No body knows what will happen in the future Yuval Harari
describes in his books and in podcasts
. [See “21 Lessons for
the 21st Century”]. The twin revolutions of information
technological disruptions and biotechnology could restructure
more than economies and societies, but also our own bodies
He finds jobs in the future will be robust if they retain a menial
and creative element. Yet, so much of professions can be data
managed, searched and automated.
We are seeing a real “AI arms race”, led by remotely controlled
autonomous weapons. It is rapidly leading to invading human
Technological disruption_engineers are taking over.
Ethicists and philosophers are being lost, but incredibly missed
and needed alongside technological development.
Technologies provide immense positive outcomes, but there
can be unintended consequences and bad actors are even more likely.
We must remain very skeptical, questioning ideas and choices.
and defend and uphold a legal system that protects people.
There is human suffering and we must know it happens.
Did you sign a non-compete agreement with your current employer?
Did you keep your employment offer letter that promised certain
What are your retirement benefits from your first employer–
did you maintain your employee handbook? [if the company
still exists and functions…]
These are valuable insights that Al Sklover poses in formulating
a defensive “go” file in case you need details of your
take his prudent advice.
Rarely, if ever, do Chemistry graduates ever receive formal
or informal introductions in chemical enterprise business models.
We think it is of critical importance as it shows is how individuals
and corporations learn and how its core values.(business purpose,
core culture, operational processes and policies) are demonstrated.
So many of the BS, MS and PhD / post-grads do not find a
match to what they believe are their skills and interests. They
might initially desire to emulate their advisers, but opportunities
are often limited. So, they look for start-ups and entrepreneurial
business models. Heintz et al
show how business models can be
different in different cultures. This is an important consideration
for it affects decision making from many angles.
has predicted that chemical enterprises will benefit from
digitalization but as a whole are slow to incorporate them. This
is an area to embrace or at least consider when assessing the job
pictures families of business models.
- flow from raw materials to finished products with customer
service to offer value to customers
- exchange driven platform where groups of consumers and
producers aim to maximize value
So two examples to make things concrete for readers. Think
about the way we consume news. Newspapers in the 20th
century were from larger news organizations, printed at
central locations, hand delivered and read cover to cover.
Mass distribution of video and radio complemented printed
media. Now, we consume news mostly online via internet
and cable 24-7 and there is so much that news is continually
updated and corrected. Because of this nature and the various
media formats and sources how businesses make a profit has
moved from coupons and ads to clicks and eye balls.
Photography is a second model that reveals the revolutions
from print format to virtual world which can be re-constituted.
Then there are many other factors like portable power,
miniaturization and software versions and security.
Please note: Sklover’s Working Wisdom remains a leading
resource for us that I highly recommend. Recent notes of
importance are highlighted in this entry.
PROMISES: KEY QUESTIONS TO ASK
In a clearly written post, A. Sklover indicates two specific
questions you should ask when offered a bonus, promotion
or something of value–(1) ‘when’ and (2) ‘what conditions
need to be met’.
Specific date or time frame is the only acceptable response.
Conditions that must be met should be under your control
If this promise is part of a job offer, it needs to be inserted into
the offer letter. If the promise occurs at another time, like
a transfer or termination, for example, clear email statement
with a return email confirmation of the negotiation request
is important to document.
LEGAL TERMS IN CONTRACTS
One item I have a basic understanding for, but have the
experience that when I asked too many questions, it raised
a red flag with the organization. Do not waver, reach an
This formally includes more than one agreement between
parties which may limit or remove protections for you. It
is a flag to review each agreement and note the wording,
asking for clarity for your circumstance.
A second contract term is a new phrase.
“– [yellow light : caution]
Review every provision and understand this phrase mitigates
any reward or limits outcomes for you. Al Sklover points
out this can increase risks to you.
Did you view the Netflix video on AlphaGo defeating
the top Go player in the world? I saw it this week. It
may be time for us to seriously consider using software
to design organic synthesis routes.
We live in a fast paced world with many unexpected
directions and influences. One item that can keep us
moving forward is optimism from leaders in our
organizations. We highlight a whole issue of a
COMPUTER ALGORITHMS FOR ORGANIC SYNTHESIS
software to optimize synthetic route in Aldrichimica
Acta in a recent issue. He highlighted Milipore
Sigma’s purchase of Grzybowski Scientific Inventions
organic software tool.
that it has become more figuring out what to synthesize
rather than how to synthesize particular molecules
based on a discussion of an Angewandte Chemie
OPTIMISM IN LEADERSHIP
Think about what helps us move forward…optimism
is a force multiplier, as military leaders say….
