Archive for the 'Career' Category

I’m a Rounder

math - numbersScott Adams in The Dilbert Blog says:

ROUNDERS: This group rounds things off. A problem that’s a two on a scale of one to ten gets rounded to zero. If a rounder has five problems that are all about a two on a scale of one to ten, he’ll tell you he has no problems.

That’s me. Blinders on. Head in the sand. :D

Scott also hands out an assignment:

Your assignment for today is to describe your own job in one sentence, preferably in a humorously derogatory way.

This is mine:

It’s my job to make a big deal out of nothing.

~Hsien, biotech commentator and consultant

What’s your job description? (Don’t miss the reader responses to this at The Dilbert Blog.)


Hiring PhD’s

Mark Andreessen says, “Don’t do it.”

I say, “Do it! Please hire me!”

On the other hand, I am a middle-aged woman soon to be discarded on the heap of has-beens.

clipped from

Google, on the other hand, uses the metric of educational achievement.

Have a PhD? Front of the line. Masters? Next. Bachelor’s? Go to the end.

In apparent direct contraction to decades of experience in the computer industry that PhD’s are the hardest people to motivate to ship commercially viable products — with rare exception.

  blog it

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My New Gig

After all the whining and complaining, I signed a contract this week and am now a consultant for DNA Direct!

Oh, and I think I may be coming down with my fifth cold in as many months. That’s 5 for 5. AHHHHH.


Wishful Speaking

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This past week I’ve been busy getting myself on a new career path. Part of my efforts involve emailing everyone to tell them that I’ve left b5media and can be found at my new independent genetics blog – Eye on DNA. Almost every person has asked why I left b5.

The most important reason for moving on is that I wanted to refocus and concentrate solely on genetics and science. But another reason is that I wanted a new challenge. I’d learned enough about social media and professional blogging to be able to strike out on my own (with some much appreciated help from Christina). And although I still subscribe to over 50 blogging-related feeds, it was time to step outside my comfort zone of 18+ months.

After a few recent conversations with knowledgeable people (who shall remain nameless because of NDA’s and such), I feel somewhat confident that I can parlay the reputation I’ve built for myself as an industry expert into biotech consulting. I’m still not sure how it will turn out but there is already one problem I have to overcome.

I must stop using self-defeating language like: “I hope I can move into biotech consulting” or “I wish to return to genetics and biotech.”

John Chow said it best:

You know why a person with a loser’s mentality always use words like someday, I hope or I wish? He does it because it gives him an out and not be accountable to his word. If he was to place a time limit on the goal and doesn’t do it, he fails, and a loser hates failing. Winners have no fear of failing because they know success is made from a string of failures.

I won’t admit to being afraid of failing since I’ve certainly failed before and gotten back up. And it helps that my income is supplementary rather than primary so I don’t have any real pressure NOT to fail. (Thank you, Marv!) It is true, however, that I’m afraid of humiliation and am trying to give myself an out.

I figure if the project proposals I’ve turned in or talks fall through, I can always plug away at Eye on DNA and have plenty of ideas for expanding that would keep me busy for a while. The thing is, I don’t believe expert blogging in this form will last forever. And, I want to be involved in the genome revolution rather than just be a bystander.

So, instead of telling people what I hope or wish to be doing, I’m going out there to do it. No matter how many emails it takes or how many disappointments I have to endure, I will find some way to get involved.

Damn. It’s scary just to say this out loud.


The Power of Nice

The Power of Nice: How to Conquer the Business World With KindnessNice is probably not the first adjective that comes to mind when people think of me. I care about people and their well being through empowering them to achieve success on their own terms. The way I go about doing that, however, is not always very gentle or soft.

Linda Kaplan Thaler, founder of the fastest growing ad agency in America the Kaplan Thaler Group, has these tips for how to be nice and successful.

