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Saturday: Lessons Learned

I want to thank all of you who have helped me through this difficult period of time.  Special thanks to Katiebird, DandyTiger, my own BFF who was exceptionally sensitive and kind to me and my ex who suspended hostilities.

I tried to go out on a high note at work.  This wasn’t easy and I’m not sure I was entirely successful.  I worked on my projects literally to the very last hours, depositing my final thoughts on a structure I had been working on just before I shut off my computer for the last time.  Some people may think this is crazy.  I didn’t owe anything to the bastards who laid me off.  I see it differently and am starting to realize what must have been going on in Hillary Clinton’s head during the Democratic Convention of 2008.  In fact, she was on my mind a lot in the past couple of months.  What would Hillary do in this situation?  I decided to give it my all on my projects.  A couple of weeks ago, I found out that the project I had spent the last five years on was going to be used to fight the same cancer that killed my father.  I cried like a baby after that project team meeting.  Did I do enough?

Getting laid off has been a learning experience.  Here are some of the things I have learned:

1.) There is nothing more valuable in life than having a job you love, no matter how much it pays.  The hardest thing about leaving work was realizing what my passion was in my last year of employment and having it gone in a blink of an eye by the penny pinching decisions of a company bureaucrat.

2.) You never know what the right kind of nurturing and opportunities will bring out in people.   I will be forever indebted to the two supervisors who gave me high profile projects and pushed me (sometimes very hard) to learn new things as quickly as I could.  The last year was very challenging but very rewarding and even though I was sometimes stung by the constant revisions requested of my work, I appreciated the demands for rigor.  I think it made me a better scientist.

3.) Lay-offs do not bring out the best in anyone.  Very few people can resist the urge to undermine, take credit or speak ill of other people when they’re under this much stress.  There are no exceptions, not even me.  We all have our faults and layoffs tend to exaggerate them.  It is very hard to focus on our work when we are in desperate competition with each other to save our livelihoods.  Favoritism and kissing ass take the place of diligence and merit.  And those of us who refuse to kiss ass, because, really, it doesn’t serve management well at all, no matter how flattering it is, end up the losers.

4.) Managers who like their work, like to be productive and would prefer to concentrate on science, are frequently overlooked by the powers that be.  They are the best people to work for and their staff loves them.  But they can’t protect their people or even their own positions from the ax as well because they’re not into political games.  That has a bad effect on research in general.  There are a lot of excellent scientists left in the labs.  But they know they have to watch their backs and learn whose ass to kiss.  What a waste.

5.) Never look back.  I haven’t always done my best but in the past two years, I believe I have.  But now it’s time to put it aside and move on. I have no regrets.

I love my colleagues.  Yes, even the ones who were the biggest pains in the ass, snobs and ruthless, aggressive, ambitious bastards I have ever seen who leave a trail of destruction, resentment and dead bodies in their wakes.  They are all without exception  highly intelligent and genuinely interesting people.  If I were stranded on a desert island with any of them, I’d be in good company and wouldn’t be stuck for long.  I wish them good luck.

I love the company I worked for.  I’m not too crazy about the management at the upper end because even though they are getting pressure from Wall Street, they have not thought through this problem well.  They are taking the easy, expedient route.  It is going to result in some painful lessons for all parties involved, sooner rather than later, if what I’m seeing is any indication of the future.  But they’re not the only company making bad decisions right now due to the very same pressures.  I still love the corporation and want it to succeed, not just because it will keep my former colleagues employed (I hope), but because it is the right thing to do for the customers of the products.  I was well compensated, my severance package is good and I enjoyed working there.

So, now my job is to find a job.  This should be interesting.  I don’t think I have to give up trying to cure cancer though.  I’ll just be doing it from the privacy of my own home for awhile.  There are plenty of free resources for me to use.  And now, I know how to do it.


27 Responses

  1. wish you good luck finding a new job.

  2. enjoy the vacation R.D. you sure have earned it 🙂

  3. Good for you RD! Great attitude – and attitude is key in our lives! Enjoy the break. I hope it’s a short one.

  4. good luck! you deserve a good (as in meaningful) job.

  5. As hard as this was to traverse, it has made you a better person. Tough times make us realize how much we have learned and how much we can take, even when we are screaming in our heads.

    My prediction? An even better opportunity will open up and you will wonder why you ever worked for your former employer. My fingers and toes are crossed for you.

    • Ya know, lots of people have said that but I don’t think it’s true. I waited my whole life for the perfect job. I had it for one year. I’m guessing that another one like that will not come along in my lifetime ever again.
      And everything else will pale in comparison. It can’t be swapped for anything else.

