Sunday, August 19, 2007

Now I've Gone And Done It!

I've finally done it. It became official last Friday. I've managed to escape the oblivion of being the eternal lab tech by leaving my job for a slightly better one which has nothing to do whatsoever with developing cutting edge new science products or experimentation into the Great Unknown. I start in a week.

Oh, don't worry, you Angry Lab Rat blogophiles, you eager readers of biotech woes and ponderings in breaking science news, I am still with the same evil global biotech conglomerate, assimilators of all smaller companies that have anything at all even somewhat similar to our products. "We are the Borg. You will be assimilated." And I'll still be blogging to you on the exciting world of science news and oddities.

I didn't even have to move to change jobs. In this industry, the best way to get a promotion and raise is to move to another company. But I don't care to move. Rather, I've chosen the second-best method: I've changed departments.

Technically I won't be a "lab rat" any more, as I'll be hanging up my lab coat for a long time, possibly forever, though in some circles I'll still be considered a scientist.

I've left the comfy confines of my lab bench and corner office in the R&D department and taken up residence in a cubicle. Yes, I said cubicle. I didn't think it possible, a few years ago I would have scoffed at the idea, but I am now even more a part of Dilbertworld, awash in computer hell and dealing directly with customers as a technical assistance person. You know the ones, the people you call when your product craps out, fails to meet expectations, or completely befuddled you because you didn't bother to read the product manual. Why bother reading such a long document when you'd rather have the pleasure of listening to canned music while waiting on the phone to ask a live person? Well, now I'm that person. And, no, I don't work in India. At least, not yet. [My evil global biotech company has a facility in India (and in China, too!), but so far they've only outsourced our R&D work, oddly enough].

Yes, I'll be The Helpful Guy, like the ones you see on TV commercials for computer or phone companies, headset placed firmly on the temples, smiling and perky (and usually female), answering in a pleasant yet competent voice, "Technical Services. How may I help you today?" When you see them on TV, you get the feeling that they must be morning people, as happy-go-lucky as June Cleaver, and the sort that goes home to read product manuals while listening to fizzy 80's pop rock. If that persona is what makes you feel good about talking to me, be my guest. If you call me, feel free to imagine my appearance any way you wish. No, I'm not short, fat, and extremely hairy. Are you kidding? Think Brad Pitt, baby! Really, I couldn't possibly be exaggerating. It's a good thing all you'll experience is my voice. If you saw me in person, you'd have to jump my bones. That could make answering your technical question difficult, to say the least.

I'm reading your mind right now. I know what you're thinking. I have that super power. It's what will make me good at my new job. Some of you are wondering what parasite crawled into my noggin and affected my judgment. Or you're wondering how many solvents I've been sniffing in the lab. Or you think I've simply lost my mind.

These are valid concerns. But losing one's sanity can be relieving, in a sort of escapist way. Solvents don't bother you once they burn away your nasal membranes. And brain parasites only hurt when they bore through the skull; once they're in the brain you don't feel them any more.

Think of all the aspects I'm losing: a nice office all to myself, a couple active lab benches, the chance to play with really cool and expensive instrumentation, the snooty glamor of being able to claim I'm a "scientist", and, oh yeah, the ability to invent and develop cutting-edge technologies to help the scientists of the world make the next breakthrough discovery.

It's that last point that led me to get into biotech to begin with. Unfortunately, the way programs are currently run at my company makes innovation very very difficult for folks in my position. And in the past two years changes in the company and my role in it have actually pushed me back about, oh, four years in my career development, to the point that lab rats like myself almost never have the ability to make programs of their own innovative ideas. It makes me feel a tad bit like Harry Potter living at the Dursley's, afraid to show even a hint of my true nature for fear of being beaten back into bland submission. Add to that the extreme overload of work and the expectation that, despite having a family, you should work late hours, come in at night, and work on the weekends in order to meet expectations. No thanks. Been there. I've served my time. This will be the first job I've ever had with set hours: 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week, Monday - Friday. Pinch me, I'm dreaming.

Sure, I'll be in a cubicle and dealing with the occasional clueless or even mean customers, and I'll have to be able to pull random specific details out of my ass about any of the nearly 3000 products my company sells within a few minutes of answering the phone (or email) for whatever obscure method the customer is using, but I'm willing to take it for the chance to come home at a reasonable hour and have free weekends, for the same pay and benefits, and working with a close-knit team.

And there's another great benefit: I will become The Great Guru.

. . . at least about my company and its products. After eight and a half years of working at my company, I know a great many details about the products, many dozens of which I invented, developed, or been part of R&D teams on. But that pales in comparison to the huge expanse of additional knowledge I will gain in only a couple years of answering random questions and coming up with correct answers about any of our products, and getting PAID to learn as much as I can about them, and the wide myriad of differing techniques our customers use them for. This is precisely why people who go into my company's Technical Services department go on to business management, program management, and R&D group leadership positions within the company. They are The Great Gurus of the company, without whom my company would suffer. And you'd better believe they get paid a whole lot more than I make now. The two folks who returned to R&D after being in Tech Services for a few years are now walking encyclopedias worshipped by other R&D staff. When one recently threatened to leave the company, the company leadership (one of whom had also been in Tech Services at one point) bent over backward to keep him, giving him a sizable increase in salary and a special position invented just for him so he would stay.

That makes a cubicle seem a LOT more appealing. I wouldn't mind being worshipped a little.

Besides, the Tech Services folks get free donuts. I'm a sucker for free food.

Images adapted from HERE and HERE.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Your so crazy--- I doubt that I am ever going to worship you. But entertaining the notion did make me smile. hee hee hee.