  1. Thank the Delivery Guy
  2. Bake a Bigger Pie
  3. Give It Away
  4. Sweeten the Deal
  5. Help Your Enemies
  6. Prod with a Nod
  7. Tell the Truth
  8. Don’t Be So Smart
  9. Shut Up
  10. Put Yourself in Their Place

Unfortunately, her detailed article in Oprah Magazine isn’t online but this Newsweek article gives a succinct summary. And next month, her book–The Power of Nice: How to Conquer the Business World With Kindness–will be available.

This hardass is looking forward to it.


The Imposter’s Path

Revere at Effect Measure wrote about Imposter Syndrome yesterday. Although I’d never heard of the syndrome before, the symptoms certainly seemed familiar.

Here’s an Imposter Syndrome Quiz from Dr. Valerie Young:

Yes or No

  1. Do you secretly worry that others will find out that you’re not as bright and capable as they think you are?
  2. Do you sometimes shy away from challenges because of nagging self-doubt?
  3. Do you tend to chalk your accomplishments up to being a “fluke,” ?no big deal? or the fact that people just “like” you?
  4. Do you hate making a mistake, being less than fully prepared or not doing things perfectly?
  5. Do you tend to feel crushed by even constructive criticism, seeing it as evidence of your “ineptness?”
  6. When you do succeed, do you think, “Phew, I fooled ‘em this time but I may not be so lucky next time.”
  7. Do you believe that other people (students, colleagues, competitors) are smarter and more capable than you are?
  8. Do you live in fear of being found out, discovered, unmasked?

If you answered yes to any of these questions ? join the club!

The only two that I would tentatively answer “yes” to would be #2 and #7.

What I’ve always done for as long as I can remember is to create new opportunities if I have the feeling that I may not be able to continue along this current path to success. For example, I used to play violin in the high school orchestra but was really devoting my time to piano, so without enough practice, I was probably only ever going to be second chair instead of principal violinist. To get around that, I quit violin and learned string bass. There was no competition so I was principal bassist among only two others.

Similarly in college when I was doing far from well in the pre-med track. I switched my focus to epidemiology and had little trouble getting accepted to grad school. While I did well in grad school and academia could have been my future, I reassesed my life and realized that I’d never be able to have a stellar academic career given our choice to let Marv’s career dictate where we’d live in the world. So, I left science research and moved on to consulting, editing, and writing. And here I am today with

I still wonder about my ability to succeed in the problogging sphere, but I work hard and am learning from the best. As most paths go, this one has been going up and up. It’s not an easy walk by any means but the rewards along the way have been worth it.

NB: Dr. Young’s 10 Steps to Overcome the Impostor Syndrome.


b5media’s New Family and Relationships Channel

First, I got me a new job at and thought I was finished with taking on new responsibilities. But I just couldn’t stop myself.

I’ve taken on a new channel at b5media as the editor of the newly created Family and Relationships Channel. It’s a natural fit because one of my blogs, Play Library, belongs to the channel and family and relationships are what life’s all about anyway, right? So basically, my two channels at b5media encompass all of what makes life worth living: science, health, family, and relationships. :D

Aside from Play Library, there are currently five other great blogs in the Family and Relationships Channel written by wonderful women.

  • Dating Dames written by Gayla McCord and Sasha Manuel. For anyone who’s been in the dating game, you’ll totally know what Gayla and Sasha are talking about. Why is it so hard to find the right person??? Luckily, my search ended in success more than 13 years ago. /cue “awwww”
  • Our One Heart written by Christine Gooding. All about weddings and romance, Christine covers everything from celebrity couples to the latest bridal trends. I didn’t have a big wedding, myself, but it’s still fun to see what craziness people get up to for theirs.
  • Babylune written by longtime blog friend, Kate Baggott. Kate recently had her second baby and is sharing her postpartum experience as well as offering advice and information to others during their babymoon and beyond.
  • Thrifty Mommy is written by Kelly Saunders who is the sweetest blogger you’ll ever meet and she’s got really helpful hints on where the good sales and deals are.
  • Weary Parent is a blog that ALL of us with kids can identify with and is written by SP Bragg who had her share of weariness with two kids who are all grown up now.

