A colleague/collaborator and I were conversing about
mentoring and mentoring programs. She was telling me
about the struggles when discussing what is important,
who should be targeted and what would a successful program
She brought up the finding that different parts of an organization,
like marketing, finance, medical affairs (medical device mfg),
and R&D views mentoring differently.
Some parts think of the role as helping new members come up
to speed with the culture because turn over is high. Another
part of the company has very low turnover, flat organizational
structure and intense detailed work. (You almost have to have
a retirement party to induce a change.)
Thus, mentoring in specific companies can assume a company
cultural bias to meet the needs at a particular point in time or
departments that it serves.
So the roles of teacher, coach, mentor and sponsor can be
adjusted. Mentoring graduate students in technical fields
needs to adjust to each field in the same view. The skill sets
can be used to meet different goals since in each field of
research, development, marketing, management, product
development and manufacturing uses the technical elements
with different goals. The emphasis is morphed to meet the needs.
She also share an interesting link to the different roles.
KAHNEMAN: IMPROVING DECISION MAKING
This brought to mind a recent book by John Lanchester
who spoke about how Kahneman influenced the interview
process in selecting military candidates (without going into
He did experiments on selection processes where
critical skills and abilities were defined, questions were
prepared by knowledgeable stakeholders for a pool of
[JOHN LANCHESTER How to speak money: What the
money people say—and what it really
means, Norton & Company,
New York 2014]
He then had a random portion of the group take objective
measure tests before interviewing.
Better selections were made when the intuition of
interviewers were supplemented by independent testing
So, in various places this additional testing is being done.
Lanchester also presented remarkable meanings of
business terms which technical people might find useful.
falling upwards: someone who screws up and is promoted
to a bigger job just as the first result collapses
fiscal and monetary: fiscal means dealing with taxes and
spending, controlled by government; monetary means
dealing with interest rates, controlled by the central bank.
“a haircut:“ in investment bonds, people who have lent money
are not going to get all of their money back.
“hollowing out:” process by which jobs disappear from the
economy while appearances remain the same.
At its peak, Kodak employed 140,000 and valued at $28B.
Instagram was sold to Facebook for $1B in 2012 and employed
“hype cycle:” process involving new inventions, technology
or product design arrives with much fanfare and is found not
to live up to its claims.
McJobs: low status, low-pay, low-security, low-prospect
jobs like at a franchise as McDonalds.
Types of unemployment: frictional, structural and cyclical
frictional: people move, voluntarily choose to change
structural: loss of jobs due to technological change or
obsolescence (chemical photography)
cyclical: loss of jobs due to boom and bust cycles of
the economical system
When we compose a cover letter or an introductory letter
to people in technical fields it is common to say that
in the first paragraph the reader needs to be “hooked”
and then “reeled in” to use the fishing analogy.
Both the analogy and terminology is common in
the marketing world. We are more and more aware of
the marketing gambit with all the technology we all
use. The first link provides an inside look into the
way marketers look at the “hook” from the perspective
of taking advantage of our habits.
There is a lot to learn from critical terms as they are
used in other career fields, like medical fields or business
fields. We don’t always get exposed to or attend sessions
with those groups of people. The second link points to
networking. Here, however, it is the comments to the
linked article that provide benefit in revealing that effective
networking is not just schmoozing or shameless pursuit
of the powerful or soon to be powerful, it needs to
be committed to helping.
HOOKED– USING HABITS TO GET YOUR MARKETING
SOURCE: T. Greenwald, Wired 23.01, Under the Influence
This piece adds a block to Charles Duhigg’s Habit flow
chart. It is the “investment” block where he states this
provides an element of a person’s choosing that results
in the next trigger .
The Wired article’s author provides 21st century
examples for behaviors marketers seek to induce
The comments to the article are sometimes biting, just
revealing that some feel there is more to it than what
Nonetheless, this article points out the use of a
psychological concept in a different field.
The article gives the effect of a similar behavior of
trying to obtain, invite or get to accept as many
Linkedin members to be part of your network. It
is not going to be effective to just add “names” who
you have not made a connection as a number of the
comments to the Schumpeter article indicate. There
has to be “something substantial” to one’s approach.
We suggest that it be “committed networking” where
you honestly seek out things for the benefit of others
and make a commitment. Your network members do
the same for you, especially when you need or ask
for the assistance.
BONUS: MERGER POSSIBILITY AND THE INFLUENCE
OF DIVERGENT CORPORATE CULTURES
SOURCE: Economist, 1-17-15, p. 59
“Blood in the Water”
This could be a lesson on the importance of legal
entanglements and clash of corporate cultures
in the merger of two large firms.
The premise is that the dropping oil price may
bring about the demise of BP as an independent
firm. Several suitors are mentioned, but each
possible large company presents major changes
in management and organizational behaviors.
This is a lesson for all professionals to observe
how cultural and legal issues can influence
Several years ago, my boss shared with me that new owners
would agree to a purchase, if he and I were to remain with
the company. It had to do with understanding significantly
valuable to a new owner and what they planned to do. This
kind of arrangement is not uncommon in technology companies
that may be involved in merger and acquisition activity.
(Note all the activity in Pharma.) Al Sklover’s recent
excellent guidance on what to look for and what to seek
is heady information in the first item.
