different programs out of state, and while I managed to get an on campus interview for one of the programs—none of them panned out. Either my grades weren’t high enough, or they didn’t think I could handle the PhD program and suggested that I should apply for the masters program instead (PhD programs pay you to learn, masters programs for the most part don’t)—so I was lucky in that I was able to get into my alma mater for grad school.

This wasn’t my first choice, but I was going to make it work. I spent a year in a structural biology lab, before I realized that wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life. I then switched to a plant molecular biology lab, where I was actually being challenged in learning. I hadn’t worked with plants that much before joining the lab hadn’t done any RNA work, and I found things enjoyable for the first time in a few months in grad school. Also it was nice to be told that within four years I should have learned as much as possible and it would be time to move on. The only drawbacks for those years in grad school—there was no real mentoring in how to “properly” write a scientific paper or proposal, and there was no real career mentoring.

After graduation I managed to land a post-doctoral position at one of the many universities in the Greater Boston area. While I enjoyed the time out in the area, I had ignored some red flags that I shouldn’t have and struggling since to figure out exactly what I want to do with my life and career. I’ve realized that one should never really take a position in a newly started lab unless they are willing to put in fifteen or sixteen hour days six days a week. I only learned a few new things, and started to slowly realize that I probably wasn’t cut out for academic life.

Coming back home, and bouncing around at my alma mater (first a postdoctoral position, and then two staff positions), has only highlighted the fact—I still haven’t found that position/job/title/occupation that is my “calling”. There have been things that I’ve enjoyed over the past seven years, but there have also been things that I really disliked over the past seven years as well.

So how does all this tie into my admitting that I’m procrastinator?

Going to sidetrack a little and give a little background on procrastination (see how I’m procrastinating?).  For years, it has been said that procrastination is a time management issue—and that definition is easy enough to see—we do something else to avoid doing what we originally needed to do. Now it is being toted as an emotion management problem (https://www.fastcompany.com/90357248/procrastination-is-an-emotional-problem). Basically, we procrastinate or put things off that we may (or may not) have attached negative emotions to.

So, I’ve admitted that I’m a procrastinator—which means that I’m admitting to having negative emotions attached to certain ideas or tasks. So which tasks/ideas/goals have I either consciously or subconsciously attached negative emotions to?

            Getting back into shape—I’ve been out of shape majority of my life (never was really big on sports growing up nor being all girly and dressing up/wearing makeup). I had managed to lose a good amount of weight twice in my life—first time was out in Boston (I was walking my dog at least twice a day, and cooking for one—though most of the time weekday dinners were a peanut butter sandwich), and then again about six months or so after moving home. At that point I joined an accountability group on Facebook that was being run by a old high school classmate—I lost probably about twenty pounds or so, but then after a bike accident (where I royally bruised my lower left leg) and job issues—I’ve put the weight back on (with added interest—I’m probably at my heaviest since college). Why do I have negative emotion attached to getting into shape? In part—I was picked on throughout school (or at least up to going to college) about my appearance and weight. So there are still those issues that I need to work through—basically I need to remind myself on a daily basis that I’m losing weight to live my best possible life—not someone else, and I’m not losing the weight to make anyone else happy either.

            Transitioning into an industry position—this is more tied into my anxiety, and the worry that I’m going to make another wrong turn (like I did with my first postdoctoral position). For the most part, I like to have a good idea of how things are suppose to go—I knew that with the postdoctoral positions, I had to work hard (though I did limit the hours to more or less “normal forty hour weeks”) and I would have to read a lot to brush up on the subject matter (as both were new to me areas). Going into industry—there are numerous different directions that one can go in, the job may or may not be totally steady (depending on if the company is bought out, merged with another, or if it somehow goes bankrupt), and about a hundred different other issues. Also it comes down to whom you know, and who is willing to put in a good word for you—and this is totally tied in with my anxiety.

            At times I have problems with trying to do small talk, and networking—it isn’t that I don’t want to meet new people and expand my network—I do, but I have this underlying fear from childhood that people are going to be interrupting me and correcting my speech. This comes from the fact that when we moved to OK from MA, I ended up in speech therapy for years because of the fact that I learned how to talk in MA. In case you didn’t know people in MA have a tendency to drop the “r” in words—so since I learned how to talk in MA, I had a northern accent. The teachers and school officials decided that I needed speech therapy to learn how to pronounce my “r”—I spent five years in speech therapy, plus had teachers correcting my speech in class. I then got into the habit of not really talking in public settings—and this is something that I’m trying to work on. I know it is a slightly irrational fear, but it is still there lurking in the back of my mind.

            Choices—there are so many different choices for what one can do in industry, it is almost like being a kid in a candy store. While I have several different options listed out about what I’m curious about—I have a fear that the one I may chose could be the wrong path. Though as I’m told—I won’t know if I like, unless I try it. This is also tied into the networking problem—I don’t want to feel like I’m wasting people’s time if I decide that their path isn’t the same one that I actually decide to go down.

            Needing to have everything planned out. I will admit that I do like to have an idea of all the steps, and any and all possible results and endings before starting something. I mean instead of picking just one area of Indian art for my paper for art history in high school, I wrote basically a thirty-page paper covering everything that could fall under the umbrella of Indian art.

