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genegeek CAN

Hi. I'm genegeek (aka Catherine Anderson). Thanks for stopping by. I realized during my PostDoc that I preferred learning and explaining new results to doing science so I started a non-traditional career of teaching and outreach. I'll be using this space to explore public perception of genetics and other cool molecular biology stuff.

My posts are presented as opinion and commentary and do not represent the views of LabSpaces Productions, LLC, my employer, or my educational institution.

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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

I had trouble with this topic because I don't feel that I'm qualified to give advice. Everyone's experience is different and let's face it, we can be told about something but we always think that we'll be different. A preview of some of the topics considered:

getting older
It's true - you will look back at your body in your twenties or thirties with envy...even if you didn't like it at the time.
One day, you won't be able to shake off an illness - and it will suck
Getting older is still better than the alternative

That got too depressing, so I considered:

cool travel tidbits
Galapagos - I didn't expect the barren lava of the islands or the amount of wildlife in the islands.
Antarctica - penguins really stink. If you are going to go kayaking, you will need less clothes than you think because those dry suits are like personal saunas
Running with the bulls - the bulls want to run in the opposite direction but there are people herding them towards the runners. It is a full week of festival goodness so no banks are open. Plus, the running is a test of manhood so women really shouldn't run (I'm sorry if I offended everyone when I was there)
Inca trail - take an extra day to acclimatize to the altitude.

I could go on for days but none of that is really that useful...

Working outside academia
I'm lucky to work at a university and for a non-profit organization. The non-profit organization isn't fully 'corporate' but it has helped me see a glimpse of the business world. My husband works for a large corporation in New York city so we've learned a few things from his job too (he also started in science).

Image is very important
It matters what you wear. It matters if your hair is a mess. I know, people notice in academia but it means so much more in corporations.

Power Levels are more subtle
Yes, the struggle for power is everywhere but I've found it to be less obvious outside of academia. Now, I never made it to a tenured position so there may be some struggles at that level that are similar to business power interactions. At the university, there are set stages to go through: undergrad, grad, postdoc, etc. This is somewhat freeing because you only have as much power as your station. However, I've seen a few people successfully skip steps on the power ladder in the non-academic world. I find this search for power exhausting, suggesting that I will always have very little power or influence.

Context to ideas
In academia, meetings often occur within a specialty so ideas often don't need much explaining because everyone is starting from a similar knowledge point or purpose. In my limited dealings in the corporate world, there are more competing interests between people in a meeting so it is important to explain ideas so that others see the value in the idea for their area of expertise. I'm still learning how to provide this information without boring everyone.

Results matter in both but the time scale is different
In academia, goals are somewhat fluid. Yes, we try to anticipate where research and other projects will take us but there is usually space to make changes. In grad school/postdoc land, the time spent on experiments matters and as long as you are inching forward, you can continue. In the business world, things are focused by the 'quarter' so you want short, measurable goals that are achieved in those 3 months. Now, as you move up the food chain in both arenas, there is more input over the long range goals of the organization.

I'm sure that I have missed some important points. Please share your advice for the non-university career!

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Great post C! I too have exeprienced the focus on timeframe regarding goals.. In my real job, the deadline is what drives the schedule, there are no exceptions. It's unfortunate really, you have to give up on making things 'perfect' and having all the features you would like to see there just to meet an arbitrary date set by the customer. But the customer is always right..

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Really good post. I too essentiall work for a non-profit institute within an academic structure.

Power is there; find it, embrace it & take it.

Appearance matters: Dress to where you want to be, not to where you are. Get a haircut.

Mentors: Some people already have a map of the minefield. Find them & befriend them!

be a doer, not a talker: You will move faster, get more done, but make enemies.

Wonderful post :)
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