We did not receive nor ask for a retention bonus.
A second article gave insight on the financial side of
our careers relating to some financial indices that
signal good habits. There is some debate about adding
different ones than the 15 given in the linked article.
Nonetheless a couple were quite meaningful for me.
Google is diving into the biomedical device arena
starting with contact lenses by partnering with Novartis
(-Alcon) and other technologies to solve the world’s
problems. Andrew Conrad spoke about this on WSJ.com
and is highlighted in various business magazines.
RETENTION BONUS CONSIDERATIONS AND INSIGHT
SOURCE: A. Sklover, Sklover’s working wisdom, 1-6-15
“Responding to a Retention Bonus Offer“
The retention bonus is a good faith business agreement, thus
will be offered with a formally drawn contract that is legally
binding when finalized. Al points out the usual meanings, traps
and details that can be considered for negotiation.
There are certain terms to look out for and exclude, actively
employed and sole discretion, and better phrases that
represent your position better. There is also an opportunity
to negotiate, he points out, but beware with a legal counsel
on your side.
This is another excellent, point-by-point discussion on legal
matters in lucid language.
DECISIONS: BUY OR RENT, RMD STRATEGIES, MUTUAL
SOURCE: A. Prior, WSJ 1-3-15, p, B1
“The numbers you need to know.”
We are in the process of considering downsizing and wonder
where to move and do we rent or buy. This article listed the
price to rent ratio. In a high, scarce rent area, it is better to
buy and in a cheap and plentiful rent area, it is better to rent.
Market assessment by other words, I suppose.
It also offered a strategy for required minimum distributions
RMD [for when we reach 70 1/2] when little else exists.
If you have enough income without RMD, then ask your
sponsor to hold off payment until the 4th quarter and
request enough to cover both state and federal taxes
as well as quarterly estimated taxes. This allows you to keep
the money in the tax shelter for most of the year.
Should have thought of that!
How much is your estate tax exemption (differs in each state),
mutual fund expenses (keep <1.0%), home insurance coverage
(replacement cost), debt service and rate, AGI levels, fixed,
recurring and discretionary expenses? Seems like a good
checklist, even if only a couple apply to you now.
GOOGLE BIOMEDICAL VENTURES
SOURCE: L. Friedman, Business Insider 11-3-14
“Here’s what experts really think about Google’s plan to
find cancer sooner“
I viewed an interview on WSJ Live and dug a little into
creating devices with nanoparticles made from iron oxide
to monitor what is happening in our bodies to get both
early detection and continuous monitoring of proteins,
enzymes and biologically relevant signal molecules.
Here is a scientist speaking to business people and
marketers who understands the different modes of
thinking. For marketers good outcomes in
experiments point to successes; for scientists,
experiments disprove hypotheses. He also “paints
a memorable word picture” in a story about what
motivates the work and Google.
The topic is unusual, the speaker fluent and this
reveals a new technological direction for the future.
In today’s competitive and uncertain, virtual and interactive,
career and job-assignment marketplace, technical resumes
are only one part of your public relations portfolio.
INTERNET PRESENCE: LINKEDIN PROFILE
Any consultant or reviewer who examines and critiques
only one document is shortsighted and not necessarily
offering you up-to-date advice. Why? We are approaching,
if we have not already reached, a ‘virtual presence’ world.
Your presence (or absence from) in the Internet is larger
and may be more critical for you achieving your goal of
interacting with company representatives. You have to
pay strong attention to addressing this market place.
The profile can be targeted differently than your specific
resume file that you send to each individual company.
Lindsey Pollack and Arnie Fertig highlight many
features of resumes vs. profiles and Linkedin’s mission.
In addition, it can be valuable to have a master resume
that you maintain throughout your career. It contains
all your personal information from which you
choose items to include in targeted resumes and
Organization, ease of reading, use of significant-in-
your-field keywords and ethical behaviors are important.
(Resumes also: brevity, specificity and clarity)
CONTENT DIFFERENCES BETWEEN ROLES
I respect Tom Kellum who reported that resumes
“rule people out.’ In the business side of the enterprise.
the hiring authority seeks a person who can help her
reach her goals faster. The resume, he points out, reveals
the past and not the “intangible futures.” On the technical
side of the enterprise, describing our accomplishments
reveals our Key Skills and Abilities KSA which can be
applied to solve problems and innovate.
So, not only are there differences in hard copy and
virtual documents, each of which is searchable, but
also different roles will represent us with different
styles of content.
Due to this, there are sometimes “grey areas” in the
ways things are described. In addition, some people
might misrepresent titles, dates, areas of responsibility,
accomplishments and other details to make
themselves appear more attractive. Comments in
various places point out there is little or no checking,
in the virtual world. [This is a potential downside.
Rest assured, however, most significant, untrue content is
eventually discovered and there are serious con-
The grey areas extend to the ATS Applicant tracking system
software tools that review and find our profile or resume.
ATS output from our resumes can be erroneous as well.
It is a computer output without human intervention.
Public relations documents are an inexact science that
we have to work through to manage our careers.
- master resume should be comprehensive and correct
- Linkedin profile should be complete and regularly
updated [if project based or entrepreneurial, consider
a web-page as well]
- targeted resumes, technical or business focused
- each item should be keyword rich
- follow ACS integrity guidelines.
