Recently, I switched jobs. I did this for a number of reasons. Initially, I told myself it was because of the big increase in salary. Even though more money helps, that wasn’t it. I then rationalized it because I got to work with open source technology. For those unfamiliar with software engineering, there are two types of development: dot net and open source. If you want to do bioinformatics, you will be using open source. While this is a big plus, its not the end all be all of a place to work. Interesting work is interesting, no matter what language it is in. But there was something else that wasn’t right about it, something I couldn’t put my finger on… Well I am putting my finger on it now. I like numbers so I would like to lay out top five things I have found that put a smile on any person’s face going to work during the day:
You work hard, you play hard. Part of playing hard is going and grabbing food. Most tech places are in offices (or in a basement if you are in academia). While you can bring your food and stay in your office, nothing breaks up the day like going out and getting a bite to eat. There are few things I’ve found more enjoyable than going for a walk to try out a new restaurant . However, if where you work doesn’t offer a variety of quality, price, and type, then you will get bored. Having good food is only part of the puzzle. Everyone enjoys someone who is interesting, charismatic, and knowledgeable One of the easiest ways to convey this to your coworkers (and boss) is to know where to take everyone.
Humor in the workplace
I am a firm believer that you need to laugh so hard that coffee shoots out your nose at least once a week. Lets look at the numbers: There are 168 hours in a week. Usually we work five days a week, eight hours a day, an hour for lunch, and thirty minute commute there and back. That means that for five days a week, we spend ten hours dedicated to our job for a grand total of fifty hours a week at our jobs. For those keeping track, we spend 29.76% of our week at work. Work can be stressful, and if you aren’t laughing at work about work, then those fifty hours a week are going to be rough.
Physically and mentally what you do has to be enjoyable, independent of the context you are doing those things in. For bioinformaticians, you need to enjoy data, the lifeblood of what you do. What does that mean? That means you need to enjoy working with files, organizing files, changing contents of files via software or the bash. You need to love working with databases and using queries. You need to be interested in optimization and working with genome browsers and developing algorithms and understand when someone gives you bullsh…I mean statistically insignificant results. However, this transcends bioinformaticians. This is all about pride in your work, enjoying what you are doing and then the result that the work yields. The mechanics are equally as important as
Not only is how I am doing something important, but what that something is, or turns into, is equally important. I recently got to talk to the VP of a carrier screening company. He told me how everyone truly went home everyday feeling accomplished at what they did. The employees felt proud of the heartwarming stories they had reviewed from people taking these tests in the fertility clinic. I think it’s easy for bioinformaticians to forget that what we do changes lives.
Lets be honest, our jobs transcend just the 40 hours a week we dedicate to working and making a living. We think in terms of our career. We spend time outside of work for professional development. We answer emails at 2 a.m. We tell people about what we do, and we are judged. We are what we eat, we are what we do. Having what we do be a good thing makes the rest of our life better.
Traffic sucks. It doesn’t matter how many bells and whistles they have. It doesn’t matter how fun it is, or how beautiful the office is. It doesn’t even matter how much money they offer. Your time is valuable and you shouldn’t be spending it stuck in a car or on the green line. We all have to get to work, but this time should be minimized at all costs. This is one of the first things you need to consider when looking for a new job. That, or consider moving.
Looking for a job or switching jobs is a tough thing. Looking for a job is a tough thing to do. There is no map or atlas of how to navigate your career and where your next (or first) move should be. I hope you take these suggestions to heart and find the job that fits you.
About the AuthorAlex left his Doctoral Program in Mathematics in 2011 with a Masters of Science in Mathematics focusing in Computational Biology. Since then, he has worked in Computational Immunology at Boston University and is now a Bioinformatics Programmer Analyst at Good Start Genetics in Cambridge, MA. Aside from bioinformatics, he does game design, and is an advocate for social media's contribution to open and collaborative science.
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