I’m going to put “Playground Management” on my resume

I never cease to be impressed at how well my previous job prepared me to go back to school.  No, my coworkers didn’t drive me here, but the “soft” skills I picked up working as a contractor have come in handy on more than one occasion. Like, as my boss called it, “playground management”.

Since I’m doing a joint phd, I have not one primary supervisor, but two. One is down the hall, the other is half a world away. In a year, their positions will switch. This is certainly a great experience–I get to see how two labs operate, and be exposed to very different sets of ideas, it’s not without cost.

One cost is logistics. Having an advisor half a world away means that advising is done via conference call, and someone is staying up late to do it. Participation in group activities (such as meetings) requires cooperation and patience from the entire group. It requires extra effort on everyone’s part, and both the professor and the student have to be committed to making it work. How does one manage from 10,000 miles away? The other person has to be willing to be managed.

The other cost is expectations. More people in the kitchen means that more personalities are involved, and with someone on the outside (or in this case, on another continent), it’s easy to feel left out of the loop. This means that everyone is pretty much forced to communicate for the project to be successful. Everyone also has to give a little. Sometimes, decisions that involve you or your project have to be made without your input because either the process doesn’t allow it, or you’re simply too far away–immediate action is called for, and you can’t be immediately available all the time.

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