So that’s the current line-up of blogs in the b5media Family and Relationships Channel. There are more blogs coming soon including one by my blogging mentor – Jean of riceandsoup. Come visit each and every one again and again!

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Putting My Knowledge To Use

Yesterday, we met up with a couple for dim sum. I’d never met them before but Marv knew the woman from work. Just like it always is when I first meet people, one of the topics of conversation is what I used to do before following Marv around the world. It’s a common concern for business expats like us who move every two or three years to a different country because of one spouse’s job. Many wives feel adrift without extended family, familiar friends, and time-consuming jobs.

The usual exchange:

“What did you get your PhD in?”

“Genetic epidemiology – studying the genetic causes and distribution of diseases in the population.”

“Wow. Do you get to use any of that now?”

What was really funny was how the wife asked first then 30 minutes later when the husband arrived from parking the car, he asked it again completely unaware that his wife had asked the same thing already!

I’m happy to say that yes, I do get a chance to exercise that knowledge now. But even if I didn’t, I don’t necessarily think those years spent in postgraduate education was a complete waste.

My scientific training taught me to think critically and not be afraid to stand up for what I believe in. It also taught me to articulate my thoughts and opinions in a logical fashion instead of in a jumbled mess with no order. That always helps when struggling with a toddler who needs everything laid out plain and simple!

Even though I am not on the career path I might have envisioned when I was in school (who knew what blogs were in the mid 90’s?!), I feel incredibly fortunate to have the chance to try something different. Without Marv to support us, I’d probably be out there slogging away at a “proper” job in a pharmaceutical company, university, or research center. (And I may still work at one of these places but hopefully something that involves more writing than research.) For now, I get to write and think about science every day and be on the cutting edge of a media revolution.

We are all more than our formal training or earning potential. I don’t believe in letting education limit my aspirations; some say I’m overqualified, others say I’m underqualified. I also don’t gauge my success by how much I’m earning. I know my perspective is skewed but I’m putting my knowledge to use in a way that keeps ME happy and fulfilled. And that’s all that really matters.

8 Comments » Community Director

I’m digging myself a bigger hole as a professional blogger. Today, officially announced my new responsibilities as Community Director at the career advice and jobhunting blog network.

Hsien?s main responsibility will be to facilitate conversation amongst the growing team of wurk bloggers, get everyone talking about the best ways to drive the network forward, and to manage any community initiatives that wurk launches.

If you’re interested in writing for, pitch us an idea!


Arguing at Work

Arguing can be fun and accomplish quite a lot if it’s a give-and-take of ideas reaching a constructive conclusion. At home, I’ve decided that I prefer to maintain the peace whenever possible and to back down if it will make the other person happy (sometimes I don’t succeed, but I try!). At work, I enjoy a good discussion both for and against my points.

At Hopkins, our seminars were followed by question-and answer-sessions that had outsiders quivering in fear because the atmosphere was usually more challenging than friendly. I, however, enjoyed the adrenaline rush and the chance to think on my feet. Being passive never helped me learn anything.

Over the weekend, I got into some “spirited” discussions with work acquaintances. It’s been a while since I had to defend myself or go on the attack, so I was a little uncertain about whether I should rise to the occasion. Yet I felt I had to do so when confronted with finger pointing, chest puffing, and aggression. I’m glad I haven’t lost my touch and can still stand my own.

Dr. Barton Goldsmith has the Top 10 Tips for Resolving Arguments in the Workplace. It’s a good review of what’s acceptable or not when there are disagreements at work.

Everyone argues. Some do it overtly by yelling, while others do it covertly by avoiding contact and conversation. Whatever the method, the result is the same – hurt feelings and a loss of productivity. Here are my tips to help you argue constructively, and if done correctly, it can be a pathway to growth, problem solving and higher profits.

I do feel a little taller today.