Over the last week I was offered and declined a different position within my same company.
Post acquisition, I had been (and remain) slotted in to a "larger" business development role, where larger is, loosely, "supporting $1B dollars of current business and making it much much much bigger".
I was offered, funnily enough, a director of r+d position.
I haven't been in the lab in quite a few years.
I was being asked, and there were serious discussions about, me being in charge of a bunch of VERY serious scientists. Several people that I rank as amongst the smartest people I have ever met. To put it in perspective for at least Bill - in the same realm as our advisor's wife (whom was a>much smarter than him and b>one of the smartest people I have ever met)(On a side note, I don't know why she was married to him!!!).
The organization has about 150 scientists in it covering 3 different physical locations. It will grow. It has all the issues that a large R+D organization has.
The part that rattled around my head is that I haven't been in the lab in quite a few years. SO- I asked another person above me, and a person whom I might add I treat as a mentor on how to get ahead within our organization and who has sway over my career, what he would do and why I was being considered/pursued for this position. He added that his voice was behind the push, but that he was also pushing for me to stay in my current role and that I wasn't allowed to do both.
Then he added a couple of other things that apply both generally and specifically to me:
1. Managing R+D has nothing what so ever to do with DOING R+D.
2. You (speaking of me) know enough to smell BS, and that would be your job.
3. You are blunt. People have absolutely no doubt as to where they stand with you. You would need to temper this and learn polish, but it is a good place to start.
4. You are broad. Some might call you "shallow" as they are the same. You know a little about a lot of different things and are quick enough to read up on any area when that area becomes important.
5. You get stuff done.
SO - that, for those who want to go up the R+D side of the house, seems like a decent road map of how to end up in charge of a decent sized R+D group.
I spoke to several other folks internally and a couple externally in order to make the decision, and I will write more about that in the next post, but want to mention the 2 things that most people came back to about my consideration.
1. The scientists you work with respect that while you are on the business side, you do not lose site of the science. I talk to them about science. I attend group meetings and do my best to keep my mouth shut (until later, when the director has to explain bits to me). NOT losing this science link has been key to me keeping my head. My problem was never with not liking science, it was with hating bench work and being underpaid. To those who move in to business development/marketing/other - MAKE SURE YOU DO THIS. You were trained as a Ph.D. -> don't lose it. You probably went to grad school for some good reason. Remember what it was and keep interested in science. Leaving aside the business of it, it is cool. Not just saying that...I really beleive it. I am just as likely to get lost reading about volcanoes as I am about *insert biology reference here*.
2. GET STUFF DONE. People kept coming back to this. This is a trait that seems to really resonate with folks. I would say that I do get stuff done, but that much of what I get done isn't what I was supposed to be getting done. If I was given a list of "Do these things", I would probably not have a great record. I run around, find the big problems, and solve them. This has, apparently, gotten me noticed as someone who gets stuff done.
This, to those who want to know how to move up the chain, seems to be a pretty big deal. All else was secondary to this in most peoples eyes. I have had to hire a person who actually picks up the pieces of the little things I am also supposed to get done, as I don't do them well. This likely means that folks see this and gripe about "He doesn't do his job". In a sense, they are right. I don't do the "technical definition" of my job. I have, however, made enough of a financial dent in the company that they gave me a person to help me "do" my job. She does a kick butt job of making sure that the stuff I was supposed to do gets done while I go fight fires and stir up muck. To get away with this you have to get it done. You can't just stir up stuff or poke around or whatever, because if you are doing that people will, if you don't show positive progress, start to ask about your "real" job. By showing strings of success's on large problems, I am able to hide the fact that I skip a lot of the little stuff that I am supposed to do by farming it off on a person who works for me and is really good at it. Yes - I live in fear of losing her.