Reminder: Don Straits indicates the resume file contains
cover letter, resume, list of publications, patents and
presentations, specialized addenda (like research
summary, industry summary, patent review, management
philosophy, etc.) and list of references.
An amazing discovery of the creation of an element with oxidation
state +9 was reported in October. Iridium +9 was characterized with
photodissociation spectroscopy. There are many possible implications
for this first +9 oxidation state element, which seems rarer than a
new element in the periodic table.
Ever-tightening budgets, combined with increasing costs, longer
tenures of graduate and post-graduate studies and a trend of
1,000 to 2,000 per year increase grant proposals (NSF) is creating
a challenge for proposers, reviewers and grant administrators.
The process of proposal reviews which all constituencies should be
well informed is undergoing both stresses and new evaluation.
While lithium batteries and lithium ion electrochemical systems
are common in many devices, avenues of research into
their components has focused on anodes, cathodes and
side reactions. New work was recently reported on the solvation
structure of liquid electrolytes.
There is quite some speculation of what this might lead to
in catalysis, structure, composition and dynamics.
PEER REVIEW: CHALLENGE OF TECHNICAL AND SCIENTIFIC
MERIT BY ECONOMIC AND PSYCHOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES
SOURCES: A. Widener, C&EN 11-24-14, p. 21,
ACS Peer Review Statement
The author describes the details of the grant proposal selection
process and infers that it is more “administratively” managed.
Pilot tests of virtual, applicant review, scaled back proposals,
and wording bias elimination schemes are brought out.
There are biases and preferences in all decision-making
processes. Challenges to pure technical review by fiduciary
and financial impacts makes every stakeholder drawn to the
Every review process is very hard and demanding and
when faced with a broader spectrum of factors, most
people are not always well equipped to providing input.
The ACS has a policy statement about peer review to keep it
technical -merit-based. This area needs every person in the
scientific community to weigh seriously.
LITHIUM SOLUTION COORDINATION 4.5
SOURCE: L. Yaris, …Better electrolyte for lithium batteries
Lithium BF4 was studied in the Berkeley light source and
Li + found to exist in solution with a higher, fractional coordination
number than previously believed.
This may lead to studies and discoveries for commercial
Did you observe the oxymoron headline on scientist employment
in C&EN 12-22-14, p.11 Temporary Turmoil? It got me to
looking deeper to find out more– differences between fields,
differences between locations, where is the data and what does
it really mean…See Critical thinking questions we should
apply when reading reports.
Are you currently in a position and wonder how to move
to another position? An interesting link is shared giving
the trend in “prized ponies,” in job market terminology,
those who are passive candidates, already working but
“shackled” into their current position.
Many scientific and engineering societies are finding
that subscription-based publication of findings and applications
are not meeting their core mission. Open access has the
potential of distributing more evenly (without bias) and widely
advances that are the output of scientific and engineering
One of the leading objections in the publication world
dominated by large societies and publishing houses is the
curious use of “impact factor” for whole journals for
career advancement purposes.
SOURCES J. Wright, Forbes 5-28-2013
“Influence of international graduates on STEM worker
shortage” ,and following articles
J. Weismann, Slate 7-10-14 “The stagnating job market for
young scientists“; Simply hired trends
Since the graphic made little sense in the above mentioned
magazine, it seemed like a good starting point to ask some
questions. Wright indicates 40% of 25,000 PhDs are
granted to international graduates. 30% obtain positions
in the US on temporary work visas.
Some areas and fields have gained openings, Wright cites.
Weismann examines trends in separate STEM fields in
a helpful manner. His conclusions, stated by quoting
other writers, may be debated.
ONLINE MARKETING FOR NEXT POSITION
SOURCE: Rachel Silverman, WSJ 1-2-15, p. B1
“New Year, New Job? Read this first“
The Economist, 1-3-15 p. 17
“There’s an App for that“
Silverman’s article hints at how companies are competing
for talented professionals. Cost-cutting seems to be
edging out retention and engagement and, rather than
giving pay increases, bonuses are offered. She puts forward
findings that new online services like online dating models
now exist– Poacht, Switch, Poachable are seen for
hard to fill and engineering positions.
A related piece by Lindsey Gellman “Show me your
Stuff” reveals that corporations are hiring using simulations
and assessment tools to reveal decision making ability and
The final lines in the piece: leave three positives
with the hiring entity.
Finally striking a similar cord to what has been brought
to your attention is the breaking up of tasks into different
skill level parts and having temporary staff handle less
impactful portions and outsourcing. The Economist
article highlights this that seems to be a continuation
PITCH: OPEN ACCESS
SOURCE ECS Interface Winter 2014. p. 31
Trends: erosion of subscription revenue and subscribers
competition from commercial publishers that game
the impact factor system and impose deals to library
collections, reduced library budgets, consolidation
in the publishing industry, and increasing number of
The article hits a number of important long term
issues that our society could do better opening a
While the above review covers some excellent topics, seven
take-aways for me about communication were:
Amygdala Hijack: the way our brains shut off the “delay and
think mode” and goes right into “react mode.” when we sense
a threat. Your ability to reason drops, working memory
falters and stress hormones flush your system, preventing
rational, logical thinking.
Many of the approaches to deal with angry, fearful or resistant
people aim to prevent amygdala hijack. Great story about
Tiger Woods and Earl Woods explains this.