Fast company highlights over a hundred ways
cited leaders supply leadership. When I read
the methods most are what many of us would think
of ourselves. Read through it to see how you feel your
leaders are providing leadership….
- don’t overthink - attach meaning
- grow from setbacks - wow your customers
- listen - let your actions speak for you
- play nice - obey the golden rule
- focus - nix multitasking
- go the extra mile
When you are surprised by someone or an event, you
may not be ready to do the right thing. Right? We
always recommend the importance of preparation.
The same is true of of daily agendas and decision making
and acceptance of new ideas. D. Pink highlighted this
New ideas: Better to speak to higher ups in the morning,
earlier in the week, or after a break…
Brainstorming: Off-peak time, like later in afternoon,
when you are more open-minded.
It is true however that we have different peak times.
Think about when yours might be. The idea then is
to develop strategies to adjust to different circumstances.
Pink talks about some of these.
Good news, bad news: most people accept bad news first.
What is the present and short term future market conditions?
… demand, available customers, price and competition
Assess your stress tolerance and forward seeking
optimism… What is your back-up plan?
Do you have the technical resources to move into place,
or know how to reach out to them?
Previous years’ lists
This year I will attempt to link readers to discussions of some of the
books that follow in this blog.
Maria Konnikova THE CONFIDENCE GAME: WHY WE ALL
FALL FOR IT. EVERY TIME, Penguin Random House NY 2016
Thomas L. Friedman THANK YOU FOR BEING LATE Farrar
Stevens and Giroux NY 2016
Yuval Noah Arari HOMO DEUS: A BRIEF HISTORY OF
Robert Cialdini INFLUENCE THE PSYCHOLOGY OF
PERSUASION Collins division of HarperCollins NY 1994
William Strauss, Neil Howe THE FOURTH TURNNG: AN
AMERICA PROPHECY Broadway Books, NY 1997
David Livermore, THE CULTURAL INTELLIGENCE DIFFERENCE:
Master the one skill you can’t do without in
today’s global economy,
American Management Association, NY, 2011
Adam Alter, IRRESISTIBLE: The Rise of Addictive Technology
and the Business of Keeping us Hooked,Penguin Press NY 2017
Rudolph W. Giuliani with Ken Kurson, Leadership, Miramax
Books Hyperion NY, 2002
Lisa Randall, KNOCKING ON HEAVEN’S DOOR: HOW
PHYSICS AND SCIENTIFIC THINKING ILLUMINATE
THE UNIVERSE AND THE MODERN WORLD
Robert Colville, THE GREAT ACCELERATION: HOW THE
WORLD IS GETTING FASTER, FASTER Bloombury London NY 2016
Michael Breus THE POWER OF WHEN: DISCOVER YOUR
CHRONOTYPE AND THE BEST TIME TO
ASK FOR A RAISE, HAVE SEX, WRITE A NOVEL AND MORE,
Little Brown and
Company NY 2016
Alan Alda IF I UNDERSTOOD YOU WOULD I HAVE THIS
LOOK ON MY FACE RandomHouse 2017
Barbara Oakley, MINDSHIFT BREAK THROUGH OBSTACLES
TO LEARNING AND DISCOVER YOUR HIDDEN POTENTIAL
Tarcher Peregre Penguin Random House 2017
Are you feeling stress in yourself? Need to make decisions?
Too many things to do and not enough time? Meeting with
new people, people with opposing views or too many people?
Feel cramped or feel inhibited?
These things can happen in relaxed times or in business
situation. They can happen without notice, rapidly or
with a time suspension or delay.
GP contacted me about a post graduate role and her
uncertainty over her visa situation, application process,
negotiation of starting date and leaving date situation.
GP has interest in an informal offer, but feels she faces
a series of hurdles, which create anxiety and stress.
She “presented” a stressed mindset in our conversation.
So it was important to (1)share that several other colleagues
each faced similar challenges and dared to commit to
a course of action and take it as a learning experience.
locks us from moving forward.
