So much for that… December 20, 2012Posted by mareserinitatis in career, work.
Tags: deadlines, proposals, work
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I was so glad the semester was over. I can sit and relax, I thought. Of course, my idea of relaxing is relative and tends to be significantly more intense than other people’s. But still…
This morning involved me sitting down and looking at all the deadlines I have over the next couple months. Papers, more proposals, and even a couple white papers…all due before the end of February.
I am going to count my lucky stars that I have a job that keeps me busy and that I enjoy. I’m also glad I decided to turn down teaching another class next semester. On the other hand, there’s no rest for the weary…and I’m feeling awfully weary. I guess I’ll make a point to relax a bit extra between Christmas and New Year’s. Maybe the puppies will even let me sleep in one or two days.
A weird thing happened at work today… June 14, 2012Posted by mareserinitatis in work.
Tags: email, mailbox, office space, work, workplace
I got a weird email from one of the admin people.
Cherish, you need to check your box. It’s getting full of mail.
This is weird because…well…I didn’t have a box! When I started working two years ago (my goodness, probably two years ago today), there were no slots for additional boxes. The person who dealt with the mail said that she would just throw my mail in my husband’s box because she wasn’t sure what else to do with it. I also was sitting at a workstation in one of the offices and didn’t have my ‘own’ desk.
So now, two years later, I’m apparently in possession of a box. It turns out that there is a mailbox for the office I’m in, but given my other three officemates have gone on to greener pastures, no one ever checks it…primarily because no one told me it was there. Also, the person who used to sort the mail left 9 months ago (approximately) and never told anyone just to put my stuff in my husband’s box.
It occurred to me that maybe I should now ask for my own box, but since I’m the only one in that office, I sort of already have it. The down side is that I don’t want it: the only things in there were sales flyers and catalogs from electronics supply companies.
Offending ethics April 12, 2012Posted by mareserinitatis in career, societal commentary, work.
Tags: academia, ethics, layoffs, work
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I’ve heard about businesses that decide to cut costs by hiring newer, cheaper workers. They then ask the older workers to train them in, and once that has been completed, the company fires the older workers. On the same note, Fluxor describes a scenario where he is supposed to keep a team moving once they’ve all been fired and their offices have been shut down…despite the fact their product was making oodles of money for the company.
Academia isn’t immune from this. We had layoffs a couple months ago, and several of the people who were let go had to train in remaining people to fulfill their job duties after they left. It didn’t feel particularly kind to do that, but I will say that at least it wasn’t that any of us were happy to see those people go.
Of course, the list can go on and on with issues like conflict of interest (which can encompass many things) along with many other moral and ethical issues.
Has anyone ever ended up with an uncomfortable spot at work because of an ethical or moral dilemma? Do you take the high road all the time? Do you ever feel justified in not doing so? Is it different if the impact is on someone other than yourself?
If I didn’t need a job, I’d probably… April 10, 2012Posted by mareserinitatis in career, family, grad school, personal, work.
Tags: grad school, independently wealthy, work
I am always amused when listening to people talk about what they’d do if they didn’t have to work. I sort of found out for myself: I’d probably work.
I had a couple years as a stay-at-home mom, where I primarily was homeschooling the older child. I also had a stint doing it when he was a toddler. I sometimes fantasize about staying home with the younger boy, who would be much easier to homeschool than the older boy was.
Then my husband reminds me that’s not a good idea: I was pretty much going batty by the end of it.
I bring this up because Nicoleandmaggie posted about this, saying boredom would be a problem. Oh, was it ever. I cannot spend all day at home with a child. Believe it or not, I had nearly a spotless house (you’d die laughing if you saw my house now), was taking care of getting kids to appointments, homeschooling, even working on an MSEE part-time…
And going completely nuts.
I really immersed myself in dancing during this period because it was one of the best ways to interact with other adults outside of school. Unfortunately, regular training, teaching classes, and spending time outside of structured dance time did nothing to help the boredom. It kept me busy, but not stimulated. My classes (which I was doing pretty much one per semester) were about all that kept me sane.