Mirror neurons 2 : Humans have brain neurons which senses
mirror like behaviors and poses. It may suggest how we
reveal we care about others or they care about us in
situations where we
tear up when someone is kind
express warm feeling when someone understands us
are moved when someone asks ‘are you ok”
His suggestions are:
State something that shows agreement and understanding
of another person.
Say something indicating, I believe in you.
Empathy jolt: Generating a change in brain operations
by taking a person out of an “anger mode” and shifting to
“empathetic behavior,” in other words from “me-centered”
Empathetic feeling is a sensory experience in the nervous
system. Anger is a motor reaction to some perceived hurt
or injury. By taking an angry person to empathetic behavior
they shift from the motor brain to the sensory brain.
VCP Process: networking process identified by Ivan
Misner of BNI to be more effective at making connections.
VISIBILITY - CREDIBILITY - PROFITABILITY
V: express more than who you are and what you want.
Instead tell why they will like you. Be ‘interested’ rather
than ‘interesting.’ Talk about other people’s businesses more
than yours. Ask questions and avoid cutting their answers
C: 1)Confirm rather than assume what the person wants,
expects or needs. 2)Meet promises made. 3)Focus on
what is in it for the other person, not for you. 4) Go to
extra lengths to satisfy the client.
P: Focus on making the new connection interesting,
valuable and understood. The new connection will be either
giver, taker or reciprocator. Learn who is a “giver” and
“reciprocator.” Know that Good connections take time.
Relinquish connection with “taker.”
Goal Setting: Set specific targets and write out a
step-by-step plan. Plan to follow it with certain
check points. Write out your goal and plan.
Share your plan and steps with others. Have regular
check-ins with a respected person. Thank the person.
Keep toxic people from derailing your plan.
Physical: define cues and timing
Emotional: define specific descriptive words- anger,
Impulse: learn feelings that lead to impulses
Consequence: If I follow through, what will happen?
Solution: A better thing to do would be to….
Benefit: If I do that better thing, the benefit will be…
Meeting top people: Some possible situations to consider–
seminars and panel discussions— ask good questions that
make them look good (mirror neuron empathy),
charity events book signings— ask what did you learn about
success from your dad or mother?
Working with Gatekeepers: People who protect the
attention of top people. They are often overworked and
under appreciated. Make them feel felt and significant.
There is something very applicable from a recent
book, Amanda Ripley’s “The Unthinkable Who survives
when disaster strikes.”
She helps us understand when we face a disaster what
phases our mind goes through–
the survival arc
denial/ delay/ deliberation/ decisive moment
Survival mode gets triggered. The brain works differently
under stress. Panic is rare. Negative panic, or shutdown,
occurs more frequently. Some, however, do what is
practical to survive and know what actions to take.
Studying what we should do when a highly improbable
high consequence event occurs and practicing preparation
steps lead to resilience.
Performing appropriate practice, or walk-throughs,
the amydala of our brains gets wired to do what we should do.
This training is what we should all be thinking about
for all situations which can be stressful. Breathing
and level of preparation stands out. Military training,
where we learn that formal simulation of how we
should behave in situations, teaches veterans that
it is a worthwhile exercise to practice for readiness.
This a poignant reminder that
mock interviews of all types of interview structures
will hardwire desired actions, behaviors, thought
processes and words.
simulating introductions and handshakes with important
people at meetings to present yourself well
practicing both being interviewed and interviewing will
prepare you to be effective in both roles and thus in
practicing your presentation and what you would do
if something fails informs your brain some escape
routes when the unexpected occurs.
An article grabbed my attention, from the online OA publications
of another society. It indicates how relatively infrequent
plagiarism is now in scientific literature and some causes
and preventions editors use.
My boss used to use his email as a storage cabinet. The Sony
hacking incident is calling this practice into question.
Maybe you should too, if this is your habit.
We do not know how much longer Roth IRAs will last as a
preferred savings medium. The number of Roth conversions
continues to increase and more companies offer Roth 401Ks.
An article reviews features and trade-offs you might consider
for your longer term investments.
REPLACING EMAIL AS A FILING CABINET
SOURCE: Don Clark, Ovide and Dwoskin, WSJ 12-20-2014, p. B1
“Are you sure you want to use Email“
Many firms have email deletion programs for various reasons.
The Sony hack as the authors state opens up retrievable stored
data and conversations to people with no good end in mind.
Since it may require a deeper “culture change” in many places
there is resistance to shorter term required email deletions.
Alternate data storage approaches are indicated in the article.
Our email server limits our data cache. While I delete most
messages when no longer critical, this note opened the question
again for digital storage strategies.
COPYING CONTENT IN PUBLISHED SCIENTIFIC LITERATURE
SOURCE: A. Staller, ECS OA, December, 2014
“Analysis of Plagiarism in Scientific Papers”
ArXiv founder, P. Ginsparg, reported software maps and compares
text using a massive public database with an algorithm and finds a
small per cent of duplicate text. (order of 3%)
Many new articles are reviewed daily as they are issued.
