Author Topic: Help! New job, billable hours, gender  (Read 4075 times)

anonforthis

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Help! New job, billable hours, gender
« on: July 07, 2017, 12:46:59 PM »
Help!
I just started a new job as a mid level scientist with a healthy side dish of technical writing. So far most of the work my supervisor has given me has been secretarial, and I have not been able to find more than a couple hours of work in my field in the two weeks Iíve been here. Itís a billable hours environment Ė if I am not seen as a scientist I will not succeed in this role. Iíve spent a lot of time trying to track down projects, and I met with my supervisor earlier this week to gently encourage him to let me do what I was hired for. He seemed responsive during the meeting, but there has been no change. There is plenty that needs doing but he does not seem to be willing to hand it off to me, and it is not an environment where I can jump on to a project without being invited.

I am not sure I can afford to just be really bad at using the copy machine, but I donít know what to do.

And yes, I am female and younger than my boss. The position is in a different part of my field then any I have held before, and it is a step up from my previous roles. My technical skills are excellent but this is the first time I have needed to navigate this complex of a social environment in the workplace in order to do my job.

MDM

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Re: Help! New job, billable hours, gender
« Reply #1 on: July 07, 2017, 01:01:58 PM »
Any folks higher on the technical ladder who might be willing to mentor you?

Leaders on projects where plenty needs doing who might authorize you to bill hours on their projects?

bobechs

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Re: Help! New job, billable hours, gender
« Reply #2 on: July 07, 2017, 01:24:23 PM »
Is a gender change out of the question?

honeybbq

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Re: Help! New job, billable hours, gender
« Reply #3 on: July 07, 2017, 01:34:59 PM »
What is your job title? And does your boss know your job title?

blue

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Re: Help! New job, billable hours, gender
« Reply #4 on: July 07, 2017, 01:48:51 PM »
Is a gender change out of the question?

New here but are you for real? That seems extreme to suggest to someone who made no statement that she has gender dysphoria or anything?

solon

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Re: Help! New job, billable hours, gender
« Reply #5 on: July 07, 2017, 01:52:21 PM »
Think of bobechs as Statler and Waldorf, the two crotchety old guys in the balcony on the Muppet Show.

Playing with Fire UK

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Re: Help! New job, billable hours, gender
« Reply #6 on: July 07, 2017, 03:05:19 PM »
I'm unfamiliar with your role, but should you be doing any secretarial work? Is this something that is part of your role and your boss is taking too far. Or is it unreasonable that your boss asks you for it at all?

For example with my role, it is reasonable for my boss to ask me to cast a second set of eyes over a report to check for readability, but it would be totally inappropriate to ask me to type up a set of notes or a dictation.

You say you are mid-level, is there anyone more junior or an admin-based person who you could re-delegate this work to?

Is there someone who was in your role a couple of years ago who can give you an idea of whether this is typical behaviour of this boss (i.e. I want to check you can use a photo-copier before I let you lose on an electron microscope)?

In the meantime, would it help to remind people of your previous experience when you are looking for project work - is there something that is a reasonable fit that you can make a strong case for you being involved with.

I recognise that this is a real thing, it is probably driven by age and gender and is a shitty thing you have to deal with - sorry about that.

Rosy

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Re: Help! New job, billable hours, gender
« Reply #7 on: July 07, 2017, 03:17:49 PM »
Well, it could be that it is exactly as you just described - they needed/wanted a glorified secretary who is only expected to actually work as a scientist in a pinch. End of story.
In that case, you'll be well served to start looking for another job - pronto.

Another explanation may well be, that your boss is the kind who likes to wait and see. His MO may be that he only slowly relinquishes work as he gains more trust in your capabilities.
Not a bad sort in my opinion, although infuriating to have to wait - I have no patience:) That's the kind of boss that will never throw you under the bus and once you gained his trust, will give you plenty of freedom to do your job.
Ask me how I know that:)

There are all sorts of job situations, I'd relax, observe the lay of the land. Don't push too hard, but keep offering. Give it some time, different places operate differently. Your boss may have plans for you to work on a particular project or team, but is not ready to tell you. For all you know he is about to fire someone and his plan is to have you fill that slot - you never know about office politics.
You are the new girl - thread carefully and don't get hung up on being female, things are not always as they appear - you may not have all the intel yet:)
Re-evaluate in three months, talk to some of your co-workers and be prepared to walk if this job turns out to be a career killer.

Laura33

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Re: Help! New job, billable hours, gender
« Reply #8 on: July 07, 2017, 04:06:15 PM »
The best thing I can advise is to do as much internal marketing as you can -- meaning lunchroom, employee meetings, etc. -- to get to know the people on those various projects that need support.  If you get to know some of them, and voice your enthusiasm for whatever their particular project is and sort of drop that, gee, your plate hasn't filled up yet and to let you know if there is anything you can do to support their project in your current role, you might find that some of them go to your boss and ask for your time.

And yes, I would advise selective failure on secretarial tasks so you don't get pigeonholed into that role.  Sad but true.