            This is also coming from again my first postdoctoral position—I thought I had everything planned out, but then the rug was metaphorically pulled out from underneath me. It isn’t fun realizing that one needs to move back in with one’s parents in order to get out from the mountain of debt that one finds themselves in. So now I’m trying to figure out how to plan out every single step of everything and finding myself in motion paralysis.

So now that I’ve admitted to being a procrastinator and the two main areas (health/fitness and career) that I’m procrastinating in, how will I go about getting past the procrastination and making progress on each area?

As I was reading some different pages on procrastination and emotions I found the following three sentences to be profound:

            “Viewing the whole task (e.g. project or paper) all at once will only frustrate you if you have unrealistic expectations. Realize you must break the task into smaller pieces and you cannot do them all at once. The next key is just start whether you feel like it or not.” (https://socialanxietyinstitute.org/procrastination-wasting-our-time-and-increasing-our-anxiety).

Then I found the following ideas that had to deal with procrastination along with social anxiety:

            Make a list of tasks and prioritize what needs to be done

            Reward yourself for completing difficult tasks

            Use relaxation strategies to deal with anxiety about completing tasks

                        Some of the techniques include: deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, autogenic training, and guided imagery.

(https://www.verywellmind.com/procrastination-and-social-anxiety-disorder-3973931).

So now I’m going to name the two big tasks (relating to fitness/health and job transition). Then I’m going to brainstorm how to break those two big tasks into easier to handle tasks. In addition I’m going to brainstorm an award system for each big task. Finally I’m going to break down the tasks into monthly/weekly/daily goals—with the rewards being based on hitting the larger (weekly or monthly) goals. In other words—I’m going to be working on my long term plan (other wise known as five year (or ten, twenty year) plan.

Sites with their links have been included that I found interesting and used in the post.

No Comments careerfitnessHealthjob searchingPersonal Developmentprofessional developmentReflections

Update on Reboot Break

So I’m about a month into my reboot break, and am still trying to figure out the best routine. One thing I’ve noticed after going through notes that I’ve taken over the past couple of years—I need to try to find (or actually rediscover) my “voice” or who I am. I’ve realized that I’ve spent the past couple of years just drifting along, and when it comes to trying to answer personal/professional development questions such as “who are you” or “what is the difference between you and someone else for this role”—I can almost generically answer the first one, but can’t come up with answers of what makes me unique for roles. I realize that I’ve spent years blending in with my surroundings and trying to stay in the background unnoticed. This all comes from childhood and being a victim of bullying—not of which was physical, and I learned it was better to pretend to be invisible and blend into the background than draw attention to the situation.

While it is nice that I’ve identified the problem (my unconscious moves to blend into the background), now I need to work on breaking those patterns. I need to rediscover things that I enjoy doing (things that make me uniquely me), and then determine the best ways of weaving those hobbies into “transferable skills” for job interviews. I would say that I’m fairly confident that I should move R&D scientist down the list on interesting job titles (as it is more or less my comfort zone), and start trying to step outside of what I’m use to doing to see what grabs my interest in terms of the other possible job titles.

I’m thinking that the list is going to now look something like this:

            Health Economist

            Market Research Analyst

            Scientific/Medical Writer

            Market Communications Specialist

            Clinical Data Analyst/Manager

            Quantitative Analyst

            Patent Analyst

            R&D scientist (up to R&D manager)

Though the top seven are more or less fluid (I just rearranged a few from how I’ve previously listed them).

So this week is going to be spent getting back into a workout routine, spending some time practicing photography, puppy training (I adopted a puppy just before Christmas), reading, working a rough draft of everything that I would like to accomplish this year, and looking more into the above roles.

Once I remember (or better yet remind myself) of things I like to do, that aren’t related to work, I will be that much further on my path to finding the optimal industry position to transition into this year.

No Comments 101 Goalscareerjob searchingLifestyle Challengesno spend challengesPersonal DevelopmentPetsPhotographyprofessional developmentRebootBreakReflections

Decade in Review: 2010 to 2019

So most people were doing the decade comparison in pictures over various social media sites—I’m not going to do that, mainly because I let my health and fitness slide enough that I’m back to basically the same weight. But I can try to summarize the past decade and maybe that will allow me to try actually projecting ahead a few years (so that I can actually push myself out of the “weeds” or “quicksand” that I feel like I’ve been stuck in for the past few years).

I started out the decade by finally finishing graduate school. I had promised myself that I would be done with school by the time I hit my 30th birthday and I was (more or less). I managed to finish two out of the three requirements (the third was what held up my diploma another five months). But I walked across the stage and accepted the diploma holder for my PhD in May, I presented and defended my dissertation in July, and then dealt with rewrites of my dissertation that finally earned me my diploma in December of 2010.

I took a post-doctoral position out in the Boston area in July of 2010. This required me finding an apartment that was close to public transportation (since that was how I was going to be getting to work every day). I managed that, but then hired the worst possible company to move my stuff out there (luckily they’re now out of business)—to the point that I slept on an air mattress for a month before my furniture and things showed up. I also hired pet movers to move my dog (Chewi) and cat (Pancakes) out there, and I will use them again when I move for my next position (as I also hired them to move Chewi and Pancakes back home when the job folded under me and I had to move back home in 2012).