Interesting conclusions on sources and causes of copying are
SOURCE: L. Saunders, WSJ 12-20-2014, p. B7
“Is a Roth right for you“
Roth: if your tax rate is higher on withdrawls than current
tax free withdrawls after 59, taxes paid on contributions
Uses: emergency fund
Conversions: between 65-70 when people are at lower tax
rate can be advantage
are reversible and available after age 70
We added one item of several to a detailed list of examples
of rude behavior we may face. This was a (1)hand-out in a
recent seminar that gave examples, (2)elicited how people
commonly respond, then reviewed habit stacks that might
help deal appropriately with situations.
The one added item is cell phone misuse in public spaces
Most of the time people indicated their reactions would depend
on the situation. Most would consider rude behaviors they
face as minor and not worth commenting or considering. These
behaviors do make a difference. It is estimated to cost $36B in
workplace situations and $160B in driving situations!
What triggers rude behavior? It is a form of incivility which
has been a subject here citing the work of P. Forni. Our
seminar covered (3) causes of rude behavior (4) the spectrum
of incivility, (5) suggestion for what to do, a habit stack.
There has been quite a bit of interest in following discussions.
- MUD CARDS, see the Habit stack at the end for dealing with
rude behavior situations
- Cite a book by Mark Goulston “Just Listening” and add
his insights on particular Rude behavior “actors”
- restate three Forni video vingnettes
This seminar was therapeutic for many, they indicated. In addition
practicing the habit stack builds resilient confidence and might
be useful in constructing responses to interview questions
which ask for stories in how you deal with situations.
What strategy do you use to store, manage and keep your
passwords secure? It is a common problem that companies
are developing strategies to devise and make profits. Topic
one offers comments on software for managing secure
When we travel now we realize baggage fees
could amount to a quarter of the airline cost.
It is one logical reason to fly the no-bag-
fees airlines or acquire a credit card that has
bags fly free. Other strategies to keep costs
down are cited.
We all like it when our investments increase. Sometimes
they don’t. Even still we know that we can sell at a loss
and reduce the loss impact via a taking a loss. Despite
not wanting to take a loss, sometimes it is a solid
Microbiome updates. I think these two are worth
MANAGING YOUR SITE PASSWORDS
SOURCE: WSJ 12-10-14, p. D1 Personal Technology,
“New Way to Secure Passwords all at once?
The article promotes Dashlane to do something we
all face– manage our site passwords for computers,
cellphones, and tablets. The comments to this article
offer both problems with Dashlane and alternatives.
An oldschool approach is to write them down on a
notebook in your desk that you constantly update.
This gets to be 5-6 pages long.
Double entry security and some personal biometric
approach offers other possible secure sign-ins.
AIRLINE BAG FEE COST REDUCTION
SOURCE: C. Hill, Marketwatch,
“9 secrets for outsmarting airline baggage fees“
What is nice about this article is that it is current
and offers the latest policy changes.
Worth looking at if you are traveling soon,
have a baggage problem and it is “on your dime.”
END OF YEAR INVESTMENT LOSSES
SOURCE: J. Burton, WSJ 12-8-14. p. R4
“How to be smart about your losses“
Article talks a little about the psychological
challenge of taking a loss. In offsetting capital
gains, it can be worthwhile.
The article points out where you might have
losses. Then it addresses your investment
style after the run-up in stocks this year.
The author rationally notes evaluating management
changes, performance departures, and shifts in
process thinking in the investment.
SOURCES: R. L. Stevenson, American Laboratory
Dec. 2014, p. 6, “Our life and death relationship with
American Laboratory Dec. 2014, p. 6
WSJ, 11-18-14, p. D4, “In the gut, the mix of
bacteria can affect your weight?
Suggestions are that more than a dozen ailments
and diseases are influenced by the bacteria and
that antibiotics influence system wide changes
in ways we might not anticipate. The WSJ looks
at it pretty objectively, not for making immediate
Echoing a similar theme is Bob Stevenson’s
editorial that speaks to the lifelong effects of
antibiotics and a helpful precaution on personal
safety– wearing gloves, use of hand sanitizers,
and hand washing.
Good conscientious reading!
The PhD graduate had worked hard. We had spoken several times
over the last 6 months about documents, interview questions and
follow-up activities. Now the time had come. He received a generous
offer from a high tech firm through networking with a previous
member of his research group.
The networking connection, he mentioned, did not land the job
offer for him. It allowed him to be selected to be interviewed. He
had to do the rest. In fact, during group interview sessions, the
person he had an affiliation with was pretty much a silent partner.
Salary, benefits, starting date, position title, bonus plan involvement,
relocation provision of $4K (with a repayment plan if the new
employee left earlier than 2 years; this is a “clawback” condition)
were nicely covered in the offer letter.
There are many uncertainties at this point. So we spoke about
obtaining clarity on his starting title of “senior phosphor engineer”,
obtaining an offer to cover expenses of a househunting trip,
asking for assistance in registering for permanent residence (lottery,
fees, legal) and
suggestions for what to do with 401K, healthcare spending account,
insurances and vendors, and medical needs.
It was interesting to note that the offer letter indicated he was “at
will” and gave him just 4 days to respond to accept the offer. On
the company webpage, the position was listed as temporary.
Al Sklover’s page is a valuable resource to mention at this point.
He reviews terminology and how to word questions so that they
come across professionally.
We did not go into salary comparisons, however the ACS salary
comparator listed his offer at the 80 percentile using 2013 data.
