Archive for the 'Career' Category

Leaving the Sameness

In a day when "social network" is a buzz term from colleges to board rooms, the members of Wednesday 10 show the benefits of old-fashioned networking. "We were all young kids starting out, and it is easy when you are so involved in building your career to lose touch with other people who are outside your field," says Mr. (Robert) Menschel, who has been at Goldman Sachs for 55 years. "It helped me to understand why other people do what they do—which is important in life and in business. You don’t learn anything from talking to sameness."

An Old-School Social Network – The Wednesday 10 –

I couldn’t agree more.

image Almost three months ago, I took the leap and joined a multi-national marketing and advertising agency as their social media editor. I had some doubts about committing to something that, on the surface at least, had nothing to do with science. But, my gut told me that it was a rare opportunity to learn something that is also relevant to science communication. I am pleased to say that I have learned a lot during my time at the agency from filling in timesheets to creating PowerPoint “decks.” And I have already had the opportunity to apply those skills to the science arena as media consultant to the Human Genome Organisation (HUGO).

Leaving the sameness wasn’t easy. I often think it’s all very surreal that I’m overhearing and even participating in conversations that involve branding, customer engagement, KPIs, ROIs, FMCG, etc., etc. Just to show how out of it I can be, when working on a project, I often forget about including costs until the project manager reminds me!

It’s a whole different mindset and I’m being pushed to develop a new identity and to go outside of my comfort zone. Although it sure has been fun getting dressed nicely for work and having a mini-vacation from the kids! They are handling my return to work very well even on days when I am out at client meetings until 7 pm. I couldn’t have imagined that a year ago.

In the coming year, I hope to be able to take some short overnight business trips if necessary (I’ve already had to turn one down). And, I hope to have the opportunity to continue learning, progressing, and contributing both at work and at home. Wish me luck! 

Photo: In my car on my way to work.

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Dressing for Work in Singapore

Going back to work in an office has been a lot of fun in many ways. I’ve definitely enjoyed "dressing up” which for me means a full face of make-up, work clothes, and some accessories.

Make-up includes:

  • Sun block
  • Concealer
  • Liquid foundation
  • Powder
  • Blush
  • Eye shadow
  • Eye liner
  • Mascara
  • Lipstick/gloss

Most of my clothes come from Marks & Spencer because it’s one of the few stores in Singapore that carry my size (larger than the average Singapore woman but smaller than the average American woman). Luckily, they’re a little more stylish than they used to be 10+ years ago so I don’t feel totally mumsy. When we lived in London, I would have only bought basics at M&S and the rest at Kew.

pearl braceletI’ve also attempted to accessorize with my small collection of Georg Jensen silver necklaces and a few other low budget items. Today I played around with a couple of freshwater pearl necklaces my mom gave me. They’re a little too short to fit around my thick neck but luckily for me, they fit perfectly as bracelets! From this I guess you can infer that my wrist is half the circumference of a skinny woman’s neck. :P

What do you wear for work?


HUGO Matters

My latest project has launched! HUGO Matters, the official blog of the Human Genome Organisation, is now live. Come check it out:

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Job Tips from Captain Dazzle

I’m going back to work tomorrow (in an office! /gasp/) and I hope I’ll be as amazing at my job as Edmund Khong aka Captain Dazzle who patiently created balloon sculptures for the kids at Fidgets indoor playground this afternoon. Stephen thought Captain Dazzle was “super awesome.”

Captain Dazzle Captain Dazzle with his Elmo balloon creation

Here’s what I learned from Captain Dazzle about doing a good job:

  1. Captain Dazzle knows how to prioritize. He knew exactly who was next even though the kids were often clustered around him out of line and cutting in front of each other.
  2. Captain Dazzle is creative. The balloon sculptures he made were amazing including one called the “twister” that consisted of a long clear balloon twisted around another colored balloon. Inside the clear balloon was a small balloon ball that rolls from top to bottom when you invert the twister. Genius.
  3. Captain Dazzle keeps the kids’ needs in mind. Even though the kids were plenty entertained watching him make the balloon sculptures, he also asked the next kid in line what sculpture s/he wanted and what color. Then he would ask the kid to hold the uninflated balloons to get ready for being next. Anticipation!
  4. Captain Dazzle has a great sense of humor and never stopped smiling.
  5. Captain Dazzle is not afraid to be himself. Just check out those big red shoes!
  6. Captain Dazzle works hard. He stayed at least a half hour longer than he was supposed to and kept making balloons for the kids because they wouldn’t stop asking.

Thanks, Captain Dazzle! We were really lucky to have bumped into you.

FYI, Captain Dazzle is at Fidgets on Wednesdays starting at 3:30 pm.


Why Sarah Palin Quit

image Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska announced on the 4th of July that she is ending her term early and not seeking a second term.

Sometimes it’s just easier to get out. Starting anew means pursuing other opportunities to win. Whether she’s headed for a presidential campaign or president of the PTA doesn’t matter. Her stint as governor of Alaska and her bid at the vice-presidency of the U.S. didn’t go the way she’d wanted so maybe it seems better just to end it and call it quits. Why stick it out for more humiliation?

Palin’s a success by many people’s standards but she obviously hasn’t been the best at everything (understatement of the year). Along with the success, there have also been failure and embarrassment.