So from August 2010 to December 2012 (with a short visit back for Christmas in 2011) I was on the east coast. I did manage to visit Maine, NYC, and Connecticut; with drive-troughs of New Hampshire and Rhode Island (to get to Maine [New Hampshire—though I think it was also a brief stop] and then Connecticut & NYC [Rhode Island]). I didn’t do as much traveling in the area as I would have liked, due to 1) not having that much money—postdocs aren’t paid great, even in large cities [they don’t take cost of living into consideration], and 2) I didn’t feel comfortable always hiring a pet sitter (did that once for the trip back home for Christmas 2011).

But I did visit Salem and Rockport, in addition to wandering around Boston. The trips out of state to visit friends and family allowed me to see a little bit of other states—though if I move back there I would like to spend more than 24 hours in NYC playing tourist.

Being out in the Boston area was fun—I made numerous friends and enjoyed exploring the area. It wasn’t the greatest decision career wise though—I only learned a few new techniques, and the position ended on a sour note between my advisor and me. One thing I learned is that I should always try to listen to that voice that warns that there could be issues with the job—I ignored it, and found out that yeah, there were issues with the job.

Christmas 2012 saw me moving back home from Boston. While I could have tried to find something in the Boston area, truthfully at this point I was pretty well financially broke, and emotionally burnt out. I decided that it might be best to regroup, where I knew that I could save money, and maybe figure out what I was doing with my life. But of course, I wasn’t sure what I was going to be doing—I just knew that I really needed to find some job so that I could start paying off all the credit card debt that I built up living in Boston (see above note about how postdocs are paid).

2011 also saw my parents bringing another dog into the family—a Great Pyrenees/Bearded Collie mix that we named Boozer (she was fascinated by the sounds of cans opening when she first came into the house). She was also served as a transition dog for my dad, as we weren’t sure how much longer the St. Bernard had (though she lasted another three and a half years).

I managed to get another postdoctoral position within my alma mater department working with yeast. This meant that I was learning a new biological system (previously I’d work with plants, bacteria, insects, and cell cultures), and new techniques. Alas, the money for that position only lasted a little over a year (and the fellowship I tried for I didn’t get [in part due to being back at my alma mater and not asking my first postdoc advisor for a letter of recommendation]), 

Luckily I managed to find a one-month teaching position that paid well. It kept me busy during part of summer, and reminded me that I did enjoy working with students. I spent the next few months putting out job applications—I luckily managed to get another position within the department this time working directly with undergraduate students. I had to write my own job description after being hired as no one knew exactly what the position was suppose to entail. I coined the job title “senior research specialist/undergraduate research techniques instructor” as I was doing both—research and trying to teach students the basic techniques they would need to know for doing research in a lab.

This was a job that I really enjoyed for the most part—working with students, working on different projects and just generally not being bored (again for the most part). The only drawbacks were working with certain people (and you can have personality conflicts no matter where you go). So this position lasted from basically mid-September 2014 through July of 2017; it was terminated due to funding issues and I became unemployed for the third time. This unemployment period lasted longer than the other two (probably could be considered a sum of the other two), but again I managed to get another staff position within the department just after Thanksgiving in 2017.

2015 was also a slightly off year as it was the year that we had to say goodbye to our St. Bernard Speedbump. She was a loving goof ball that got along with all dogs, and was a cuddle bug.

Now this position taught me a few more things, and it was a paycheck. It was a yearly position that would be renewed if there was funding available for it—so always fun working and wondering if there would be another contract to sign or if you were going to be told sorry only ‘x’ months left. So after signing another contract in November of 2018 I decided that no matter what, this would be basically the last year at my alma mater.

2018 was also another off year as we lost three more dogs—we lost Spelunkers in February due to cancer, and then we lost two other dogs in October (within a span of four days) due to both old age and other health issues (heart problems and cancer). So to say that I was more than happy to see the tail end of 2018 was an understatement.

2019 was an okay year—we adopted two more puppies (my mom got her puppy in May—a boxer mix that we named Rolex (so she could say that she had her watchdog), and then I adopted a puppy about a week before Christmas (a male blue heeler/border collie/aussie mix that I named Chaos—because bring another dog into the house right before the holidays was to introduce Chaos). So yes, two new puppies with names that make a play on words.

This was also the year that I decided that I would quit my job and take a “reboot break”. Since I realized that I could truthfully say that I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, I needed to take a break, regroup, and then focus on my career—I don’t want to say that going through college and earning a PhD was for no reason—I’m going to dedicate time to figure out what the best path for me is in terms of a career change that still will allow me to make use of the skills that I picked up over the past twenty plus years (yes, I figured out that my academic career reached the legal drinking age awhile ago—and since I wasn’t totally happy within that arena it is time to figure out what arena I want to be in).

Here is to 2020—the start of a new year, and a new decade. It is a blank slate and I am capable of writing whatever narrative I want for my life. I control the direction that my life goes—all I need to do is fix the oars, patch the leaks, and look up to the stars. I open myself up to what the universe will send my way.

No Comments careerfinancesfitnessHealthjob searchingLifestyle ChallengesPersonal Developmentprofessional developmentReflections

Self reflection time: naming my “roadblocks”

As I’ve been doing quite a bit of personal development/reflections over the past few weeks—I’ve realized that when it comes to my two or three biggest obstacles in trying to transition from academia to industry, they all have one thing in common—they’re all mental and I need to do the following to get past them:

            Acknowledge that there are obstacle/blocks to getting to my goals.