Finally, take a look at those administrative tasks -- are they beneath you (like typing someone's edits), or are they "managerial" (like organizing/running meetings)?  My DH ended up getting crosswise with one of his female technical people at one point:  he thought she was awesome, and so he tried to give her the kind of experience that would put her out there and qualify her to step into management.  Which involved a lot of running meetings and running projects and stuff (i.e., logistics and administrative stuff instead of the hard tech she had been doing).  Turns out she thought he was overlooking her technical skills and assigning her administrivia because she was a girl -- she had no clue he had identified her for a promotion.  And when they did discuss it, it turned out she preferred a purely technical role and didn't actually want to go into management. 

Not saying this is necessarily the same thing, but sometimes different people can see the same tasks in different lights, so it may be worth taking a hard look at the types of tasks you are being given as compared to the job description to figure out if it's a bait and switch on their end, or if maybe you thought they meant something different than what they did.

blue

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Re: Help! New job, billable hours, gender
« Reply #9 on: July 07, 2017, 05:54:11 PM »
Think of bobechs as Statler and Waldorf, the two crotchety old guys in the balcony on the Muppet Show.

Got it. Thanks for the tip. Now I am envisioning them shouting from the balcony, "HEY! Have you tried just - being a MAN instead?" Then their "heh heh heh"s as they laugh at themselves.

stashgrower

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Re: Help! New job, billable hours, gender
« Reply #10 on: July 08, 2017, 06:07:52 AM »
Excellent ideas from Laura33.

For mid-level, you should be expect real science work. Especially if billable makes a difference. Talk to others, join lunch convos for leads. If no science happens, I'd leave pronto.

stashgrower

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Re: Help! New job, billable hours, gender
« Reply #11 on: July 08, 2017, 06:12:28 AM »
ETA: In case my last comment is misinterpreted, I meant leave pronto if it is fruitless after exhausting reasonable approaches.

YoungInvestor

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Re: Help! New job, billable hours, gender
« Reply #12 on: July 08, 2017, 07:15:10 AM »
You're saying that you just started this new job... I think it might be a position where a project you were hired in anticipation of is delayed. It happened to me (and I'm a man), which led me to mostly do admin work for about a month. Could have been more, but I found someone through internal networking who would take me on a project.

I think you need to build that network, make sure people are aware of your skillset and availability and to just let things fall into place. I doubt they would hold poor utilization against you in your first few months anyway.

Ocinfo

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Re: Help! New job, billable hours, gender
« Reply #13 on: July 08, 2017, 07:42:50 AM »
Build the network and use spare time to continue learning relevant info. I assume you're currently charging overhead (non-direct) hours, which means you either do admin work or no work so they're likely just trying to get some value. I also agree that it sounds like they had a project planned that got delayed for whatever reason.


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Laserjet3051

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Re: Help! New job, billable hours, gender
« Reply #14 on: July 08, 2017, 11:27:28 AM »
I'm a senior level scientist, who bills hourly, and my recommendation is that you demonstrate, over time, to those key decision makers, that you are capable of advanced technical scientific inquiry. Once they know your capabilities they are likely to recruit you into scientific projects. I was originally contracted for advanced hands-on scientific studies, which I excelled at. Management over time recognized that I was capable of LEADING scientific teams and gave me such leadership/management responsibilities. It took a while though. At first, I was dismayed that I was not recruited at the right "level" in the org, it took a while for them to bump me up to a more appropriate level fo responsibility, but they did.

I wouldnt want to be 100% admin in my role, but most of us, in reality do have to do some admin type work to support our non-clinical studies, so i find myself at the copy machine or filing, as is necessary.

anonforthis

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Re: Help! New job, billable hours, gender
« Reply #15 on: July 08, 2017, 07:32:58 PM »
Thank you, all of you. The multiple perspectives are incredibly helpful. I'm going to avoid addressing individual posts, as my field is small and I would like to avoid identifiable details. It looks like the consensus here is to continue to network within the company, give it time, make sure my supervisor knows I am available and what I am capable of, and to find a different job if it does not get better.

Bicycle_B

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Re: Help! New job, billable hours, gender
« Reply #16 on: July 08, 2017, 11:12:17 PM »
Could you initiate project work on an informal basis? 

"It's better to ask forgiveness than permission" - pick one, look up data, draft project plan, talk to people about how it might go, etc "Because I am preparing for the types of project I was hired for" or "One of my strengths is x, that's part of this project so I wanted to prepare for when this project gets authorized"...

In other words, proactively demonstrate your skills.  As long as you don't do anything final, you don't hurt anything by learning.  Boss can respond to the prompt by assigning you that project if they like what you did.  Likely worst case, you're a "go getter", aka someone to be reckoned with.  Yes, there are exceptions.  But you might find you improve your odds by taking initiative and selling it successfully afterwards.  If you set a precedent and win, you'll be in charge of your career from then on.

On another thread, I read that people who just take hours off when their work is done fare much better than those who log or request the "off" time.  Maybe this is the corresponding example where taking "on" time without permission will work in your favor.

dreams_and_discoveries

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Re: Help! New job, billable hours, gender
« Reply #17 on: July 09, 2017, 01:07:01 AM »
Sounds like an ideal time to be writing up loads of conference papers.