I'm a technician at a big ol' pharmaceutical company. A damn good technician, if I do say so myself.
My posts are presented as opinion and commentary and do not represent the views of LabSpaces Productions, LLC, my employer, or my educational institution.
Becoming a technician does not require a formal education process in the same way that becoming a professor does. There's no graduate school for technician-ing, and so technicians don't get the student-mentor interaction in the same way that PhD students do (yes, yes, caveats about terrible PIs who are terrible mentors, etc). In my experience, I've taken "mentoring" to be "learning from the mistakes and successes of other technicians".
A good portion of my mentoring came from the two lab managers who ran the labs I worked in as an undergraduate. I watched what they did - good and bad - and tried to use those habits to shape my own behavior. The first lab manager I worked with (monikered here as "Shelly") had a lot of crap to deal with. There were several... let's say... difficult personalities in the lab, demanding infinite access to finite resources, and Shelly handled them with... let's say... varying degrees of success. Shelly enjoyed being a technician, but didn't really get into the science - she liked doing experiments but didn't feel compelled to read papers, or ask the PI if she could design her own experiments. From Shelly, I learned that (1) people will dick you around until you make it clear that you are done with their bullshit; (2) it is important to have an ally who is higher up the foodchain than you are; and (3) remember that being a regular salaried employee can generate friction from people who think that they are the only "real" scientists and you are just the help - and it's up to you to decide how you'll handle that friction.
The second lab manager I worked with (let's go with "Gloria") was probably the technician I can best call a "mentor". Gloria was proud of her organization and control over the the lab and the people in it. She felt like it was her responsibility to manage the undergraduates, instruct new people in common lab protocols, and help out our PI with whatever was needed at any time. Gloria really liked the science our lab did, and knew more about our topic than almost everyone else in lab. Our PI recognized that Gloria was tremendously valuable and gave her the meaty, interesting projects because Gloria could be counted on to come through with results. I distinctly remember Gloria explaining to me how she had organized the samples in the cold room, and I dreamily thought to myself, "One day, I'll have my very own lab just like Gloria, and I'll be able to run it however I want!" Perhaps having a mentor like her in my formative, undergraduate years is why I ended up not going to graduate school - I didn't see a PhD as a necessary part of running a lab. Gloria had her faults - she tried really hard to be friends with everyone, and there were some people who seemed to feel that being friends with the technician meant that they could assume a priority position at the top of her to-do list. Anyone can be accomodating from time to time, but when you're really busy, having people always assuming you can do "just one little thing" for them makes for a tough schedule. From Gloria, I learned that (1) being 100,000% on top of your shit earns you a massive amount of respect; (2) being buddy-buddy with everyone in lab isn't the greatest plan; (3) people really appreciate when someone takes care of the organization of the lab.
So that's what I've learned from my first two mentors. There's a whole lot more I could discuss about other people I've worked for, but, as has been discussed quite a bit in the forums, we're getting into uncomfortable information-sharing territory by disclosing a lot of details about our PIs. I'm trying rather hard not to make that mistake again.
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