Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Lesson learned in New Orleans

  1. I must get my speaking jitters under control. A 15-minute talk turned into a 10-minute version interrupted by spasms of coughing - not, as was kindly suggested by my advisor, the result of my current cold, but instead a return to my long-time mode of losing control of my vocal cords upon giving a "big deal" talk. This problem is/will become a professional liability very soon. Can you imagine giving a 50 minute job talk with 30 minutes of coughing? There's no way I'd be hired. To do: (a) find a voice coach (maybe in the speech/communications department) to overcome pyschological hurdles and/or learn coping techniques, and (b) start singing in public (suggested by a pedagogy professor) to build diaphram strength (and calm nerves).
  2. Now is not too early to start thinking about next steps. To whit, RFP for government post-docs starting in summer-fall 2006 is out now. To do: (a) think about what i want to do when I grow up - both in terms of research area and type of employment; (b) talk with my advisor about what, when, and who and my husband about where; and (c) informally express interest in post-doc opportunities as it arises in conversations with potential mentors
  3. There is a big bad "good ole boys club" in my field anchored by students of a particular professor (head honcho). I am on a different branch of the educational family tree, so I am definitely not in the club, although I am close enough to know who the players are and what perks they enjoy because of membership. But perhaps I can exploit a secondary "good ole boys club" based on my undergraduate school and the cadre of scientists who trained there (including my advisor). At least I have that, because I am becoming increasingly aware that I am already at a disadvantage by being a girl in a boy's world. Apparently, the head honcho of the dominant "good ole boys club" does not take kindly to children, so I suddenly less inclined to take kindly to him. To do: (a) re-establish connection with my undergrad advisor (progenitor of the secondary "good ole boys club"), and (b) be persistent in reintroducing myself to members of the clubs. Name and face recognition cannot hurt.
  4. I am capable of figuring out complicated, technical analyses. I shouldn't let equations scare me. This is a lifetime lesson I need to keep reminding myself.
  5. The fact that at every conference I end up in the sessions related to one particular sub-discipline, while forcing myself to attend a few nominal sessions related to my research, gives me a pretty strong indication of where my heart lies. If I am to make a lateral transition in fields either in getting a post-doc or in getting hired to do what i want to do (and not what I am trained in) I am going to need the aforementioned networks.
  6. Recognition of my true interest should not disparage my current research. Instead I need to sell myself (and remind myself) that my background gives me an advantage in knowing additional techniques (novel to my "true" field?) and unique perspective on problems.
  7. Be assertive or be invisible, take your choice. I need to learn to be assertive. Today I took the major step of asking my advisor (who usually disappears at conferences) whether I could join in his dinner plans. Now, I am set to have dinner with some of the big players. I hope I don't spill anything!
Yes, I've also learned some science in the past few days, but somehow the politics seem more important right now.


Writer Chica said...

Wow! It is amazing to hear what you are doing. It's a nice way to keep in touch. Sounds like you learned a lot and are dealing with some pretty heavy issues. Have a great dinner with your prof. Be assertive! :)

Anonymous said...

Anne darlin' - I have spilled many things on many important, honcho-esque people in my day. I have also relived the retelling of said incidents with much embelishment (as recently as today, in front of my committee actually). What really counts is not the fact that you spilled, but your ability to laugh at yourself later. As for the rest of it, survival depends on your ability to laugh at the good 'ole boys later :)