            Devise a workable plan for dealing with said obstacles (without hopefully adding more anxiety or obstacles to the path)

            Work daily to make small strides towards getting to stated goals.

            But remember that the goals may be fluid and change as I move forward.

So what are these obstacles or blocks that I’ve recognized over the past few weeks?

The first one is actually the major one—movement paralysis. What I mean by this is that I’ve overthought things so much, that I’m basically afraid to move in any direction, due to the (almost totally irrational) fear that I’m going to be making another large mistake. This is actually a three part paralysis problem–as described below.

This is due in part to how my first post-doctoral position ended—not well. In hindsight I probably shouldn’t have taken that position—I only learned a few new techniques, made quite a few new friends—but I didn’t end up having a very good working relationship with my mentor. When the position ended, I was financially in the hole and felt like I was pretty much emotionally in the hole as well (due mainly to stress).

I came back home to get my financial feet steady again, and to see if I could still find enjoyment in academic research. So—I do have my financial feet steady (for the most part), and while I do enjoy the freedom of academic research—I’m so far off the path from a faculty position, it isn’t funny. If I were to stay in academic research—it would have to be in a support position, and if I was paid a decent salary I’d almost consider staying in academia—but I know I won’t be, and therefore it’s time to move on.

Switching from academia to industry is going to be a complete culture shock, and I know this—also this is where the movement paralysis comes in—what direction do I want to go in?

            There is research at the bench, research away from the bench, marketing, sales, writing, data analysis, clinical, law, ethics, and everything in between. There is also the fact that companies want to hire people focused on a couple of things, and not jack-of-all-trades (and that is how I currently feel—like I’m more of a jack of all trades than a specialist).

So that is the first part of my movement paralysis—determining which direction(s) do I try to go in? Which then leads to the second part of my movement paralysis–what do I feel like “specializing” in, and what do I feel like being a “jack-of-all-trades” in?

I’ve always enjoyed learning new things, and at times I tend to get bored and let my mind wander if I have to do the same thing over and over again—though I have tried to get better at this with my most current position. I also know that there are probably quite a few techniques that I’m lacking knowledge on for certain positions. I know that I can pick up the techniques fairly quickly, so that isn’t the major problem (though it is tied with the second issue—which I’ll get to possibly in the next post)—but I’m worried that I’ll get bored with what I’m doing and that there may not be that much to learn with the position.

So this means that I need to look through my diverse scientific background, and list out basically everything I’ve done and decide which two or three things (or areas), are the ones that I’d be willing to spend forty to say sixty hours a week of my life working on for the next thirty to thirty-five years. I know that most of the areas have a numerous papers published monthly, and that it would take quite awhile to feel like I’m an “expert” in those areas—getting back into reading scientific papers is something else I know I need to work on (I lost the little bit of enjoyment I had for that during my postdoctoral years).

This then brings me to the third point of my “movement paralysis”—determining which companies to work for, and brings the triangle of my “movement paralysis” to a close. This point is tied in even more closely with the first point (which direction), than the second one is. There are numerous companies, of different sizes (small start-ups up to large multi-national companies), and they all have their own different culture, ideas, pursuits, and so forth.

So once I have an idea of the two or three directions I’m wanting to go in, then I will also start looking at the different companies that are in those areas and work from there. One way of pursuing this—figure out a way that the different directions could almost go together and therefore make it easy for determining which company (or companies) I want to work for and which biotech hubs I want to be working/living in as well.

So those are my three areas of “movement paralysis”:

            Determining which direction to go,

            Determining what to be an “expert” in and what to be a “jack-of-all-trades” in, and then finally,

            Determining which companies to start looking into, and what biotech hubs to also look into.

Now how am I going to address each area of “paralysis” and move forward?

In terms of which direction to go in—I have several different ideas, but the main “issue” would be trying to figure out how I could go from research at the bench to doing marketing research behind the scenes for example—I know it has been done, but my thought would be can it be done after being in industry (say a second job transition from the bench to behind the scenes).

I have a list of different basic job “titles” or areas that peaked my interest (though one of them is basically my “comfort zone”), and they are:

Other than the R&D Scientist/Manager–which still will have a learning curve mainly for techniques, the other positions are all outside my comfort zone for numerous reasons including:

Not being at the bench–with my current position I do miss being at the bench, but I can’t say for certain if I miss it because I love it, or if I miss it because it is where I’m most comfortable at.

Writing heavy positions. This isn’t to say that I don’t like writing–but grad school and my first (and to a smaller extent my second) post doctoral position dulled my enthusiasm for writing. This is something that I’m trying to get back–starting with writing in my journal, creative writing, and working my way up to summarizing journal articles (to then hopefully write a mini-review on a topic).

Number heavy positions. Dealing with numbers really isn’t the problem–I would just need to learn statistics, and then brush up on basically everything business related (finances and economics for example).

While I’m not looking at positions that are constantly on the road (as I know there are at least two to four different positions that travel at least four days a week), there are one or two that might have some travel time. Currently I want to limit the amount of travel, since when I do move–I’ll have my cat with me (and then I’m planning within six to nine months after settling of getting another kitten or puppy), and that means I don’t want to be paying a large amount of money every month for a pet sitter.

So as you can see—I have numerous directions I can chose from, I just need to decide which are the most interesting and which ones could possibly overlap and make it an easy transition into the second, or third industry positions (as now a days—people may or may not stick with the same company for more than say three to five years).