[Interesting to note glassdoor.com listed ~$10K higher salaries
It was an eye opening experience visiting lecture,
laboratory and seminar sessions at a community
college recently. Chemistry professionals from
many backgrounds play important roles in this less
heralded segment of an academic career path.
Recent advanced degree graduates, mid-career people
who have transitioned from industry, scientists with
interdisciplinary backgrounds in marketing, product
development and analysis, and experienced community
college professors with a passion for instilling a strong
desire for the chemical field to curious minds are all
dedicated to this sub-field.
The excellent Preparation for Life After Graduate
school program offers Community College teaching as
one of “four” academic directions with a eye-popping
1811 institutions (~60% of the total number) enrolling
44% of all chemistry undergraduates. The roles that
this major subset of our community needs to provide
is met by incredibly dedicated staffs of professionals.
They not only teach general chemistry and organic
chemistry lectures, seminars and laboratories, but also
have important roles in preparing undergraduates in a
dozen other technical fields with interdisciplinary
foundations in chemistry. A major component of their
professional roles involves mentoring, coaching and
teaching the accountability and determination skills (grit)
that we all recognize as important.
THE STUDENTS WHO ENROLL
The “average age” of community college students is
nearer typical graduate school population of 24-26
with many more adult responsibilities that typical
undergraduates and graduates may not– families,
full time jobs, military commitments, travel and
home considerations, and more.
They often do not know where jobs are or what graduates
can do or where they can progress to the next academic
HOURS, INCIDENTS AND STYLE
A recent AHA (History) description of some differences
in teaching intensity of more sessions in survey courses
can be translated to general chemistry and organic
Community colleges manage student traffic and hours
of classes in a way that allows student to attend classes.
So often that means late afternoon through evening classes
and mid-day classes.
Classes can be longer (1.5-2 hours) and focus more on
repetition of core concepts and ideas in interactive
problem solving styles either with individuals or
Classes begin on time, yet students arrive at various times
due to conflicts with traffic and work. The teacher has
to be creative and resilient to bring late arrivers up to
speed in considered ways to be effective teachers and
LABORATORY- MAJOR DIFFERENCE BOUGHT OUT
IN COMMUNITY COLLEGE
Nothing replaces the need for good laboratory instruction
in chemistry. It is hard to simulate labs without at least a
performance type of run through. I observed wonderful
listening, organization and problem solving of a half
dozen cases as students encountered set-up, execution and
laboratory report writing (incidentally, handed in on the
same day of the experiment.). A dedicated full time staff
member needs to be involved and committed to student
In addition, critical habits involving preparation, cleanliness,
safety, hazardous materials and operations need to be developed
and repeated. A one time through a process is not enough.
This is just one of several ways chemistry curricula is different
than the history community college description by John Ball.
Another way is the logical and mathematical content and
formalism of homework and examination responses. So while
there can be essays or multiple choice responses chemistry
requires critical thinking problem solving. Often times, one
can understand the descriptions, but chemistry requires sticking
to things till the end without taking shortcuts. While many
students “live on” partial credit, it is not a desired approach.
We spoke over lunch, a colleague and I, where she mentioned
one of her resolutions was to do more external committed
networking. That is, reach out to those outside her current
firm. This reminded me of an appropriate article by Jean
Cummings on “avoiding short term thinking.”
A second offering here is for those who do not often
read books about Global leadership and out of the WSJ.
As scientist we should be aware of these perspectives and
less tunnel-visioned by single issues. Pursuing true
national energy self-sustainability as a way to regain stable
global leadership is not a single issue but a mission with
A third consideration is how the DNA of bacteria in our gut
are genetic recorders of chemical history and exposures.
MID-CAREER PERSONAL MARKETING
SOURCE: J. Cummings, 10-13-14, Don’t let short term
thinking derail your career.
Jean has created a list of things mid-career technical
people who realize the higher you go up the pyramid the
fewer the suitable positions you would qualify for and
be happy doing. She lists personal marketing goals and
shorter term objectives and development plans that would
be worth investing in. As she mentions it may help avoid
a train wreck, due to unexpected changes.
SOURCES: E. Schoeniger, WSJ 11-19-14, p. B5
Sustainability: Biofuel finally breaks through
and W. K. Clark, “Don’t wait for the next war: A strategy
for American Growth and Global Leadership“
E Schoeniger wrote another in a series of pull-out ad
pieces documenting how biodiesel continues to be
a significant component of fuels for the transportation
sector. It has a large economic and environmental
impact despite its relative size compared to petro-fuels.
This is where Wesley Clark’s controversial book comes
in. Clark posits that America needs a coherent vision
and strategy that addresses the underlying military-
industrial-financial dilemma of our age– dependence
on OPEC and China. Technology now is ready “to
climb this mountain”… where it was not 40 years ago.
This is where science technology and engineering
careers will be.
BACTERIA TO STORE EXPOSURES
SOURCE: Science Digest 11-13-14
Via SLAS Alert “Bacteria become genomic tape recorders
recording chemical exposures in their DNA“
There is something fundamental about this recent report of
storing information about our personal exposures in
the DNA of our Microbiome. Lu explores and devises
a strategy to record, store and play back chemical
It is amazing how our microbiome plays a significant role
in our health. And to think much of this direction came from
finding that a bacterium was responsible for stomach and
Original citation: Farazadfard, Lu, Science 2014 346 6211
Genomically encoded analog memory with precise in
vivo DNA writing in living cell populations
This was my fifth consecutive year being invited to meet undergraduate
chemistry majors. My host asked me to Talk about what it like for
people working in fields that a chemistry degree can prepare you
for. Our class also had a nice question and answer segment where they
asked how I got started.