(2)Compliment her for moving forward and following up
on an opportunity that is within her reach.
(3)Deal proactively with barriers she foresees.
However, knowledge alone will not necessarily reduce
her stress. Alice Boyes
has offered some proactive
physical, mental and behavioral ideas, a couple which
I had not known for relieving stress, –
- running your fingers over your lips
- slow down when you feel a stress or anxiety build
Some were ones that have worked for me–
- going outside into nature
- deep breathing
- power posing (Amy Cuddy)
- muscle relaxation; Yoga
- speaking openly with trusted mentors
- try new things, test things out, learn from others
Author, Boyes, has several others, since it is true
there is no one “magic bullet.”
To formulate positive movement forward we discussed
several things that references are asked when we are
contacted. Done as a collaboration, we built positive
hope in the direction she is seeking.
a. how long is our professional connection and in
b. what are clear strengths that will be valuable
in her next position, provide examples with stories and
The reference, me in this case, needs to personalize
Then, (4) provide a “lifeline” to contact whenever
she feels the need arising.
I received a request from PP after he received a long
sought after job offer. He accepted the offer which he
pointed out included a $2000 relocation reimbursement.
“…Since this is my first industry based job, best
professional practices to follow as a new employee.
One item is the company has not followed up on its $2K
relocation allowance, which they offered during phone and
Other things not mentioned in the hard offer was processing
my O-1 work visa.
I am expected to relocate in early November. Please let me
know what you think about my relocation allowance?”
1. HOW TO ACCEPT AN OFFER
It is critical to understand your critical first step in accepting
a job offer. Besides signing the appropriate document, you
should devise an acceptance letter that re-affirms key elements
of the offer letter agreement and items that were discussed in
all the interviews and information exchanges. This should be
sent either at the same time as the acceptance documents or
Included in the letter is a request to know a direct contact person
to whom you can consult with issues, questions and concerns.
You should be able to contact them at any time and feel
You should ask for a company annual report and employee
Clearly, this acceptance letter would specifically address
relocation and working visa processing.
2. RELOCATION INFORMATION
should be confirmed orally and confirmed in writing:
- househunting, including transportation, hotel and meals
- costs of selling and purchasing, including closing costs,
commissions, legal and recordkeeping expenses
- Position searching help for spouse
- travel expenses and temporary housing for the move
- Temporary housing in cases where the home is not
- moving company expenses and logistics for packing
loading, unloading and unpacking, as well as insurances
Please realize that the details of the relocation policy
need to be confirmed and in writing. Also it is critical to
confirm the specifics of what forms, receipts and
timing of submission / reimbursement in advance.
I recommended that PP should not be hindered from
asking for information and suggestions at any time.
A more comprehensive relocation benefit discussion
Not to be lost in this discussion is the tax breaks you are
entitled to for job change as long as it involves a move
of employer greater than 600 miles. Please note that if
the job search occurs over a significant period of time
with various expenses they can all be claimed, but you
are responsible for keeping receipts (credit card
documents may be enough, if accompanied by expense
3. VISA DISCUSSIONS
You should not shy away from pursuing a firm understanding
of responsible people, timelines and your role in employment
papers. This has been a topic in this blog. We know the
visa situation has changed and will change again so it is
critical to be well informed and have a back up plan.
This note points out that when you end your academic career,
your continuous learning process really ‘begins.’ And guess
what, there are no texts for this learning and no absolute, correct
What we learn is that mentors can help you ask the best questions
and it seems each individual’s situation and priorities are different.
My colleague AJ asked:
“I also wanted to seek your opinion on employee stock options.
As a part of the offer, the company extended an option to
purchase 2500 shares of stock…the company is not public.
….attached is a document here for reference.
Before signing, I just thought of having a word with you.”
Each situation is different, but the specific wording and specific
details of the offer are very important.
My experience is that I trusted the public relations of a firm
I worked for and purchased many shares of stock with the
promise of growth and profits. In the end, I lost a great deal
of investment dollars that I could have avoided if I studied
the investor literature and consulted wise counselors.
AJ advised me that he is contributing 8% of his salary in the
company 401K and has some short term expenses. He will
check into the latest date when he must decide. My advice to
“I totally understand your quandary. I would have a similar problem
with this question, so I refer to Al Sklover Link is where I would start.