I almost consider all the positions (other than the R&D scientist/manager) to be some sort of data analyst position—which would be interesting in their own way—but I’m not sure if I want to be stuck at a desk all day or not (but this is something else entirely to deal with).  The R&D position would be staying somewhat within my comfort zone. I’m saying somewhat—because I know that there are technical skills that I’m lacking, but would be able to pick up fairly quickly on the job. The position is listed, because currently I do miss doing actual research at the bench—I’m just not sure if it is something that I want to continue doing for the next thirty or thirty-five years.

All of the positions have a learning curve—there are technical skills, coding, subjects (such as marketing, statistics, and economics for example), and possible foreign languages to learn (or brush up on).

So how can I go about paring down the list? Well, for that to happen I will also need to make headway with the other two points on the triangle (what do I want to be an “expert” in and where do I want to work/live (biotech hubs and the specific companies)—and then hopefully work on getting some informational interviews with people to hear first hand about these positions.

In addition I have listed in another journal things that I can start brushing up on (or learning) that would help with transitioning into the different positions, and may also help get me back into enjoying learning something new and pushing myself outside of my comfort zone.

This is also going back to my issue with time management—I know that there is enough time in the day to brush up on one or two things, and that I can go between different things (say have a M/W/F schedule & then a T/Th schedule—just like college)—I just need to clean up a work space, install some time management apps—so I don’t spend all day going onto social media, and sit down and get stuff going.

That then brings me to the second area to figure out: my niche. So how do I decide on what to be an “expert” on and what to be a “jack-of-all-trades” on? If I had to pick a couple of skills/areas that I would enjoy doing frequently they would be the following:

I think that knowing how to do “old fashion” molecular cloning is important, only because I’m sure there will be a time when money runs out for a lab and they will still need that one last plasmid to get the grant—if someone knows how to do it the “old fashion” way—they can put in the grant application; if no one knows—the lab folds and closes. This is something that one might not have to do much of in the industry setting (as time is money, and companies may rather just pay another company some money to make the plasmid for them), but I do feel like it is something that any molecular biologist should at least know the theory behind (and if possible, have tried their hands at it).

            If nothing else, I think this would be a good subject to design an entire series of blog posts around, and maybe even a small online course.

The recombinant protein expression and purification fits in with that aspect—because you have to put your gene/protein of interest into a plasmid to be able to study it. Proteins and small molecules are what makes the cell run—knowing how to study them, how to target them (in cases of cancer and other diseases) for treatment is something that I think I’d enjoy doing. There are also numerous technical skills that I would hopefully be able to pick up as well doing this; though with this area—there are so many different proteins, that again this would be an duel edge sword—being an “expert” in one or two, and then a “jack-of-all-trades” in a couple of other types of proteins.

Cell biology fits in with both the above two topics and the last one (small RNA biology) because you have to understand how the cell operates to be able to understand how to start to manipulate it. This is a subject that I would need to brush up on, as I only took one or two classes in college, and while my dissertation topic touched on it a little—it only touched on a very small aspect of it (post-transcriptional modifications).

Small RNA biology is an area that can span different industrial sectors such as biomedical, pharmaceuticals, and agricultural. This is also a growing field, with more being discovered about these small molecules that play a large role in the cell. Having done small RNA biology with both plants and animals, I can go either direction, biomedical/pharmaceutical or agricultural, and probably be happy doing the research at the bench.

So these four areas can probably be condensed down into two areas: molecular biology and cell biology that I feel like I could be an “expert” and a “jack-of-all-trades” in at the same time (as both areas encompass numerous different subfields). The other two areas that I would feel more comfortable having a “jack-of-all-trades” or “minor” expertise in would be biochemistry and chemistry. As I’m typing this, I’m finding it funny that I’m willing to consider myself an “expert” in molecular biology, and an “jack-of-all-trades” or “minor” expert in biochemistry (since both my undergraduate and graduate degrees were in biochemistry and molecular biology)—it has only taken me about nine years to figure out which subfield I’m more comfortable with compared to the other.

So, while I’ve chosen the areas (and to some extent the subfields)—I’m still going to need to spend time reading papers, and giving myself a refresher in certain subjects (namely chemistry, a little biochemistry (all those pathways), and a little cell biology). I need to design a tracking system, or something that will make it interesting and fun so that I don’t lose interest after a week or so—plus I will design a schedule to where I focus on only say two “subjects” on any particular day (pretend I’m back in college).

So I have some idea of the direction(s) I’m probably willing to take; ideas of what I wouldn’t mind becoming an “expert” versus an “jack-of-all-trades” in—which then leads to the third point—where do I want to relocate to, and then which companies within that region am I going to look into further. This is actually a two-part problem: location to live and company to work for. I’ve realized that I’m going to be going about this issue in a different manner than most people: I’m going to first focus on narrowing down the biotech hubs that I’m willing to relocate to, and then focus on narrowing down the companies within the biotech hubs that I want to work for.

So when it comes to choosing a biotech hub, I already have several different criteria that will have to be met:

            The cost of living has to be reasonable. I know that moving to a larger city, rent is going to be relatively high, but I don’t want to be paying an outrageous amount of money for a small studio or one bedroom apartment.

            There has to be a decent public transportation system in the city. This is currently an absolute must have, as I don’t drive (and until I work thorough my anxiety issues associated with it—I won’t be driving). So that is one thing the city has to have—public transportation. I don’t mind riding buses, trains, or both to get to work—you do what you have to do, with what you have.

