Research Safety Blog

Biosafety Program Management Webinar: November 18

Tue, Nov 18, 2014 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM EST

https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/4778232705539959042

Learn how the BioRAFT solution can help your organization manage the many facets of a strong biosafety program from IBC biosafety registration to training, inspections, and equipment management.

+ Organize your laboratories, researchers, and hazards into one database

+ Track authorizations and licenses for each laboratory

+ Save time and keep better training records

+ Keep equipment certified and maintained

+ Enforce high standards of laboratory safety through inspections

How to have it all: career and kids

Digital Science has been celebrating women in science as part of its celebration of Ada Lovelace Day. Recently, they posted an article from our own Diliny Colosquet! The second article of her two posts is reproduced here, with permission from Digital Science.

http://www.digital-science.com/blog/guest/how-to-have-it-all-career-and-kids/

Diliny1

Diliny Corlosquet is the Senior Product Manager ofBioRAFT, the provider of integrated laboratory safety and research management software solutions. She holds two degrees in Chemical Engineering, BASc, MASc, and a Masters of Science specializing in regenerative medicine.  She has also worked as a Front-End Drupal Web Developer and contributed to the Drupal community as a technical editor on the widely resourced Definitive Guide to Drupal 7 and as one of the organizers for the annual Design for Drupal conference.  Diliny is also a soon to be mother of two and lives in the Greater Boston Area with her geek husband and labrador retriever.

When you are a single woman the world is your oyster.  You can work hard, enter a course of study, and climb the career ladder with very few obstacles.  For the most part, self-reliance is the key to success.

The downside is the constant harassment from people who assume you have hit the pause button on life.   When are you going to settle down and have a family?  When are you going to have children?  As a single man, would I be asked the same questions?

Add to this the notion that as an educated woman, some will perceive you as being “too smart” or worse yet, “not a homemaker.”  This makes finding a potential partner all the more complex.

When you find that partner (and you will) they will probably be as ambitious and driven as you are.  If you are as lucky as I am, they’ll take pride in your successes and support you through your failures.

However, when both spouses are career-driven there are inevitable tug-of-wars.  I discovered this early on in my marriage when my husband was offered a hard-to-refuse, highly paid position working for a start-up in Boston.  My choice was to either live apart for a time while I finished my studies or to wrap up my work and accompany him.  We decided in favor of moving together.

In a marriage, it’s important for both spouses to be mutually reliant to support and nurture each other’s careers.

Enter the Children

Most of my female role models early on in my scientific career were either single women who had chosen a life of science or women who had families and children but struggled with their work-life equilibrium.  I have witnessed both friends and mentors give up very high profile jobs when they found the position was in direct conflict with their ability to raise their children.  When it was my turn to have children, I was very aware of both sides of the coin.  Stubbornly, I believe I can have it all.

When you have kids, everything changes.

In my prior placements, I have been witness to at least one woman who hid her pregnancy as long as possible for fear of the repercussions within the laboratory setting.  There are many men and women who would believe that the ability to produce great work and long hours of research would be compromised the moment a woman gets pregnant.  Also it is common to be exposed to hazardous chemicals in the laboratory when colleagues take unreasonable risks without any regard to pregnant co-workers.  Some women don’t blink an eye and simply go on with their research.  However, others decide that the laboratory is not the place for them and look for an “out” via a desk job or a more flexible schedule.  I believe management sets the culture in our work environment and choosing a position based on a safe work environment is important.

Maintaining a career and having a young family is all about managing the guilt. Having a career means having to accept that you are often not physically present for your children.  You have to put your trust in others, whether it be a nanny, daycare, or a family member.  Although you catch the milestones as they happen, you may not be the first to witness them.  You need to work twice as hard to find the time to know whom your children are growing up to be.  Having had two parents who worked, I saw that my tough-as-nails mother could raise three children with little support so I knew it could be done.

I often say that I need to be away from my child in order to truly appreciate him.  I have heard this sentiment echoed by other working mothers and I have come to the conclusion that for some of us, it is about understanding our intellectual versus maternal needs.  Getting my intellectual needs met via my career makes me a better mother and better able to show the patient and nurturing side that may come easier for others.