[He describes critical questions AJ should ask before signing any
Then, the next article is quite significant: in that it describes “traps” we
can find ourselves in when working at a start up.
This could be a sizable dollar commitment for you, AJ. Al is
very professional and knowledgeable. $100 spent on solid legal
advice can result in much more savings in a speculative situation.
You should start early in paying attention to legal issues.
Online resources can provide some questions for you to ask.
They can also alert you to steps that you should take at
various points in your life span.
PENALTIES RESULTING FROM RETIREE ACTION
Social Security benefits reduction and earnings test
RMD Required minimum distribution from IRAs after 70 1/2
Medicare sign-up regulations and penalties
Estate taxes (consider forming a revocable trust document)
A no cost estate planning step you should regularly update
is your savings, investment accounts and property ownership
beneficiaries. It is too easy to make assumptions and assume
your wishes will be followed. Specific forms should be
regularly updated while you are in good health and mental
If this reminder gets you to look at your beneficiaries, it
is worth posting.
POWERS OF ATTORNEY
and interpretations of wording can be specific and different.
I have spoken with each of our adult children about this
step that almost no one wants to think about until it is too
Another amazingly important entry talks about unsavory
things that can happen when documents are not properly
formulated. This means page numbering, dating, headings
and information ‘to be filled in later.’
This topic of reading contracts is not a common topic, as
we often do not bother reading the details of formalities.
It is very important in employment, loan, severance,
noncompete and many other documents. So, it is worth
each of you to have a knowledgeable and interested third
party look at your documents with your interests in mind.
(Remember, they are constructed to serve the interest of
the other party.)
Some people are in roles that it is an asset to remember and
use people’s names. Sales, interviewing, teaching, politics and
guess what, leadership roles.
[They offer F-A-C-E: Face the person, Ask how they like to be
called, Cross reference to links, Employ the name in conversation.]
In a recent podcast
I learned another acronym that might be useful
to recall names that gives useful advice: C-H-A-R-M. from Jim
- Care. Showing that you care enough to remember a person’s
name reveals a connection.
- Hearing. Often we are thinking of something else when another
person offers their name. our attention is not focused on listening
closely, Distraction leads to not hearing.
- Ask. How do you spell it? Where does it come from? What is
the meaning or who were you named after? How would you like to
- Repeat Say the name and impress yourself with the name, situation,
- Marker. imagine the names spelled on their face, or link their face to
another face with the same name and jot it down in another medium.
Our Professional Development class is interesting because
we can use feedback from class members for future discussion
items and exercises in class.
One feedback card read: Could we engage in networking
conversations and elevator speeches from each person in class?
It is better than describing them.
>In subsequent classes we asked people to deliver elevator speeches
to their team mates [which should be done in all team situations].
Then when we brought in guest speakers, we asked each class
member to deliver an elevator pitch to the guests.
A couple of other situations that are intriguing. One class member
met privately and said she did not know what to do as her team
was unresponsive to requests to work together and complete tasks
on time. We talked about it and in class performed an exercise.
What can you do to work better as a team? There are many excuses:
too busy, lazy, procrastinate, think the assignment is dumb….
- plan ahead; discuss the work assignment
- know yourself; study your teammates behaviors, values, likes
- keep in touch; communicate, even over-communicate
- offer help if others have trouble understanding/solving the assignment
- Team formation usually follows easily recognizable stages, known as
“forming, storming, norming, and performing.”
YOU ARE EXPECTED TO GET TO NORMING QUICKLY
- learn about your team-mates: their values, behavior, goals, time lines,
honesty, promptness, caring; strength and weakness
- When do you report to higher Ups?
- Influence: consistency, scarcity, authority, trust worthiness,
- Work together, share ideas and don’t just divide up the work.
- Use people’s strengths and interests to produce something that
- Become familiar with due dates, put buffer between team
deadline and final deadline alert people in advance
- Givers succeed most, reciprocators are a close second
- Adam Grant’s book “Givers and Takers”
A second class exercise was inspired by an incident where a class
member forgot an attachment when sending an email. It happens to
all of us.
The class came up with several and discussion ensued about how
some recipients might feel it revealed lack of attention to detail or
how you perform under pressure. There are technological solutions
that we should know and use.