            There has to be things to do within the city (both free and hopefully also fairly inexpensive). With a transition into industry, this will hopefully mean that I won’t have to be working on weekends (though the occasional one is perfectly fine), and I can spend the time exploring my new city and the surround areas. That also means that there should be ways of getting around the outlying areas as well (for example—Boston serves as a hub and you can take a bus almost anywhere within a four hour drive).

            Finally, there needs to be a decent number of companies within the area. I realize that I may not spend the rest of my career working for the company that I start with—but if I’m going to be changing companies (for whatever reason, say five to ten years after starting with company one) I don’t want to be moving cross-country, or even between states (if I can avoid it). The move to and from Boston for my first postdoctoral position soured me on long distance moving (moves are expensive, and time consuming [packing, arranging movers, finding an apartment/condo/house, setting up utilities, getting your stuff delivered, and then unpacking], and as far as I’m concerned—an all around headache).

            When it comes to trying to pick the companies, this will be in part dependent on which direction I chose to go in, what I’ve “branded” myself an “expert” in, and of course the city. I know that companies all have their own culture, values, and visions—so the best way of narrowing down the companies will be to setup informational interviews. These will start first online (or over the phone), and then when I have an solid idea of the place(s)—hopefully in person informational interviews, when I take some networking trips in the spring.

So there it is—my “movement paralysis” layout, and each little circle opened up to reveal another “knot” that needs to be worked out in order to move forward. I’m going to be doing this a little slower than others might—but by doing it slow, I can hopefully avoid falling into any major panic attacks or introducing a new “movement paralysis” stop.

First things to do: clean up my room and design a work area at home (probably not my desk—which is also currently serving as my dresser), install some time management apps on the computer (to keep me from surfing social media sites during the day—especially once I’m on my reboot break), and design a schedule for the “class” work I need to start working on. In addition, I’ll be working a little on it during the week at work (when I have a little down time in between other things), such as reading business/tech pages to start brushing up on the business side of science.

No Comments professional developmentReflectionstransition plan

Brief Hiatus Again

Well I think it’s been almost a week since I’ve done anything on the blog. Not through a lack of motivation–but just feeling slightly blah. So, I decided that I’d take another short break and hopefully get enough creative juice flowing again to avoid another hiatus (at least until the beginning of the year).

One of the things that I’ve been thinking on is that my birthday was last week, and I’m basically a week into my last year of my thirties. This means that I really need to figure out what the hell I want to accomplish in the next basically fifty one weeks before I start my fourth decade on earth.

I have several ideas–and there will be at least three or four posts on the subject (the introduction post and then possibly at least one follow-up on each sub-topic in the post). These will be in addition to the photography challenge, working on my reboot break (personal and professional development), and starting to go slightly minimalism in possessions.

I will also be trying to do more posts on other topics as well: self-care, spirituality, crafts, and things like that. I’ve realized that in addition to making a long list of different topics for the blog–I need to figure out the best time to sit and write (at least the first drafts of different posts), then edit and then post–in other words, I am still working on my time management skills.

So, I will hopefully be back to posting daily pictures (though the first one may be a composite of numerous photographs to get back on track), and then hopefully up to three or four other posts per week starting this weekend.

No Comments Reflections

August: Month in Review

Well August is officially over, and there are only 122 days left in the year. I’m also a day late in posting this as well. As I’m writing this I realize that my birthday is now in less than three weeks, and then I will be looking down my last year of my thirties. I also realized that I fell short on some of the goals for August.

There is only a month left in the third quarter of the year, and while that is scary, depressing, and slightly invigorating—I’ve realized that is just how time goes now—in an instant. Though there is still the fourth quarter of the year, and I’m thinking that is where some of the change is going to take place, and the seeds for change in 2020 will be planted.

August goals were basically the same goals that I’ve had for the past few months, including the goal of working on my “reboot break” plan.

The goals for August included:

At least 434,000 steps

Continuing with the photography challenge

Reading (or finishing) at least 3 non-fiction books

Working on my “reboot break”

Aim for two weeks of no spending (keeping a money log)

Get back into a workout schedule (either a full program or a hybrid program between two different programs).

Work on creating more content for the blog (and potentially posts for linkedin).

Work on getting in a routine of reading business & scientific articles.

So how did I do with each one?

At least 434,000 steps

            I was down less than 9,000 steps for the month of August—my final total was 425,266 steps. This was mainly due to the hot temperatures on the weekends, and me not getting my steps in on those days (plus one or two days during the week, when I fell short as well). Though for the year I’m at 3,579,549 steps, which means that to get to 5 million—I only need to aim for a little over 11,500 steps a day. So, I think it is safe to say that I’m going to make the goal of 5 million steps. It is nice to see that by the time I take my reboot break, I don’t necessarily have to aim for 14,000 steps a day (though I probably will—just so I’m not constantly sitting on my butt).

Continuing with the photography challenge

            I took a week off from the photography challenge this month. This was partially due to the heat and not having done a walk for a week or two (therefore I felt like I was running low on photographs to share), and partially due to my mood—I just wasn’t in a good mind space that week.

Reading (or finishing) at least 3 non-fiction books

            I managed to finish one book this month and it was “The Self-Care Prescription: Powerful solutions to manage stress, reduce anxiety, and increase well-being” by Robyn Gobin.

