Beemer (dr_tectonic) wrote,

Leveling Up

It has been a while since I posted, and I'm going to blame work. (My justification for doing so is kinda dodgy, but that's my story and I'm sticking to it.)

So you may recall that back in November we had this departmental retreat up in Estes Park. I got to lead one of the breakout groups and came away from it thinking I'd done a reasonable job. Well, apparently I did better than that; apparently, I actually impressed people, because about six or seven weeks ago, the head of our department (my great-grand-boss) asked me to lead a team of ten in drafting a chunk of your next five-year strategic plan.

Which was a little bit scary, because it's important and I'd never done anything like that before, but any assignment like that comes with a subtextual question of "so, do you want to advance your career?", so it's not like I was going to say no. What surprised me was that as soon as I said yes, I started thinking of things I needed to do to get it all organized: set a meeting schedule, reserve a meeting room, get a wiki space set up, email everybody, establish a timeline. Because most of my skills are consciously acquired, and I don't remember ever consciously learning how to do that, so realizing that I had this skillset lurking in the back of my head was weird.

(Like, I realized we needed a timeline to stay on track. So I wrote down all the meeting dates between now and the due date in a column, then covered that up and wrote down what had to happen along the way in another column, then uncovered both of them and said, okay, there's our timeline. And it looked pretty good (and in the end it was), and then I thought, Where the hell did that idea come from?)

It's also strange to realize just how much strategic planning is an exercise in self-fulfilling prophecy. We put things in the strategic plan that we want/need to do, and then we ask for funding to do them, and we point at the plan as justification for why it's important that do them. And we get funding, based on the plan, to do these things, because they're important, and we know they're important because they're in the plan!

So anyway, I scheduled weekly meetings and they all went quite swimmingly, to be honest. I have to give Department Head credit for picking good committee members. Also, I got a piece of advice from my grand-boss which is WAY more effective than it has any right to be for being so simple: if you're running a mandatory meeting, keep an eye on the clock and be scrupulous about ending on time. It is mind-boggling how much this boosts morale! It made people really, REALLY happy! And I was keeping my time commitment to about 3 or 4 hours of my time per week (an hour for the meeting itself, a little bit of prep, and a little bit of time for whatever homework we all had) -- I was good about delegating! -- but then the last week and a half before the deadline (which we got extended by a couple days) I did a lot of crunching. Mostly because I'm never going to let a document I'm responsible for out of my hands without a couple very thorough edit passes, and when I was doing final draft over the weekend I realized that one of the sections needed a serious overhaul.

So it wore me out at the end, but it was a good experience and I think we actually produced a very good document, and I'm pretty proud of it.

And then the other thing that has happened is that all of a sudden, people are asking me left and right to give talks and presentations on what I know about data management based on our experiences with my project. Happily, I can just re-use the same talk over and over with a little bit of updating and refinement each time, and I'm perfectly content to talk about this kind of stuff all day long, but I'm not used to people actively soliciting my opinion. I'm not complaining, mind you, but it's new and different and I'm still getting used to it. Apparently I'm some kind of expert in my field now, I guess? Weird.
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