Saturday, December 12, 2009

On being happy

For the first time in my career here at the lab I have had two things happen - I scored the top level on my annual review and I have been thoroughly happy doing what I do daily. It was truly a banner year for me at work. (Wish I could say that about other areas... but, we will take what we can get and continue praying for success in the other.)

My stats:

I racked up over $3M in funding last year.

I have two journal articles in the works, two more scoped for the coming year. (My directorate doesn't tend to publish, so this is big.)

I am working on a dissertation style report with a few "grey beards" at the lab.

And I was selected by both product lines to pilot a new program.

I posted on FB sometime around Thanksgiving that I was thankful that I had a job that after having a week off, I was happy to go back to it. And this isn't a reflection on my time at home with my family!

There are people all over the US without jobs - my best friend in Colorado being one of them. I truly am lucky to have a secure job AND be happy in it.

I tend to do a lot of varied things in my position. I do a fair amount of project management. I have my own projects I am PI (primary investigator) on. And I routinely get tapped for odd jobs - like the report above.

A number of the old timers at the lab are retiring and they carry around a vault of information in their heads. Information that would be horrible to lose. One of the older managers in my directorate got funding to do an info dump out of his and a few of his colleagues heads. He selected me to lead this effort with him, organize it and get it into a form of a report and out the door. It requires a lot of solitude work in a cavernous style computer lab whereby I listen to people talk and take notes, I take things they write, I refine it and compile it in a sensible fashion (or I hope to). Very dissertation style (300 pages plus) save for the fact that it isn't my research, and I don't have to edit it! Instead I have money to pay an editor. It is truly one of the more fascinating things I have done at the lab - and I am learning an absolute ton.

It's things like this that I love. But are also my downfall.

My downfall into why I was not promoted this year despite my stellar review.

It's called a niche. And I don't have one. I have the reputation in my team / group / directorate / building as someone who is versatile. Can work on nearly any project doing a multitude of things. I work as a chemist, a nuclear physicist, an engineer, a manager and a writer. But I can't put my finger on a single thing where I am an expert.

I am a Jane of all trades.

In many environments this is a sought after quality. And though I have not gone without a charge code in the past few years that I have embraced my Jane-ness... this is still something that is not valued for promotion in my group.

I am missing that check box that says I am an expert in a narrow area of science. That I am the lab go to girl for X. Instead I have the reputation as someone who is easy to get along with, good to have on a project and gets things done.

While I was hanging out in the cavern the other day an old friend of mine came by to visit. I worked with him on the first project I worked on at the lab when I was a post-doc. He was always a huge advocate for me and took on a mentor role for awhile.

No one else was in the cavern and he immediatly jumped into that area, "so what's up with your career this year, you get promoted?"

I told him no and why and he went on to cite the injustices of the world - or at least those of our management. He cited all the reasons why I was being gyped /abused / neglected, etc.

I finally had to jump in - in an effort to prevent myself from being made feel bad for something I didn't really feel bad about to start with.

"You know J," I told him, "I got an in-grade promotion that basically amounts to two nice raises, I got a great review that my managers read off to me and I am REALLY, REALLY happy doing what I do everyday. I have two kids who need me, I am not a superwoman, I can do my job easily and do it well. I am happy."

As a goat, climbing comes naturally to me. It is hard sometimes to see others zoom past me. But when I step back and look at what makes me happy? My work does. Keeping my team members together and employed, keeping my clients happy, and knowing that I am the go to person not because I am the only one who can do that work, but because the people want ME to do that work.

For the first time in my career, I am really happy.

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