            One thing that I have realized is that while having a kindle is nice—all your books are at your fingertips, at the same time it can be detrimental if you bounce between books a lot (like I do at times). There are numerous books that I’ve started to read in terms of personal/professional development and then I decided I wanted to read something else. So now I’m actually going to go back to some of those books and start from the beginning, as it’s been at least six weeks (if not longer) since I read anything from that particular book.

Working on my “reboot break”

            I have an idea of how the first few weeks will go—as those are the weeks that I’m going to dedicate to getting my storage unit in order and starting to try to get rid of things (either selling or donating).

            As I had posted earlier, I’m thinking that the first week (and it will probably be the week of Thanksgiving) will look a little like this:

                        Get up, have a cup of coffee (or tea), and feed the dogs

                        Go for a morning walk at Boomer Lake (morning zen time and photography time)

                        Breakfast, shower (probably), then to the storage unit to rearrange and/or repack boxes

                        Home for lunch

                        Computer time: **Make use of apps that allow blocking of certain sites for a certain time frame (remove social media temptation—mainly facebook & instagram).

                                    At least one e-course (I have numerous ones bought covering a wide range of topics)

                                    Read/share at least two articles from a biotech/biopharma news site on Linkedin and twitter

                                    Spend at least forty minutes responding to messages and/or sending out connection requests on linkedin

                                    Spend at least thirty minutes reading through other people’s posts on linkedin, and hopefully commenting on at least two or three of them.

                                    Read for an hour (personal/professional development) and journal for an hour (answering questions from personal/professional development book)

                                    Workout

                                    Feed the animals

                                    Dinner and evening routine

            Then after getting my storage unit in order, and other things taken care of I can use that time for other things (such as craft time, or more reading/journaling time). This is one thing I’m hoping to improve upon during my reboot break—time management and spending time doing things that I enjoy and things I need to do.

            I’ve realized that I’m not aiming for “balance” per say—just having the ability to say today is a day that I need more “me” time or today is a day that will be heavy workwise, therefore after work this is going to be my recharge plan. It has taken me almost thirty-nine years to realize that I really never have had that type of “balance”—I go all out one way or the other, and therefore it isn’t surprising that I’m basically burnt out on life.

Aim for two weeks of no spending (keeping a money log)

            I think I managed about one day a week of not spending money on campus. I’ve gotten into the bad habit again of going to the student union at lunch and grabbing candy (my excuse is that it’s a walk to help me get in my steps). Hopefully other than a few scheduled purchases (such as pre-ordered books, one lunch out with friends, and one order from Amazon), I can avoid spending money this month.

            I don’t see spending money as bad—but considering what I’m currently buying (namely candy)—I think that I should try to cut back on that spending. Now if I end up buying some fruit or veggies to snack on while on campus—I will make note, but still try to avoid “careless” spending (i.e. spending money on things that I could very well bring from home).

Get back into a workout schedule (either a full program or a hybrid program between two different programs).

            This is one thing that I’m struggling with currently. There have been new “hours” required at work (they’re not really new, but they’re very concrete—can’t leave until basically 5 pm on the dot), which has messed up my evening routine and I have yet to get into the groove of a new one. Hopefully this is something that I can get straightened out over the next few months.

Work on creating more content for the blog (and potentially posts for linkedin).

            Well, other than the photography challenge (and I took a week off from that), and a few other posts—I didn’t get that much content created for the blog, and none that would be shared via linkedin.

            I realize that sharing things via linkedin, they’ll be more of the scientific posts (and I don’t have that many of those done), plus I haven’t decided on the niche/area I would like to focus on. Though to be truthful, for the blog I can be a little more of a jack-of-all-trades, but they would need a central theme.

Work on getting in a routine of reading business & scientific articles.

            I have read several articles on biotech/biopharma business pages, and even shared them on linkedin and twitter. It isn’t totally consistent—but it is a start. I’m still trying to figure out my niche, as everything/one has said that it is better to be an expert than a jack-of-all-trades (which is what I currently consider myself).

            This is currently one of the problems I’m having with my transition plan—trying to narrow down what it is I want to do with my life. One thing I’ve realized over the years—once I master a skill, I start to get bored. Therefore I’m going to need to choose an area, where I will be challenged consistently, and that could even mean working my way up the ladder—more responsibility, more challenges. Or, I may need to look towards smaller companies, where I may wear more than one “hat” in terms of responsibilities.

Therefore the goals for September will include:

At least 420,000 steps

Continue with the photography challenge

Determine some type of workout routine (hopefully more than just walking)

Aim for two weeks of no spending (keep money log)

Read 3 non-fiction books

Continue working on the reboot/pause plan

Try to set up a monthly calendar (getting organize) for various things

Continue reading on various industry websites and sharing interesting articles via linkedin/twitter. Plus notes for weekly recap on the blog

Keep reminding myself: Progress over perfection, and that I shouldn’t fear failure, but fear being in the same place next year as I am today.

No Comments Lifestyle ChallengesMonth in Reviewno spend challengesPersonal Developmentprofessional developmentReflections

Mini hiatus on the Photography challenge this week (short post)

So I’ve realized that I haven’t done a photograph posting since Tuesday (and that was in fact for Monday). So instead of trying to do a triple posting and make up for it–I’m going to be honest and say that I’m on a mini hiatus from the challenge this week.