I understand her decision because I think I’m a bit like Sarah Palin (although hopefully not quite as barracuda-like). I would also guess she suffers from imposter syndrome. And when she says that she has “never been one to waste time or resources,” I think she’s mostly referring to her own time and resources rather than the state’s. It can be easier and more enjoyable to put your efforts into something new rather than continue struggling towards a goal that may be unattainable.

I’ve done the same myself.

  • Didn’t make concertmaster and second chair first violin isn’t good enough? Quit violin and be principal string bass!
  • Can’t be bothered with existing school clubs? Resurrect the defunct Spanish club and become de-facto president!
  • Advanced chemistry and physics too daunting? Quit pre-med and go public health!

In all of these situations and more, I’ve found other paths. Not necessarily better or worse but plenty good enough. Sarah Palin has not done what most everyone else would have done or advised. Yet despite her surprise resignation, she still has plenty of other opportunities to succeed.

I am no fan of Sarah the barracuda but I support her decision to quit.

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Finance Jobs Are Not So Useful

A comment from a WSJ Juggle post about how losing your job can affect your kids referring specifically to the Bear Stearns meltdown:

If you are depending on so-called “finance” jobs for your work you might consider learning a skill that is more practical and useful.



Don’t Let Knowledge Go To Waste

I don’t really get this post–A Career Substitution–at the BusinessWeek Working Parents blog. Guest writer and former museum curator Lori Gilbert writes about well-educated women with specialized skills who left full-time paid work for their children and chose to return as substitute teachers and librarians?! She asks:

Has giving up our full-time work placed us permanently in the category of substitutes?

Heck yeah! And that’s only because you let yourself be placed in that second-tier category.

going to workFrom high school onwards, I have never taken a job that didn’t have some relevance to my future goals. For my first job, I worked as a receptionist at my mother’s company where I learned business etiquette and practices. Later on, I worked as a pharmacy clerk and research assistant at biotech start-ups. While I may not be the full-time professor or researcher that I envisioned for myself 15 years ago, I am still working in my field part-time. If I were no longer involved in science and biotech, I’d feel that I’d wasted the specialized knowledge I gained through many years of hard work and study.

FYI, here’s the comment I left at the blog:

Your experience and anecdote about your friend are both interesting but I have to wonder how smart women could have ended up with less than suitable jobs. I have a PhD in public health (genetic epidemiology) from Johns Hopkins and have an undergrad degree from Stanford that I finished in 3 years (and a quarter) as well. I left the full-time workforce a few years ago to take care of my son and now have another child on the way.

When I was ready to return to paying work, however, I chose to make a “comeback” as a science writer and biotech consultant. Both positions give me even more flexibility that the substitute jobs you’ve mentioned because I work from home. Yet I’m still involved in science and public health.

I fear you may be selling yourselves short by not reaching for jobs that can utilize your full potential and specialized knowledge. For women like us who are experts in our field, it’s a real shame to lose your input and skills in the marketplace!

I’ve learned over the last few years not to sell myself short. And don’t you do it either!


All Hail The Genetic Information Specialist

As promised, my company profile is up. Go have a laugh.

Thank goodness everyone looks good in pictures as small as 72×99 pixels. Or not. You may disagree.


The Corporate Me

IMG 6422

My sister helped me take a few profile pics this morning for my company website and this one didn’t make the cut. When the one I did choose goes up, I’ll let you all know so you can have a good laugh.


Silicon Valley Life…Maybe Not for Me

My parents, my sister, and I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in the second half of my fifth grade year. I moved away in 1994 to go to grad school, but my sister and her husband plus my parents and most of my close friends remain in the area. Some live and work in the heart of Silicon Valley and others nearby.

i heart silicon valley

For a long time, I thought I would move back someday, somehow. This past Spring, we almost did when there was a strong promise of a job for me. But after talking to Marv, we decided that this wasn’t the time to return even if Silicon Valley feels like the center of the world (at least for my area of expertise – genomics and the Web).

Today’s NY Times article further confirmed our decision not to move back.

In Silicon Valley, Millionaires Who Don’t Feel Rich

No one knows for certain how many single-digit millionaires live in Silicon Valley. Certainly their numbers reach into the tens of thousands, say those who work with the area’s engineers and entrepreneurs. Yet nearly all of them still have all-consuming jobs, not only because the work gives them a sense of achievement and satisfaction but also because they think they must work so much to afford their gilded neighborhoods.

Marv and I have a good life even though we live in London, UK, also one of the most expensive cities in the world.* Granted, we’re business expats so needn’t worry about some basic needs like housing, car, etc. Even more important, we’re able to save money for Stephen’s college education and still enjoy our life of books, video games, and toys. I’m sure we could do the same in the Bay Area made all the easier because we’d be with family and friends but my biggest worry is: I’m not sure I could resist joining in the chase.

Umberto Milletti of InsideView:

Here, the top 1 percent chases the top one-tenth of 1 percent, and the top one-tenth of 1 percent chases the top one-one-hundredth of 1 percent.

For now, I’ll enjoy watching the race from the sidelines. It’s a lot more comfortable here in my dining room next to the River Thames. Thank goodness for the Internet! We’re so far, yet still so close.

*Moscow has London beat, though!