In the beginning there was grad school. That ended in 2010. Now what do I blog about?


February 21, 2011

That’s how we work the day away, in the merry old land of Oz

For this post I pulled a few quotes from the Wizard of Oz movie as I was reflecting on my first weeks of my new job.

Patience seems to be the common thread here, so after writing this, I have set new objectives for myself: 1) go to bed earlier to get more sleep, in an effort to combat irritability 2) take walks during the day, to combat restlessness and 3) keep things in perspective, especially perceptions of power.

Cowardly Lion: I- I- I hope my strength holds out.
Tin Woodsman: [hanging by Lion's tail] I hope your tail holds out!

I haven’t done anything significant in months. My last two months at UMass were tying up loose ends, drafting transition plans and having farewell lunches. I can now understand the frustration my husband has been feeling in the last 4 or five months since his business slowed - he goes to his print shop every day but there is nothing that needs printing; he is stagnant, waiting for orders to come in. I have also felt stagnant - like I’m not doing enough each day. Its a horrible feeling for a project-centered, task orientated overachiever like me to not be able to do something significant. My irritability may be a result of too few opportunities to do what makes me happy. I need to be patient with the situation and perhaps find another outlet for the time being, so I don’t burn out. The irritability may also be due to my being overly tired, considering that I start my day an hour earlier but still go to bed at the same time as I used to.

Dorothy: Where do you want to be oiled first?

My tendency is to find things that need fixing such as to update old content, rebuild broken pages, streamline processes, weed out unnecessary tasks and develop new strategies to attack work. I love to create things, build things, make things pretty and well functioning. A large part of me feels ready to dig in. But, I don’t know enough yet.

I can’t start fixing things because I don’t know what’s broken. I can’t start building things because it is not clear yet what my boundaries are. I don’t want to step on any one’s toes and I don’t want to waste time doing something someone else is doing or planning to do. So it’s a bit frustrating - wanting to work on things and solve problems, but not knowing what to do or where to begin. It’s been a significant down-shift since leaving my old job, from go-go-go to wait-wait-wait. I need to be patient and find something to do to get my mind off it. Spring is coming. The few warm days we’ve had I took advantage of by going for walks at lunch time. One day I left the office, walked to another neighborhood, found a place for lunch and just hung out for an hour. It felt good. I may need to do that once in awhile to combat the restlessness and mild sense of lack of control.

Wizard of Oz: You, my friend, are a victim of disorganized thinking. You are under the unfortunate impression that just because you run away you have no courage; you're confusing courage with wisdom.

Part of what I loved about UMass and why I was so successful there is that I got to pick and choose my projects, manage my own time, and take the lead on most of what I was involved in. I worked in an academic department with great support and enthusiastic approval from the chair’s office. At first the perception was that I was support staff in the department, but I left as a department leader, and perhaps even an institutional leader. I made a name for myself there by listening, to people, making connections, innovating and sharing what I learned along the way. I pushed the boundaries and worked hard to be taken seriously and earn respect of faculty and administrators. Those things did not come with my position title nor were they in my job description.

I am not sure yet what the true organizational schema is here. Yes, there is a traditional org chart, but there are many, many MANY references to a collaborative environment. It will take some time to find out exactly what that means. I also work on the institutional level, in the general all purpose computer services area. There are significantly different business needs between an academic department and a computer services department. Its going to take some time to come to terms with my role in the system here just as it was at UMass. What is unknown - and scary - is where the boundaries lie.

A challenge is for me to not over-think the title given and the box I’ve been placed to work in. I need it to figure where I am and what I can do here in this new (to me) organizational structure. I can’t confuse the on-paper org structure with the real org structure because sometimes things aren’t always what they seem to be.

Wizard of Oz: To confer, converse, and otherwise hob-nob with my brother wizards.

Without question the biggest benefit of this transition is the people. I like my coworkers. I enjoy their company. I like the conversations we have when we’re brainstorming and troubleshooting. I like learning about tools and applications they find useful. I like that we all speak the same language when it comes to technology for teaching and learning. I can learn from them and they can learn from me. I look forward to the work we will do together.

I used to outsource my need to connect with like minded people to Twitter. I would always turn to Twitter friends when I needed help with troubleshooting code, needed a second opinion on a page layout, needed recommendations for an app or platform. I turned to Twitter because in my stream of highered and web professionals, there were real live people who could answer my questions and provide help. In real life, at the time, I was in an office by myself in a department where no one really understood what I did or how I did it. Now, at Brown, I am in a room with people who do what I do. Question? Say it out loud. Need help? Ask. Need an editor? There’s two or three right there. It’s very different, and very cool.

Source for quotes: internet movie database