Let me start with two metaphors.
The first one is that I’m a freshman in college. The college is perhaps in my hometown. Everything is new: my local physical environment, people, things, language. Occasionally I see my high school mates, where, a mere three months ago, I knew how everything worked, where everything was; I knew how to be productive; and nothing was mysterious. Now it’s all changed, I have to find my way again.
The second one is that I work in the kitchen of an exclusive restaurant, inside a luxury hotel. In Paris, London, or New York. The kitchen is preparing food to all kinds of guests: the big convention of radiologists, the three weddings, its Michelin three-star restaurant with a year-long reservation list. People want to work here. We’re renowned for new culinary concoctions, rewriting cookbooks, and we have a lot to lose if we don’t execute well and continue innovating. And all the while, we’re trying to fix our 25 year old kitchen. We have to ask various kitchen employees to stop what they’re doing to help retrofit one of the stoves, or help fix the overhead fan; other projects are to introduce a new line of cookware.
So why the metaphors? I have a new job! a mid-career change, as someone pointed out to me (I didn’t realize I was in mid-career; maybe it’s time to upgrade my wardrobe), which is to keep track of all these kitchen improvement projects, and all the new ones that keep coming in. How big are the projects and how many resources do they need? Who’s managing them, and how are they doing? How do these projects support the hotel owner’s goals for the restaurant?
There were a number of other significant changes along the way as well. When I last blogged I was in the midst of growing a program that I had started a year prior. The program had a number of good successes and the person I hired to manage it was still a temporary employee. What has changed since?
- We published a short video on our effort. We never anticipated how important this video would be- almost more so than a journal publication.
- In the summer of 2013 my temporary employee was made permanent. The role of Green BioPharma Program Manager was formally recognized and funded.
- At the same time, I started thinking about my next career move. I gave myself 12 to 24 months to change. Through my network at work I learned of managers for informational interviews on questions of people management; but also to learn of job opportunities. I had made the decision that it was time to look for new opportunities within my company in order to continue my growth professionally.
- One interview turned into a discussion about a future job opening, which I applied for.
- I then received a promotion in my current position.
- After an interview process that spanned 6 months, I started my new job in mid-March this year. As part of my transition, I recruited a senior leader to succeed me as steering committee chair, who could act as a partner to K. They’re organizing a half-day workshop to delve deeper into the goals and vision of the group. This idea was proposed by a key team member who delurked in 2013, a good sign that the initiative has taken on a life of its own, and the timing for me to bow out was good.
In my new role as the senior project portfolio manager for capital engineering projects within our manufacturing plant, I now have two business processes I care about and help manage: one is for making small scale changes in the plant (a change to a Standard Operating Procedure, a minor modification to a piece of equipment, e.g.); the other is to help planning of 30-70 large scale projects (replacing the ventilation system, retrofitting a wing of the plant in order to be able to manufacture a new product line). Of the former, the goal is to make the changes happen as quickly as possible; the goal of the latter is to make sure we’re making capital investments that realize the leadership’s strategy for the plant.
Some nice things about my new job:
- The work I do is now more central to the enterprise of the company.
- My team reminds me of people I knew in college: nice, nerdy foodie engineers. Half are women, including our manager.
- There’s a lot of interest in professional development.
- It’s fascinating. Imagine the huge communal kitchen where you’re trying to keep track of whether a certain cutting board was used for raw chicken; who used it last? who washed it last? with what? how do we know the cleaning method was sufficient? if we bring in a new dishwashing machine, how do we know it’s working as we intended? Where is this kitchen headed? What new dishes are we serving? Multiply that by 100,000.
The first few weeks of freshman year are behind me, and campus feels just as exhilarating.
Rear Window. Recently I learned that an early company leader wanted all researchers’ offices to face the Bay, so that they be inspired, essentially, to change medicine; and manufacturing employees’ offices to face the plant, that they remain focused on delivering to patients. As for my new view, which at first reminded me of Scottie’s in Vertigo, construction has never stopped since I’ve worked here. Perhaps that early leader got some things right.
Start from the beginning – Read Tse-Sung Wu’s “Week in the Life”