This is in part due to the hot weather. Since it has been hot and humid, I haven’t done a full walk on the weekend for a couple of weeks–and that means that I’m running low on pictures to post. That’s not to say that I don’t have pictures–but I’m trying to avoid doing multiple postings of the same theme.

It’s also due in part to my mood–I’ve been in a so-so mood (not totally down and feeling depressed, but also not in the most happy go lucky moods either). This is due in part to the fact that fall is coming soon and I’d hoped to have my life somewhat planned out by now (at least narrowed down the industry sector(s) and hopefully had a few informational interviews by now). It’s also due to the fact that in less than two months now–it will be the one year anniversary of losing both Piranha and Chewi.

I realize that I need to look for the sliver lining in each day, and should probably write in my journal more often than what I’ve been doing. I also realize that I can try to do photography during the week, especially on my lunch break–but right now that is a no go (see above for the weather).

Photography has been and is becoming an hobby again–I just need to make time for it during the week and not just regulate it to the weekends. It may also be one of the few things that helps keep me on an even keel when I start my reboot break and refocus on my job search/transition in the spring.

No Comments PhotographyReflections

Reflections Part 1: The years since getting my PhD

As I stared at the calendar wondering how it could be August already, I realized that in a little over a month I’ll be staring down my last year of my thirties.

So I’ve decided that I’m going to start looking back on the past nine years or so (since I’ve earned my PhD), and look at what was good and bad–but also what lessons I can now take from those years. So my first reflection is on the twisting road I’ve taken through academia, and realizing that I need to reboot and plan for my industry transition.

I realized that it has been nine years since I finished graduate school—I had made a promise to myself that I would have my graduate degree before (or shortly after) my thirtieth birthday. I managed to keep that promise—I defended a little over two months before my birthday, and I got my diploma before the end of the year. I then spent the next two years out in the Boston area.

Being out in the Boston area for a little over two years was a mix bag of both good and bad—it was good in that I made new friendships (that I’ve been trying to maintain online, as I haven’t been back there as often as I would have liked), experienced living on my own, well away from having a family security net, and started to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. Though on the flip side, the bad included: my postdoctoral position ending on a extreme sour note, unintentionally giving my dog an anxiety/separation disorder, and at the end of the time—being in heavily in debt and emotionally bankrupt.

I came back home to get my financial and emotional feet back on steady ground—and it’s taken quite a few years to accomplish those feats—almost seven to be exact. I am no longer heavily in debt (my monthly debt now can be paid off each month), and I’m still working on getting my emotional/spiritual reserves filled up.

During the past six and a half years, I’ve held three different positions within my alma mater department, at my alma mater. I started with a post-doc position (this was fairly smooth compared to my first, though any situation can head south when funding becomes an issue), then after a brief unemployment period I got a staff position helping with undergraduate research (this as a little over three years; ended again because of funding), and then after yet another unemployment period I got my most current staff position.

In total over the past nine years (since getting my PhD)—I’ve been unemployed probably a total of nine (maybe ten) months—which averages out to about a month per year. But also over the past nine years—I’ve taken jobs that may not have been the best fit for me (first postdoc, and most current position) because of the fact I needed a job and income.

This is one of the main reasons why I’m so adamant about doing my reboot break/pause towards the end of the year and into the beginning of next year—I need to figure out what it is I want to do with my life. I’ve learned little things over the past nine years in terms of what I can put up with, what I can’t put up with, and what I would like in the next job.

For starters, I miss working as part of a team—or at least being around other people with whom I could have conversations with during the day. In my current position, we’re in a secure facility (so unless you have access, you can’t get in), and there aren’t that many people in the facility (five in total, counting myself; though there are two graduate students—but they aren’t actually within the facility (in other words they don’t work in the inner lab). I miss being able to talk with people while I’m doing things or inquiring what they’re doing (and learning a little at the same time). I’ve also realized that I don’t do well with micromanagers (and this is something that I will need to inquire with people about during informational interviews), and overbearing colleagues.

I also miss doing actual research at the bench, but at the same time—is that how I really feel or is it because that is all I’ve ever done? This is something that I will need to see how I feel during and after my reboot break—also this is a good informational interview question for people who have moved away from the bench—do they miss doing research?

I don’t mind doing an occasional long day or working a weekend in lab—as long as I’m compensated for it (in other words having a good income), and knowing that it isn’t expected daily. I also want to be within a group, that once someone apologizes for a mistake, the apology is accepted and everyone moves on—it isn’t harped upon constantly. Also I don’t want to be within a company where there is someone watching the clock to make sure that people are leaving exactly at a certain time (say 5 o’clock on the dot)—if you get in a little early, you should be able to leave a little early—but if you need to stay a little late, you’re allowed to stay a little late. In other words—I want a job with a little flexibility on the work hours.

Life shouldn’t be all work and no play, just like it shouldn’t be all play and no work—there should be a point where things are somewhat balanced—there is time for both work and play, but that balance is different for each of us, and each need to find it on their own.

Hopefully during the reboot break, I can work through various e-courses, interact more on Linkedin, network, set up informational interviews and actually decide on a direction to go–instead of wandering around a swamp with a lantern that is going to be going dark and risk falling into the swamp waters again (and possibly not escape this time).

No Comments RebootBreakReflections