The year the older boy hit middle school, he decided he wanted to go to public school full time, and I decided it was time to finish my MA. My dancing dropped off significantly, I was working on teaching or research or homework almost every night. And I was much, much happier.
I guess what that made me realize is that I really, really need to have intellectual stimulation, and reading Scientific American just isn’t enough to do it for me. I like working on problems, figuring things out, working towards a goal. If I were to win the lotto, I suspect I would just keep doing the same thing, probably by funding my own research. (Wouldn’t it be nice not to have to find someone to pay you to do it?) I think the biggest difference is that I’d probably be able to go on trips more often.
Let me drop everything and work on YOUR problem March 23, 2012Posted by mareserinitatis in career, engineering, family, grad school, work.
Tags: dissertation, schedule, schedules, work, work habits, workplace
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I appreciate the fact that I have very respectful and polite colleagues. I particularly appreciate it when it comes to my schedule. I only work half-time, and most of them have been very good about making sure to schedule things for when I am there. On those occasions where things had to be scheduled when I was supposed to be gone, my supervisor has usually asked me first to make sure there’s no conflict. My hours are pretty flexible, as well, so if I have to stay late one day, I can take time off the following day or something similar.
Still, I hate having things change around too much. Changes in schedule seriously seem to affect my concentration, and changes in routine just don’t sit well with me. I can certainly deal, but it always seems to throw me off.
In the past month and a half, things have gotten much worse, schedule-wise. I’ve had to do a lot of changing schedules because of some PR that the university has been doing both on my research at work as well as my dissertation project. I have gotten to the point that I now am dressing up half the time when I go to work because, more than once, I’ve gotten a call in the morning that they’d like me to talk to a reporter or in the afternoon. Half the time, I wasn’t even dressed like a nerdy engineer – t-shirt and jeans was it. It’s a good thing I live close to campus because I’ve had to make emergency wardrobe trips. However, despite all of the rearrangements, if I’ve said I had a conflict, no one has ever asked me to change anything. People have been willing to work around my schedule, which has been awesome.
The only real problem I hit is when deadlines show up. If the deadline is looming but not close enough that I can adjust a schedule for the week, that sometimes sucks time out of dissertation work (although I am getting more and more protective of that as time goes on, simply because it’s so easy to let it slide). What’s worse is when there are deadlines at work and the kids suddenly have a million and one extra activities as well. And I really hate it when someone gives me ‘vague’ deadlines, like “as soon as humanly possible”. I usually tell them what is humanly possible for me, but I suspect that on a couple of occasions, they felt as though they could do the same thing faster. It’s possible they could…but it’s also possible that, if they had the same schedule constraints I do, they might not. As cliche as it is, I go back to Stephen Covey’s 7 habits book. In it, he says he schedules everything out, and if someone drops something in your lap, you ask them what other thing you should get rid of to fit in this deadline. (Maybe it’s surprising, but my supervisor is very open to shifting priorities when it’s necessary. Other people…not so much.)
How do you deal with shifts in schedule and sudden deadlines?
Wordless Wednesday: Things in my office February 22, 2012Posted by mareserinitatis in engineering, photography, work.
Tags: art, artologica, office space, pictures, work, workplace
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My many hats February 9, 2012Posted by mareserinitatis in computers, engineering, gifted, homeschooling, math, teaching, work, younger son.
Tags: division, minion, software, work, younger son
A couple weeks ago, my blog was promoted by a couple of sites and the hits started flowing in. I commented to someone (most likely Gears) how it’s nice to be recognized for my blogging about engineering but frustrating for the lack of recognition for my actual engineering work. Guess I should’ve waited a couple weeks.
Normal work has also been crazy. I’ve been given full control of the Minion and have thrown him in on a new project where he’s learning everything from scratch. It’s similar to projects that I’ve done, but even more complicated and using a different program. So our next couple weeks are going to be real fun as we’re going to be trying to make our way through using this new program and occasionally resorting to the old program for reality checks.
