Monday, February 06, 2006

Working-Class Heroine

My friends Sara and Russ recently posted lists of their jobs in their blogs, so I thought I'd be a copycat. I don't think I had as many jobs as they did, though.

1. Babysitter--I don't think of this as a "real" job, but I did babysit for two kids during the day one summer; I think I was 16. It didn't pay much, but I probably should have set a higher wage.

2. McDonald's crew person--Yes, I had a fast-food job; I think I started there when I was seventeen. I worked mostly summers, though when I was in college, I worked over the holidays. I did all sorts of things: manned a register, worked in drive-through, and I even hosted birthday parties. I was a closer, so sometimes I wouldn't be done until 2:00 a.m. The first night I helped close, I tripped over an exposed outlet and cut myself on a metal tray I had just washed. I still have the scar on my ring finger.

3. Food service, Union South--I was fortunate enough that I saved up enough money from McD's that I didn't have to work during most of my undergrad career. I got a part-time job my final semester; I cleaned trash off trays as they passed by on a conveyor. Glamorous, huh?

4. Maid, Union South--This is what I did with my brand-spanking-new B.S. degree the summer between undergrad and grad school. Now I know what the hotel rooms look like at the Union.

5. Teaching Assistant--During grad school, I taught a technical writing class. The first semester, I worked with a professor. The second and third semesters, I taught on my own. I wound up with the early class both times, and grading papers would take all weekend. The stipend wasn't too bad, though.

6. Science Writing Intern--Yes, I've even worked for the government. I was an intern at the National Cancer Institute's press office for six months. My duties included answering calls from the media, writing press statements and news articles for the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, going to press conferences, and arranging media interviews with scientists. Once I got to sit in in an interview with Dean Hamer, the scientist who claims to have discovered a "gay" gene. I have to admit I found this job a bit stressful at times, since there were days when we were deluged with press calls. It didn't help I was so far away from Eugene and my family either.

7. Technical Writer--My first "real" job post-college. This was for a company called Marquip, which made machines for the corrugated paper (cardboard) industry. When I was hired, I was given the impression that this was the first time they had technical writers and that I would be able to provide significant imput into the manuals. Well, they already had manuals, and it seemed I did little more than revise them--when I was able to get the data from the engineers, that is. I never got too excited about the machines, either; despite having had a bad lab experience as an undergrad, I began to miss science at this point. The only good thing about this job was that it was in Madison. I lost the job after a year and a half, but that was a blessing in disguise, especially later on when this plant shut down.

8. Copyeditor--I had a hard time finding a job in the science communication field, which is what my master's is in. So to bring in some money while I lived with my parents, I found a part-time job as I continued my job search. I copyedited a couple of local newspapers and also did some real estate layouts for them. During this time, I tried out for Jeopardy! and wrote an essay about the audition for the paper. I still have that article somewhere.

9. Lab Tech, Sales Department--When my family moved to Janesville in 1997, I saw an ad for a temp job that needed someone with a science degree. It was for an enzyme company in Beloit, Wisconsin. I started off baking bread with their enzymes to see how they affected freshness. For a couple of months, I held both this job and the copyediting position. When I had a chance to do this full-time, I switched to it, though I continued as a temp for a while longer before they finally hired me as an employee. My job expanded to more than just baking; I learned how to perform enzyme assays and did other R&D projects. I found out I liked this type of work; I got to do a variety of different things and wear jeans to work. My boss was in the Sales Department, and he was very "hands-off," which was also nice. I even made some friends with my co-workers and went bowling with them once a week after work.

10. Lab Tech, Quality Control--In 2002, the company I worked for was bought by another enzyme company. Many of my co-workers were let go, but I was transferred to the Quality Control lab. Even though this was also lab work, it felt like the opposite of what I'd been doing before. All I got to do was collect samples and assay them, without the variety that I'd had in R&D. It was more stressful, and I hated the hours they gave me: second shifts, with work on holidays and weekends. Since I was still living in Wisconsin, that would have made it even more difficult to see Eugene, and I was only seeing him once or twice a month then. After having a breakdown in HR, the company let me go with a severance package. Again, this was a good thing, as I heard later the buyer shut the plant down. Even better, it didn't take me long to find my current job....

11. Assistant Scientist--I have a more exciting title, but I'm still basically a lab tech in the R&D department of an enzyme company. I'm the only one in the lab besides my boss, though, so I have more responsibilities, such as ordering supplies and writing procedures. I occasionally accompany the salesmen on visits to our customers, but mostly I work in the lab. I enjoy it and get along well with my co-workers. I'll celebrate my fourth anniversary in June.

So there you have it. Basically, I like science jobs where I can work on a variety of projects at my own pace. Hopefully, I'll be able to stay in my current job for a long time yet.


Russ said...

Uh, Sandra, here's a thought - why don't you tell us a bit about your adventure with "Jeopardy!"? (There's some awkward punctuation.) Seems to me there's a bit more to that story than just "trying out" for the show...

Sandra said...

There is, but I think that will have to wait until tomorrow's blog. Tune in same time, same place....

Sara said...

This is terribly exciting....I had no idea I'd be starting a meme....


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