      • Come back in 2 years and tell me if that’s still true.

        It’s like having one child and believing you have birthed the perfect baby. A few years go by and lo and behold, you are pregnant again and what do you know – another perfect child!

        Perfection is a state of mind and it changes as we change.

  6. Cyn, may be right – when I was layed off many years ago I thought the end of the world was upon me – but as it turned out I could never have achieved what I have if I’d stayed in that job – even though I thought it was terrific

  7. I’m sticking to the couch babying my not-broken-but-incredibly-painful rib. It’s amazing how good it feels as long as I’m stretched out. And how horrible as soon as I get up to do anything.

    Which since I’m so bummed out by last night’s “compromise” I’m not much inclined to do.

    Is it a compromise when both sides pretty much agree?

    • How the heck did you break your rib?!! Jeez, I broke a rib once. Well, I rebroke it 6 weeks later while shoveling snow. Very painful injury. And there’s no way to cast it. Even worse, you can’t even immobilize the sucker because breathing in kinda essential to your survival.
      That just sucks big time.

      • No, No!!!! Not-Broken… but Painful!!!

        And totally stupid — which is why I didn’t tell you about it when it happened. I put my great-niece into her crib and forgot to lower the side. And it pressed in between two ribs (or something) … the most boring accident ever.

        But, it feels like someone’s pushing a knife into my chest.

        It happened two weeks ago. And as you say, there’s nothing at all that can be done.

        It totally sucks that you broke yours twice. OMG.

  8. The front page of cnn.com has a link to the top ten companies that are hiring. Besides Home Depot and McDonald’s, there is a pharmaceutical company:

    7. Quintiles
    > Increase: 1,700
    > Total Employees: 20,000+
    > Industry: Pharmaceutical

    The company is at the core of biopharma services, one of the world’s hottest industries. It has a large contract research business to handle the service for other companies. Quintiles recently announced it will bring its clinical trial services to a global consortium supported in part by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and aimed at bringing new, affordable medicines to the world’s poorest countries.

    • Health insurance? Pension? Taxes? I live in NJ and even though my salary is pretty swank by Kansas city standards, it barely gets me a small townhouse, a second hand car and a whopping $6700/year property tax bill in NJ.
      I am willing to relocate.

      • Quintiles is headquartered in Research Triangle Park. It’s a nice place that Raleigh-Durham.

        • Again, health insurance? Pension? Contracting companies do not usually pay for bennies. I have a kid to put through college.

          • Contracting companies these days typically offer benefits, including group insurance and 401K. Of course, you have to pay a greater portion of the cost for those bennies (welcome to the real world), but you’re also monetarily compensated better than a non-contract employee. Quintiles is one of the orgs that offers those bennies.

      • head back to the Burgh and look up on Mt Wash

    • Quintiles … aren’t they the people who manage clinical trials (or something)? They’re always advertising around here for people to take some drug for $250-$1000 a week.

      Do they do actual primary research?

  9. I wish you the best and hope that you find a job that is as challenging and fulfilling as you desire.

  10. Good luck finding a new job

  11. Good luck and best wishes for the future…I predict you will indeed land on your feet a winner…

  12. I wish you the very best. I have had several friends in scientific jobs laid off recently. All are exceptional intellectually and personally, but economic times are so hard. It is difficult to understand the laying off of people who are so educated, productive and passionate about their work. Like you, one was working on finding a cure for a disease, in his case diabetes. Don’t give up.
    I also want to say thank you for what you do here. I may not always comment, but reading the Confluence helps ground me politically.

  13. Being laid off is very difficult. I hope you’ll take care of your health, and I wish you the best of luck in finding a new job that is just as challenging and rewarding as the previous one.

    The Chicago area has a lot of medical research.

    We’d love to have you here.

    Carolyn Kay

  14. RD: My best goes out to you in this trying time. I love how you are passionate but grounded in all the aspects of your life that you have shared with us here. I know I would enjoy meeting the real you, having lunch and a gazillion things to say and hear from you. I think you have only just begun a great career as a research scientist and all of us who do not swim in that pool have much to thank you for. Please keep the Confluence up and growing. I know you will find another perfect job RD because I know you will not settle for anything less. You GO GIRL!

  15. : It is very hard to focus on our work when we are in desperate competition with each other to save our livelihoods”
    Study the Melanie Wilkes character in “Gone With The Wind.”

  16. Good Luck Riverdaughter! I too was laid off recently from my lawyering job and can relate to much of what you point out in your post. I learned many of the same things. I was one of those managers who cared more about good lawyering than kissing ass. But I too have no regrets.

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