I began by sharing that internships, coop programs and undergraduate
research activities really expose them to chemical problem solving
and practical aspects of chemistry and chemistry related fields.
High School. My positive inclination toward chemistry started by an
influential high school chemistry teacher who noticed my interest and
took a liking to me and recommended (sponsored) me for a job.
Summer Medical Research Internships. Near the end of my 2nd year
I got the courage to knock on the door of the chairman of the
Biochemistry Department. I inquired whether there were any
opportunities to work in his lab. Dr. Richard Winzler kindly offered
me a position through the summer in his research group.
The next three summers I was privileged to work with grad students,
post-docs and visiting faculty. It helped me get the knack of research
addressing different kinds of problems.
Undergraduate Research. In my senior year Dr. Bob Allendoerfer
agreed to have me become his first student in his lab doing undergraduate
research on my own project. Our studies involved spectroscopic
studies of a free radical stabilizer. He gave me a lot for my 3 credit
hour course and prepared me for graduate research.
So my first semester of formal graduate research I had already
experienced four kinds of research activities, knew about setting goals,
asking questions and developing proposals.
Don’t be afraid to ask.
Then we talked about the different fields outside the obvious ones
where chemical knowledge is applied. Law, patents and contracts,
Customer Relations management, sustainable processes and products,
Resource recovery, medicine, diseases and therapies….
Negotiations can lose momentum quickly when our
untrained, emotional habits and fears are exposed.
We saw this in our Negotiations Seminar. Four groups
were invited to choose one of three scenarios of negotiations
and set up a two party negotiation within their group.
The seminar had covered all of the elements of the
-offer in writing, job description in writing
-set up your process, enlist a helping team, set your family’s
priorities among the possible items and do thorough research
and due diligence
-develop and practice your strategy
-develop ideas for your BATNA
-execute and adapt to situations
We had covered the Negotiations Checklist.
A. One of the comments afterward was that there weren’t clear
instructions of what to do. The response is it is an applicant’s
responsibility to show that they can create order out of an
uncertain situation. Each group should have gravitated to the
process flow chart and checklist. This was a teachable moment.
B. Another interesting observation was that there was no
strategic thinking and establishing of a priority order of the list
of things. This was demonstrated by one proposal: Will the
company pay for my student loans.
Again the point is to find out leverage points. What are the company’s
highest needs? How can you the applicant meet and exceed them?
Listen carefully after exploring their wants to develop your
leverage in the negotiation. Then, the company representative is
more than willing to pursue their BATNA ideas to have you want
to join their organization. Another teachable moment.
Instead, the question showed an attitude that might only turn the
There are organizations– the Federal government, that have certain
loan repayment provisions for specific position hires. But your
responsibility in negotiation is to explore leverage points.
Good habits: Use the negotiation process
Know and implement the Negotiation Checklist.
A very recent PhD attended the Negotiation Process
seminar. This person seemed to be both pleased
This person expressed not being aware of the importance
of receiving a formal offer letter. The list of possible
items that could be negotiated and how to form and
conduct the process were quite valuable. However,
it seems, preliminary research work for this small
company had already begun without pay or even an
Let me indicate that this entry is not focused on the
offer letter and its contents. Please refer to excellent
entries in Sklover Working Wisdom.
This person asked: What should I do now, as I have
not heard from the small start up company entrepreneur?
The verbal job offer for the PhD was $50K/ year.
This is clearly an opportunity to put the negotiating
checklist and negotiating process to work. It is
important to ask for an in person meeting to seek
a written commitment stating starting date, title,
salary and formal benefits and any conditionals
(like, receiving a grant or funding or contracts).
The person should be doing formal due diligence on
this position and its competitors, should be forming
a negotiating team to help define and evaluate, should
be establishing BATNA and all the other process
steps and checklist items.
To start, going to the ACS Salary Comparator can
establish a ground state. It does not seem to me,
besides protests to the contrary, that $50K is a
reasonable starting salary for a full time PhD position.
The 2013 data assessment bore this hypothesis out.
SCENARIO Academic Commercial
Specific area N. E. outside of NYC and Boston
research Contract Profession
80 %ile $83K $109K $114K
60 %ile 73K 96K 100K
30 %ile 61K 80K 83K
10 %ile 51K 67K 70K
There is certainly room to seek a better offer just
The workshop provided 30 other negotiating factors
that in the best interest of this person should be prioritized
before the formal in person meeting.
In addition, a viable back-up plan needs to be developed
in short order.
Negotiation is not something people feel comfortable
doing for it can feel like moving from a certain offer
to a risk-laden proposal with an uncertain response.
Our minds are uncomfortable with uncertainty. Thus,
some people are shy to negotiate and aim to please the
other party (undermining their own family needs).
It is helpful then to have a working definition that
clarifies that negotiation is a process of “motivating”
another person to do something that (s)he at the moment
is not inclined to do.