Yahoo had an appropriate article by Maria LaMagna
about the consequences of lying in an interview when
asked how much you currently make.
This could happen in various interview formats…
screening, on-site, wrap-up with HR, or during
salary negotiations. Preparation and research
In all cases tell the truth, as they may ask you to produce
a pay stub. Alternatively it is fair to ask what is their
I feel it is appropriate to state that salary is one
component of an overall compensation package.
While it is a gauge on your value to the company,
it is fair to point out that other factors may be equally
important to you…vacation, citizenship work papers,
insurances, location, travel requirements, etc.
Reading a blog entry by B. Perlmutter, reminded me of
a section in the second class of our Professional Development
class. What I like about it is that he creates a nice context
and story about factors we need to consider in making
Our class offers fewer steps and a template to consider
classroom exercises that students might face now and
will possibly face in the future.
1 determine the facts
2 identify the stakeholders
3 identify the ethical choices
4 make a decision
5 double check the decision
Perlmutter frames his process and story in terms of situations
and risks to reputations in a golf tournament. Early in his
ethical process, he points out recognizing ethical problems,
even before knowing the stakeholders, interests and
At first, this order of process steps is not one better than
another but a different perspective about something
scientists and engineers are not often trained to think.
Ethics can be ambiguous and relative. In Perlmutter’s
perspective, ethics needs to be considered earlier. I
think this can be good and a point of emphasis.
Not long ago, this blog offered a legal perspective of
ethical decision-making. It appears different than the
first two in that it asks questions about legality,
reputation and consistency with values.
We need to understand that different people will
make a case for processing their thinking. Forni
I think states it best and has me thinking Perlmutter
says it best for me. Forni outlines the urgency to
develop and place good thinking habits as
a priority. Good thinking makes having thought,
having thought leads to a wider range of viable
choices; Good choices offer the chance for good
decisions that lead to a good life that lead to
Perlmutter’s process is documented in the
You cannot fake trust, J. Smith
wrote. Covey points
out that trust is the highest form of motivation.
When trust is lost or not part of interpersonal connection,
less than what is set out as goals will result– for
individuals, teams and organizations.
So many times I have heard one person not being selected
for something based on a comment that another lacks
trust or did not feel someone was trustworthy.
employee / boss: confidence in you before promotion
team / manager : belief in you to rely on your vision and
audience / speaker: are you credible and have a credible
message to act on your recommendations
Trust reveals faith in the honesty, integrity, reliability
and competence of another.
Two resources that may apply to situations are
SUNY-Albany provides trust elaboration in a more global
perspective. I appreciated their defining three types of trust
1. trust conferred by professional credentials and
reputation. It may change based on more interactions.
2. trust resulting from familiarity and consistent
work-group, team or association (professional, business)
3. trust resulting from adhering to legal or social
norms that prescribe and restrict behaviors and actions.
This background can be instructive as it can inform how
trust results in different and cross-cultural situations.
Phrases and appropriate, following-elaboration that enable
- ‘thank you…’ for attending, for reviewing, for helping….
- ’saying what is in it for the audience’
- telling ‘why I care about….’
- follow emotional beliefs with supporting, objective data
[not ‘cherry-picked’ data]
- listening carefully to another’s opinion and stating trust
in their judgment
- confirming that while you may not be expert on all things,
you have training, experience and willingness to learn new
things that enables you to offer a thoughtful perspective.
Other ways to foster trust
- follow through and provide early notice for meeting or
not meeting commitments
- say “no,” when you mean no
- share what you know and don’t know
Reading Chris Voss’s book on negotiations convinced me
that we need to keep learning. Don’t ever stop the process
of gathering new information from different sources,
Chris Voss really has the expertise that can be applied even in
simplest situations. Watch
- never say: have you a few minutes to talk?
- instead say:, is this a good time to talk?
Get that other person to say “That’s right.”
Use the facts as the other person sees them.
Let me highlight several significant take-aways–
1. Calibrated “how” questions keep the negotiation going. They put
pressure on your counterpart to come up with answers and
contemplate your problems when making their demands.
How am I supposed to.. How do we know…How can we….
