The Trough of Disillusionment

Wow, my last post was in May.  I suppose enough time has passed for this to be classified as the re-re-relaunch of the blog.  Here’s to hoping that the third time is the charm.  This is also a re-re-relaunch because I think I will introduce a slight change in scope for this blog.     I can’t believe so much time has passed since my last post.  Of course I always start these sorts of things with the best intentions and then, well, life gets in the way.  At least, that’s what they say right? I was listening to my newest obsession in podcasts. (For those of you who don’t know, I’m totally obsessed with podcasts and listen to them all the time). Anyway, my newest binge listen is Zig Zag ( a podcast about women, entrepreneurship, and technology. I’m also making a plea hear for fellow listeners since I need, need, need people to talk to about this podcast since I love it so much. A recent episode got me inspired enough to start writing again. The episode was about the hype cycle. The hype cycle was developed Jackie Fenn at Gartner and it tracks the “cycle” of a new technology from inception through to adoption. This concept applies to new ideas as well. As I listened to the podcast and I listened to the host apply this cycle to everyday challenges and ideas I had a lightbulb moment (or epiphany for all you fancy people out there). Sure, life got complicated and harder than expected recently (more below) but something bigger was at foot with this blog. I was in the TROUGH OF DESPAIR (insert dramatic voice and music here). The trough of despair can be defined as when interest wanes due to failed experiments or implementation. At this point, stakeholders can drop-out and survival only happens if the product improves to the satistifaction of early adopters. So, here I am coming out (hopefully) of the trough of despair with an improved product and hoping that you (my early adopters) will approve of it.

But before I unveil the new and improved (at least content-wise), a bit of background is in order so please bear with me. Back at the beginning of this year, a series of unfortunate/fortunate (yet to be determined) events unfolded such that I ended up leading two teams at work.  Initially I stepped in to be the interim head of another team in the organization.  This team was newly elevated in a re-organization and now needed a senior manager and since those were in short supply at the time, we divided and conquered to cover the new teams that were created.  Since the newly elevated team was lab data management, it made sense for me to take it over with my background in the lab.  The team had been through a lot and was wary of the reorganization and had seen quite a bit of shifting leadership in the past few years.

So now I had two teams, one that needed someone to lean in and provide guidance through change and a clear direction and vision for the team moving forward and one that was expecting me to lead them through the execution of the goals we had set forth at the beginning of the year and there was of course the additional expectations of our partners who now interacted with me in two capacities.   This isn’t said to elicit sympathy or pity but just to say that I found myself getting a crash course in management and setting priorities in order to make sure I stayed on top of the most important things.

As I was treading water, trying to keep afloat learning two new teams, I found a moment to stop and think (yes, just one).  Was this actually an opportunity in disguise?  Could I even think about another opportunity in an organization that I joined only 5 months earlier? Here I was having just gone through a big job transition and I was contemplating another one.  How foolish could one person possibly be?  I was about to find out.

My boss was the one who initially floated the idea of me switching to lead the lab data management team.  I resisted at first and then I started thinking…a dangerous habit of mine…what if?  What if I could draw on all my skills, including my background in the lab?  What if I could take a team that needs direction and guidance and build something truly unique and special?  What if this is a huge mistake?  As the head of a statistical unit, I would be a known quantity.  I could go anywhere from here.  Companies are always looking for leadership for statistical groups.  I would be on a defined career progression for once.  If I took on this new team, there would be no such assurances.  There are very few other teams like it around.  I would have to, again, pave my own way and define not only what this position would look like for me but I would be redefining and building a whole team.   So I was faced with the decision to stay where I was (leading a great team and with a fairly clear path in front of me) or jumping into the unknown. What do you think I did? Of course, I jumped. Part of me really wishes I could be comfortable with the straight and narrow but I’m always one to be enticed by the road less taken.

So here I am, almost a year after taking on an interim team and 7 months after officially switching over to being the Senior Manager of Lab Data Management. I still have some residual duties on the statisical team that I am hoping to be done with this Spring so I can fully focus on one area in the organization and I really think I made the right choice. One unexpected consequence of this move has been that I’m now rethinking my career trajectory. Because, you know, I need more change. My new group is responsible for monitoring and maintaining the quality of the specimen data and assay data for the clinical trials. This taps into my deep-routed love of all things quality related and also has got me thinking about data quality in research in general, especially with data science being the hot new “it” field. Could I potentially become a Chief Data Office instead of a CEO? Was data my new passion or a resurrected passion? What would I have to do to gain some skills to match my new team and my new vision of my career path? That’s what I’m going to explore in the blog more now. How to get out of the lab and into another industry and how to keep thriving and learning and shifting to find what you really love. Also, I will be making informed and educated pleas and pushes for more quality control in research data, along with tips for how to do that. It will be probably my 5th or so re-invention but as I approach my 40th year, there’s nothing I want less than to be stagnant.

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