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In the Empire Business.

19 August 2015

I need to learn to cook meth, I guess. If you don’t get that, go watch all 45 hours of Breaking Bad. It’s a show which is almost but not quite as good as all the hype about it.

I am slowly now building my empire at MECMC. Currently, my empire consists of a single cubicle on the first basement level of the main hospital. One day, maybe, I’ll have an office in one of our glittering towers. A man can dream. But as of today, my tiny little empire is set to grow. Here’s how I did it:

1) I was lucky enough to find a hospital that was willing to invest in what I do. What I do is fairly rare, and is usually only done, when done at all, by academics and their students. It’s vanishingly rare to find people doing this professionally at hospitals, as part of the operations group. But because I had demonstrated success, MECMC – always a forward-thinking organization – decided to take a risk.

2) I started working at the tasks assigned, and rapidly demonstrated that I don’t suck at the job they hired me to do. This was because I’m pretty good at what I do, and also because I managed their expectations well. Don’t over-promise. Don’t under-promise and then way outperform your predictions. Do what you say you can do, ideally on a slightly faster timeline than you said represents a normal workload.

3) I stretched the vision for what my department could offer the hospital. Not only in terms of bringing a new skill set they hadn’t had before, but in terms of our output venues. In the two and a half years I’ve had this job, I’ve published four manuscripts on our work, and two others that I did for fun. I also have won close to $20,000 in small grants and awards, which is a first for my department. (And tells you how little money it takes to do what I do when salary isn’t attached.)

4) After a year and a half in my job, I wrote myself a promotion. I didn’t ask permission. I just did it when my manager asked me to update my job description to take my unique responsibilities into account. I made it clear that I knew I was delivering a lot of value, and I expected to be rewarded in kind. It was kind of a ballsy move. But it worked.

5) I proposed a new concept for what I expect out of my career. Working with my manager, department head, and senior VP, I outlined a growth plan for 5 years, and put in benchmarks for what I expected to achieve during that time, and the points along that timeline where I wanted increases in support from the hospital.

6) I spoke a lot at internal venues, to make sure there’s steady demand for my services. Operations planning committees, the COO’s briefing, etc.. And I made sure that when other people were talking about their projects I’d assisted on, that I gave them any support they needed including slides of my work. This meant that my contributions were often mentioned in public.

7) Once I had buy-in from my chain of command, and the COO, I wrote an entry-level position for an employee to report to me. I got that approved through a several-months-long administrative process, and now it’s live. I will hire a candidate ASAP.

I’ll spend a year training this person, working with them, and then publishing with them. It will allow me to get more work done, and I’ll hopefully be able to demonstrate that I’m a capable manager. To make sure that I can do that, I’m taking a 6 month internal management excellence class.

That will take me to the next phase, which is my last phase for this career stage. A directorship of my own lab. Within two years, I anticipate being able to ask for better space, an office instead of a cube, another promotion which involves a better title, and the opportunity to hire at the PhD level.

I don’t have any idea how other people build careers. This is how I’m building mine. In the absense of a defined career-ladder for my field and position, I’m making my own. By making it clear that I can deliver what I promise, and then letting my administration know that as I increase my value, I expect to have my authority, standing, influence, and compensation increase as well. And for now, it’s working.

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