How questions allow you to read and shape the negotiating
environment. You just have to know where you want the conversation
2. 3 kinds of “yes”: commitment, confirmation, counterfeit
3. Ackerman plan– set your goal, then first offer at 2/3 point,
calculate at three smaller increments
use lots of empathy and different “no” strategy to counter, before
you increase your offer.
use non-round numbers in your final offer
after final number, throw in nonmonetary items
What was interesting was that Chris challenges many of the earlier
strategies in negotiation tactics.
The seminar on the titled topic highlighted three
key areas that people in grad school can focus on
in addition to items successful predecessors pointed
- get out of the lab and meet people from different
backgrounds, for the degree alone is not enough
- develop critical thinking skills that will help
writing communication, audience analysis in dealing
with different audiences and
- be on positive terms with your advisor and committee
members so that they want to be allies for you in your
career for the long term.
The first TOPIC area was GRIT. That is perseverance in the face
We see this essential in all career paths.
The second area was TRUST.
The third was bringing out the concept and examples of
to develop as a critical thinking tool.
We had a working example and then lively discussion
how this is applied in a job search where a person accepted
a temporary position. Then he navigated unemployment to
receive four interviews and multiple offers helped by
the short term position experience.
We had an interesting problem dealing with a vendor who wanted us
to commit “right now.” It is a situation that can happen broadly in
many employment scenarios.
James Baker provides situations where you might feel manipulated
in making decisions–
1- pressure with deadline: question how real the deadline is, test
the parties motivation and propose what will be best for both
2- pressure with competitive price, vendor or approach: ask for
details on the quality and terms of the competition. Look for other
features you offer or provide.
3- missing person to be consulted or limited authority: ask to meet
with the person who has final authority or find out who makes the
final decisions regarding delivery, price payment, exact details of
4- moral appeal: what is underlying motivation, indicate you are
looking to be fair with all and create good long term relations
5- good guy/ bad guy: understand the manipulation and understand
that your requirements and needs are included
6- name dropping or association of related situations, number of
other clients, or similar customers.
Intimidators will use every trick they have and know. When they
find it will not work, they will become friendly. It is just another
“face.” We need to find a way to convert them into someone who
we can reach an agreeable outcome with.
Another good resource is provided.
A colleague was encouraged by her PI to apply for a postdoctoral
associate (PA) position. She was screened and traveled to an on-site
interview. She reported back that the interviews went quite well
and she was optimistic. Soon after (less than a week), an offer letter
came for a one-year appointment as PA. The first paragraph also
included starting date, annual salary of $42K, the supervisor’s name
and proviso that a background check was a precondition.
[There were usual links to policies and benefits.]
My follow-up comments to her included:
- congratulations, but keep looking
- concerns about inserting phrases in the offer letter about learning
what they find in the background check, following Al Sklover
The “Background-Check” Provision in Offer Letters –
A Risk You Should Try to Reduce
- critical review of the starting salary using ACS salary comparator.
[$42K is at the 30 percentile of such offers.]
Initial back and forth negotiations said nothing could be done with
salary, but relocation assistance would cover all expenses. No
support for green card application was forthcoming but they
understood the background check concern as her name is common
and could easily lead to confusion in such checks. She approved
the offer and signed the document.
Not two weeks later did she attend another conference and met
an entrepreneur who invited her to come for an interview for a
position that looked even better than the post-doc.
She was encouraged to pursue the position. She had two separate
interviews and dinner with the firm’s president. The result was
a very nice offer, more than $20K higher, with a series of positive
incentives (including assistance with obtaining a green card).
The problem was that she had accepted a post-doc offer.
Can you go back and turn down an offer to accept a better one?
Yes! It is entirely feasible. Yet, it is important to respond
professionally on both offers. Review the second job offer diligently
and confirm the offer details and starting arrangements (like
background check as, above). Then, practice a turn down
conversation with the first supervisor. Have all the details ready
and professionally articulated.
Then, do it in person, not via an email.
“I thought phone would be better and direct rather than just sending
an email. As mentioned in this article you just sent, Dr. …. said that
my decision is certainly not convenient for them. But he appreciated
that I called in a timely manner and discussed the situation. He
realized that my preference has always been to work in industry, and
this job sponsors me for work authorization in the US. I also told him
that I would be happy to help them in finding the best candidate for their
position. So, in the end, he wished me best luck for my future career.
…After the phone conversation, I sent an email to the HR person …
acknowledge her and let her know my decision. So she won’t [proceed
with other paperwork.”