The Plan Proceeding!
Today I met with the director of MECMC’s population health research group. I had applied for an Associate Professor position with his outfit, which is a collaborative unit between MECMC and VFU. When I applied for the professorship, I knew it was an unlikely stretch. But what it did was get me an invited talk. I gave my talk, and frankly, I nailed it. I gave an engaging talk on my methods and how they directly apply to the work that the PHRG is doing. Lots of robust discussion and excited chatter ensued.
That was last month. The director asked me a few weeks ago to meet with him today. So I showed up at his fancy new digs and sat down. He had read my intent perfectly. He commented that I wasn’t right for the tenure-attached professorship (they’re specifically looking for someone bringing a lot of money). I told him I knew that.
But then he said, “Look, I love your work, I love what you do. I think there’s a natural marriage between your methods and the PHRG’s interests. I want you to work with me. Let’s figure out how to make it happen and get you a faculty title.” Which is, basically, the answer to all of my dreams. He then took me around and introduced me to people, telling them that he wants to make me a part time research scientists and put me on the website and give me an office as soon as July.
I’m thrilled. Because PHRG is part of MECMC, my current charter should allow me to “support” them. Now I just need to convince my current boss to let me sit elsewhere 1-2 days a week. We’ll see what happens. I’m optimistic. I was able to work my long-term plan, which is now in about phase three, toward the outcome I want: a hard money position that allows me to do research and comes with a faculty title. Eventually a position directing advanced engineering methods at the whole of MECMC across all demesnes.
Currently, in the academic world, nothing like what I’m trying to create exists that I’m aware of. I’m building something from scratch and convincing people to support it based on my ability to deliver cool results. I’m not going to set myself on a path that relies on the vagaries of the grant market. I will build slowly and surely by making myself valuable and then asking for what I want, and not taking it with any attached strings I don’t want.
I’ve been building this since basically 20 days of sobriety. That’s when I was offered my first job in a hard-money engineer-to-the-Chief-of-Staff position that included research and grant writing. Thereafter promoted to a staff researcher position. I won a few grants, wrote a few papers. Became adjunct faculty at ILU. From there I moved to be an advisor at MECMC. Then a program manager.
And now I will hopefully be able to become a program manager and research scientist with my own office and website. Participation on grants and writing blog posts and policy briefs. I would have the apparatus of the PHRG at MECMC behind me, which is pretty significant. I’m excited and hopeful.
It’s been 9 years. In nine years of sobriety and just less than that of work, I’ve gone from a low-level flunky to someone running an engineering program and on the line for a joint appointment with a prestigious policy organization. Today I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished. And proud that I never let people who told me that my way can’t work dissuade me from finding a way to build my dream career.