Maintaining the upward momentum of your career is definitely a challenge.  You will be on-call for days your child is ill and rely heavily on any external supports that are available to meet your needs when long hours at work are necessary.  Women who previously worked for more than 40 hours a week often find they must adjust and work more efficiently in the time they are in office or lab so as to be free when they are at home.  Good employers know that the more content you are in your home life, the more successful and reliable you will be in your work life. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need in order to have that work-home equilibrium.  Having that balance is vital to maintaining success in your career.

My advice to women is to have both a supportive partner as well as a supportive work environment. It is the dependence on the people who stand behind you that helps move you forward as both a mother and a career woman… and then you can have it all.

From There to Here!

As part of Digital Science’s celebrations for Ada Lovelace Day, for the rest of October we are running a collection of blog posts featuring some of the great women that work across Digital Science and our portfolio companies.

Photo credit: David CostaMelanie Hamblen has spent her whole life interested in Biology. By the age of 16 she had over 14 Peterson guides to help her identify all the flora and fauna all around her. She lives with her husband and son, two dogs, chickens and bee hives between Boston Massachusetts and Providence Rhode Island.

I often think about a conversation I overheard on a commuter bus sometime during the first week I started work at Boston Children’s Hospital as a Lab Manager. There were two young women discussing what they do in their respective research labs; of course my ears perked up when I heard them mention research.

First Woman: “I’m working with a post doc. I’m learning a lot – it’s pretty cool. What are you doing?”

Second woman: “That sounds good. I’m working with a grad student and helping out the Lab Manager.”

First woman: “Lab Manager, oh man, I feel really bad for our Lab Manager – that’s got to be the worst job in the world.”

Second woman: “Yeah, right. Who would ever want to do that?”

All I could think of was “what had I gotten myself into?” That thought echoed in my head for the next three long months.

I had come from a Drosophila lab that studied behavior. I worked on projects involving circadian rhythms and the Period gene. (Recently the work has been receiving awards: the Horwitz prize and the Shaw Prize.)

I had been there for 12 ½ years. In that time I had become one of the experts in behavioral analysis and helped train new graduate students and post docs who came to the lab. I took care of many issues that a Lab Manager would take care of, but I didn’t carry that title. When the behavior side of my work became too easy for me I jumped in to the molecular side of the study to learn something new.

I made a leap from the fly lab to a large HHMI lab at Boston Children’s Hospital where our main focus was studying the genes involved in hematopoiesis (research into the genetics behind blood diseases have recently received the Kovalenko award and the Allen award) and cancers of the blood. What a difference! A complete change of study – flies don’t have blood! What had I gotten myself into?

I spent the next 17 years as a Lab Manager in this lab. So it all worked out O.K. Eventually that “What had I gotten myself into? “ became “I can do this” and finally “what else can I do?” I found the role of lab manager fit me well. It is a fantastic career for a person who enjoys making sure people have what they need to get the job done, who can put the lab’s goals ahead of their own, and who can share in the joy of others in the lab achieving their goals. When my lab people got published and moved on to the next step in their careers, I felt as if I had succeeded along with them.

When I got to the “what else can I do” stage I used my growing passion for keeping my people safe and developed a relationship with the Environmental Health and Safety and Research Operations Departments. We worked on creating safety policies and personal protective equipment educational handouts for common procedures run in the labs. I also worked with HHMI on many special projects focusing on making sure people had the information they needed to do their jobs more efficiently and effectively. I also helped build a network of Lab Managers where we could share information and help each other deal with difficult issues.

My latest leap has been to BioRAFT, a company with investment from Digital Science as a Client Communications Lead. Another jump into something totally different; I must be crazy! I am now working at a software company that helps institutions organize safety training and compliance data. I have only been here for a few months and I am once again in the “what did I do?” stage. I can see where my communication skills and my desire to make sure people have the information they need to get their jobs done safely will help the company succeed. I am hoping to get to the “I can do this and excel at it!” stage soon! And while I’m at it I will build a top notch Post-Implementation Customer Management program, helping our customers keep their people safe. Because when they reach their goals I will too.

I worry that the uncertainty of the next step and anxiety of the “what did I do?” stages keeps people from leaping into new and exciting roles and opportunities to learn. I have done it and it is painful, but it goes away. The gain is well worth the pain.

What could be next? This might sound like a fantasy but perhaps designing a certificate program for new Lab Managers to help them succeed, now that would be fantastic!