The other serious challenge I’ve been dealing with this week is long division. It’s pretty scary stuff, especially when you have a seven-year-old who is fighting some rather strong perfectionistic tendencies. He’s been getting to the long division portions in his computer math, and he starts to shut down. I’ve been getting more and more frustrated with it, so I decided to put an end to it tonight. I went back and printed out some of the older homeworks so that we could take a couple steps back. I think the problem is that he really thinks he can do everything in his head. I have to admit that his ability to do mental math far outweighs mine: I simply have to write everything down. However, he’s starting to hit the limit of this particular ability, and so he freaks out whenever he has to do a problem where he can’t do it all in his head.
I told him that tonight’s homework was going to be doing some work sheets. With the problems written out on paper, he didn’t seem to have this idea that he had to do everything in his head. The first couple were challenges, but then he started getting the hang of things and was able to execute the last few problems very quickly. By the time we had finished, he was doing 3-digit numbers divided by 2-digit numbers with no problem. We’re going to do some more difficult problems tomorrow and then try heading back to the computer.
We tried a similar approach when he started to get stuck on multiplication a couple months ago. I guess there are some things that really have to be written out to be understood. I just hope he starts to make regular use of his notebook from here on out.
And so it begins… January 20, 2012Posted by mareserinitatis in career, engineering, research, work.
Tags: layoffs, work, workplace
Yesterday afternoon, two emails came through at work letting us know that about 1/4 of the people working at our center would be dismissed. This morning, the front page of the local paper had the story.
Our center has primarily been funded under earmarks along with some other projects coming through industry collaborations. When congress cut all earmarks, we lost the most significant portion of our funding. (I find this frustrating as cutting earmarks doesn’t actually reduce the budget…it just means that no portions of the existing budgets can be allocated to specific projects by congress. So our center losing most of its funding changed nothing in terms of the US budget.)
Today was surreal. Someone came up to tell me they were one of the ones let go. Another person announced it at the end of the meeting. I had no inkling before they said anything that they were on the list. I didn’t take it well.
Right before Christmas, two people I know let me know they’d been laid off (both EEs in technology industries). I’ve heard of companies pulling such tactics as they approach the end of their fiscal year. I will say that despite the fact we knew things were going to be happening, I was hugely relieved that, in the case of our center, they at least waited until after the holidays so that people could enjoy the time with their families.
And the people that have been let go are not necessarily going because they weren’t smart or hard working. That is both the hardest part and the best part. I know that these people aren’t to blame for their predicament – it was simply a matter of whether their expertise is necessary on some of the projects we have coming in. I’m confident these people can move on and still be successful.
On the other hand, it sort of flies in the face of the “work hard and you’ll always have a job” mentality that so many people put out there. That’s simply not true…and that’s why this is really hard. I’m also feeling a twinge of survivor guilt. I still have my job, as does my husband. It seems unfair that I just happened to luck out to have some of the skills that will be required moving forward.
Most of the people will still be around for a month, but it’s going to be hard to work as though nothing happened. And after they’re gone, the place is going to be uncomfortably empty.
Out standing in their fields December 22, 2011Posted by mareserinitatis in education, engineering, societal commentary, work.
Tags: farming, kids, responsibility, work
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I was very surprised to learn that FrauTech apparently reads the Bismarck Tribune.
I didn’t think anyone outside of North Dakota did that. (Although I’m guessing this is not a regular occurrence.)
She linked to an opinion piece in the Tribune about how kids who are under 16 may not be allowed to work on farms unless they belong to their parents. I’ve had very mixed feelings about the whole bill. While I think that in places like California, these sorts of regulations are needed lest migrant children be put to work instead of going to school, the culture up here is different. Kids who work on the farm are expected to go to school, as well. Of course, this is partially because there are still vestiges of family farms up here, and I don’t think such things have existed in California for quite a while.
Contrary to what Frau said, I do have students who come from farms. A lot of them come from rural schools, and going into engineering is not easy for them. I was very dismayed to hear that one of my students had taken AP calc in his school, but his class of four students often spent the time doing things that were not related to calc. The internet has done a lot to make the discrepancies between rural and urban less obvious, but it’s still not completely leveled the playing field.
