Saturday, July 31, 2010


I am glad I have this blog: on the days I feel low and question all my decisions, it helps me a lot to read past posts wherein I have detailed my reasoning behind everything B and I putting ourselves through. Even though those posts read a lot like rambling, they strike a chord in me, because I am reminded of the very exact arguments I used to justify staying behind and working on my post-doc. Even if that logic evades me now, it still holds good. I just realised I need to label those posts for my own good, so they are easier to find and not just a series of "W.O.M.M". :)

Recently, I had what is probably my first workplace confrontation. In my phd lab, I was for most parts the only student in the lab, and then, when the lab grew, all my labmates were wonderful and co-operative and good lab citizens- so I have mostly been sequestered from unpleasant situations with coworkers.

Over the past few months, I had begun to feel a situation brewing in my current lab. Projects that I had initiated and spent several months standardizing and optimising were slipping out of my hands and I began to pick up on signals that seemed like I was going to be supplanted and displaced from them entirely. It became even more apparent when I came back from my month long holiday as I sensed some degree of hostility in getting access to the data that was generated. I was very conflicted on how I felt about it -I felt like I had lesser bargaining power because I had taken a month off and people that were running with the project were actually getting the work done and generating the data. However, I was still the expert in the data analysis and wanted to stay on in those areas. Morever, I had spent months optimising protocols in the initial phase of the project, and even if it actually began showing results in the hands of someone else, I wasn't going to let that initial investment go to naught- because I am sure it contributed to the progress of the project. But its not easy to stake your claim for months of trial and error with a technique that generated sparse results, versus someone who came in when the technique was near standardised and generated reams of results.

When all of this began churning on in my mind, in the context of me being aware that I am here for a limited amount of time- and perhaps partly the reason I wasn't being assigned the meat of the project that required some degree of permanence, I felt even more defeated. I finally brought it up with my supervisor. I am very happy with the way those talks went. It has boosted my confidence because I was able to successfully demonstrate my expertise in the downstream data analysis parts of the project- and he made it very clear to me and the team that that I was required for the analysis and that would continue to be my role in the project - that I should get unhindered access to all the raw data- and also recognized my initial contribution to the project.

He also recognized that territorial feelings were creeping into people in a project that was by all means a group effort- and made it clear that no ownership could be staked by anyone in the team. I am glad he recognized this for himself and I didn't come across as being bitter or paranoid.

After my Philly post-doc experience, I had very little faith in bosses- I felt that the boss would always pick the path that worked best for them- but I am happy to see that I work for a reasonable and fair person who respects me professionally and personally, looks out for me and is capable of handling these situations very well, instead of shying away from it. This will definitely make it a lot nicer for me to work here in the face of all the personal sacrifices I chose to make while doing it.

1 comment:

Badri said...

Bosses, they make or break careers. And yes though it might immediately come to mind, hard work definitely pays...