My excuse for not posting recently

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I haven't posted for quite a while and I should explain that I'm going through a bit of an upheaval that has shoved the blog to a back burner. I'm starting a new job on April 19. I'll still be employed by the same company, but in a different location and in a different role. The good news: the new office is 5.2 miles from my house. I've been commuting 23 miles for ten years, so this will be a major improvement. The bad news: I'll have to travel, and I'll have to start trying to remember people's names.

I've been bored for quite a while, and upset about the pink slips being handed around and the uncertainty of it, and I've hated the commute all along, and even so, it wasn't an easy decision. Most people don't understand why a job change terrifies me. Most jobs, I imagine, involve a portable skill: if you can flip burgers at McDonald's you can flip burgers at Burger King. If you can read x-rays in Seattle you can read x-rays in St. Paul.

But for me, every new job has required that I learn something completely new. In grad school I did all of my coursework and took all of my exams in mathematics, supporting myself as a teaching assistant for the first two years. Being a math T.A. was hell; it was slave labor. I was ordered to check my mailbox in the math department every day, so I would stop by the mailroom at the end of the day and find a thick stack of calculus exams stuffed in my box, with a note requesting that I grade them overnight so the prof could hand them back the next day.

When the opportunity arose I jumped at the chance to become a research assistant instead, but the research was in computational fluid dynamics. I'm not old enough to say I was in on the ground floor of cfd, but it was a young enough field not to have found a home of its own in our university. My doctoral thesis was signed by a math professor, a chemical engineering professor, and a research scientist in the medical school.

I was hired as a computational physicist right out of grad school, and the first thing I had to learn on the job was how to use spectral methods and how to couple a spectral code to a finite element code to model a submarine moving through water. If this is gibberish to you, be relieved.

After a couple of years I changed divisions within the laboratory where I worked and I had to learn stuff about nuclear weapons and shock waves and Riemann solvers. Then I moved across the country and went to work at a different lab and I learned spectral elements and vortex shedding. And then I went to work for a company and I learned a little ship design, and lastly, ten years ago, I changed jobs again and started learning about weather.

I had to pick up the new knowledge while working with large computer codes, figuring out how to run them, how to evaluate the results, how to make them better. For a while I would feel and sound stupid, every time, never knowing the jargon or the acronyms that people use to show off their knowledge of their chosen field.

As if that weren't bad enough, I started each new job knowing I'd have to prove myself to a skeptical team of coworkers and a skeptical boss. Having always worked in a wildly male-dominated field, I began each job with the knowledge that if I sat at a table with a man and I said something and he disagreed, he would be given the benefit of the doubt, not I. For that matter if I sat at a table with a woman from China and I said one thing and she said another, she would be given the benefit of the doubt. The same was true for a woman from Germany, or Russia, or England, or India. American men do not consider American women to be as intelligent as women from just about any other country on the planet; don't ask me why. Finally, if I sat at a table with a brunette and we disagreed, she would be given the benefit of the doubt, not I.

It's because of all these changes, really, that I've been offered the job I'm starting a week from Monday. Because I'm now "an expert in modeling and simulation." But it doesn't make this change any easier. I'm realizing though that one thing has changed: I'm not young anymore, and I know that age negates the "blonde effect". In fact it may do more than that. It may negate the American/Chinese affect, and dare I hope it negates the male/female effect to some degree?

I've known the man whose job I'm taking over for many years. When I told him how afraid I was, he was amazed. He said that not only would I be given the benefit of the doubt--I would be "esteemed". He used that word, heh, "esteemed". The young fellow in the office next to mine almost laughed at my fear; he said "This job will be a piece of cake for you." I hope they're right.


Nothing like getting paid more than you used to to do a job that's a "piece of cake" :) Hope it's fun.


You've been missed around here; glad you're back.

The job situation *does* sound scary, given the history of what you've had to deal with, but it also sounds like you'll sink into the groove more easily now than in the past. If you travel through Phoenix, be sure to give me a holler, okay?


Oh YOU BET!! :)

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