Strangeness Afoot

If I talk only about work or LED projects, that is because that is all I do these days. Eventually, my life will reclaim balance, but for now I enjoy the focused mania upon my projects home and away.

Work recently announced a mentor program to link more junior employees to more senior mentors for developing one’s career or learning a new skill. Although I’ve been working now for over ten years at start-ups and am ten-to-twenty years older than most of my colleagues, I threw my hat in the ring and signed up to be mentored.

Well, I got paired with the president of company. Stranger still is that although I admire the company he found, I am at odds with some of his business decisions. This week, he and I will meet for an hour as the start of a cadence of monthly meetings. This mento program shall be good practice for me to interact with people with whom I’m not fully aligned. I can keep the conversation centered safely on methods to grow companies, identify good ones, common roadblocks, and the history of this particular company.

I’ve hit my first frustrating week at the new job. The production team learned that the technology underlying our core business may be faulty, possibly explaining why production yields are so bad and variable. Because of some bad initial instrument assumptions and decisions, the fixes now will be cumbersome and slow, requiring extensive redesign of the synthesizer machines. Furthermore, as I watch senior management spar over this critical problem’s ownership and corrective action, I realize yet again that business success is not necessarily meritocratic. Many of the early employees were generalists who made some amateur choices questioned now by the current wave of specialist robot engineers and fluidics folks.

Last Monday, the head process chemist announced her resignation. As she was a shining note of sanity, smarts, and hard work, I will miss her greatly. Her departure cause many heads to swivel to the door to look at other opportunities. This company, like most start-ups, is not the fantastical Shangri-La.

The chemistry line is tatters, the head process chemist just resigned, production yields were slipping, what is there to be done? I’m running into this fire. I plan Tuesday to suggest that I either take over or help lead the charge to analyze and improve our manufacturing line. I have a doctorate in chemistry, have done process chemistry at two other positions, and now have the data-analysis skills for the whole experimental cycle of hypothesis, design, experiment, collect, and analyze. I’m ready to grow beyond my data science position. These are interesting times.