Archive for: March, 2016

Maternity leave – or – And I thought I knew everything!

Mar 28 2016 Published by under motherhood, postdoc, the fog, transitions

I can’t believe I have an 8 week old baby! This time on maternity leave has been absolutely precious and has flown by. So what have I learned? Well for this blog I’ll skip all of the baby stuff (I didn’t know how much I didn’t know!) and focus on the work-related things.

First, the advice my co-bloggers have given me has been right on the money. The one thing that most of them and others I’ve talked to said that I didn’t necessarily believe was that 6 weeks was just too soon to go back to work. I thought that 6 weeks sounded like a long time and this was probably mostly an emotional thing that probably wouldn’t be true for me* or would be true for people who had physical complications that would keep them healing longer. But no, 6 weeks is absolutely not long enough! Now I know from experience and lots of reading that Baby might have a routine by that age, but not a set schedule (they’re just now possibly starting to produce melatonin to get in a circadian rhythm!), and everything is still different from one day to the next. How can you leave when you’re both still trying to figure out what works? Not to mention the nights being unpredictable. In addition, I was definitely not 100% physically recovered at 6 weeks. I could have worked in that condition but I would be slow moving and uncomfortable.

The last 2 weeks have been big for learning and getting in a more predictable routine, so I feel a lot better about going back to work at 8 weeks. However, I would be grateful for another month (or longer) of paid leave. Luckily I have an awesome mom who is coming to take care of Baby for a couple months, and an awesome boss who is understanding about me working shorter days in the lab while we all adjust. I can’t imagine how differently I might feel if those securities were not in place.

Second, in my line of work (academic laboratory) there is just some work that needs to get done no matter what. Okay, there could have been ways around some of it, and no one would die or lose their job if I didn’t do it, but it was pretty important for my job and others whose work is intertwined with mine. For me, this pretty much came down to three things. 1) Just because of bad timing, I had to communicate with HR and fill out a bunch of paperwork starting the day I came home from the hospital to be able to renew my position and keep my insurance – obviously essential, but a huge pain in the butt! 2) I had to finish revisions for a manuscript under review, which involved a lot of back-and-forth with co-authors. Here I could have asked the journal for an extension or just left all the work to the corresponding author, but I thought it was important enough for me to spend what amounted to a day or two of work to get it done. And it was accepted right away, yay! 3) I’ve had to respond to a few issues here and there that came up in lab. Mostly this was so that my own projects could continue to move forward in my absence. Again, I could have let it go but it was important/easy enough for me to put in a little time. Overall, I’m not surprised I had to do this much/kind of work while on leave, and I’m satisfied.

Third, I am happy that I have reaffirmed my belief that I do want to continue my career while being a mom and so it is important to me to keep moving forward in my job and career, despite how hard it might be sometimes to split my time between two separate worlds.

I probably learned some more really valuable things, but I forgot – you’re lucky I’m this articulate right now, or even that I finished this post at all. Time to shower if Baby doesn’t wake up before I get there.

*Related but non-work related thing – I also didn’t necessarily believe people when they said, “It’ll be different when it’s your baby,” in response to me expressing that I don’t love babies (I like kids more the older they get) and don’t know if I could spend all day at home without going out of my mind with boredom. It’s so different with my baby – I’ve been with Baby virtually 24/7 for 8 weeks and I feel like I could continue indefinitely. If I got just one more nap…

No responses yet

Unintentional Hiatus

Mar 15 2016 Published by under Uncategorized

Sorry for being MIA. This was an unintentional hiatus from blogging. I started a new job last August. My plan B job. I have been there for eight months now. Reflecting on where I was a year ago, I can see I was in a bad place. Spinning my wheels, trying oh so hard to get the job I was convinced I wanted so much. Now looking back, I am so happy I did not get it. Not getting the “plan A” position was really a blessing in disguise. [I don’t like the word blessing, but it gets my point across]


I work for a small wellness testing company. And I love it. It’s ironic how my dream job did not materialize until I started there. But even though I really appreciate my new position, it has not been all smooth gliding with sunshine, butterflies, and flowers lining my professional path. It was kind of a rude awakening. But in a good, solid, growth-promoting way. Here’s what I’m talking about:


You know when you really want something [like a kid on Christmas morning], you just can’t wait for it to happen. So you go to bed on Christmas Eve… and you can’t sleep because you are just so excited. That’s kind of what happened to me. I was so excited to start my new position (new grown up title as a scientist, new real grown up paycheck, new full-time hours (I worked part-time as a postdoc)). I felt overwhelmed with the newness of the situation. And I stopped sleeping. So I would go to bed at night, and wake up around midnight, and that would be it. After a few nights of that, I started getting anxiety over not being able to sleep, so I stopped sleeping all together. For like the first four months. Oh that was awful. Especially when you know that your job is intellectual, and you must have your brain functioning properly. I remember I kept thinking how everyone in my company was looking at me, and I need to have my shit together. But how could I have had my shit together if I couldn’t even think properly. Oh my impostor syndrome was getting the best of me at that time.