The power you have to motivate is “leverage” to
excel and complete the tasks and projects assigned
to you. Thus, your approach is not “me-centric”
(ie. I want, I need….)
You can establish leverage by being likeable so that
both you and the other party feel comfortable in
sharing and more importantly listening to each other,
and clarifying interests and needs. We then agree to
understand the interests and meet and exceed
the needs which yields leverage in a negotiation.
Many successful negotiations are not “one-person
shows,” but result from team efforts, resources and
inputs to define priority needs to seek in the
Previous posts on negotiation
Using T-Charts to compare offer terms
Legal aspects of negotiations
Things to avoid
things to have– written offer
Things to ask and of whom to ask them
Do you read hardcopy newspaper for your current
events news, or watch video feeds, or employ a
browser to collect information from Flipboard,
Huffington Post, msn, or leading online newspapers?
Unintended consequences of our race to keep
informed as efficiently as we can, have others
select the content for us.
Look around and observe all the changes that
technological trends are producing by adaptation
and trial and error efforts to support ourselves.
There are many things that reveal structural
changes in our work environments that we should
be observing and paying attention to.
BROWSERS REPLACING BOOKSTORES
SOURCE: T. Teachout, WSJ 10-24-14, “Closing
our browsers: “Without brick and mortar bookstores,
what happens to browsing?”
How many times have you searched for a specific
reference and inadvertently found something even
more interesting? This possibility seems to be
rapidly going away as we become sequestered (using
a government term) into using the Internet for more
things. This leaves the old fashioned “gum-shoe”
actions of informal browsing an activity of the past.
There is more to it– this article suggests as bookstores
close and many more buy their content either
digitally delivered or via Amazon.
SHOPPING MALLS BECOME OFFICE COMPLEXES,
WAREHOUSES AND DATA STORAGE CENTERS
SOURCE: D. Fitzgerald and P. Ziobro, WSJ 11-4-14
p. B6, Malls fill vacant stores with server rooms
This article hints at multiple secondary uses of
brick and mortar facilities, that we urge readers,
provide changes and opportunities, if you are ready.
Several people I know have shared office spaces
in an old warehouse. Medical offices for records
and accounting are more often in former malls
that replace typical big name retailers.
In strategically advantaged locations (with electricity,
light, telecom connections, and suitable fire protection)
well trained computer scientists set up and run
data-farms in former retail outlets.
PETROLEUM RESOURCE RICH LOCALITIES
BATTLING FRACKING PRODUCTION
SOURCE: L. Eaton, WSJ 11-4-14, p. B1
“Fracking’s unlikely Battleground“
In the Barnett Shale region of Texas, a traditional BONUS: While “browsing” on one topic (crowdsourcing) and The new director (M. Lee) and Presidential Innovation
hotbed of pro-drilling activity, a voter initiative
to ban fracking is being tested today. It is based on
exposure to and toxicology of the chemicals in
the surrounding area to fracking facilities.
in August in San Francisco of the early determinations
and observations of the fracking revolution.
In the review, Robert Stevenson impartially discusses
the process, the concerns, the risks and elements
of regulation. If this topic is of interest or concern
this review is a targeted technical assessment.
CROWDSOURCING IN PATENT REVIEWS
SOURCE: “Anyone ever done this before? Patent
office turns to crowdsourcing“
exploring where it might lead, a mighty and helpful
“factoid” was uncovered.
The PTO is seeking ideas and strategies to examine
prior art for new patent applications in its search
for improving the patent approval process.
Fellow (C. Wong) are facilitating processes to improve
private and public sector cooperation in a beneficial
way in PTO operations.
While “browsing” on one topic (crowdsourcing) and
The new director (M. Lee) and Presidential Innovation
So often career consultants get requests to review resumes
by nearly-ready-for-thesis-and-defense PhD or MS student or
a post doc. When career consultants ask, for good reason,
what position are they applying for, they say:
The resume they send me will not land them an interview.
The reason is: the document is an incomplete mixture of a
CV and a resume that does not answer the questions each
kind attempts to offer to the reviewer.
The resume writer, not knowing what career path to aim for first,
might best begin by completing a “master resume” or complete
CV with all personal date. Jessica Holbrook Hernandez nicely
described the Master Resume as a resource document containing
every skill, valid dates, all positions and accomplishments,
no matter whether in school, as a volunteer or for employment.
All of the information does not necessarily end up in a
targeted resume which would be sent to land an interview for an
industrial position nor in a CV for academic positions.
In all cases, though, we need to include Keywords used in
the field or industry. If a person applies to different organizations
for example, one might use NMR for another you might use MRI.
I am always surprised that people use some standard Office
format, when they should realize not everyone uploads
preserving the formatting. (Read the instructions link for
uploading) Or, that your name should be on
each page with its page number, except page 1.
Another surprise is presuming that the resume reviewer
will be able to figure out the formatting or will understand the
unique meanings of things like: ‘pristene graphene,’ phi
lambda upsilon, and ccd (not charge coupled device).
In 2014 the resume document alone is insufficient. So
much transpires on the Internet, you need to also have
a strong, attractive and complete profile on the web. One
of the most common is a Linkedin Profile. A solid
commentary on areas to emphasize is given by Interns over
40 blog. It is not a bad idea to list this information in the