I tend to agree with the original opinion piece, however. My husband was a farm boy. I was didn’t have much experience on a farm, but my dad was expected to spend summers working on his grandfather’s farm. I’m sure that if things hadn’t gone bust in the 80s, I would’ve been out there once I was old enough, as well. And I see a lot of very bright kids who grew up on farms.
There really is a very different mindset in rural to semi-rural areas. Even though I didn’t work on a farm, I got a job when I was 15 because it’s perfectly reasonable to have a job at that age. Kids seem to be expected to take on responsibility a lot earlier, and I think that leads to a lot of positive life experience…something kids don’t get when all they do is go to school. (Some of this, I think, accounted for the large amount of culture shock when I went off to college and found out that most of my classmates didn’t have jobs in high school…and I’d already had two.) I think it also creates a much greater sense of community awareness. Kids who grow up on farms are out in the community, out working. They know their neighbors better, they are expected to interact with adults, and they are expected to behave as young adults. And in the case of most farming communities, they often pitch in to help each other out when someone needs it. You simply cannot substitute that kind of experience with anything else.
Right now, we’ve already lost a lot of ground. If you want to know what urban parents who are very closely removed from the farm do, they try to figure out ways to get their kids back onto a farm. My family lost their farm, and my husband’s family no longer farms…which means we’d really wanted our kids to go spend time with distant relatives or friends if the opportunity presented itself. These laws would prevent that. It’s even more frustrating in light of the fact that there are very few places that will hire kids under 16 any more. Where are kids supposed to learn responsibility as well as what it’s like to be treated like an adult?
But it’s not just responsibility. Kids do learn a lot of hands-on skills. Not all kids who are handy will be great engineers, but I’ve observed that background gives a lot of kids an intuitive notion of how to approach problems…at least in the ones that want to sit down and think it through.
Maybe not all farm kids will make great engineers, but I know a few that it helped. There are a lot of benefits to growing up that way, and it’s too bad more kids aren’t getting the opportunity. I’m not convinced it’s the only way to get those benefits, but it’s one of the best.
The runners November 28, 2011Posted by mareserinitatis in feminism, societal commentary.
Tags: runners, work, working environment
From the title, you might think I’m going to be talking about jogging. Not so much. Nor will I be talking about Logan’s Run. Nope…I’m going to be talking about a type of person who annoys me.
I was reminded recently of a trip to Washington, DC. I was there for a conference, and a friend who lived nearby decided to visit. We weren’t sure where to go to dinner, so we met someplace and then grabbed a cab. The driver gave a suggestion, and we went for it.
The restaurant was a very upscale ethnic place near Embassy Row. After my friend and I were seated, I noticed something very strange about the wait staff. I thought it was just me, but then, when our dinner was presented, it became obvious: they weren’t acknowledging my existence at all. All questions were directed to my friend, and when I answered, they would wait for him to repeat what I had just said. They wouldn’t look at me, they wouldn’t speak to me, they wouldn’t hear when I spoke.
The food was fantastic, but I left feeling a bit demoralized. I’m sure my friend was sympathetic…but I think he was amused more than anything. I can’t help but wonder what they would’ve done had I gone to the restaurant with another woman. Would they have ignored both of us?
It’s easy to blow that kind of thing off when it’s a place you’ll only visit once or a fluke. It’s harder to deal with that sort of thing when it’s someone in a professional setting.
Admittedly, I’ve not run into anything as overt as the experience at the restaurant, but I have run into a couple men over the years who simply have no clue how to interact with women colleagues. It’s bad enough having a conversation with someone who stares at your chest…but it’s not much better when they refuse to look anywhere near you. You wonder if they even hear you.
And then there are the times when you try to talk to them, and you get the feeling they’re running from you. Literally. You ask them a question, and the best response you get is a terse, one-word answer. Maybe two, if they’re feeling dangerous. As soon as they’ve muttered their answer while looking the other direction, they turn to leave. They are done with the conversation, whether or not you are.
So these kinds of men are runners. They run away from women. It’s strange because the ones I’ve known have been married, so it’s not like they’re not around women at all. They simply have no idea how to act around a woman who is not a family member or friend…and apparently it’s never occurred to them to treat a female colleague like the rest of their colleagues.