Realizing the main differences between industry and academia was not as easy as I would’ve imagined/anticipated. My boss (the other PhD in the company) kept telling me that we “don’t have the luxury of academia to spend lots of time researching.” What he meant was you need to develop, market, and produce fast. No, you don’t have to apply for grant money, which may or may not be awarded, but for self-sustaining laboratory that earns its own bread and butter, all new products must be pushed out in a very timely manner. So imagine my surprise when in grad school/postdoc, I had to develop a mass spec method for one or two analytes for detection in one [leisurely long-ish ~30 min] run; here, I had to develop one mass spec method for the detection of fourteen structurally different small molecules, it had to be one injection (could not separate positively or negatively charged species into two runs), the run had to be 10 min or under (yikes, that is so fast!), and all of the materials used in the sample prep/extraction had to be reasonably priced to maintain low production costs. I felt like I was being asked to pull a white rabbit out of a magic hat. Yes, I spent a lot of time crying, and getting mentally beat up by my impostor-laden alter ego.


So why do I love my job so much you may ask? It was the support I received from my colleagues during the toughest times. I work with incredible people. They are kind, thoughtful, and considerate. They listened when I most needed it, they provided feedback, and helped me navigate challenging social situations. Oh and did I mention that they also stimulate my thirst for knowledge? I hope I can give back to them as much as I hungrily took in the beginning. I also appreciate the clinical aspect of my job. Everything my laboratory does has to do with direct application to our patient health. And no, I have not gotten the product on the market yet. It’s a work in progress. However, I am continuing to learn new things every day. And as many differences there are between industry and academia, the main underlying themes are continuous education and advancing knowledge on health of humankind. Isn’t that what we’re all in our career paths for?


One response so far

A Portrait of Confidence

Mar 09 2016 Published by under Uncategorized

In our New Year’s resolutions post I resolved to find more self-confidence. I have not found it yet but I have had some thoughts on what confidence is and where it comes from.

I recently received an email notifying me about a talk titled, “Successfully marketing your scientific training“. It seemed relevant so I thought I might go. I looked up the speaker to see what kind of relevant knowledge he might have. I was surprised to find that he is a less senior postdoc than me who is currently looking for a job in industry. I was floored. Given my experience, I could probably give this talk as well as he can. Yet I would never imagine that at this stage of my career, with no proof that I actually know how to market my scientific training, that I should give this talk.

I asked my husband, how do I get this guy’s chutzpah? He replied that this was such a well-known phenomenon that there is a meme for it:


(quote by writer Sarah Hagi who also made a t-shirt of it:

Not too long later, I read a blog post about a poem that vividly illustrates one woman’s confidence.

You really should read this post, but in case you don’t have time, a brief summary:

The blog post breaks down for the non-lit major a beautifully written poem that touches on boys’ confidence, finding one’s direction, and the places that women are excluded. It then describes the speaker’s birth experience in a way that reverberates with the finding, the knowing, the confidence in one’s body and oneself.

This may not seem connected to the idea of finding my confidence in the workplace. But to me it really hit on the source of confidence. It is not dependent on what other people are doing – it comes from within. Here is the speaker, looking around at others, saying to herself, where is my place to shine? When she does find her voice it is not the way those around her would have. In her own way, in a most womanly way, she does shine. She has brought forth a “new person.”

I am by far not arguing that a woman’s place is with the babies. I see this poem as a metaphor a woman finding within her the strength to produce something amazing. This poem is so full of confidence. Not questioning, just knowing that she is powerful and amazing and awe-inspiring. It is not a confidence that comes from having proven oneself. It is a confidence that comes from within. I know that this is what I am capable of. I am strong.

I love that. I love science but being part of the world of science means constantly being questioned, constantly nit-picked, constantly called to defend oneself. To be able to say, I will find my place for achievement, not in the same way as someone else, but no less extraordinary feels so freeing.


One response so far